When your wife discovers that you have become addicted to pornography, it can be devastating for her. She may feel deeply hurt and betrayed. One of the first steps to healing your marriage is offering an apology. Your wife deserves an honest and sincere apology, and a simple “I’m sorry” won’t suffice. She needs to formally know you are sorry for the ways you’ve hurt her and your marriage.
Often addicted people will offer apologies that are not sincere. They might say “I’m sorry if you feel hurt by my pornography use” or “I’m sorry if pornography offends you.” These apologies are weak and lack any acknowledgement of personal responsibility. With a sincere apology, you take full responsibility for your actions and the pain you’ve caused, and you express true remorse. You acknowledge the results of your actions, such as:
- Marital betrayal and violated trust
- Wasted money on pornography
- Lose of valuable time with your spouse and children
- Your wife feeling lonely and rejected
- Exposing your wife to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases
- Being a hypocrite to others around you
Using written letters is a helpful way to offer your apology. First your wife writes a letter explaining how your actions hurt her and your marriage. The letter can be read aloud and discussed in a marital counseling session. You then write a letter sincerely apologizing for the harm you’ve caused. In the following counseling session, you read and discuss your letter of apology. You can then work together on a plan to heal and restore your marriage. You keep the letter your wife wrote as a reminder of the harm you caused and to help prevent you from hurting her again. Your wife keeps your letter as a reminder that you are aware of the harm you’ve done and are truly sorry for it.
Joe and Heather had been married several years when she discovered his pornography use. Heather was devastated by it. She felt deeply hurt and betrayed. In a marital counseling session, she was able to express how Joe’s pornography use affected her and their children. Joe was heartbroken as he heard Heather speak. He couldn’t believe how cruel and selfish he had been. His apology letter sounded something like this:
I now realize how my use of pornography has deeply hurt you and I am so sorry. I know it was selfish of me. I broke our marriage vows. I know you must have felt lonely and rejected by me because of it. I never meant to hurt you or the kids.
I’m sorry for the shame you must feel being married to a man who is addicted to pornography. I know it must be hard for you not being able to talk to anyone about this, especially your family. It must be very lonely for you.
My use of pornography has had a profound impact on your self-image. Comparing yourself to the women in pornography has made you feel ugly and sexually undesirable. I am deeply sorry for this. Please be assured that my use of pornography, as wrong as it was, had nothing to do with your beauty or desirability as a woman. It was all about my need to escape from the world.
I am also sorry for the ways my pornography use hurt our children. While they have never been exposed to it, pornography monopolized my time. Precious time that I could have been spending with you and our children was used to view pornography. This was also very selfish of me.
I take full responsibility for my harmful actions and my addiction. I take full responsibility for the harm I’ve caused you and our children. I know I have a lot of work to do to overcome my addiction and restore our marriage, but please know that I am committed to it. I will do whatever it takes! I don’t ever want to hurt you or the kids ever again. Please forgive me.
Offering a sincere apology takes a lot of humility and courage; however, healing cannot take place if you are not truly sorry for the harm you’ve caused. Even if you’ve already apologized, offering a formal written apology will reinforce for your wife your remorse, your love for her, and your commitment to healing and restoring your marriage. Also, because the wounds caused by sexual infidelity are deep, don’t get discouraged if you have to apologize repeatedly. This is all part of the healing process. What’s important is that you’re man enough to admit your wrongs, take responsibility for them, apologize, and make the commitment to heal the wounds and make sure it never happens again.