It’s important for men to understand how their pornography use can affect their wives.  What might seem like innocent “adult entertainment” can actually cause untold damage to wives.  Discovering their husband’s use of pornography can be the most emotionally painful thing a woman ever experiences.

Trauma

For many wives, this intense pain is actually the result of a deep emotional traumatic wound.  We call this Betrayal Trauma.  Trauma is typically defined as an occurrence wherein an individual experiences a risk to their own life or physical safety or that of other people and feels terror, fear, or helplessness.  The occurrence might additionally cause confusion, dissociation, and a loss of a feeling of security. Traumatic occurrences test a person’s observation of the world as a secure, just, and predictable place.  Men must understand how traumatic their pornography use can be for their wives.

When a wife discovers that her husband uses pornography, the safe and secure life she once knew disintegrates, and her world is turned upside down. The man she thought she knew thoroughly is now a complete stranger. The marital vows she though he had upheld since their wedding day were actually broken on many occasions.  The sacred gift of sexuality she thought they only shared with each other has been desecrated.

One of the scariest experiences of dealing with betrayal trauma is the strong emotions that wives can cycle through.  One moment they may feel a deep sadness and the next moment an incredible rage.  They may have uncontrollable bouts of crying.  At times they might even feel love and compassion for their husbands. While it may feel maddening to be cycling through such emotions, this is part of the trauma wives experience.

For many wives, these emotions can severely affect their ability to function in daily life.  Symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia can be debilitating.  In addition to the many emotions they cycle through, wives affected by betrayal trauma can also experience negative physical symptoms.  These include insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite, overeating, dizziness, muscle aches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, and weight loss or gain.

Beliefs

Dealing with a sexually addicted husband can have a tremendous impact on the beliefs a wife may hold about herself, her husband, and her marriage. This can intensify her betrayal trauma pain.  She might believe that she was somehow responsible for her husband’s pornography use. She might come to believe she wasn’t pretty enough or that she is no longer sexually desirable.   These beliefs intensified her feelings of rejection.  This deeply damages her self-worth. She can begin to believe there is nothing about her that is attractive or worthy of being loved.  Some wives will question whether their husbands ever really loved them.  They begin to believe their marriage was a sham.  They began to wonder if in the Church’s eyes they ever had a valid marriage.

While all these beliefs may seem irrational, wives who have been affected by pornography addiction often hold them.  They may understand this intellectually and fight against these negative beliefs, but emotionally, because of their woundedness, they have a difficult time not believing them.  This contributes to the depression and hopelessness many of these wives feel.

Questions

In addition to negative beliefs, many traumatized wives will struggle with intrusive questions about their husbands, their marriages and themselves. Common questions include:

  • How could he betray me like this?
  • How could I not have noticed this?
  • How often did he view pornography?
  • How much time did he spend viewing pornography?
  • What kind of pornography did he view?
  • Were any of his behaviors illegal? (i.e. child porn)
  • Did he think the women in pornography were more beautiful than me?
  • When we were having sex did he fantasize about the women in porn?

The Interrogations

In addition to asking themselves recurring questions, many wives may also ask their husbands these questions repeatedly.  A wife may find herself doing this over and over again. Even though her husband claims he is telling her the truth, she will have a difficult time believing him. This is because his betrayal damaged her ability to trust him and anything he says.   They find themselves in the same vicious cycle of asking the same questions over and over again and receiving the same unacceptable answers over and over again.

What husbands need to realize is this cycle of questioning is a wife’s way of coping with her trauma.  There is the belief that if they can fully understand what happened they can gain some control over the situation and feel safe again.  It will also help them let go of any self-blame they may feel for their husband’s behaviors.  Furthermore, it will help prevent them from being hurt so deeply again.

Detective Work

Another way wives try to regain a sense of safety and control is to become private detectives for past and present infidelity.  They will scour phone bills, credit card and bank statements, and computer histories.  They will look for hotel, restaurant, and strip club receipts.  They do this to identify any past infidelities and to help them understand how this could have gone on without their knowledge.  They want to know to what lengths their husbands went to deceive them.  They may also want to know how much money was spent on this sexual activity.

For future activity, they will continue analyzing bills, receipts and statements.  They will install monitoring software on all devices that have access to the Internet.  They will demand to know their husband’s whereabouts at all times.  They will want to know where every penny their husbands spend goes. They might even track their husband’s movements through cell phone GPS systems.  This is also a way of protecting themselves from future hurt and betrayal.

Unfortunately, instead of alleviating her fears and helping her feel safe, most wive’s detective work only intensified the pain.  While a wife may need to know this information, the way it is discovered only adds to her betrayal trauma.

Hyper-control

In addition to the interrogations and detective work, betrayed wives may also seek to control every aspect of their husband’s lives. They determine where their husband goes, who he spends time with, how he spends money, when and how he uses the Internet, how much time he spends at work, what trips he goes on, etc.  Again, this is all done in an attempt to feel safe. The thought is if she can control every area of his life (and as a result her life) she won’t get hurt again.

Feeling Crazy

Most of the wives I’ve worked with readily admit all of their reactions to the trauma (cycling emotions, beliefs, questions, interrogations, detective work, hyper-control, etc.) are irrational and do little to help them feel better.  At most it’s a Band-Aid on a large gaping wound.  Many will admit these behaviors make them feel crazy, but they can’t help but do them.  What little protection they offer outweighs the feeling of total vulnerability they would feel should they give them up.  One of the reasons they seek professional help is to find a better way to cope with the trauma.  They want to feel safe and secure again.

If your wife is experiencing this trauma, the best way to help her is to encourage her to seek professional help.  A therapist who is trained to treat trauma can help her recover and experience peace in her life.  Counseling can also help to heal and restore your marriage.  If you are struggling with pornography use, I encourage you to seek help from a therapist who is certified in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual addiction.  For more information, reading Restoring Trust: A Couple’s Guide to Getting Past Porn(2018, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing).

 

Source:

Kleponis, Peter C (2018). Restoring trust: A couple’s guide to getting past porn. Huntington, IN:

  • Both husband and wife need the peace that passes all understanding from God (see Philippians 4:6-7 and 1Peter 5:5-7). The peace and strength from the Holy Spirit are for the husband with his addiction; and for the wife with her obsessions. All of this is above the pay grade of a therapist.

  • Matamoros

    This is all hyperbole. Usually the story goes something like this. The “wife” refuses to peform her duties, in bed or out. The “husband” after some (usually long) period of a rebellious wife resorts to porn, games, or other forms of relief to get away from a nagging, shrewish wife and remain sane. The “wife” then, to get sympathy, declares herself the victim, and claims betrayal, when she betrayed her “husband” and her “vows” long ago.

    Rebellious wives refusing to fulfill their roles and vows, are at the origin of most of the problems with porn. If the “husband” really “betrayed” her he would have an affair, get an annulment, and restart his life. More and more are dumping their un-wives for a real one.

    • Phil Alcoceli

      “Matamoros”, I thank you for your comment because it gives me an opportunity to clarify some points. First, in this present anti-culture where there are so many manufactured “victims” being used for political and so many other nefarious purposes, it is still objectively and equally objectionable to assume that all women are “victims” or that all men are “victims”, or that all black skin people are “victims” or that all white skin people are “victims”, etc., etc.

      To assume that all wives are out to deprive men of intimacy is false victimhood as research proves that the very large majority of pornography addicts are not being deprived by their partners of sex by their own admission. Indeed, liberal literature even promotes pornography as a supplement to regular partner sex in order to “enhance” it. That is, of course, an enormous lie. To justify pornography in any way, form or manner is dehumanizing for both men and women and therefore a sin. Also, to see women (or men) as having an overriding, absolute, slave-like duty to provide sex is no different than treating them as inflatable sex dolls for self-pleasuring. It is demeaning, dehumanizing and, therefore, a sin.

      • Matamoros

        The media and their masters are indeed pushing porn as an alternative. I think the numbers are overblown that are addicted to it, as most men are more into gaming than fake sex. But there is a problem with society pushing porn instead of a moral life.

        I disagree with your idea that a woman who follows Catholic teaching, and biblical doctrine, particularly of St. Paul, are somehow “inflatable sex dolls”. That is right up there with the feminist “brood mare” canard.

        You should reread the actual words of St. Paul, and not read predilections into them. He plainly and clearly state the burden of sex is upon both. He says that wives who deny their husbands sex when they want it are “defrauding” their husbands. This is akin to saying, according to the demands of Catholic teaching, that the marriage is a sham because it is a fraud.

        The Sacrament of matrimony gives consent by both to, yes, sex on demand. Catholic marriage (and sex within holy matrimony) according Catholic doctrine is for the begetting of children, and mutual comfort. Therefore any action against sex, or the begetting of children is a mortal sin.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        Now I’m curious. What reliable sources or references are you using to say that “…the numbers are overblown that are addicted to it…” as you say? Are you talking about some people you know of, your own experience or some rumors? The actual reality today is that the porn addiction problem is so big and so overwhelming that both the Catholic and Protestant camps are raising their voices publicly and now have some really good programs, literature and also weekend retreats for both the addicts and their wives.

        Your reading of me saying “…inflatable sex dolls…” is highly inaccurate, misapplied and distorted. I applied it to those who are hiding behind Catholic Teaching to have a human version of a plastic “sex doll” at home, always at their beck and call for sex and who take absolutely no responsibility for their sacrificial, giving role in that relationship but are instead always ready to take. Given that Catholic couples are not supposed to be having an infinite number of children, using that to accuse a wife of going against reproductive teaching is preposterous.

        Indeed, men are called to a much more sacrificial and dutiful life than their wives when Jesus says through the Apostle Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). That is only asked of men. What does it mean? Total, selfless love, devotion, generosity, faithfulness and sacrifice at any cost, just like Jesus. A man that takes that seriously will have a wife that will willingly give him the most pleasurable moments, both inside and outside of bed, with no kind or even a hint of coercion or “religious duty”. Our failure as Catholic men does not constitute a five-alarm emergency for women to be forced to compensate for.

      • Matamoros

        Unfortunately, you have forgotten the juxtaposition, which actually comes before the “husbands love your wives” – which is: (Ephes. 5:22-24) 22. “Let women be subject to their husbands, as to our Lord: 23. Because the man is the head of the woman: as Christ is the head of the CHURCH. Himself, the Saviour of his body. 24. But as the CHURCH is subject to Christ, so also the women to their husbands in all things.”

        The verses are pretty self-explanatory which is why there is such a modern movement to reinterpret them away from tradition, in a “well, it doesn’t really mean what it says” manner.

        “Given that Catholic couples are not supposed to be having an infinite number of children, using that to accuse a wife of going against reproductive teaching is preposterous.” Women can have “infinite children”, come now. Can you show me in Catholic teaching where wives are not to bear as many children as they are capable of? I think not. Children are a blessing not a hindrance or a curse.

        On porn, as one article notes: “Psychologists’ research is working to answer that question”. There are no hard numbers, disagreement over what constitutes porn addiction (with some widening the definition as has been done with rape, into, eye-rape, etc.) into a very broad definition, while others maintain a narrower definition of extreme true mental/physical/social addiction to constant porn, which would be a real problem – moral and otherwise.

        However, porn addiction is a cause du jour of the left, as are the “betrayed wives” victimhood we’ve already spoken of, driving a further wedge between men and women, and marriage. It is already being replaced by the oncoming pedophobia campaign to legalize pedophilia – such as was used to legalize LGBT “marriages”. So anything the left promotes must be looked at with a jaundiced eye.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        First, visit enough dot org for a solid, reliable source of shocking, real world statistics. second, are you a pornographer defending his dirty business and/or a pornography addict or both defending your dehumanizing vice through the grotesque distortion of Scripture and Catholic Teaching? Are you a cult leader or want to be one in order to totally dominate women and compensate for your very personal shortcomings? Right from the start, very consistently and very strongly you have defended pornography, whether as a “not so big problem” or a “no reason for concern” or “why bother with those hurt wives” or a “cause du jour of the left” (trying to blind us by appealing to political leanings).

        Your scriptural acrobatics, contortionism and manipulation is preposterous and heavily contaminated with a dark personal bias. Who is infinitely greater, Jesus or the Church? Who is called to an infinitely much higher and much more demanding calling, the person called to imitate Jesus or the person called to imitate the Church? Simple isn’t it, but you intentionally refuse to see it. You seriously contradict yourself at every point. two comments above you deviously confuse my mentioning of “plastic sex dolls” with calling wives “broodmares” (which is the correct spelling by the way), yet you say being demanding and tyrannical regarding reproductive rights (treating wives as broodmares) just because Catholic Teaching does not mention limits on children is then instantly legitimate. Whoa!!

        What other heinous, despicable and/or criminal practices that the Teaching does not exhaustively enumerate do you capriciously legitimize that way? You try again to use those “on the left” as a scarecrow to convince us of your twisted interpretations, yet you behave exactly like those yourself and, like them, you twist and turn Truth to your image and likeness, a walking total contradiction just like them. You have no moral authority whatsoever on this subject. Get help. We are all sinners and we all need it (1 John 1:10). Only God is God and we are not.

      • Matamoros

        Oh, so you aren’t a real Catholic. You are an SJW attempting to build (what) for yourself by defaming Catholics who don’t believe in your shilling for the abuse industry. What porn is in your background that you project so badly and evidently.

        Likewise you produce a scriptural quote out of context, and when I give you the verses just prior you come unglued. You are pathetic, and a liar.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!! It is you who are pitiful, pathetic and a liar by your very own words (Matthew 12:36-37), coming unglued by calling me names like Social Justice Warrior (SJW), a name that is supposed to scare me into submission (just makes me laugh) but that is a name that has totally and absolutely nothing to do with any of my thousands of comments ever on 12 years of commenting in a large variety of places, standing for Catholic Truth in some of the most vicious anti-Christian, anti-Catholic forums, blogs and websites. None of those enemies of God and his Church ever called me an SJW as I have always consistently stood against all evil frauds, impostors, saboteurs and impersonators like YOU.

        Like them, you are totally full of transference and projection, always projecting your darkness and twisted faults on others. As far as you saying: “…when I give you the verses just prior destroying your position…”, that is a highly delusional, melo-dramatic, absurd, and false statement!! So that’s all you’re here for, peddling your position! I’m (not) sorry for not surrendering before that water gun. I will surely remember it when I need another good laugh. Thank you!! All Praise, Glory and Honor to Jesus Christ, God Most High Incarnate, for setting us free with His Invincible Truth!!! (John 8:31–32).

      • Matamoros

        Phil, go sit in the corner. Your dissimulations aren’t believable. I hope the people you work with learn of your SJW anti-Catholicism.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    -TRUST-

    T rust defines real, true freedom,
    R espect builds love through pained difficulty,
    U nder and over the perfect storm,
    S uddenly calm, light and peace shine,
    T rust in Him out of the prison of individuality.

    T he True God never fails me,
    R age against Him opened me to Love,
    U ltimate Fire calling me to be Real.
    Silencing my sin, I’m finally able to speak,
    T rust in Him and The Woman, surrendered to Live!

    T ime chisels away my pieces up to Reality,
    R esistance offers me the sexual ecstasy of meth,
    U gly monster celebrating my addicted face.
    S ilencing all my lusts the 7th Heaven now I reach,
    T rust in Him and The Woman, with Love’s Power I scream!

    (The Woman is our Holy Mother Mary, The Pure Essence of True Godly Femininity and all high quality women of all time whose blessings we have the undeserved privilege to share the Earth with. They are God’s Treasure on Earth and we are the Guardians of that Treasure, bringing out that Divine Treasure with our example, faithfulness, deep repentance, total devotion and whole sacrifice.)