When women ask me for suggestions on how to get their husbands to stop looking at porn, there are a few suggestions that are fairly fundamental, yet unfortunately there is not really a checklist, and ultimately wives can’t force our husbands to stop if they don’t want to. First of all, I would say that getting a St. Rita card is a good first step. She is the patron saint of impossible causes. I am by no means trying to turn this into a strictly spiritual battle. It is not. However, it is something tangible and in those moments of hurt and frustration instead of saying something hurtful and harmful to your husband, you can find a place, even in your car, where you can talk to her. I’ve done it hundreds of times and it does help to calm me down and get me in a good place.
Second, you must take care of yourself. What I mean by that is because in marriage the two become one, which means that, contrary to logic, (which is what I was holding onto for years before I really began working on myself) just because he is the one sinning by looking at pornography, our marriage is still damaged, and I have been hurt in the process. If I don’t heal that hurt, I am still hurt and the wound just gets bigger each time, each cycle. That means that regardless of whether your husband will talk to someone, go to counseling, go to a recovery group, you should. Choose who you talk to wisely. Family and friends may not be ‘safe’ people as they may give poor advice as they want to help you not be hurt. Finding a counselor that respects your faith, your marriage, and knows about the ills of pornography may be difficult, so screen them by asking some questions. Find a support group, even for the first 1-3 months as you get on some solid ground. We are all busy. Our kids are all busy and demanding. Your marriage comes before all of that. You are worth it…be healthy. This hurt and addiction can affect every relationship, including your children. Do this for you, do this for them, do this for your future grandchildren.
Thirdly, make your home a safe haven. Unless you are up for being totally extreme and getting rid of all things internet capable, please put on internet software on all things internet capable. Covenant Eyes is a great option. They have good software and have put the extra effort to turn their attention to Catholics and minister to them and their needs. Matt Fradd has a book that just came out called Delivered which is a compilation of personal stories about this issue. They also have a video/booklet/software pack to help equip parents and parishes better protect their homes. Children are exposed at a very early age as they engage with computers, tablets and smartphone as early as 12 months old. I regularly see parents hand their tablets and smartphones to their toddlers. Unless there are some safety measures on each of those devices, your child(ren) could easily accidentally be exposed. I’ve talked to many women who are doubly devastated when they not only have found that their husband has been looking at porn, but so has their child(ren).
Lastly, turn to the sacraments often, pray often and learn about this addiction. There is great help now, as this was not the case 13 years ago when we were first married. Dr. Peter Kleponis is a good start as is Dr. Mark and Debbie Laaser. Debbie’s book, Shattered Vows is one of the best books I’ve come across for wives. They also helped write the L.I.F.E. Guide for Spouses workbook to help wives work through their pain and anger and confusion.
Theology of the Body has completely helped us in untwisted the distorted view of sexuality, intimacy and what we are called to in order to rebuild our marriage. We pray before making love and look deeply into one another’s eyes to ensure that old pornography images don’t pop into Sam’s mind as they do whenever we are intimate. The lights are dimly on and we give ourselves to one another in love with the openness of our love creating new life. We still practice NFP which means that during times of abstinence, we can turn to our friendship and love and honor one another in other ways besides through making love. Understanding the brain science of this addiction is very helpful, as one learns why it is so difficult for addicts or really anyone struggling with porn. One may see some short-term success, but just can’t seem to go more than a few months at a time. Imagine how frustrating and demoralizing that would be—trying to stop on your own but can’t more than a month or two? That is why sometimes it seems like they may give up stopping—what is the point? The brain chemicals are powerful, more so than heroin. There is hope, though, as stopping masturbation, looking at porn and allowing your brain chemicals to return to normal, which means using NFP and abstaining during fertile times, can begin the process of healing the brain. It is very difficult to stop looking at porn and masturbating with any long-term success if one has created a habit…that is where recovery groups and counseling come in. The men in these support groups are regular men. They aren’t creepy or sleazy, they are our husbands—good men who need help.
More resources to come. Thank you. Blessings.