What To Do When You Catch Your Husband Watching Porn

Try these tips for talking about it and making decisions together.
By Reggie Madison
August 13, 2020
man-on-laptop

You’ve just found out your husband is watching porn. What do you feel? Disgust. Shock. Despair. Betrayal on par with infidelity. World-shattering confusion. Who is this man I’m married to? Heartbreak. Grief. Loneliness. Creeping insecurity about your attractiveness and your sex appeal. Why am I not enough? Is he thinking about pornographic images while we have sex? How is he looking at women? What is he looking at when we’re not together? Trust just went out the window.

These are just some of the things you might be struggling with right now. And you can’t be blamed for any of them.

In 2019 alone, people spent nearly 6 billion hours on Pornhub1, but all that matters to you is the porn your husband has been watching. What’s next?

WHAT DO YOU DO NOW THAT YOU HAVE DEFINITELY CAUGHT YOUR HUSBAND WATCHING PORN?

Educate yourself.

You don’t have to click very far to find people and/or therapists who believe that using porn is a safe way to burn off sexual energy or enhance sex. While it may not phase others, what matters is how YOU feel about it, what you and your husband may have agreed to regarding pornography, and what solid research says.

Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt says, “This behavior is wrong.” It’s healthy, changes us, and helps us become who we want to be. Shame says, “There’s something wrong with me.” Shame makes us feel broken and unworthy of love. There’s a big difference.2 Separate your husband’s behavior from your husband as a person.

So, is compulsive pornography use only wrong because of the shame that surrounds it?

Societal or religious taboos don’t explain the shame game when it comes to compulsive pornography use. Study after study3 shows that shame may make porn use worse for the porn consumer, but it doesn’t explain it. Of course, your goal isn’t to make your husband feel shame. However, guilt is a healthy response to objectifying and dehumanizing people.

Is pornography a legit addiction?

The Addiction Center recognizes that this is a controversial topic but cites numerous studies to justify identifying porn as an addiction.

Arguing about whether pornography is addictive is a little bit like two bald men fighting over a comb. What can’t be disputed is that many wives feel humiliation, insecurity, low self-esteem and report lower relationship quality when their husband is watching porn.

Fake sex affects real sex. Period. Full stop.

PsychCentral article reports: “…regular consumption of pornography more or less wears out your reward system.” And clinicians report seeing many more young adults who experience sexual dysfunction, performance issues, and satisfaction with a real person, but not with porn. 



Identify what you’re feeling.

Mentally recognize and name your emotions concerning your husband watching porn. For example, you may feel anger, rejection, betrayal, disgust, confusion, inadequacy, hurt, insecurity, etc. According to Dan Siegel, UCLA Professor of Psychiatry and executive director of Mindsight Institute, naming your emotions allows your brain to soothe and calm you down.5

Putting a name to what you’re feeling can help you communicate the pain his porn use is causing you.

Know what’s helpful to know.

Don’t spend lots of time searching for everything he’s been looking at. Keep it simple.

Knowing every site he visited and how many genres he watched will only increase your negative feelings. Your goal is to know enough to determine his willingness to be truthful.

Remember, he’s got the issue, not you. Even if there are other marital issues going on, he’s the one looking at pornography.

I know — easier said than done. Porn isn’t really about your guy wanting you to be someone different. When people start looking at porn, research shows they subconsciously begin to bond with the images they see onscreen.6,7 This causes the brain to crave more of what they are seeing. Eventually, it takes more intense visual stimulation to get the same satisfaction. That’s why porn can be as addictive (if not more addictive) as heroin and gambling.

What’s the goal of talking?

What do you want the goal of the conversation to be? This is bigger than getting him to stop looking at pornography. It’s about him, you, and your marriage. You want to understand what he’s willing to do to overcome this issue and how you can help.

Note: Researching information on sites like Fight the New Drug can help you become informed. It may also be comforting to know you are not alone. 

READY FOR THE TALK:

Ask him about it.

Communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% the actual spoken words.8 So, for example, your demeanor and tone can say, “I’m attacking you because I can’t believe how disgusting you are,” or “I’m really hurt by this, but I want us to get through it.”

He might lie.

I wish there was a foolproof way to eliminate any possibility of him lying. People respond differently. He may even deny, minimize, or accuse you of being something you’re not.

Jay Stringer, researcher and licensed therapist, warns about the potential of hiding. Hiding happens when the user redirects the conversation when confronted or chooses to be vague about what they’re doing. He may go into self-protection mode. He may be super embarrassed he has been found out. Be mentally prepared. You can’t make a person tell the truth. But, you can create an environment for honesty and hope the other person will be truthful. 

If he lies or hides, talk about your desire to work through this as a team. Remind him that you’re not going to stop loving him simply because he got caught up in pornography. Porn is more likely to destroy your marriage if you don’t address it together.  

If he’s willing to talk about it, ask questions.

Get him talking. This may be the first time he has actually verbalized his thoughts about it. Ask him: How long? Have you told anyone else? Have you tried to stop? What started it? These are questions that may get him thinking and talking. You don’t need all the details about everything he’s seen. You need an acknowledgment that he’s been looking at porn and that he wants to stop.

Communicate your thoughts and emotions.

He needs to hear your heart and understand your feelings. With many husbands, sincerely expressing your thoughts and feelings is more effective than yelling and screaming. Clearly and directly, share any insecurity, betrayal, or violation you’re feeling. Don’t share through the voice of anger; instead, speak through the voice of the actual emotion itself. This gives a clearer picture of the damage this is causing you and your marriage.

Listen to understand without justifying.

Studies show that anywhere from 50-90% of husbands watch porn. It’s safe to say many of us don’t really want to. And many have tried to stop unsuccessfully. Most people don’t understand what they’re up against when they look at porn for the first time. Having said that, he’s not a victim. He’s a fighter, which leads us to…

Discuss and set boundaries and limits.

He has to be willing to discuss and even initiate the setting of boundaries. He will not overcome a compulsion to look at pornography because you want him to. It has to be because he wants to. You can be strong alongside him and hold him accountable. This may include: accountability partners, learning about the dangers of pornography, sharing passwords, and regular check-ins.

★ IF YOU TRY TO DO THE WORK FOR HIM, IT WON’T WORK.

Express love.

Time and time again, I hear men say, “My wife kept saying, I love you. We’re a team. We’ll get through this.” They express how it meant the world to hear this. You’re encouraging your man to be a fighter and you’re telling him that you love a fighter, you’ll stick with a fighter, you’ll help a fighter to train, you’ll help a fighter beat the enemy. You’re also saying that you recognize that a fighter may get punched in the face. He may slip again. Every fighter gets hit. But one hit, one slip, doesn’t mean you’ve lost. You’ve lost when you stop fighting.

Patience.

Pornography addictions are different because the brain isn’t trying to rid itself of a chemical dependency. It may take time for your husband to stop looking at porn even if he’s trying. It takes time to heal and rebuild trust. Overcoming pornography requires commitment from both of you. During the process, set some goals like “3 days of no porn” or “2 consecutive weeks of talking to an accountability partner.” Celebrate the goals when you reach them.

WHAT IF YOUR HUSBAND DOESN’T WANT TO STOP WATCHING PORN?

Some husbands don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching pornography. Drs. John and Julie Gottman outline how porn use can lead to reduced relationship satisfaction. Share how it makes you feel that he’s watching other people do the intimate things the two of you do to emotionally and physically connect. Talk to a trusted couple. Consider seeking professional help.

As a couple, you must talk and decide the role you’ll allow pornography to play in your marriage. Studies show its negative effects within committed relationships. If you can both agree that you won’t give pornography a place in your marriage, then you can work together to keep it out.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

SOURCES

1Pornhub’s annual report: Can you guess the most popular porn categories in 2019? (2019). https://fightthenewdrug.org/2019-pornhub-annual-report/ 

2Gilliland, R., et al. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2011.551182 

3Reid, Stein, et al. (2011). Understanding the roles of shame and neuroticism in a patient sample of hypersexual men. https://doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182125b96 

4Voon, Mole, et al. (2014). Neural correlates of sexual cue reactivity in individuals with and without compulsive sexual behaviours. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102419 

5Siegel. (2010). Mindsight : the new science of personal transformation. Bantam Books.

6Rizzolatti, G. et al. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144230 

7Hilton, D. (2013). Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767 

8​​Evans, V. (2020). How does communication work? Part 2: The function of verbal vs. non-verbal cues in face-to-face interaction. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/language-in-the-mind/202001/how-does-communication-work-0

Was This Helpful?

Thoughts? Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Miriam Rueda
    Miriam Rueda says:

    I really don’t understand why my husband resorted to porno instead of being with me. My heart is broken in a thousand pieces and I don’t know how to get over ir

    Reply