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4 Types of Grief From Your Husband’s Porn Addiction

Am I not enough for him?
Is he lusting after every woman he sees?
What’s on his mind when my attractive friends visit?
What’s wrong with my body?
I’m just so shattered right now.
How can I ever trust him again?
What can I do to fix our marriage?

If you’ve discovered that your husband is addicted to porn, you’re not alone.

And you’re definitely not the first Christian woman who has asked these questions when faced with this problem.

If you’re like many women, discovering your husband’s porn addiction left you in a swirling fog of anger, betrayal, numbness, and pain.

Sexual betrayal is an anguish unlike any other, and you can’t quite understand the trauma unless you’ve been there.

sarah+mcdugal+coach+abuse recovery+healing+DV+domestic violence+griefYou might be asking all sorts of questions, running things around and around in your head until you’re on the verge of insanity. Probably you’re not finding any answers that are sufficient to take the pain away.

I’ve been there.
It’s hell.
Here’s a few things you need to know…

It’s not your job to get him better.

Addiction is not a marriage problem.
It’s not going to get better with some magical formula for intimacy.
It’s not going to get better by you working on being a perfect fantasy wife.
It’s not going to get better if you try to compete with the women he watches on screen.

Addiction is a sin problem.
His addiction to pornography was not caused by you as his wife, and it absolutely cannot be fixed by you as his wife.

Sex addiction cannot be fixed in couples counseling.

Or codependency counseling.
Or anger management classes.

There is nothing you as his wife can do to make him less addicted, or un-addicted. There is no version of yourself that can successfully compete with, or win out over, the images and videos on a screen. That’s not how addiction works.

His addiction has nothing to do with you as a wife.

Nothing to do with your beauty.
Nothing to do with your flaws.
Nothing to do with your willingness.
Nothing to do with your reluctance.

Think of it this way:
if a heroin addict has a gourmet chef creating exquisite meals at home, it won’t take away his addiction to heroin. It doesn’t matter what the chef serves — the addict wants a hit. That is all.

It won’t matter how much nutritional education you provide, or how the chef tempts his tastebuds with treats… unless (and until) the heroin addiction is addressed, it will dominate everything else.

That’s part of why couples’ counseling is toxic for marriages shattered by sexual addiction. Therapists tend to focus more on how to get the wife to come around, instead of how to get the addict healthy or hold the abuser accountable to stop abusing.

When counselors ask the wife of a porn addict “Do you still love him? How committed are you to working through this and supporting him?” they’re putting their focus in the wrong place.

sarah+mcdugal+coach+abuse recovery+healing+DV+domestic violence+griefThey’re trying to pigeonhole the victim into overlooking betrayal trauma, instead of focusing on the addict’s actions which are causing the trauma itself.

Trying to rapid-reconcile the one reacting to trauma without addressing the addiction or abuse, is like trying to dress a gunshot with a bandaid while telling the victim not to whimper.

If your counselor is taking this approach, they’re going to cause you more harm than good. Get a new one.

If your pastor is rushing you to reconcile and restore the relationship rather than holding your husband accountable to healing and recovery, he’s doing the work of Lucifer.

When you discover that your husband is addicted to porn, you’re going to probably feel a range of emotions.

First, there’s the shock.
Your throat closes off. You feel sick to your stomach. Or maybe your hands start shaking and you can’t seem to breathe. You lose your appetite. You can’t stop crying. Tears leak from your edges at the oddest moments and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Then the denial.
It can’t be true. You won’t believe it. You guys are GOOD together. You’ve had a decent sex life, right? You have made beautiful babies together. He always said you were beautiful to him. Surely this is a cruel joke. If this had been happening… you.would.have.known… right?

Then the anger.
How dare he! What was he thinking?! How on earth could he do this to you? He made you promises. He vowed his faithfulness. You’ve been loyal. How could he live two lives like this? Who does he think he is, to betray you and your children this way? You hate what he’s done, and you feel it so viscerally you can taste it.

Then the fear.
What now? What does this mean? Has he ever done anything more than porn? Should you go get an STD test? Should you ask him to get one? What will people think if they find out? Will they blame you for not being a good enough wife? Because surely, this doesn’t happen to good wives, right? Right?!?

Then the numbness.
At some point, you’ve boomeranged around the galaxy of emotions so hard and so fast that you aren’t sure you can feel anything anymore. You don’t know what to believe. You can’t tell his lies from his truths. You aren’t even sure he’s got any truths to tell. You’re not even sure you care.

About the time you think you’ve sobbed all the tears you can cry, and felt all the feelings you can feel…

Then comes the grief.
The grief is different than the pain, the betrayal, and the rage. It’s different from the shock and the numbness. Grief curls up in your core and wraps around your spine and reaches icy tentacles around your heart and lungs. Sometimes it takes your breath away.

After a while, when you think you have started to get a handle on your grief, you realize you’re grieving more than just one aspect. You’re grieving multiple things separately and at once.

There are four common layers of betrayal grief you may experience after discovering that your spouse is addicted to pornography.

1) The grief of sexual betrayal.

Pornography is infidelity. The devastating grief of realizing that your husband promised to keep himself only to you, and then has shared his mind and eyes and hands and body with any number of other sexual experiences on a screen — is a stark and painful thing to accept.

You start to wonder why you weren’t enough for him. You wonder what kind of body types he prefers over yours. Your mind wanders to what his attractions and appetites might include that don’t include you.

2) The grief of being deceived.

Pornography is abuse. By its very nature, any secret sexual life exists within a framework of lies, deceit, and manipulation. When you begin to recognize the breadth of his ability to maintain a facade and keep secrets, you wonder what else he’s lied about too. No truth is off-limits anymore.

The problem isn’t just that he lied. It’s that he lied consistently about something so intimate, so sacred… and he’s capable of lying so well that you believed him. You trusted him. You protected him. You supported him. And he took your love, trust, protection, and support — and he exploited it to please himself with unfaithful sexual gratification.

3) The grief of tainted memories.

Pornography is assassination. Suddenly all your special memories are suspect. What was he thinking about that time you vacationed at the beach? Where was he going when he said he went for long runs at the park? Was he masturbating to other women’s bodies when he told you he had to work late?

This form of grief may come to light more as time goes on, as you mentally catalogue all the moments and memories now tainted by knowing… or wondering… what was actually happening behind the scenes.

4) Grief for the future you planned to build.

Pornography is destruction. You thought you were partners. You thought you were both working together toward the same dreams of the future. You had a certain mental picture of the life you’re building together, the goals you’re working toward, the reality you thought you were living.

sarah+mcdugal+coach+abuse recovery+healing+DV+domestic violence+griefNow, everything feels like smoke and mirrors. What you thought was real, isn’t. What you thought you had together feels like it doesn’t exist. Everything you built together feels like it is leaning sideways because suddenly the foundation is cracked and shifting. Grief for the loss of the future unknown is often the most lingering aspect.

You’re not just grieving what you had. You’re grieving everything you thought it was, and everything it wasn’t.

Betrayal grief is a complex thing.

Don’t rush through the stages.
Grief rises in waves, and sloughs off in layers.

Some days you’ll be fine until something triggers a sense of how your world has shifted axis, and then you’ll fall apart. A deep, chronic ache becomes ordinary. Over time, that sense of betrayal and broken trust may become so constant that it feels normal.

It’s probably going to feel like you’re moving through molasses for a while.

You may feel frustrated that you can’t stop existing in this foggy, sludgy world where your speed of thought is the consistency of pudding.

Your brain may not function like usual.
Your emotions may be either significantly sharper or completely numb.
You’re not unusual or weird for feeling this way.
It’s all normal when you’re going through trauma fog.

Give yourself time, grace, and space for your grief.

Try to fill your mind and your surroundings with as much positive, healing, soothing sensory input as possible:

  • Listen to your favorite translation of the Psalms out loud.
  • Play gentle uplifting music in the background (these lullaby albums are my favorites).
  • Stave off insomnia with soothing Scripture meditations that remind you of God’s value and love.


Read more:

Part 2 – Darling, You Can’t Fix His Pornography Addiction, Here’s Why


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