sarah+mcdugal+coach+abuse recovery+healing+DV+domestic violence+porn+addiction

Darling, You Can’t Fix His Porn Addiction

So you’ve discovered he’s addicted to porn, and everything went fuzzy and turned gray for a while. Now you’re trying to make sense of what this means, what impact it makes, and how you can turn things around… I’ve been there. It’s hell. And I want to share with you what to expect — because you’re probably getting a lot of mixed information. Here goes:

There’s nothing you can do to make him get better.

sarah+mcdugal+coach+abuse recovery+healing+DV+domestic violence+griefPorn 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.

Porn addiction is a sin problem.
Porn addiction is also abuse.

Full stop.

Porn addiction thrives on deception, manipulation, secrecy, adultery, self-serving, lack of intimacy, confusion, fear of abandonment, emotional disengagement, exploitation… It not only thrives on these, it drives them and cultivates them in a marriage. These elements are the opposite of godly love, honor, protection, respect, and cherishing of one’s spouse.

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

Porn addiction cannot be fixed in couples counseling.

Or co-dependency counseling.
Or anger management classes.

There is nothing you as his wife can do to make him less addicted, or unaddicted. 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.

Until he decides for himself to do the very hard, identity de-constructing work of addressing his sinfully addictive choices — there is no hope for creating a healthy marriage.

Until he voluntarily chooses to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to become sober-minded, pure-hearted, and completely surrendered to the humility of non-stop accountability — there is nothing you can do.

Even then, you can’t do the work of addiction recovery for him. You can invest in your own healing and recovery from the betrayal. When you discover that your husband is addicted to porn, you’re going to feel a wide range of emotions that are normal and valid. You can read books (like this one) and get clarity coaching (here), to guide you through the fog of betrayal that you’re experiencing — but you cannot fight this battle for him.

Coming out of the trauma fog is like being super nearsighted and getting a stronger prescription little by little until my sight is clear. — Meghan, a Survivor

The journey of transformation is his and his alone. You cannot walk it for him. You cannot carry his pack. You cannot help him by shouldering the weight. You cannot diminish his consequences out of pity or pain. If you do, you’ll be the well-meaning child who “helps” the butterfly out of the cocoon leaving it permanently crippled.

He must battle through for himself.

This is how he heals.
Or how he doesn’t heal.
Either way, the choice is his to make. The burden is his to take. The work is his to complete.

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 the reason why couples’ counseling is toxic for these situations. Couples’ counseling tends to focus solely on how to get the wife to come around, instead of how to get the addict healthy or the abuser to stop abusing.

When a counselor is asking 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. They’re trying to pigeon hole the victim into overlooking the betrayal trauma, instead of focusing on the addict’s actions which are causing the trauma and impeding healing. Many church leaders have this mindset, even wildly popular ones (check out this video where I break down the dangerous concepts from Lisa Bevere about this exact issue).

If your counselor is trying to get you to address one set of actions at a time or telling you not to “dig up the past”, they are enabling the abuse from the addict. Addiction and abuse are systems of behavior. They are structures that show up in patterns which flow out of habits, which are the chains that bind the addict/abuser to the mindset that drives their addiction and abuse.

Many “Christian” counselors have been taught unbiblical myths about forgiveness, and unwittingly use these myths as weapons against victims of abuse. If your counselor is taking this approach, they’re going to cause you more harm than good. If your pastor, church leaders, or therapists are confusing forgiveness with reconciliation prior to proof of genuine and lasting repentancefind new ones.

“I hear forgiveness often used as a weapon of shame rather than a tool for freedom.

I hear it used to silence those who come into my office looking for healing from their past sexual abuse, or from a violent marriage where the husband regularly sexually violates his wife while citing scriptures of submission and forgiveness, or the well-meaning pastor that says, “You need to forgive your father, husband, grandpa, sexual abuser, etc.… and move on with your life…”

I am sure you have heard these things too.
Forgiveness, used to hush the victim rather than shatter chains and set the wounded free.

We should forgive those who have abused us, but that is not to be the first or final response to our exploitation. Before we enter forgiveness we must enter the rage, and the fullness of the injustice. Fury at the unfairness, anger at the innocence lost, a fierceness that reminds you that you matter, that you are worth raging over.”
– Andrew J. Bauman

Trying to rapid-reconcile the one reacting to trauma without addressing long-term change in the one perpetrating addiction and abuse, is like trying to dress a gunshot with a bandaid while telling the victim not to whimper. It proves not only the incompetence of the one providing treatment, but also runs a high risk of killing the one who is bleeding out.

Here are more useful resources for your journey to healing:

Sorry, Not Sorry – It’s Time to Stop Enabling Abuse

Happily (N)Ever After


Is your church really as safe as you think it is?

  • If someone was abusing a child close to you, could you tell?
  • Don’t victims often make up accusations to get attention?
  • God tells us to forgive and forget, but does that include letting a sex offender attend church with children present?
  • How can faith communities effectively protect our most vulnerable members?

myths we believe predators we trust abuse church sarah mcdugal daron pratt book authorFar too often, faith communities are soft targets for abuse of many kinds. Myths on forgiveness, repentance, and reporting allow predators and abusers to manipulate and deceive.

Myths We Believe, Predators We Trust will equip you to debunk 37 common myths about abuse in church, making your faith community a safer place.

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  3. Give to the Bucket Brigade Fundraiser to support volunteer concerned care practitioners who help abuse victims find justice.

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