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3 Decisions to Stop Shoulding On Yourself And Ditch Shame After Discovering His Porn Struggles

By February 23, 2024No Comments
Stop Shoulding on Yourself

Dr. Brene Brown researched 12 shame categories that are the most familiar in the human experience. She identified these categories as:

    • appearance and body image
    • money and work
    • motherhood and fatherhood
    • family
    • parenting
    • mental and physical health
    • addiction
    • sex
    • aging
    • religion
    • surviving trauma
    • being stereotyped and labeled

Women who discover their partner’s porn use struggles often spend time shoulding on themselves which causes shame.

Looking at Dr. Brown’s categories, women tend to feel shame in the appearance and body image category, as well as physical health, aging, sex, self-image, and more. They wrap up in a “shame coat” and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” Followed quickly by statements that start with, “I should have . . . !“

The truth is your husband’s struggle has little to do with you. Yet you feel and suffer the effects and aftershocks. My desire is to help women like you identify and understand this damage to your soul and mind and move toward becoming whole and healed. To achieve this, we start with ditching that “shame coat.”

The “shame coat” does nothing to protect the wearer, but it feels protective.

As a coach, one of the challenges each woman faces when we work together is discarding this garment. It’s ugly, heavy, scratchy, and undesirable. Yet wounded women like you often cling to it.

How do I know?

When asked a series of questions, the standard response often includes, “I should have [fill in the blank].” What you insert in that blank probably has little to do with why your husband uses porn. Yet it heaps more shame on you. And that awful coat becomes heavier.

Sweet sisters, it’s time to pitch that ugly coat.

I remember the “shame coat” I donned after discovering Dave’s porn struggle. Somehow, I believed I could have prevented his choice. Or, if I’d been a better wife, lost all the baby weight (I did. He still looked at porn), wore skimpier nighties, been more attentive, had fewer opinions, and more, he wouldn’t have looked at porn. That reasoning completely disregarded his choice and personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, buried deep in the lining of my shame coat was a false concept of control. As I listened to how I spoke about what was going on in our marriage, I heard “should” often. It was as if I thought everything that happened in our marriage crisis was my fault because I didn’t have enough sense to see what was happening and fix it. Wow. That’s a lot of unreasonable expectations to pile on yourself. And yet I did. I wrapped that shame coat firmly around my body.

Until one day, I decided to stop shoulding on myself.

This decision didn’t come quickly or easily. It took several months of counseling and coaching to unzip and peel off that shame coat. I worked to understand my shame triggers and develop different ways to approach each potential shame-coated situation.

How can you learn to stop shoulding on yourself?

1. Check your self-talk.

You can’t stop other people from shoulding on you. However, you can change the way you talk to yourself. Too often, you and I speak trouble, discouragement, and shame over ourselves. A good hint that you might be doing this is the word should.

When you use self-defeating words and language, you burrow deeper into that shame coat. As you do, you begin to believe the lies contained in the shoulds.

Try the following example.

Let’s use the phrase, “I should have recognized the signs.”

Say this phrase out loud. Notice how you feel after repeating this phrase. What’s going on in your body? What thoughts immediately come to mind when you hear “should”?

Now, replace this phrase with, “I didn’t recognize the signs,” and say it out loud. How do you feel? What’s going on in your body? What differences do you note, if any?

What difference did you notice in your thoughts and body after speaking those two phrases?

Your words matter, even the ones you speak to yourself.

2. Take responsibility for your actions.

Sometimes shoulding on yourself might be a way to deflect what you know to be true. You and I masterfully weave stories in our heads about the motives behind our actions. You might judge me for acting a certain way. Yet, when you exhibit the same response in a similar situation, you want me to extend grace. You hope I’ll understand that you should have known better.

Let’s see what this looks like.

You and your husband have spent the last six months in counseling and coaching to heal from his struggle with porn. You’ve both made significant progress. You begin to trust him again. Today, you are much better at showing him respect in your words and actions. You finally feel like you aren’t the cop or the mom.

At dinner tonight, you notice your husband seems uncomfortable. He doesn’t want to look you in the eye. All your antennae go on alert. What’s happened? Carefully, he explains about his struggle today with wanting to look at porn. He tells you about how he was feeling and what he did to deal with the temptation. Then he asks for your forgiveness.

All you can think is, “I should have known he couldn’t get over porn.”

Then, without stopping to process, you lambast him for being tempted.

Quickly, the conversation escalates along with the discussion volume. It becomes a character assassination standoff. Rather than disconnecting the struggle from the person, you and he resort to past negative relational patterns—blame and shame.

When you tell your coach about this a few days later, you say, “I should have known better.” Your coach asks a few more questions to identify where your heart is in this situation.

At one point, you feel like the coach is taking your husband’s side, which isn’t true. Yes, you’ve been hurt by his actions. Yes, his admission to this trigger and step back toward porn opens the ugly wound. But as you further unravel your motives, you discover that your shoulding on yourself was a cover-up for your unforgiving attitude. You want others to forgive you when you mess up. But how quickly do you grant that same forgiveness when they mess up?

3. Learn. Apply. Repeat.

Give yourself grace. You don’t know everything. And, if you are wise, you will continue to learn and apply that learning to life until the day you die. That process is how you develop wisdom. You weren’t born with it. Neither was I.

Jeff Brown’s podcast, Read to Lead, focuses on this concept. He says, “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Jeff interviews some of the greatest thinkers of our time, who point out the importance of continuing to learn and apply that learning to your life.

The Bible says to apply yourself to knowledge (Proverbs 23:12) and to tune in to wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-8). Not as the end but as a means to living life well. A person might be a walking encyclopedia, but if they haven’t applied any of that knowledge to functioning well in our world, then it is useless knowledge.

People seeking to heal their hearts and relationships search for those who can help them. This person understands they don’t know how to move beyond the crisis to a hope-filled future. Saying “I should have seen it” only increases shame and condemnation. You need assistance to process your pain, heal, and grow.

Telling your husband, who sincerely wants to leave the porn behind, that he “should just quit watching it” conveys judgment, shame, and rejection. Perhaps he’s tried to quit but hasn’t been successful. Most people struggling to overcome a deeply embedded negative pattern have no clue how to change. Your husband needs help.

Learn. Apply. Repeat. More than a catchy series of words, this process builds wisdom. When it comes to recovery from discovering his porn struggle, doing this daily moves you step by step down your journey to a healthy, fulfilled future.

Ready to stop shoulding on yourself?

Reach out for help. I’ve been there. Oh, by the way, you need to practice this new wisdom every day to grow this muscle. It’s not a one-and-done. The enemy of your soul likes to poke you with shoulds as often as possible. But you can thwart his jab by applying your wisdom each time he tries to hand you that “shame coat.” You threw it in the trash for a reason.

Apply these three actions daily. Get the help you need. Use your knowledge to build wisdom. Then, use that wisdom to extend grace and understanding to your husband’s struggles.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

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