Many women ask, “Can I ever learn to trust my husband after this?” because they can’t imagine ever trusting him again. It’s a great question, especially when your marriage suffers the destructive results from porn use.
One of our basic human needs is safety, including security and freedom from danger.
When you discover your spouse or significant other watches porn, the shock shatters your sense of security. The one person you thought would protect you at all costs seems to have tossed you aside.
It’s as if you stand in the rubble of your emotional and relational earthquake. You don’t dare take a deep breath–harmful dust hangs around you. Everything appears gray, murky, and unsettled. What will remain when the shaking stops?
In the moments after discovering your husband’s porn struggle, it helps to identify your needs, wants, and desires before you can move toward trusting him again.
1. What do you need?
The dictionary defines a need as a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism.
These are concrete actions you must have to feel safe at this moment. They are a means to an end.
Do you feel safe with your husband? If not, find a place of safety. You might visit a hotel, a family member, a friend’s home, or another location. At this point, evaluate your physical safety and protect it.
Who do you know that will hear your story, keep it confidential, and help you discover your next step? You might feel like you can’t talk to anyone. I encourage you to contact a neutral party for help processing your discovery. It was the best first step I took.
You might need to create some personal space to process your discovery. It could be a quiet room in your house or another location. Anywhere you can be away from other people, process your emotions as needed, and feel safe doing so. If you need to scream into a pillow, punch a pillow, go for a walk, write your thoughts in a journal, take a drive, or whatever, do it. Listen to your needs and take care of them in a safe, healthy manner. The worst thing you could do is deny what you’re feeling and push those emotions down. They’ll erupt later with a vengeance.
2. What are your wants?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, a want means to suffer from the lack of or to wish or demand.
Consider this: If time, location, and money were no object, what do you wish would happen in the next minute, hour, day, and week? Get specific here. Wants are different than your needs, and you will continue to suffer until you can identify and get some of them met.
For instance, when Dave told me about his porn use struggle, I wanted
- him to be the man I thought I’d married
- to be so attractive to him that he wasn’t tempted by any other woman–real or virtual
- to be able to look at him without feeling disgusted and betrayed
- to stop the crushing pain I felt
- to protect my children from this news
- to roll back the clock 30 minutes
- to believe our marriage would survive
- to feel worthy of love and affection
- to know what to do to move beyond this crisis
- to survive
Though I couldn’t articulate most of these wants initially, I wanted to know how it would turn out. Neither of us had a clue about how to deal with this trauma and betrayal in our relationship. And I wanted it to be “behind me” quickly.
3. What are your desires?
A simple definition of a desire is to long or hope for.
I couldn’t articulate my desires in those early moments and days due to the intense emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain. You might find yourself in this same position.
The answer to our initial question falls here. It is a desire. And possibly one of the most difficult to see realized.
Desires aren’t always outcomes we can control. Some could even be unrealistic. Let me tell you a couple of my desires that fell into the unrealistic camp:
- We would recover from this destruction in a couple of weeks or a month
- I could protect my reputation and his
There were others, though, that I could control and fell into reality.
- I would learn to trust Dave again
- Our marriage would survive and be stronger than ever
- Dave would find me attractive as I am
- We would become best friends
- Our family would remain intact
Before you can learn to trust your husband again, you must deal with your needs.
Most psychologists tell us that needs don’t need to be 100% fulfilled for one to feel safe. Once some or most are met, you can move on to the next level in your recovery and trust him, but you can’t skip this first level.
Building a trusting relationship happens after the fulfillment of the most basic needs not only for you but also for your husband.
Have you and your husband sought and received the help you need to address the betrayal trauma? I suggest you meet with an appropriate counselor to help you get your need-bearings. If you aren’t sure who to contact, please let me know. I’m happy to provide referrals to counselors I know and trust.
As a coach, it’s a privilege to walk alongside you as you move through this process toward trusting him again. If you aren’t sure where to start, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment, hold you and your heart carefully, and help you clear the fog. We’ll take your next best step together.