Many women tell me they wrestle with the fear that their marriage will never overcome the damage caused by their husband’s porn struggles. It doesn’t seem to matter if he’s been sober for a week or twenty years.
The “What if we can’t eradicate porn from our marriage” scenario repeatedly threatens to undermine your best efforts to forgive him and move forward.
You want iron-clad assurance that it won’t happen again. You deal with fear, anxiety, and distrust that it will happen again.
The “it”? His watching porn.
How many times has he promised you he’s done? He won’t ever look at that stuff again.
You correctly struggle with knowing whether you can have a marriage free from porn or not.
The reason? You aren’t in control of his porn struggle or consumption.
Your husband, partner, or significant other must decide to turn away from porn AND get the professional help he needs to deal with the root of the addiction.
Counselor and life coach Rob Jackson of Christian Living Institute identifies getting to the root of the behavior as the Iceberg Model of Spiritual Formation. Just like icebergs in the ocean, we see a small portion of the surface of a struggle or issue. When you decide to treat only what you see, you often slap a bandaid on the problem or think you’ve found a quick behavioral answer, only to be blindsided by a new trigger. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly through the years. This behavior-modification-only scenario makes a person believe you are a failure and forever trapped in the struggle.
Yet Rob’s method for getting to the root of the issue carefully, compassionately, prayerfully, and practically helps the struggler approach healing holistically.
How does focusing on your belief that your marriage will never be free from porn affect you?
Another way to state this question is, “What if I can’t have a marriage free from porn?” When you play the “what if” game, you use mental, emotional, and spiritual energy toward a negative outcome. My coach calls this “sideways energy.” This negative thought process keeps you locked in a vicious cycle that increases anxiety, pushes you to be the cop, and raises your stress levels. You cannot move forward to forgive, rebuild trust, or develop healthy intimacy as long as you focus on what MIGHT happen. In effect, this type of thinking keeps you stuck. It hinders your recovery.
As a coach, I sometimes walk clients through this “what if” struggle by asking questions related to their fears.
How could that help?
When you identify each fear, break it down, and push it to the furthest extreme, your brain looks for alternate outcomes. I found this helpful to do with another person when struggling with feeling trapped in a scenario. While the alternate outcomes might seem ridiculous or questionable, at least you’ve identified some different possibilities. And the process unlocks the brain to continue searching for another way through the mess subconsciously.
Another way to deal with this “what if” heaviness is to look at your ongoing struggles.
Like everyone, you have some habit, behavior, or belief you recognize as unhealthy. You’ve probably worked at reversing or eliminating this struggle many times. Perhaps you’ve had a modicum of success, but something triggers you, and you slide into that struggle again.
Romans 7 puts your very human struggle this way:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
Understanding that every human struggles to break free from repeated negative behaviors, choices, and actions, let’s look at the “what if” scenario one more time.
You’ve focused on everything that could happen if he never quits looking at porn. But what if he never looks at porn again?
- What if his professed sobriety is real?
- What if, when he’s tempted, he turns away immediately?
- What if you risk trusting him to tell you the truth?
- What if you risk believing him when he says you’re his treasure?
Take a moment, grab your journal, and write out what your life might look like if this were your reality.
What did you discover?
Why do these discoveries matter to you?
How does this new thought process change your emotional outlook?
Now, take this “what if” scenario one life-changing step deeper.
- What if you trust God to protect your heart?
- What if you risk leaving your reputation to God?
The truth, dear one? Every person on earth struggles with something. You wish you didn’t, but you do. You need grace for when you stumble, and so does he. No one can force you to abandon the struggle. That’s your choice. It’s the same for him.
You need grace from those you’re closest to because you know how many mistakes you make daily. Yet, when your wounded heart fears being hurt more, you probably struggle to extend the same level of grace to others, especially your husband.
Here’s my challenge
You can’t know FOR CERTAIN that he’ll never look at porn again. No one can promise you that.
However, you can develop a deep trust in God to hold your wounded heart.
Using your journal, answer the following questions.
- How would nurturing that trust change your response to this fear?
- What difference would it make in your relationship with your husband?
- What if God does walk with you through this struggle to freedom on the other side?
This deep-seated fear that your marriage will never be free of porn creates a difficult struggle.
I’ve been there. When that negative “what if” comes around, I look at what is true in our marriage relationship, what my husband continues to do to protect himself and me from porn, and how trusting God first stifles the negative voices. I know you can develop this confidence as well. You can heal, build strength, and flip the scenario. I’d love to show you how. Let’s talk.