Tim, a heavy-set forty-five year old man, fidgeted in his chair as his wife, Katherine pushed for the truth about his use of pornography during a counseling session. She had discovered him viewing a pornography site, again! The more she questioned, the more defensive he became.
I stepped in, asking Tim specific questions in an attempt to ascertain whether Tim had a sexual addiction, which was her concern. Unfortunately, Tim was not ready to come completely clean with his secret sin. My questioning only served to make Tim more defensive, as he often contradicted his story. Katherine rolled her eyes as she listened to Tim’s answers to my questions about pornography use.
“See what I mean,” Katherine said, referring to her husband’s back and forth answers. “I can’t get a straight answer out of him, so why should you get one?”
Tim was the latest in an incredible number of men I’ve seen in recent months having fallen prey to the temptations of internet pornography. Their marriage of twenty years was hanging together by a thread because of the incessant fighting, lack of trust and growing resentment between them. Their faith was the last thread holding them together, and the way things were going, it appeared insufficient to keep them connected.
Katherine had become bitter and hurt over the years of dishonesty. Typical of most addictions, Tim had seasons of doing well and seasons of relapse. He readily shared how he had been dishonest in the past, but vowed he was now telling the truth. However, when pressed to share specifics of what he had done, it was hard to pin him down. Secrecy and denial are the hallmarks of any addiction.
An increasing number of couples are coming to my attention because of sexual compulsion disorders, primarily use of pornography. However, as with any compulsive behavior, the addiction is progressive and leads to riskier behavior, and continued participation in the activity in spite of harmful consequences. The addict becomes numb to the impact of their behavior on others, and because they are in denial, tend to make excuses and minimize their issues. Relationships are destroyed by the broken trust and increased levels of acting out.
“I don’t know what you want to hear,” Tim said defensively. “I know I’ve been dishonest and don’t deserve to be trusted. But, I’m through with it and don’t know how to win her trust back.”
“It’s not that hard,” Katherine shouted. “Tell the truth and stay away from the pornography. Don’t use the computer when I’m not home. Let me look at your cell phone. We’ve gone over all this stuff so many times before. I’m worn out. Exhausted!”
Katherine lowered her head into her hands and began to cry, while Tim looked on helplessly. She felt utterly hopeless and wondered what could be done to bring sanity back to their relationship.
“Tim,” I said firmly. “Do you understand how utterly devastating this is to your wife? It may be tempting to think it is something only you struggle with, but it’s killing her as well. Do you understand that your addiction is out of control? Things can only get worse unless you face the truth and submit to an intervention.”
“Yes,” he said solemnly. “I denied the impact on her for a long time, but I’m beginning to get the impact this has had on her. I’m truly sorry.”
“These are only words, Tim,” Katherine said. “Are you ready to change?”
As I explored the history of their relationship, Tim’s use of pornography had been part of their marriage for years. He admitted that he gained some measure of control over it at times, but then would eventually slip back into using it for his sexual pleasure. He was ashamed and embarrassed that it had such a grip on him. Because of his shame, he had never sought professional help for it. The fact that he had never submitted to true intervention gave me hope that together they could face this addiction and deal with it more effectively.
“Folks,” I continued. “You’re fighting a very formidable opponent. This pornography has been a secret enemy of both of yours and it’s time we get the enemy out into the open. Scripture says, ‘For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open’”(Mark 4: 22). I shared with them some strategies for winning the battle against pornography.
First, face the truth. Denial about any addiction, especially a sexually compulsive behavior, will only lead to its continuation. Addictions are progressive and get worse without intervention. Seek help from a specialist to determine if a sexual addiction exists and learn all you can about how to face the issues head on.
Second, seek professional help. You cannot heal from an addiction on your own. Thankfully, many programs exist now to help people come out of the closet about their addictions. We cannot heal what we cannot feel. We cannot heal what we cannot face and talk openly about. Professionals will help determine what level of intervention is needed to bring about true recovery.
Third, don’t settle for short-cuts. While it is tempting to believe you can tackle this problem on your own, this is not true. We need each other and need the experience, strength and hope offered by those who share similar struggles. Trying to conquer this problem on your own inevitably leads to more relapses and heartache. The addiction will only get worse. If you are the mate of an addict, insist on depth intervention. Significant behavioral, emotional and spiritual growth will be the hallmarks of recovery.
Fourth, get appropriate help. Addictions prosper without adequate intervention. Believing you can tackle the problem alone, or with self-will, is usually a fallacy. There is no room for false pride when it comes to finding expert help and taking the necessary steps to heal. Recovery is not simply the cessation of an addictive behavior, but the healing of thoughts, behaviors, interpersonal relationships and even spiritual faith.
Finally, take the necessary steps to heal. Recovery from addiction will take an all-out effort. It will usually involve participation in some kind of treatment group, such as Celebrate Recovery or Sexual Addicts Anonymous, developing a program of accountability and transparency, utilizing Scripture and couples counseling. Bringing your pastor into the ‘healing container’ can also be a useful step for accountability.
Thank God, healing is possible from a sexual addiction---with appropriate intervention. We claim the truths of Scripture with this and any addiction that holds us captive. As Jesus said, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners” (Isaiah 61: 1).
Please contact me for a confidential consultation on treatment for sexual addictions. Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please feel free to call for a free, twenty-minute consultation.
Publication date: November 6, 2012
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