If you are married to an addict, it can be so easy to fall into an unhealthy cycle with your spouse.
Addiction tends to do that. One partner struggles with the addiction and the other struggles to free them.
Sometimes, you don’t even realize that it is happening until you are deep into it. I have been there!
Fortunately, there are better ways to handle your response in the midst of recovery. Below are three steps that have helped me in so many ways. Hopefully they will cast some light for you too.
1. Let Go of Responsibility
When you are made aware of your spouse’s porn problem, the first natural reaction (after being tremendously hurt, of course) usually is the desire to fix it. That is what I tried to do. That is what a lot of other people have tried to do as well. I get it but I don’t recommend it.
First let’s reflect on a couple of truths about pornography addiction: one, your spouse’s addiction is not your fault. In fact, it usually has absolutely zero to do with you. Two, trying to fix your spouse’s problem usually results in more stress and less recovery.
With those two truths in mind, let’s look at what can and will happen when you begin to let go of the responsibility of “fixing” your spouse: once you truly understand that this pornography addiction is utterly not about you or what you lack or what you do or don’t do, there is freedom from responsibility to try and fix it. Nothing that you have done made your spouse go there and nothing you can do will make your spouse recover.
Listen, I know how difficult it is to believe that your spouse watching porn has nothing to do with you, but it’s true. Chances are he or she had this issue before marrying you, maybe even before knowing you. This issue is not a reflection of you but rather a reflection of your spouse’s emotional and spiritual battles.
It is up to your spouse to want to make a change, not you. It is up to your spouse to use whatever tools put in place when struggling, not you. It is up to your spouse to reach out, not you. Once you let go of hovering over every ounce of the recovery process something wonderful happens: your spouse must start taking responsibility for their addiction. This step is vital for your spouse to actually begin recovering instead of placing the blame on any and everything (or everyone) aside from him or herself.
Don’t misunderstand me here, I am not saying to pretend like nothing is happening and go on your way. I am only saying that your spouse has to want to recover. Your spouse has to put the time in, you should not be trying to do that for him or her. You are not their mother or father so don’t put that weight on your shoulders.
Having healthy boundaries in any relationship is good idea. Having boundaries in a relationship with someone struggling in addiction is mandatory. I say mandatory not so that you can control what your spouse does or try to fix their addiction, I say mandatory because those boundaries aid in keeping you healthy along the way.
So many people have come to believe that the word boundary is somehow negative. It really isn’t at all. When speaking with other people, I try to help them understand that the boundaries you put in place (when it comes to a spouses’ addiction) are not to punish your spouse or you.
These boundaries are put in place to protect you from further abuse in an unhealthy situation.
Also, I am not talking about password protection or spyware or any of those types of things.
While those are great to put in place and I highly suggest they are, there are ways around them and they are tools to aid in recovery not necessarily boundaries. The boundaries I am talking about are things you have put in place with your spouse so that your spouse knows what makes you feel safe and what doesn’t and the outcomes of those safe areas being crossed. For example, a boundary I had in place with my husband was simply that he wouldn’t lie to me. If there was lying happening, I would not feel safe with him and subsequently not be around him.
Boundaries look different for everyone. Please pray about them and discuss them with your spouse.
3. Erasing Lies and Speaking Truth
When you are married to a porn addict for any extent of time, chances are you don’t feel great about yourself. Chances are you may have even been told you are the reason behind the addiction. You may have even started to believe that you are somehow less than or that your feelings are not valid. Friend, all those things are lies.
Unfortunately, self-esteem issues are a byproduct of porn addiction (on both sides). But there is medicine for this: God! God’s Word. God’s love. With the help of our Savior, we can begin to renew our minds. If you are not familiar with that phrase, it simply means to begin to erase the lies and replace them with truth. Sounds easy, right?! It’s not.
Renewing your mind through Christ is probably one of the hardest things to accomplish after being in a relationship that feels demeaning. It can be done though. If you are willing to take the time and be consistent, it can be done.
There are a bunch of ways to go about this, but I have found a couple that work best for me: memorizing scripture and writing down affirmations. When I can memorize scripture, especially scripture about how God loves me and how wonderfully I was made, it helps me to realize when lies about who I am begin to surface. That is the real trick; deciphering between the lies and the truth of who you are.
I also like to write affirmations about myself in a notebook. Sometimes, when I am reading the Bible, an affirmation will pop up. But it can also be compliments from other people or just things that I know about myself. Whatever that looks like for you, write them down and start repeating them in your head. This practice will also allow you to better recognize lies and replace them with truth.
Hopefully with these three practical tips, you and your spouse can find a healthier road to recovery.
If you are the spouse of someone addicted your recovery is not the same as your spouse’s, please check out Recover. This program is all about healing and community. I have found that community is so vital to any recovery process including spouses of addicts. Trust me friend, you will be thankful you took a step in recovery.
If you are the spouse struggling, please check out My Pilgrimage. This program goes deeper than just quitting porn. It gets to the root issues that make people want to escape through porn. Taking a leap into this program will help you get your life back. Please pray about it and join us in healing!