3 Things to Say — and Not Say — After You Admit Your Porn Addiction

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In my work as a pastoral counselor, I've coached many men through the process of rebuilding their marriage after the damage of a pornography addiction. I've walked with them through numerous challenges, but the most emotionally difficult is the painful impact their addiction has on their wives.

Realizing your sin is one thing; seeing its effect on the person you love is another. It's excruciating to witness your spouse's pain and know you're responsible. This often leads husbands to minimize the seriousness of their behavior or make excuses for it. But it's a husband's unwillingness to deal with and acknowledge his wife's pain that prompts her to lament, "Does he know how badly he's hurt me? Every time I bring it up, he makes light of it or refuses to talk about it. How can we move on when he won't face the problem?"

Women in this position face a terrible dilemma. They want to forgive, and in fact realize they have to forgive for their own emotional and spiritual health. But they can't simply choose to trust again, because shattered trust can't be rebuilt unless the husband faces his failure and acknowledges its severity. Bypassing full ownership only cripples the healing process.

Three errors to avoid

In my 31 years of counseling, I've come to recognize three common errors men make when trying to rebuild marital trust.

"I'm really sorry!"

Fervency is all well and good, but manipulating your way back into someone's good graces with a super intense apology is immature and usually unconvincing.

That's not to say authentic tears or expressions of deep remorse are wrong. But it's unfair to expect your wife to believe her man is rehabilitated simply because of a dramatic apology. If you're truly sorry, say so with all the emotion you feel. But don't expect your intensity alone to be enough evidence that you'll never slip up again. The most passionate confession doesn't compare with consistency. True repentance is only proved through changed behavior over time.

"Lighten up, it's just a guy thing."

Don't think for a minute that using porn is anything less serious than a betrayal of your wife's trust. When you minimize the severity of that betrayal, you give your wife good reason to think you'll use it again. If porn is just a guy thing — and assuming you'll be a guy for the rest of your life — why should she believe that you'll change?

The "guy thing" line implies most guys look at porn, which is debatable. It also suggests that if most guys do it, it must not be a big deal, which is inaccurate.

If you want to restore the relationship you've damaged, the last thing you should do is deny the seriousness of your wrongdoing. When she married you, she trusted you to rise above base instincts, no matter how common. You'll never win back her trust by excusing bad behavior with verbal cop-outs.

"I said I'm sorry. Why can't we just get back to normal?"

Pushing for the quick recovery of a sexual and emotional betrayal is unfair and insensitive, especially if you're the one who broke the connection in the first place.

Can you imagine if a man hit his wife in the face, knocked her to the ground, and then looked down impatiently and said, "Sorry, babe, now get up and let's get back to normal"? His demand would be outrageous. In the same way, it's outrageous for a husband to insist that his wife spring back from a betrayal without giving her the time to grieve and heal.

Extend to your wife all the space and time she needs to process her pain. In the meantime, let her see your changed behavior and prove to her that you're different now. Time for her to recover, along with your enduring integrity, will enable her to ease back into true and total partnership. Changing your behavior — and heart — most likely means you need to seek counseling and support to get to the root of the issues driving your pornography use.

Three truths to declare

It's not enough to avoid saying the wrong thing. As you seek to rebuild your wife's trust, be sure to communicate these three declarations.

Start with a declaration of intent, as in, "These are the steps I'm going to take so this never happens again. And this is my plan for rebuilding our bond and restoring your trust."

Then make a declaration of insight, as in, "I understand I've damaged you and myself, and I endangered our family. I realize it will take time for me to fully grasp the enormity of these actions."

Finally, make a declaration of inspiration, as in, "I'm renewing my intimacy with God through prayer and reading the Bible. I invite you to verify that I'm regularly investing in my spiritual life, in my accountability and in our communication."

These declarations will go a long way in proving to your wife that you are serious about changing your behavior, that you are working to understand the pain you've caused her and that you're taking responsibility for mending your marriage.

As long as you’re willing to own your errors and show genuine concern over them, plus make practical steps to avoid repeating them, the bond with your wife will not only mend but grow stronger than ever.

Joe Dallas is the author of 5 Steps to Breaking Free from Porn.

A variety of issues can fuel habitual pornography use. Understanding the deeper needs of individuals affected by this common problem is important. Reach out to well-trained helpers, and if you are a married couple do so together. Change is possible! We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or
help@FocusOnTheFamily.com
www.FocusontheFamily.com/FindaCounselor

© 2018 Joe Dallas. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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