A Porn Addict's Wife: Feeling Inadequate and Unwanted

sad wife with back to husband in bed
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Karen didn't think much of it when her husband, Bill, asked her to check his email on his home computer for an update on a package he was expecting. However, as she was checking his pending delivery, she stumbled on his browsing history. Karen's jaw dropped as she stared at the titles of the websites her husband had recently viewed. After she clicked on the first site, a wave of nausea washed over her.

Karen watched in horror as the video of a naked woman came up on the screen. The woman was beautiful and young. Her expression and body language left no doubt about the message she was trying to convey. Karen's face grew hot; she felt all the energy drain from her body. She protectively pulled her sweater around her middle as she compared herself to the images on the screen. She imagined Bill watching the video.

The sadness was overwhelming, but Karen still spent the next hour opening every website in her husband's history, each image piercing her heart.

Feeling inadequate and unwanted

Problems had plagued her and Bill's marriage, but finding his pornography jarred her to realize how extensive the issues were. Bill had stopped pursuing her sexually years earlier. The rejection deeply wounded her and left her feeling inadequate and unwanted.

Karen strongly desired sexual intimacy with Bill. She had tried to rekindle their sex life by planning special evenings, sending sexy messages to him during the day, buying new lingerie and even losing a substantial amount of weight. But all her efforts hadn't changed the situation.

God didn't miraculously fix their issues, although Karen prayed thousands of prayers. She read everything she could find about improving marriage, trying to find anything that would draw Bill back to her. She sought counsel from her pastor and Christian mentors. She attended Bible studies and tried to be the best wife possible. She hoped that if she kept a clean house, cooked and treated Bill well that he would choose to meet her needs, too. Nothing worked. As years went by, she felt helpless to change the situation and stuck in a marriage where her needs were not met.

Avoiding communication and trust

Karen was raised in a home without healthy communication; family members did not discuss issues. Even the thought of talking about problems was scary for her. Growing up, Karen learned that her family had unspoken rules that guarded the family's denial of difficulties. The first rule was "Don't talk" — what happened inside the home was private. The goal was to look perfect from the outside. The family lived as if talking about a problem was the only thing that made it real — if a problem was not acknowledged, it didn't exist and nobody had to do anything to change the situation.

Another unspoken rule was "Don't feel." Karen and her siblings were taught to put their feelings aside for the greater good of the family. Acknowledging her feelings was not emotionally safe for Karen, because if she expressed her emotion, she was shamed for being selfish.

Karen's parents gave inconsistent support and often made promises they didn't keep. Through this, Karen experienced the final unspoken rule: "Don't trust." When children don't have consistent support from adults, they find it difficult to trust people.

Since relationships require communication and mutual trust, Karen had great difficulty forming good relationships. She didn't know what a healthy marriage looked like, much less how to create one. Karen had trouble acknowledging her feelings without judging them as bad. The constant uncertainty led her to anxiety and sadness. Karen didn't have the tools to handle this situation on her own, and what was worse, she felt guilty for being unhappy.

Addressing the issues

As uncomfortable and painful as talking about Bill's use of pornography was, Karen simply could not ignore it. She knew the issue was real and not going to magically disappear. She decided the first step was to confront the problem. So, she told Bill what she had found and insisted that they get professional help. Karen knew that their issues were too big for the two of them to navigate alone.

Karen came to understand that she could become part of the solution to rebuilding trust and intimacy in their marriage. By not communicating her wants, needs or opinions, she had allowed herself to become a doormat. She needed to learn how to have a healthy relationship, so she and Bill sought help through counseling.

They attended marriage counseling where they learned to honestly and openly communicate with each other. Bill joined a support group for sex addiction, and Karen found a group for women married to sex addicts. This group focused on codependency and addressed the trauma responses a wife commonly goes through when discovering a husband's pornography issues.

Karen needed to know that their marriage would become a safe place for her. She needed boundaries and accountability in their relationship to make sure Bill was sincere in his pledge to give up pornography use. An example of a boundary that Karen put in place was that Bill needed to attend counseling and meet with his support group weekly. Otherwise, she would ask him for a temporary separation until he would take constructive actions.

The process was painful and took time, but for Karen, talking through issues instead of pretending nothing was wrong felt good. Discovering an extreme problem in their marriage had prompted action, and nothing improved until she and Bill became honest and open with each other.

Karen started seeing changes in Bill's behavior and attitudes. Bill worked hard to conquer his addiction and identify the root issues that led to and perpetuated the cycle, and she began to experience his love through his actions. Eventually, Karen and Bill were able to mend their relationship and love each other well.

Michelle Habel is a licensed professional counselor candidate (LPCC) and has been providing therapeutic services to couples and adults since 2015.

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 help. 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

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