By Dr. David B. Hawkins, Crosswalk.com
The dangers of pornography to marriages, families and the very soul of the world cannot be overestimated. I receive phone calls on a daily basis decrying the ravages of pornography and other forms of sexual addiction, and the deception that surrounds it, on marriage and the family.
In my book Breaking Everyday Addictions, I note how sexual addictions are more rampant than anyone realizes. From men who have serial affairs to those who are addicted to pornography, sexual addictions are particularly malignant and destructive to marriages.
As with all forms of addictions, sexual addictions are secretive, fraught with denial, deception, and minimization, and are progressive. The destructive behavior continues in spite of the positive intentions of the addicted person. No longer free to fully choose their behavior, they are instead driven by secret, shameful compulsions.
When confronted about their behavior, the pornography addict rarely reveals the truth. Thus, the mate of the pornography addict now deals additionally with the shame of pornography as well as the unfathomable breach of trust. If one’s mate cannot be trusted in one matter of such vital importance, how can they be trusted in another?
An additional challenge of sexual addictions concerns the issue of “coming clean.” The spouse of the sexual addict often wants to know the full extent of the addiction, and because of the very secretive nature of the addict, that information is either not forthcoming, or is not believed. Most often the truth comes out in bits and pieces, creating phenomenal tension. The couple is left with rampant distrust.
What are some steps that can be taken when facing some aspect of sexual addiction?
First, you need to deal directly with your sexual addiction. Take whatever steps are necessary, including the possibility of an inpatient program, or a community-based program such as Sexual Addicts Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery to deal effectively with the sexual addiction. Many find some success with an accountability partner, but this is not likely enough. Consider taking dramatic steps to recover from this serious problem. Until this is done trust cannot be rebuilt.
Second, ensure that you have a thorough program. It has been said that partial measures will not ensure recovery. Drastic measures are needed to deal effectively with this problem. Don’t fool yourself by believing you can solve this problem on your own. Any recovery program must encompass social, psychological, sexual, and spiritual factors—in short, it must be comprehensive. Radical changes in lifestyle are often needed for recovery.
Third, once you have dealt honestly with your addiction, complete with accountability, then you can work on your marriage. Recovery cannot occur alone. Scripture tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Marriages need support as well. A marriage cannot survive ongoing violations of trust. Recovery cannot occur when there is incredible chaos, deception, and destruction occurring in your home.
Fourth, there must be fearless truth-telling in all matters. Wherever there is an addiction—and our homes are plagued with everyday addictions—there is deception, excuse-making, rationalizing, and other forms of unhealthy communication. Addiction breeds bondage, idolatry, and “crazymaking.” Any recovery process is replete with full transparency and accountability.
Finally, marriage counseling can be helpful to learn effective communication and conflict resolution skills. Addiction impacts everyone in the family. Both mates need to heal from the years of betrayal and develop strategies for keeping your home free from pornography in the future. Understand that it will take time for trust to be rebuilt, and both the addict and mate will need their own counseling to recover from your addiction and unhealthy patterns of communication.
Has pornography been an issue in your marriage? Would you like to heal beyond deception and create a place for rigorous honesty? If you would like help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives.
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Dr. David Hawkins, MBA, MSW, MA, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has helped bring healing to thousands of marriages and individuals since he began his work in 1976. Dr. Hawkins is passionate about working with couples in crisis and offering them ways of healing their wounds and finding their way back to being passionately in love with each other.
Over the past ten years, Dr. Hawkins has become a leader in the field of treatment for narcissism and emotional abuse within relationships. He has developed several programs for treatment of men dealing with these issues and the women who love them. Dr. Hawkins is also a speaker & trainer for the American Association of Christian Counselors and writes for Crosswalk.com, CBN.org, and iBelieve.com. He is a weekly guest on Moody Radio and Faith Radio and is a best-selling author of over thirty books.