The church at large has begun to speak, though not always well, on pornography addiction and sexual integrity and I couldn’t be happier about that! There is no doubt that many people need to hear about these issues and what they may bring.
The conversation of porn and sexual integrity needs to be had.
However, many are missing the mark when it comes to those married to the addicts. The church has some incredibly false ideals about why people use porn in the first place and how it affects their spouses.
Due to those falsehoods, there has been intense damage to these spouses.
First, it is vitally important to realize that pornography addiction has zero to do with real sex. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it is true.
Pornography addiction usually stems from some sort of hurt the addict doesn’t want to deal with and instead uses porn as a way to escape the way they are feeling, at least for a while.
I have heard hundreds of women say the first thing said to them by people in pastoral roles is to “be sexier for your spouse” and “have more sex with your spouse”. In thinking that way, there has been and continues to be amazingly damaging advice given to spouses, and for that matter addicts.
Listen, there have been tons of instances told to me where the addict engages in sex with their spouse and then turns to porn that same night. Which clearly states that sex doesn’t stop pornography use.
What that means is simply this: spouses having more sex with their addicted partner will not cure the addiction. Spouses making themselves more ‘available’ for their partners will not stop the addict from looking at porn and masturbating.
Meaning that the church needs to STOP telling spouses of sex and porn addicts to have more sex. Not having enough sex is not the reason an addict uses porn.
Having more sex with a porn addict will not magically cure them.
No amount of sex with an addict is going to take the addiction away. But it does do other things.
When spouses make themselves readily available to the addict it may and usually does cause incredible trauma. Think about it, the spouse is literally trying to fix a problem that has nothing to do with them so that they no longer feel hurt by the addict.
But in doing so turn sexual intimacy into a twisted ‘medication’.
Sex itself becomes traumatizing because it is no longer about connecting, but about duty. It no longer is mutually pleasing, but all about stopping other unwanted behavior.
When I did this, I became detached from the sexual experience entirely. It even got to the point of mentally numbing out and just waiting for it to be over.
That is not God’s intention for sexual intimacy.
Second, pornography and sexual addiction cause something called betrayal trauma in the spouse. Betrayal trauma is a term that describes when a committed partner has betrayed their spouse (sexually, emotionally, etc.) which has caused incredible damage to the trust, safety of the relationship, and, in most cases, the spouse’s identity and sense of self.
When betrayal happens in this capacity, the betrayed partner has been traumatized. Their world has been turned upside down. There are mental, physical, and emotional consequences.
Experiencing this betrayal shreds the belief that the partner is safe, wants to honor the commitment to one another, loves the spouse, and wants to make the spouse a priority.
Betrayal trauma is usually accompanied by different forms of dishonesty, all of which cause further trauma. These forms include, but are not limited to:
- Gaslighting: an attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation)
- Minimization: to reduce or keep to a minimum; to underestimate intentionally
- Denial: refusal to satisfy a request or desire; refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge); refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing
- Manipulation: to change by artful or unfair means to serve one’s purpose.
This type of trauma takes the very person that is supposed to love, support, and be a safe haven for our spouse and turns them into the perpetrator. There is panic, confusion, anger, fear, shame, guilt and so many other emotions that flood the system which impairs the ability to function.
The spouse’s brains instinctively go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
For the majority of women, it is terrifying and not short-lived. The process of healing is long. There are long-term impacts that will need to be worked through over time.
So what can we, as the church, do better?
Let’s stop allowing the narrative that sex is a NEED. It just isn’t. I have never heard of anyone dying if they didn’t get laid.
Sexual intimacy is a God-given desire.
If we can remove that narrative and instead push the truth of what God shows us as real intimacy: putting one another first and connecting in a way that allows mutual respect, married couples could begin the healing process well instead of introducing more trauma.
Let’s also become educated on what it actually means for the spouse after finding out about the addict’s activities. This addiction is not the spouse’s fault, nor is it their responsibility to fix.
Instead of blaming the spouse, be there for them. Instead of advising ‘being available’ sexually, let them know it is okay to not be intimate until this is figured out.
I truly believe that we can do better if we begin taking these steps and utilize some of the amazing resources currently available.
Let’s start today! Live Free Wives is an incredible resource for women married to addicts. It is free and it offers a community that understands and resources that speak the truth.
It’s time to put the lies of porn and sex addiction to rest and begin to walk with the hurting well.