Two years ago I had just finished meeting with my last couple of the week and upon reflection they all had a similar theme: The husbands porn use. I spent some time writing what I thought the wives needed to know about their husbands porn use, and two years later that blog post is still one of the most visited posts on this site.

I’ve long thought about writing a follow up post to men, and doing so as a way to open up conversations not to shame and beat them up. Men need to know what their porn use is about, because it’s rarely what they think it is.

1. It is not about your wife.

No one enters into marriage sexually unscathed. We all have sexual baggage, and porn is a certain kind of sexual baggage.

There have been very few instances when I have heard a man speak about developing a porn habit or addiction after getting married. The overwhelming majority of men bring a history of porn into the marriage. Now it’s possible that the porn usage increases after marriage because of a husband’s inability to handle a variety of factors: Disappointment in sex, performance issues, or frequency of sex. While it would be nice and clean to put the blame on the wife, that’s not really what’s happening. She’s not the problem.

Porn use happens because it’s easy. There’s no risk of rejection. The viewer never experiences the pain of failure. Sex with oneself is infinitely easier than with another person, but it’s also infinitely more empty. Sex in real life is not always easy, it’s very vulnerable, and the possibility of rejection or failure is ever present. But it is this vulnerability and risk that make sex in a marriage a unifying, healing, and connecting experience.

2. Porn use happens because of shame.

Shame is the feeling that there is something wrong with me. I keep doing things that are painful to myself and/or others, and only bad people do those kinds of things again and again. Because of this, I feel shame.

Porn is a readily accessible way to forget about the deep disappointment in ones self. That is, until the porn binge is over. Then one is on their own forced to face the mess. This is when the tidal waves of guilt and shame come with great intensity. A great reprieve from the toxic shame is to soothe oneself, and what better way to do that with someone on the screen that will always say “yes” to whatever is asked of them.

Shame keeps us from connecting with other people. And this isn’t just about porn. Anyone who deals with shame has trouble being in caring, intimate (not just sexual intimacy), vulnerable relationships. We were created for relationships, and if one is too shameful to have real relationships, porn is a momentary outlet for this longing and need.

3. Porn use is cheating.

One of the most problematic justifications I often hear about porn is that it is better than having an affair. Most people don’t outright say this, but saying that it isn’t cheating is saying that it’s better than going out and having an affair.

Porn use is cheating because it involves getting deep relational needs met in a context outside the marriage. It is a sexual experience outside the marriage bed. To some it might not feel as devastating as an affair, but it’s incredibly problematic for a couple to deal with the effects of porn.

Studies show three significant issues that come from porn usage. First, the more men use porn, the less successful they are in their intimate relationships. Secondly, they tend to have more sexual partners in life. Lastly, they confuse sex with something that is personally experienced with something that is watched. This habit of watching sex transforms subjects into objects, and connection into transaction. Men and women become genitalia, nothing more.

4. Healing is a community experience.

The previous words might have been difficult to read, but take heart. There is hope. We all desire to live a truthful life. Because of the shame, we often attempt to fix our lives on our own, especially with porn. But that rarely, if ever, truly works. Recovery happens in relationships, not in isolation.

The men, women, and couples who attempt to recover from their sexual brokenness on their own face an impossibly difficult uphill ascent without any safety gear to keep them from falling. The impact of porn is such a personal and shameful experience (for both husband and wife), the last action most want to take is to invite others into that process. But that is the only way that I know of how healing and forgiveness take place.

Don’t try to do it alone. Join or start a recovery group (I’m starting one on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings). Talk with a friend, invite them into a healing process with you. You’re not alone: Barna research group found that 73% of men ages 18-49 viewed porn once a month. Others are waiting to be invited into the light of day, just like you are.

What action steps do you need to take?

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