By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., SATP, CSAT
When Monica discovered her husband Kyle’s pornography use she was devastated. Never did she think that he would ever do something so low. She felt hurt and betrayed. When she confronted him about it he confessed this was a longstanding problem; however, he promised her that he would never view pornography again. When she asked him to get help for his addiction, he refused, claiming he could handle this on his own. Monica knew he couldn’t do it.
Traumatized by this and wondering what she could do to help herself and Kyle, Monica scheduled an appointment to speak with Dr. Peter Kleponis. She wanted to learn all she could about this addiction to help heal Kyle, herself, and their marriage. Through her counseling sessions and her own research, Monica learned a great deal about pornography addiction, its causes, and the recovery process. She also began her own recovery process, which included counseling, a support group, and spiritual direction.
Dr. Kleponis admired Monica for her strength and faith. As deeply hurt as she was, she would not allow Kyle’s addiction to destroy her or their marriage. Moreover, she wanted to know what she could do to help Kyle. Below are five strategies Dr. Kleponis shares with wives to help their husbands.
- Understand that while pornography use is a sin, pornography addiction is a disease, like alcoholism. As such, it requires professional treatment. Addressing it as merely a moral failing does not bring about healthy recovery. Viewing it as a disease makes it easier to confront a husband without shaming or ridiculing him.
- Understand that a wife is never responsible for her husband’s pornography addiction or for his recovery. It was his decision to use pornography and it’s his responsibility to work on his recovery program. Your job is simply to pray for him daily and give him your love and moral support. Remember the mantra, “I didn’t cause this, I can’t cure it”
- Understand that most addicts are unable to seek help because of the great shame they experience because of their addiction. They may believe that due to their actions they are terrible people and that no one could ever love, especially God. This makes them want to hide their addiction even more. A husband needs his wife’s compassion and mercy to help him let go of the shame. Be consistent and patient, reminding him and yourself that often this addiction is rooted in trauma and you need help to heal from that.
- Insist that your husband enters a comprehensive recovery program, such as Dr. Kleponis’s Integrity Starts Here! program. It should include individual and marital counseling, a sobriety plan, support group attendance, Catholic spirituality, education in healthy intimacy and sexuality, and growth in virtue. Let him know that if he chooses not to enter a recovery program you will not be able to remain married to him. That’s how serious this is!
- Provide your husband with some resources for recovery, such as the Integrity Circle Coaching program, which you can do together as a date night…buy some takeout, sit down together for the 30-minute online session and then talk for 30 minutes about what you learned. A great hour each week to stay connected through the recovery process.
Using five similar strategies helped Monica to help Kyle, as well as herself and their marriage. Viewing his addiction as a disease helped Kyle let go of his shame and pride. It also helped Monica have more compassion for him. Not feeling responsible for his addiction or recovery was a relief for Monica. It freed her to work on her own healing and enabled her to provide Kyle with much needed love and moral support. At first, Kyle was taken aback by Monica’s firm insistence that he enter a recovery program; however, he eventually admitted he was grateful to her for it. He knows he wouldn’t have gotten help without it. In addition to their individual healing, Monica and Kyle worked with a therapist to heal their marriage. Together they were able to create a stronger and healthier marriage.
It took several years for Monica and Kyle to restore their marriage. Trust that is broken can take a long time to heal. However, both Monica and Kyle were willing to be patient and do the work needed to restore marital trust. They also knew that God was with them every step of the way. While the healing process is still ongoing for Monica and Kyle, they know that today they have a marriage that is happier and healthier than ever.