Pornography can take a desperate toll on marriage. According to Covenant Eyes' 2014 statistics, 56 percent of divorce cases involve at least one party in the marriage who "obsessively" looks at porn.
Pornography can wreak havoc on a marriage. However, marriages that have experienced distress caused by pornography can be healed. For the fullest marital healing, the following three things must be recovered: the addict, the spouse and the marriage.
Despite the fact that many addicts are not in recovery from their sex-addiction, or possibly don't even recognize it as an "addiction," many addicts want their marriages to work. However, the addiction stands in the way of the marriage working. Quite often, the addicts that desire a working marriage simply haven't been able to break out of the cycle of addiction and addictive behaviors - something necessary to keeping their marriages intact.
For a marriage to be truly functional, the addict must be in recovery. The addict's behaviors, such as lying, infidelity, manipulation or power struggles, have the potential to destroy both the spouse and the marriage.
The addict must be actively engaged in recovery to keep the marriage functioning properly. While the idea seems simple, to the addict's mind, recovery can be difficult. An addict's recovery takes time and perseverance and will usually include the following:
• Working a recovery program. This can help addicts not only break the cycle of pride, selfishness, shame, but also aid them in turning their wills over to a higher power and gain a full recovery.
• Working with a sponsor. Addicts cannot overcome this on their own. The chemical ties to the addiction are too strong. There are habits and pathways that need to be re-routed, and addicts need the help of someone who is experienced in breaking addictive habits or pathways.
• Developing a pure motivation. Healing for the addict can only take place when the motivation is for self and God, not for anyone else including the spouse.
• Gaining knowledge. The addict should learn about the nature of the addiction, the physiological and psychological aspects, as well as understand how a relationship with a higher power can help break the chains of addiction. The addiction should also develop an understanding of the root of the addiction in self such as how it started, triggers and motivations.
• Developing honesty: with self, spouse, God.
• Seeing a counselor.
The spouse's recovery is sometimes overlooked. People tend to say things such as, "It's the addict's problem. The addict needs to overcome this," not realizing the spouse has just as much healing and recovery that must take place.
The spouse experiences Betrayal Trauma, which can have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result of the addict's betrayal of fidelity and trust, the spouse has much to work through. If the trauma, heartache and possibly codependent behaviors are left untouched, the spouse will be rocked to the very core and could experience permanent damage.
Spouses of addicts must work on their own recovery so they can have a solid foundation in themselves, which will give a base on which the marriage can be strengthened. Keys to the spouse's recovery include:
• Understanding the physiological and psychological aspects of the addiction.
• Developing boundaries to keep self safe.
• Working a recovery program to gain their own trauma and healing.
• Learning about betrayal trauma, the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and the stages of the grief cycle.
• Seeing a counselor.
• Offering self-care and self-compassion.
• Prayer: turning to a higher power for help overcoming the pains brought forth by addiction-trauma.
• Reaching out: the spouse can't do this alone. Friends and support people will be key elements in survival through the pain.
• Learning to forgive but without rushing forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't for the addict. It's about healing a part of yourself that is broken. Until forgiveness takes place, the spouse won't be able to truly be healed.
For the marriage to reach the highest potential of healing, the addict and spouse need to first work on their own individual recoveries. As each party within the marriage becomes healed, they will have an individual foundation of healing and strength that will give them the ability to work as a team to recover their marriage.
Sometimes when facing this addiction and the trauma it causes, the parties in the marriage see each other as enemies. At some point, however, the addict will have to look beyond himself/herself to help the spouse. And, the spouse will have to learn trust again and work with the addict to build a strong foundation for their futures together.
Every marriage is different and will require different types of care to bring the marriage back to peace and safety. That being said, the following few tips can help the addict and spouse bring their marriage back to safety:
• Each party in the marriage must work his or her own recovery and together choose recovery for the marriage. This requires vulnerability, a little bit of trust and a lot of patience.
• The relationship needs boundaries. When the relationship is in a stable enough position, an example of a boundary could be that each person makes the other their number one. That means you talk to your spouse about big important things before anyone else. Boundaries should be set together and provide a safety net for the relationship.
• The relationship needs vulnerability and intimacy. By starting with emotional vulnerability and intimacy, the relationship and all types of intimacy will progress and gain strength naturally. The addict and spouse could decide to figuratively work together to"start over," giving the marriage a clean slate to build upon.
• Addicts and spouses must communicate even when it's difficult.
Ultimately, a marriage can be restored to it's fullest potential after suffering through the wreckage of a porn addiction. When the addict and spouse both seek their healing, they will build strength within themselves to secure a foundation to rebuild their marriage upon. By following the tips outlined above, addicts and spouses will be able to find healing in their marriages.
Kilee is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in Family and Consumer Science Education. She is passionate about parenting and child development, human relations, nutrition and wellness, culinary and fashion design.