Excerpt from Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus
My Husband Is Into Pornography—What Should I Do?
“Lorraine, I can’t tell you my name, but I took part in a survey for the book you are writing with Linda Dillow.”
“Yes…” I prompted, expecting her to continue. Instead, muffled sobs filtered through the receiver. “Tell me what’s wrong,” I urged.
“It’s my husband. I found a stack of pornographic magazines and videos in a closet in the garage. I knew he’d had a problem with pornography when he was a boy, but he swore he was over it. Now he admits he’s been looking at this junk off and on for the last five years!”
“Does anyone else know about this?” I asked.
“No. He’s a leader in our church. He’d die if anyone found out.”
“How do you feel about what he is doing?”
“One minute I’m so disgusted I feel like throwing up. The next minute I want to strangle the life out of him. What is he thinking? How could he do this to me?” She paused. The rage storming within her gathered force and exploded in one, heart-wrenching wail. “What’s wrong with me that he would even want to look at pictures of other women?”
I let her cry, praying the tears would release the toxic emotions fuming inside her. A few minutes later she said she felt better. Like a violent tornado, her anger had swirled on, leaving behind the rubble of hopelessness and despair. “What shall I do?” she cried.
Discovering that your husband is into pornography is like being in a boxing ring with every negative emotion you’ve ever had. Anger, embarrassment, shock, shame, disgust—and all their nasty cousins—take turns punching you, slugging you, until you crumple to the floor in a heap. Even when you are down, they continue to pummel you. Pain clouds your vision. You can’t see which emotion hit you last, nor do you care. You only know you want the beating to stop. And like the anonymous caller, you believe the way to make it stop is to DO something.
But before you DO anything, you must first THINK something. Pornography is a battle for the mind and, as such, must be won in the mind. Perhaps you believe we are referring to your husband’s mind. We are. But we are also talking about your mind. Your husband’s use of pornography greatly affects you. Before you can help him, you must make sure your own thinking is right.
Pornography: A Battle for the Mind
What do you think about yourself when you envision your husband studying some nameless woman’s naked body? Do you question your femininity, your sexuality? Does your mind scream, “What’s wrong with me? Am I really so terrible to look at?” Do you muse, If only I had a forty inch chest and long, shapely legs like the model in the magazine, he’d never look anywhere else. What do you feel when your mind accuses, It’s your fault your husband uses pornography or when a “helpful” friend suggests, “He wouldn’t need that stuff if you were a more skillful lover.”
Neal Clement, director of the American Family Associations OutReach Division, says, “You can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard from a wife that she was told, `You need to perform sexually for him.’ This kind of advice is abusive. It makes a woman feel like the answer to his problem lies in her ability to bring him sexual gratification. This is just setting her up for a lot more hurt. It doesn’t work and she’s left feeling more shame and guilt because she couldn’t do it for him.” One wife said, “I was victimized by well-meaning pastors…They told me, `You’re not satisfying your husband; you’re not being a submissive wife.’”
Friend, be aware. Emotions associated with pornography don’t fight fair. If you are going to duke it out in your mind with your emotions, the only way you are going to win is if you set up a few “boxing” rules.
1. Rule One: No comparing yourself with other women. The Bible calls the practice of comparing ourselves with others “unwise” (2 Corinthians 10:12). If we are comparing ourselves with images shown in pornography, perhaps a better word would be absurd. No one looks like those models. You don’t. We don’t. And, thanks to electronic editing, neither does the model! (A click of the mouse can zap the cottage cheese from her thighs or enlarge her breasts.)
Does this mean—because we will never look like “that”—we should abort all attempts to make our bodies and ourselves attractive for our husbands? No. As we discussed in chapter six, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. We should eat right, exercise, discover dressing, makeup and hairstyles that honor God and please our husbands. But we should never hold up the Playboy bunny or the Victoria Secret model as a standard for beauty. To do so makes a mockery of God’s prescription for feminine sexuality.
2. Rule Two: No condemning yourself. In An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Halls says, “A husband will work hard at convincing his wife and others that the addiction [to pornography] is her fault.” He does this to assuage his own guilt, but don’t subscribe to such thinking. Beating yourself up is pointless and nonproductive. It also invites self-pity and therefore sin. “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). God does not want us to condemn ourselves. Neither does He want us to deceive ourselves into thinking we are perfect. We should always be open to correction and change, but God’s way of achieving transformation is through loving instruction, not brutal condemnation.
How are you doing with the battle in your mind? Are you refusing to “compare” and “condemn?” Are you thinking right? If so, you are free to begin “doing.” The first item on the “to do” list is to increase your understanding of pornography and its dangers . . .
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