A few months back, a co-worker made the remark, “I saw a couple of pictures of you and your wife on Facebook yesterday. Y’all are so cute and funny together! I hope I have something like that someday.”
It was a sweet compliment, but with it brought a reminder of the very thing I was hoping my job would help me forget that day. Facebook has a tendency to highlight all the beautiful, fun, fancy things about our lives. There’s always more to the story.
It wasn’t the first time I had heard how “cute” my wife and I seemed together. Neither was it the first time I thought, in response, “If only you knew.” However, this time was certainly the hardest to swallow because I knew the whole story. All the “cute and funny” at home had been replaced with tears and tough questions.
What my friend didn’t know was two weeks prior, my wife caught me in a lie. Every day afterwards, I left the house for work but my mind was often still home, consumed with the brokenness.
Her questions first came a few short months after our wedding and, at that point, I could answer in half-truths.
“Do you feel like you ever struggle with lust? Have you looked at pornography since we got married?”
Lust had always been a problem I kept hidden, but I was satisfied that I had managed to stay away from porn for a few years. A simple no and a short explanation seemed truthful enough.
“I’m a guy! All guys struggle with this,” I reasoned. No sense in telling her everything.
She continued to ask every few months, and eventually I could no longer answer even half truthfully. I began to feel growingly terrified at the ramifications of telling her what was really going on almost as quickly as the addiction itself grew.
“Until I stop looking at this stuff, I have to lie to protect her.”
We were still newlyweds. I wasn’t supposed to need this stuff. Not…yet. Surely, an admission would break her.
So, each time she asked, I lied. In response, she had no reason but to believe me, as I’d always been truthful. Our relationship had always been about trust and integrity.
Over the months, I made excuses to myself. I knew what a trap my phone had become and what it was slowly doing to our relationship. Still, the voice often came in the moments of deliberation…
“You’re in control of this. You need to stop soon, but you’re in control.”
Sometimes I just needed to escape. Sometimes I didn’t know (or didn’t want to face) how else to deal with the loneliness. There had been so much rejection prior to marriage, sometimes this was the only thing I found to momentarily escape the memories. Once my circumstances changed, I promised myself I would stop.
One day, mired in guilt, a sobering thought came to mind:
“I don’t think I can stop…but she can’t know. It’s too much.”
So, I waited until my lies caught up with me, and then I poured it all out to her in an ugly confession. Everything.
Turns out, I was right about one thing all along: I broke my wife’s heart. I had a front row seat to watch every single moment with no one to blame but me.
I was also completely wrong. I thought the pornography admission would break her. It didn’t.
What did break her was my admission that I had held steadfast to deception, time and time again. In that moment of realizing how far I went in hiding the truth, she transitioned from feeling like a loved wife to someone who played second fiddle to my secret agendas.
I finally understood it was not just pornography, but all the lies about my addiction which had dug this deep, dark divide between us and had hurt the person I love most.
The weeks that followed hurt in ways I had never experienced. This wasn’t supposed to be us.
Over a 17-year period, I stopped and started pornography usage more times than I can remember. In my single days, I taught small groups about its impact. I prayed for teens to be free of it. I stepped into marriage with it seemingly in my distant rear-view mirror.
However, pornography found its way back in, through the lust I had never dealt with. No amount of married sex could ever quench it.
My advice to men who find themselves caught up in anything similar:
Be it pornography or lust, bring it into the light.
If you’re too scared to go to your spouse, start with a brother in Christ. You will have to tell your spouse, but it might help to have support first. Don’t wait around. Don’t make excuses to let it drag out.
Seek outside help.
My wife and I went to a Christian counselor who specialized in sex addiction treatment. Don’t be deceived: Pornography’s pervasiveness doesn’t make it natural or healthy. It will literally rewire your brain. You, like me, may have developed a sex addiction. Addictions need to be dealt with in the spiritual and physical realm, and it may take more time than you think.
After you ask forgiveness, forgive yourself.
Pray with your spouse against condemnation. Likewise, understand that even if she forgives you, your spouse is human. Depending on your offense, it may time to mend the divide. Devote yourselves to honesty, and God will see you through.
Submit your technology.
Righteousness and transparency will cost you privacy and convenience.
I won’t sugarcoat it—the last few months have been a rough road. It’s not over, but God has seen us through. By truly facing this giant, I’m able to connect the hurts of my childhood and adolescence to the unhealthy behaviors of my adulthood.
With God’s grace and a loving wife, I’m learning there is a road to riddance of the daily weight of lust, replacing it with freedom and redemption.
Not many like to publicly discuss the destruction of pornography on social media because too many of us deal with it in our homes. If you know someone who is struggling with a porn addiction, will you email them this post to encourage them that freedom and redemption are possible?