Ask Liz

  • Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dear Liz,

My husband of five years just admitted to me that he often looks at pornography, especially online. We have an 18-year-old son and otherwise seem to have a solid relationship.

We are regular participants and attendees at our church. He has a pretty good job.

We even have a pretty good sex life and are open with one another.

But, I have to admit I was deeply disappointed, hurt and honestly – felt that he kind of cheated on me. Am I wrong to feel this way? He is seeking help through church-based counseling.

He says he started looking regularly at around age 12. I also feel he should have told me before we married. Maybe I’m losing my mind.


Dear “Hurt,”

I am so sorry you have suffered what does feel like a painful betrayal from the man you love.

Each couple handles this issue differently.

First, background: Pornography is one of the top addictions in our country. There are mixed opinions morally about pornography use, abuse (compulsion) and addiction.

It is progressive, not unlike alcohol or drugs, because our brains start requiring more and more graphic information to get the same effect. Yes, even a “decent person” can progress from “soft” porn to eventually not being able to stop themselves from acting out with a prostitute, or even a family member. Non-clinical pedophiles can turn to a child or teen for their “fix.” It can be a dangerous progression. (Note: there are people who can act out sexually with a minor who aren’t truly pedophiles – complicated – would need a full article to explain.)

A person may be in trouble if they: 1. Find themselves spending increasing time using pornography; 2. Sneaking or staying up late to use pornography; 3. Feel guilty, but continue anyway; 4. Find pornography use is affecting relationships and time spent with spouse, family, job; 5. Try to stop, but can’t; 6. Feel “entitled” and/or “justify” its use; 7. Lying about it; 8. Don’t stick with help.

Happily, in your case your husband is seeking help, told you about it (which is good, although a burden to you) and has other good things, like his faith, to give him strength and motivation to overcome. It is common for pornography addicts to report their exposure to it started YOUNG. As for it feeling like adultery – I happen to agree with you because the vast majority of spouses I’ve worked with in 30+ years and through research – feel the very same way. A lot of men are shocked to learn that. I’ll let your clergy explain it to you doctrinally – but sexual expression between a man and a woman is a sacredly personal thing. It is the “glue” in a good marriage. Most vows include “forsaking all others” and the law of chastity is a covenant you make with God and your partner that you will not have sexual relations with anyone you are not legally and lawfully married to – which includes yourself. Seek your own help and couples counseling with a licensed professional so that you can work through this together and come out stronger and more in love on the other side.

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree-level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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