Guest Post: Enie Bournland (Does your spouse struggle with porn?)

To even type the name Enie was kind of weird to me because I've known Enie since I was 14 and have always called her Mrs. Bourland. I can't tell you how proud I am of her and thankful I am for her expertise. However, if I'm being honest, when I first heard that she felt called to specialize in sexual addictions I thought it was so weird. But then again that's because I was a teenager. Now as a married woman with lots of married friends, I am so thankful she took the call she did to deal with men and women who have sexual addictions and/or have been affected by them. I have sent numerous friends (both real life and you virtual blog friends) her way. I say that last sentence so you know you aren't alone. I've know so many people personally over the years who deal with this issue with their spouse. There are so many different levels of porn (which Enie will address) and I've seen that regardless of which level your spouse has taken part in, you find yourself feeling total betrayal. And I want you to know I am so sorry for what you've gone through. So very sorry. I hope that in reading this you will find some hope. If you live in Houston and aren't in counseling already, please contact Enie. She will be able to help you. I love you sweet reader and I hate this for you. But I pray each word brings hope that healing can come for you... and your spouse. 

My husband looks at porn and I thought it was because he wasn’t attracted to me anymore.  I’ve lost 30 pounds in the past 18 months, I work out at the gym and look better than when we married and he still looks at porn!  I’ve read where his porn addiction is not about me, but the betrayal I feel sure feels like it’s about me.  Can you help?” 

This message and ones like it are statements I hear on a weekly basis in my office. 

When a husband views porn, it is a betrayal.  Viewing porn betrays a trust that he will put his wife first in his life and it’s betrayal of a vow to love, honor and cherish.  

When asked to write about a wife’s response to her husband’s struggle with porn, I struggled with how to address it in one blog, as my office is filled with books on the subject.  As a marriage and family therapist, much of my case load includes working with individuals and couples dealing with this issue.  Infidelity doesn’t have to include another person.  Many times the other person is a fantasy and no wife can compete with a fantasy.  The stories are different; chat rooms, porn sites, nude web cam photos, massage parlors, arrested and booked, being found out, the stories are endless.    

The term porn or cybersex includes many behaviors however for the purpose of this blog, porn, cybersex and sexual acting out will include accessing sexually graphic images, sexual photos, sexual videos, sexual emails, sexual phone calls, sexual web cam images, sexual images from cell phones cameras, and sexual talk in chat rooms. 

I will begin by stating some truths and principles I believe are important on this subject:   
  1. Viewing porn is not harmless and can become addictive if continued.
  2. Sexually acting out behaviors are fueled by fantasy.  
  3. Being in a marital relationship with your spouse assumes sexual faithfulness however it should include; physical faithfulness, verbal faithfulness, emotional faithfulness, mental faithfulness, spiritual faithfulness and relational faithfulness.
  4. Viewing sexually explicit videos does not help increase sexual intimacy. 
  5. If your husband views porn, it is not because he doesn’t like your body.  In fact, it has nothing to do with you.  It does however, affect you on so many levels and in the long run, will be detrimental to your relationship.  
  6. As a married person in the most intimate of relationships, it is your right to know if your spouse is engaging in any secretive behaviors or activities that would affect your relationship or how you view him.    
  7. As a married couple you are responsible for the health and safety of your relationship and that includes being totally honest about anything that could harm your relationship, including porn usage.   
  8. As an adult, it is your responsibility (also your husband’s) to keep your home free and safe of anything that could harm your family, including any sexually explicit images. 
The Internet is the gateway that allows sexual fantasies to come to life by being AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE, and ANONYMOUS.   All of these factors allow a person to access unimaginable images and the behavior can go undetected for a long time, even years.  
Viewing sexually explicit images has a tendency to lead to more viewing.  The images are sexual, shocking, sensual, secretive, sensational and stimulating.  The WOW factor fuels a guy’s sexual fantasy world.  It’s not just about viewing dirty pictures of women.  The buildup of anticipation starts long before a single picture comes across the screen.  Just thinking about the images, planning the timing so there are no interruptions, waiting for everyone to leave the house, leave the room or go to sleep, then finally watching the images creates a sexual high in the brain that is like the rush of a powerful drug.  
The secret fantasy life is born and no one knows.  

One of the factors that makes sexual acting out an “addiction” rather than just a "problem" is that you need more of it to get the same high affect.  What is true of alcohol and drug addiction (the chemical addictions) is also true of sexual addiction and gambling (the process addictions).  Escalation for more sexual stimulation and excitement over time just might include viewing more graphic pictures, women with women, men with men, threesomes, S&M sex, and even sex with animals.  It might include an actual meeting with a real person from the online chat room, someone contacted through an escort service, a prostitute, or someone who was flirting at the neighborhood party last week. 

If marriage is to be the safest emotional relationship we can experience here on earth and your partner is "struggling with porn," it shouldn't be taken lightly.  

Anyone who struggles with porn doesn't do it in the open, they do it in secret and go to great lengths to avoid being caught.  As the secrecy begins, so do the lies.  There's THE lie, then a lie to cover up the first lie, then the lie to cover up the lie that covered up the first lie....well, you know how it goes.   If confronted, another lie is made up to keep from being detected.  Some men are master manipulators at diverting the attention off themselves and onto the spouse.  “I can’t believe you don’t trust me!” or “You’re always suspicious  when I’m on the computer because I can’t sleep!”  Eventually they will avoid any situation where they might be confronted or be put on the spot so they tell another lie to avoid being with others.  

Recently a wife came into my office after discovering her husband had been sexually acting out with anonymous women from escort services for 5 years.  Yes, she knew he was looking at porn and although she didn’t like it and they had fought about it numerous times, she had given up hope that their relationship would be any different.  The more porn he accessed online the more distant their relationship seemed to grow.  What she was shocked to discover was that her timid, shy, otherwise non-assertive spouse was calling escort services when he was out of town on business.  It never entered her mind that he would engage another person to act out some of the sexual images he was viewing online.  It never entered her mind until…. the day she accidentally discovered the secret credit card statement with the escort charges.  She’s no longer naive to how porn fantasies can escalate to real time sexual activities with others.  The good news is that her husband is now in a solid recovery program for sexual addiction and she is in counseling also.  They are beginning marital counseling together now that all secrets and deception have ended.  They are hopeful and committed to their relationship, no matter how difficult the process might be.  

How should a wife respond when she knows her husband has a problem with viewing porn?
  1. Pray for the sexual integrity of your husband.  Ask God to bring to your awareness anything that is “dark” in your relationship.  If your gut tells you something is wrong in your relationship, trust your gut-it may be the Holy Spirit telling you to wake up and come out of denial.   
  2. Put a filter on computers at home.  Check the history of what others in your home have been viewing.  Have desk top monitors toward the center of the room rather than away from other’s view.  Set limits for how long you’ll use computers in the evenings.  Have a curfew for when all electronic devices are turned off in your home.
  3. If your husband isn’t interested in having sex with you over a period of time, that should be a big red flag something is not right.  Most porn usage involves masturbation and lots of porn viewing involves lots of masturbation.  
  4. Read books and articles about sexual addiction and realize these stories are real and could be your story if you don’t protect your relationship.  
  5. Don’t be intimidated by any negative remarks your husband may say about you or anything he says to minimize his behavior.   
  6. Find a support group (COSA), a counselor, or trusted friend with whom you can share your struggle and who will give you objective input. 
  7. Be wise and connect the dots. Is his behavior an isolated incident or rather an unhealthy pattern of sexually acting out?
  8. Get help for yourself.  If nothing changes…..nothing changes!  

Enie Bourland, MA, LMFT, LPC, BCPCC
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Licensed Professional Counselor
Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor 
Certified Clinical Sexual Addiction Specialist

Connect with Enie more at www.eniebourland.com or you are welcome to call her directly at 281-813-0672.