The Devastating Effects of a Husband Addicted to Porn

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The realization is like a slap in the face. You feel humiliated. You’re embarrassed. You can’t believe this is happening to you and your husband. Over the past few months, you have had a sneaking suspicion that your husband not only watches porn but is addicted. And now that stark reality is staring at you, mocking you. you just walked into his office unexpectedly and saw what he was watching. He slammed the laptop lid closed, blushed, and made a feeble excuse, saying a friend sent him a raunchy video. He apologizes that you had to see that and tries to play it off as a one-time thing.

But you know the truth. And now you can’t deny it any longer. All the signs that you didn’t want to see point to the fact that your husband is addicted to porn.

You’ve seen his personality change over the past few months. He’s more secretive, especially on his phone and computer. You’ve even checked the computer history, but it’s been wiped clean. So you know something is amiss. You’ve seen strange charges on the credit card, but he dismisses your concerns.

Man watching porn on laptop computer touching himself

He isn’t the same loving man in the bedroom. He seems distant. And sometimes he barely looks at you. What used to be a beautiful act of love now seems utilitarian. He has even expressed a sudden interest in some strange desires. Furthermore, he has become critical of your appearance. Nothing you do or say is “right.” He is very irritable and just doesn’t seem happy with you. You are increasingly finding that you two just don’t connect anymore – in or out of the bedroom. The tender man you married seems to be shrouded in darkness. You feel helpless. And somewhat hopeless. You think to yourself: “This is something that happens to ‘other’ people, not me.”

You don’t know where to turn, and you’re too embarrassed to ask friends or family for help. So you look up some information online. You need to get a handle on your next steps. And what you find is more than troubling.

 

The Disturbing Stats

Pornography is pernicious and everywhere. In the US alone, there are over 100 “large” websites dedicated to porn. Throughout the world, porn is over a hundred billion dollar a year industry. Three of the top 15 sites in the world are porn sites. Xvideos.com is number 11. Pornhub ranks number 14, and xnxx.com is number 15. That means that porn sites are 20% of the top 15 sites!

Writing about Pornhub’s 2019 annual report, Fight the New Drug – a website geared to help fight porn addiction – said that “if you started watching 2019’s new videos in 1850, you would still be watching them today.” The site also stated: “More than 5,824,699,200 hours of porn were watched on [Pornhub] in just 2019. That’s equal to almost 665 centuries of content consumed in 1 year, on just one porn site.”

That’s a staggering number of videos. It’s no wonder people find pornography addictive.

Porn addiction hurts others as much as the one who watches it. But its insidiousness starts with the addict. And yes, porn can change the way your brain processes stimuli. According to the USCCB:

Our brains become attached to viewing pornography because sexual arousal stimulates dopamine in the brain, a neurochemical that promotes connection with activities that bring us joy or a sense of satisfaction. In the case of viewing pornography, we are training our brains to respond to and enjoy an image or fantasy, not a real person. But since the brain does not differentiate between imaginary and real, it is flooded with the same neurochemicals as produced by real sexual intimacy.

couple sitting on bench

The person who has become addicted to porn no longer has the same desires for the real partner in his life. Reality and fantasy blur together, and reality doesn’t seem as fun or interesting. In fact, oftentimes he does not even want the real people in his life. He wants the airbrushed and fake people in contrived situations.

 

Why Does He Desire Porn?

You will likely find yourself asking why your husband started looking at porn and why he has become addicted.

First Things First – a nonprofit that seeks to improve relationships between husbands and wives – lists several reasons why men become addicted to porn. These reasons include the fact that he may have begun looking when he was young. According to an article, “The younger a guy has his first exposure to pornographic images, the more profoundly it affects him throughout his life. Studies have shown that kids exposed to pornography are more likely to want to repeat what they’ve seen without understanding what they’ve seen.”

Further, pornography affects the brain. It is likened to a cocaine addiction. The article goes on to say that “studies show that the physical landscape of the brain actually changes when a guy watches porn.”

Other reasons may be that he’s stuck in a vicious cycle, that he does not understand the ramifications, and that he has no idea how much he’s hurting himself.

But the reality is that porn doesn’t just hurt your husband.

sad woman sitting in her bedroom

 

His Behavior Hurts You

As a spouse, you begin to feel rejected, betrayed, abandoned, and maybe even depressed. You are likely to also feel angry and humiliated. You may even feel like there’s something wrong with you.

That’s why, even though it might seem tempting, you must be careful not to tell yourself lies in an attempt to make the situation better. You might want to believe that your husband’s behavior is “normal” and that it doesn’t affect your relationship. but it actually affects nearly all aspects of your lives – especially your sexual lives.

You may tell yourself that you should change your appearance. You may think all the problems would go away if you could just lose a little weight, change your hairstyle, have sex more regularly, or dress in sexier clothes so he won’t “need” to watch porn any longer. This is a trap that makes you believe his addiction is all your fault. But please understand that this is your husband’s problem. You do not need to look or act like a porn star. Even if you did, chances are your husband would still be battling his addiction.

you must also take care not to blame yourself. It is his problem, and he must own it and take steps to change. Yes, you can help. But only counseling and honest discussions can help him on his road to recovery. He is the one who must put in the bulk of the work to battle this addiction.

Further, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Those who have lived with a husband addicted to porn understand how you are feeling. A woman who wishes to remain anonymous writes about her experiences. She states:

I knew no matter how good I looked, I could not measure up to the way women looked or behaved in porn. No matter how illogical this is to women, it will still ignite a feeling of worthlessness.

The husband, feeling defensive, may pile on and say he began the addiction just after she had children, or when she couldn’t lose the last 20 pounds, or that time she was recovering from illness and they weren’t intimate. She’ll continue to feel insecurity, shame, disgust, and despair about herself while also feeling angry with and betrayed by him, particularly if she was a willing sexual partner.

If she does not receive therapy or treatment during this time, and his addiction continues, she may begin withdrawing entirely, sinking into despair, overeating or undereating, continuing to emotionally detach, or conversely, looking for affection, affirmation, or even intimacy outside the marriage.

Another woman whose husband overcame his porn addiction advises: “It is also important not to take your husband’s problems upon yourself. This is difficult when the marriage is painful, bills are not being paid, and chaos is everywhere. You are not responsible for his behavior—good or bad.”

Close up side profile view of pensive young african American woman thinking of relationships problems, thoughtful black biracial female feel despair lost in thoughts consider life trouble or drama

As you ponder all this, keep in mind that your husband is the one who must take steps to overcome this addiction and change his life. And these changes are necessary because it’s not just you and your husband who are hurting.

 

His Behavior Hurts the Kids

Sometimes, when spouses focus so much on one adult’s problems, they forget that these problems damage the children as well—even if the children don’t know what’s going on.

Kids have amazing intuition. They can sense when something is wrong within a marriage even if no one says anything. They can feel the tension and sense changes in their parents’ moods and subtle behaviors.

And a father who is spending increasing amounts of time in front of his computer or locked away in a home office begins to neglect his children. He will likely be irritable and distant from the kids as well as his wife. So even though your kids don’t know specifically what is wrong, and even if they can’t quite put words to the problem, they know things aren’t right.

How a Parent's Porn Addiction Affects the Kids infographic

According to research, many of these kids:

  • Have trouble adapting emotionally and feel alone, anxious, depressed, and stressed.
  • Isolate themselves to escape negativity.
  • Develop a preoccupation with their private life which challenges their ability to focus on things like schoolwork, extracurricular activities, relationships, and even basic cognition.
  • Develop a negative relationship to the parent they see as the threat to the other parent.

Now that you have admitted the reality of addiction, and you see how it affects the entire household, what do you do?

 

Dealing with a Husband Addicted to Porn

First, it’s important to sit down with your husband and have a truthful and candid conversation about your concerns and suspicions. Approach him with love, even if you don’t currently like him. Explain the hurt you’re feeling, and that you feel betrayed. Do not attack or shame him, but stress that his behavior has consequences and hurts his family.

Young serious man having conversation with woman girlfriend sit at cafe table, focused male friend talking to female colleague client solving problem discuss work issues at meeting in coffeehouse

Express your love and concern for him. Many men think that their wives will feel such disgust that they stop loving them. And while this may be true, it doesn’t have to be the case with you. Understand that it takes two to heal the marriage. Make it clear that you will help him, but also make it very clear that you will not tolerate him watching porn.

Tell him that you want to support him as he works to overcome this addiction. And then seek professional help. Many counseling services have both online and in-person groups that meet and that help both the husband and wife.

It’s important that you seek counseling as well. A mixture of individual and couple’s counseling will be extremely beneficial as you try to heal and help your husband overcome the addiction.

 

Work Together

Marriage.com understands the reality of sharing life with a spouse addicted to porn. But it stresses that together, you can overcome the addiction and actually strengthen your marriage.

It gives some concrete suggestions for ways to help your husband combat his porn addiction and what you should expect as you walk this journey together.

First, understand that there is no easy fix. It will be a long road, with many bumps, and even some setbacks. Being mentally prepared for that will help you get through the times when it’s more difficult or if you seem to be treading water. Help him understand that this journey is his but that you are there to support him.

Close up on a man and a woman holding hands at a wooden table

Learn all you can about the addiction and what has worked for other people. Join a support group.

One of the most important things you can do together is to get rid of things that trigger his desire for porn. Have frank discussions about what makes him have those urges and then work together to eliminate them.

It’s also important to do fun activities as a couple to regain the closeness you have lost. Find things you both enjoy that will give you time together outside the house. Go hiking, bowling, golfing, or even mini golfing! The point is to introduce activities that aren’t sexual in nature that give you both enjoyment as you begin to reconnect and rebuild the bonds of marriage.

 

Final Thoughts

Counseling will help you work toward healing and forgiveness. But in addition to counseling, it’s important to work with your husband to strengthen your faith life as well.

Couple praying together. Holding rosary in hand.

Pray together. Go to Mass together. Encourage him to go to confession. Talk with other Catholic couples who have walked this journey together. Or begin a Catholic program geared toward healing.

Overcoming addiction can be a long road, and it may not be easy, but healing is attainable if you both want it and work toward it.

Let that healing start with forgiveness.

 

This article was originally published in July 2021 and was most recently updated in February 2024 by Susan Ciancio.

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Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. Since 2003, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Fourteen of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous on September 8, 2021 at 3:30 AM

    I lived this. It’s so true. My husband was addicted and I didn’t even know. I felt so ashamed. Humiliated. I can’t even describe the disgust. Thank you for helping others understand what people go though.

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