Special Feature

Tips for strengthening your marriage after porn addiction

Dr. Arthur and Laraine Bennett of the Alpha Omega Clinics, authors of The Temperament God Gave You and The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse (Sophia Institute Press), describe six essential areas in which healing will be needed in order for couples to recover from a sexual addiction:

1. Forgiveness. “Forgiveness is critical in healing the marriage damaged by cybersex or pornography use,” the Bennetts write. Although forgiveness is difficult and will take time, it is important for the spouse who used porn to ask for forgiveness and to acknowledge the pain he has caused his wife and family. He should patiently allow his wife to air her feelings as much as she needs, and he should be completely honest in discussing his addiction and answering all questions. He must accept responsibility for his actions and not shift any blame onto his spouse. “Professional help, spiritual guidance, and a program for life that shows a radical commitment to addressing this problem makes forgiveness possible,” they write.

2. Addressing faulty beliefs. Dr. Patrick Carnes identified four beliefs that reinforce sex addictions:

-- I am basically a bad, unworthy person;
-- No one would love me as I am;
-- My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others;
-- Sex is my most important need.

“These beliefs must be rejected, but they have to be acknowledged and confronted first, and one may need help in defeating them,” say the Bennetts.

3. Improving communication. Better communication will not solve every problem, but it is a great tool for addressing the emotional distance created by sex addiction and may require the guidance of a professional therapist. “The couple may have to learn new skills fostering cooperation, understanding, openness and consideration in order to replace the existing defensiveness and repression,” they write.

4. Intimacy. “Intimacy depends upon openness, and that implies vulnerability,” write the Bennetts. Vulnerability requires trust, but trust and self-worth are severely damaged by sex addictions. The need to rebuild intimacy goes beyond sexual intimacy: The Bennetts identify other key areas of intimacy in need of healing as emotional, recreational, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual intimacy.

5. Humility. Humility lays the foundation for self-knowledge, love and forgiveness. “By strengthening our prayer and spiritual life, we should grow in humility, which in turn will strengthen our ability to love and thereby our marriage,” they write.

6. Respect and affection. “It is necessary to discuss problems and ill feelings,” and it is a mistake to try to “get back to normal” by avoiding conflict in an effort to minimize problems. Such lack of communication only creates distance between husband and wife. Here, too, a professional marriage therapist may be helpful, the Bennetts say.