If you are the wife of a (hopefully recovering) pornography addict, I have a heart-felt message I want to share with you that’s been brewing in me for some time. But first, I want you to pray that God would open your heart and mind in such a way that you’d be able to fully receive it with the spirit in which it is intended – to be a blessing, not a burden… to encourage you and inspire you rather than require things from you that you’re simply not ready to give. My goal is to help you become a sexually confident wife again, in spite of the past poor choices your husband has made.
Before I just throw these principles at you, I want to tell you about a few conversations I’ve had recently with women who are still sorting through the multiple layers of immense pain that their husbands’ addictions have caused them. Cathy explained, “I refuse to buy or wear any sort of sexy lingerie.” Very attractive with a petite, proportionate, curvaceous frame, I couldn’t image that body image was the reason for Cathy’s aversion. As I inquired further why she felt this way, she responded, “That’s the kind of stuff they wear in pornographic films! I don’t want to awaken the urge in my husband to look at that stuff again!”
Okay, let’s pause here for a bit of girl-talk amongst ourselves. So… I’m guessing Cathy wears cotton nightgowns, fuzzy robes, or frumpy pajamas instead of sexy lingerie? And this is supposed to keep her husband’s sexual appetites from being “awakened?” Sorry, but I can’t agree, nor can I imagine her husband agreeing with this philosophy. A well-fed man doesn’t feel the need to steal a steak dinner from his neighbor. Only the starving man is tempted to reach out for something that doesn’t belong to him to satisfy his hunger. I think the same principle applies here. If a husband can’t drink his wife’s beautiful body in through his eyes and enjoy the sexual freedoms that the marriage bed is meant to offer, how can he not be tempted to look elsewhere for that visual gratification? I’m certainly not trying to justify a man’s use of pornography, but simply trying to help wives understand the natural cause-and-effect. And granted, many wives do all they can to dress sexy for their husbands in the bedroom and they still surf for porn. In response, I say that I’m so sorry that your husband doesn’t recognize the value of honoring you by looking to you exclusively as the sole source of his sexual and visual gratification. He’s got some growing up to do before becoming the sensitive lover that you deserve. But back to the woman who refuses to dress sexy for fear of awaking his desires for pornography… I’m just not sure that equation adds up. How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of any sort of sexy lingerie wardrobe.
Another example is Rhonda, who lambasted me for even suggesting that wives gratify their husbands by doing an occasional striptease for him in the privacy of their own bedroom. “That’s pornographic!” she exclaimed. Hello!!! Really??? Further conversation revealed that Rhonda thought it best to leave the lights off to make love because she doesn’t want to be “compared” to pornographic models. I guess she thinks that if he can’t see her, he can’t compare her and think of all the ways she doesn’t measure up to those airbrushed beauties. How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of her own healthy body image.
Yet another example is Tonya, who refuses to consider any other position than the missionary position because “all those other wild-n-crazy positions are what pornographic actors do, and I don’t want to emulate them!” How sad that she’s let pornography rob her of the carefree, adventurous side of her sexuality (not to mention her husband’s adventurous side as well).
I can understand that a woman’s knee-jerk reaction to her husband’s pornography issue is to try and starve his desires until they match her own more-inhibited, less-frequent desires, but does that strategy have any hope of real success given how men are such sexually-oriented, visually stimulated creatures? And remember, this is their divine design by God, not a result of some sickness or brokenness or pornography addiction. Sexuality was God’s gift to man and woman before the fall of man, so there’s nothing inherently sinful about his natural, healthy sexual desires.
I also understand that a woman might, as a result of her own brokenness and insecurities, be tempted to withdraw completely from anything that even remotely resembles pornography, but consider these things…
· Pornography wasn’t readily available to the public until the creation of Playboy Magazine in 1953. I can’t imagine that women weren’t dressing sexy, stripping, or enjoying various sexual positions with their husbands prior to that time period. So why would we not feel the freedom to do these things now?
· There are also very natural things portrayed in pornography such as kissing… body massage… and intercourse. Does that mean married couples should abandon those activities all together too? Sorry, but I refuse to let pornography rob me of that much of my sexuality! Just because something has been featured in some pornographic film doesn’t automatically make that thing “dirty” or “bad.”
· I’m not convinced that it’s all bare skin and hot sex men are after when they gaze upon pornography. I believe the “You’re absolutely irresistible… I want you badly… Come and get me” looks on their faces are really what these men are craving. They want (and need) to feel sexually desirable in a woman’s eyes in order to feel like a real man. What power we hold as wives to provide that which their mind, body, heart, and soul longs for most!
All this to say, Ladies, please don’t hold out sexually on your husband as some sort of “punishment” for his bad behavior, because you’re ultimately robbing yourself. There are too many emotional, physical, and spiritual health benefits to sexual intimacy for you to allow anyone or anything to rob you of it. If you give in and let pornography rob you of your sexual confidence, or your healthy body image, or your playful adventurous side, then pornography wins (again!). But if you can draw the line in the sand and refuse to let pornography rob you of anything more than it already has, then you win… your husband wins… your marriage wins… your family wins. In light of all that’s at stake, isn’t your sexual confidence worth fighting for?
Wishing you the BEST sex life possible,
P.S. This is excerpted from an article I recently wrote for www.covenanteyes.com. It would be a great site for both husbands and wives to check out!
Who Am I says
How do you find the article on covenant eyes, the link just took me to the home page.
Shannon Ethridge says
It will be posted in the next week or so.
Thanks for writing this for the Covenant Eyes blog! You can find it here:
Who Am I says
This is an awesome post. As a man I wanted to affirm some things you said and give some further insights from my perspective.
First off, I was addicted to pornagraphy and other illicit sexual activities before marriage 23 years ago, and from time to time have stumbled since then and still feel the temptations.
Refusing to do something/wear something solely because it was in pornagraphy really compounds thing for a man because it adds to his shame. Shame at least for some men is one trigger to use pornagraphy.
To say it another way- if I learn to be afraid to share what I would like, for fear of being refused because it was in pornagraphy- then I become afraid and ashamed to share those desires, which increases my desire for them and lessens my desire to resist the temptation.
What I have found is that if my wife can find some things she likes to wear or do and can do them whole heartedly and regularly- the appeal of some things that maybe aren’t her cup of tea is less, especially if I feel safe admitting my desires to her.
The line about “A well fed man doesn’t need to steal a steak from his neighbor” is a good summary.
This statement ” I’m not convinced that it’s all bare skin and hot sex men are after when they gaze upon pornography. I believe the “You’re absolutely irresistible… I want you badly… Come and get me” looks on their faces are really what these men are craving. They want (and need) to feel sexually desirable in a woman’s eyes in order to feel like a real man. What power we hold as wives to provide that which their mind, body, heart, and soul longs for most! ” is so true for me and I don’t know if I could have said it better.
I really like the way you are making the point that you are not going to let pornagraphy steal more of your God given sexual pleasure. I wish more women had that attitude.
One thing that I do try to remember is that “Pornagraphy is pixels on a page.” I so much more enjoy my wife.
Again, great post.
Who Am I
Some of those women sound just like me. When I found porn on my (then fiance) now husband’s computer 2 years ago my confidence took a big fall. I slowly built it back up until I found it again (after he said he would stop) and then it was my self-esteem and trust in him that was hurt. I kept track of it almost daily to see how often and what he looked at, etc. and all it did was rip me up inside, so I stopped looking for it until after the wedding. When I found it again after just a few weeks of marriage I was totally crushed! I confronted him and from that point forward he says he has stopped, and he is either hiding it extra good or really did stop.
However, we have sex less now that he stopped. I take this to mean he was turned on or stimulated by the porn and then would want to have sex with me, and now he isn’t getting turned on, even by me. He is “tired” all the time and one night I even had on his favorite lingere and the look on his face when he saw me couldn’t have shown more disinterest- he came to bed with me like an obligation but I just went to sleep- I didn’t want it if he didn’t.
I know all this lack of confidence in myself came from him looking at porn because I am afraid he is comparing me to those girls. I am afraid to do anything sexually aggressive that may have been seen in porn because I don’t want him to compare what I am doing to what he has seen. I don’t want to be anything like those girls that I despise. My self esteem and confidence are crushed. I just got the book today and am really liking it so far. I hope it helps! We have only been married 7 months now- it is too early to be in a sexual slump!!!
Shannon, thank you for this article. It points out that sexual confidence has far-reaching effects.
The key for me is that pornography takes it’s inspiration from real life. The women in porn do things that men love to see live, but cannot for one reason or another.
Why can’t we express those things for our men in the context of loving, committed relationships (marriages, if you will)?
People I don’t approve of (and people in porn) all wake up in the morning, eat, drink and breathe. That is not reason to stop those things, even if they look better than I do when they do it.
I’m not quite sure I understand that last post, but I am still really having a hard time getting over my hubby looking at porn and going to a strip club on his bachelor party (after promising not to). No matter what I do, how much time it has been, what self help books I read, or how much I journal, or talk to my girlfriends I still can’t get over it. It is really hurting my marriage because I don’t trust my husband when he is alone at home or when I am sleeping. I’m not as self-conscious in bed anymoe, but that is besie the point now. How can I get over this or will I ever???
Shannon Ethridge says
That IS a tough one to get over, but I do believe with all my heart that it IS possible! If unsuccessful on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counselor to walk you down a healing path. If you need a referral to one in your area, try 1-800-NEW-LIFE. Your marriage IS worth the investment of time, energy, and financial resources if necessary.
Lifting you in prayer,
I, too, am male, and used pornography.
I never desired to use it, but six months in to marriage I started and continued for nine years. Recently, when busted by my wife (for the second or third time in all those years), I immediately stopped using it and we sought counseling from trusted friends.
I never looked at the junk prior to marriage, and it never was a draw. I did masturbate regularly as a single man. I have done a lot of reading on the subject of masturbation as of late, earnestly seeking direction from the Lord. I immediately stopped pleasuring myself in addition to turning my back on porn.
I feel that after a few good weeks of connecting intimately and physically, old patterns of a sexless marriage are re-emerging. I do not want to go back to the way things were nine years ago. My wife, if asked, will tell you that I am a great guy. I’m considerate and thoughtful, love the Lord, do a lot to help around the house, help out with the kids, manage money well, etc.
She believes in her heart that if I am a better spiritual leader that her sexual desire for me will grow. I can see that there may be some truth in that sentiment, but to what extent? In other words, she feels I have not shared enough of my journey as a believer, or that she has little visibility in to my walk. She knows I love the Lord and will always serve Him. She doesn’t know what I’m thinking about certain topics, and gets frustrated when she feels like she has real spiritual needs that are going unmet.
As a spiritual leader in my home, I desire to meet all of her needs. I am working on bringing her in to my thought life as it pertains to my walk with God. Unfortunately, I do not see reciprocity. She knows my sex drive is high, yet I’m not sure she could read your post with a receiving mindset.
She will say that if she shows me a little affection that I immediately want to get in her pants. This has been true in the past, but I am making a serious effort to follow her lead right now and do whatever she is comfortable doing. My problem, after over three weeks without any sexual activity, the best idea she came up with was to show her less non-sexual affection. I regularly rub her feet and shoulders and neck and scalp. Now she wants less. She says that when she does show a little, and I then immediately want to take things further, that it’s like getting her hand bit by an animal. I tend to see myself differently, that I’m like the over affectionate puppy that has been in a cage all day, and am mauling my master with too much affection. I feel starved of affection, so I gobble up any little bit I can get.
How do we meet in the middle? I don’t need sex every day, but I would like it more than once a month. I am painted in to a corner where I cannot initiate, on any level. This isn’t healthy.
Have I hurt her with my past behavior? Yes. Did I sin? Yes. Am I more than willing to do what’s right? Yes. Does it take time to build trust and intimacy? Yes. Tell me what I don’t know.
I believe my wife posses little sexual confidence, is not in touch with her sexuality at all, and has a bad body image and low self esteem regarding her appearance. She’s not in the best shape of her life, especially after having two kids. I think she’s beautiful and tell her outright. My desire is for more than her body, although I am turned on at the site of her. I am also turned on by her, clothed or not.
This is a long post to say that, based on what I’ve read so far in all my research of the past several weeks, our relationship has needs that must be met. I feel like I’m stuck in a Catch 22, chicken-or-egg syndrome. I need to be patient while she learns to trust, yet I feel like I’m about to explode with sexual tension. I want so badly to connect deeply and frequently with her, and have told her in so many words. Any advancement or initiation on my part is met with disdain, as it’s seen as a mere ploy to have sex. I want so much more, but I don’t know where to start. I have prayed, read the Bible, other books, and been counseled. I want to meet all of her needs, whatever they might be. She says she wants to meet mine, but then takes no action, except to spend weeks doing nothing only to tell me to quit smothering her with non-sexual affection (my words, not hers.)
She says she loves me, yet has yet to see herself as a partner in helping me in the battle for purity.
I know this only one side of the story, but I felt inspired to respond to your post because I believe it has good things to say. I’m having a hard time, though, because I’m at my wit’s end. In our first six months of marriage she initiated sex one time. Back then I made the mistake of turning to porn rather than fighting for my marriage. I refuse to go down that road again and repeat the mistakes of the past.
I know that marriage is a partnership and requires the participation of husband and wife. I feel like I have been doing much and showing it by my actions. Nevertheless, I refuse to live in a sexless marriage. There must be give and take. I don’t even think she would describe me as a selfish lover. On the contrary, I greatly desire to take her to the heights of sexual pleasure. She says she has prayed many times and asked the Lord what’s wrong with her. She usually has no realized sexual desire at all, only the knowledge that she wishes she had some.
I have gone in to great detail here, yet have left out a lot. I’m not perfect and she knows it, yet I feel like I’m being compared to the ideal man, and I can never measure up. She’ll even tell me how she brags to her friends about how great I am, which, in a way, is her way of telling me how great she thinks I am. I try to do the same for her, but it’s like she doesn’t believe me.
I don’t compare her to the girls in the porn videos. She is beautiful and attractive to me and I tell her, but she doesn’t believe or at least thinks she can never measure up to the “ideal” woman. I never wanted to look at that junk in the first place. I just want to be with her. I want to send her this post, but fear she will reject it, seeing it as an attempt to get in her pants. Well, of course I want to get in her pants, I’m her husband!
I don’t mean to be crude or offensive, and intimacy is much more than sex.
I don’t merely wish for a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” I want deep, mutually satisfying times of intimate pleasure, discourse, playfulness, and bonding. I honestly do not know what more I can do to destroy the barriers to intimacy in our marriage. I have made a commitment to talk to her more about spiritual things, and I am actively looking for areas of my spiritual life, and that of my family’s, that need addressing. I need to her to meet me halfway and DECIDE to make love to me, knowing that I need to have physical intimacy be a regular part of my life (at least once or twice a
I have the name and number of a good therapist’s office, and want us to go.
I’ve asked her to spend time with me praying about this course of action. I want to correct any bad thought patterns that either of us are engaged in that produce intimacy barriers. Beyond therapy, do you have any suggestions that go beyond your post above. I want to give her your book, but I’m afraid it will get rejected outright by her simply seeing the title.
As you said, I know there’s two sides to your story and I’ve only read yours, but from where I’m sitting it sounds very likely that your wife has some unresolved issues from her past or current hormonal imbalance that may be hindering her healthy sexual desires for her husband. Either that, or she’s not yet understood how sexually interested or visually stimulated men are (and that’s how God intended it). This isn’t her fault, most likely, but was perhaps brought up in a sheltered home that didn’t talk much about how natural sex in marriage truly is? Or sometimes women have no idea that their hormones are out of whack — they just know they’re not interested in being sexual.
It sounds like she loves you like crazy, but shows it in very non-sexual ways, which to a guy can be torture, like getting a little pat on the head instead of that big ol’ belly rub you were craving (not to compare you to a dog, but I think you get my meaning). It’s natural that you long for deep sexual intimacy with her, and it’s natural for her to long for deep spiritual intimacy with you. I think it’s time that you both learned more about the CONNECTIONS between sexuality & spirituality. The more spiritual husbands and wives are together, the more sexually interested they should become, and vice versa. It’s what God intended. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always come naturally to women who are raised in a world that says, “Good girls don’t!”
I urge you to LET her read your post, or at least write out what you just said in it in a personal letter. She needs to understand how deeply this is affecting you, and what a vulnerable place it puts you in with your own sexual integrity. According to the Bible, our bodies are not our own, but belong to our spouse to fulfill their sexual desires so that they can remain faithful. So what I guess I’m trying to say is that you DO have a right to desire what you desire, without guilt or shame. The key is going to be communicating that to her in such a loving and respectful way that you INSPIRE intimacy rather than REQUIRE it from her.
If you don’t feel as if she’d read The Sexually Confident Wife (where I talk extensively about the connections between sexuality & spirituality, especially in the chapter called “Overcoming the Church Lady Syndrome”), then I’d encourage this course of action: You read Every Man’s Marriage (by Fred Stoeker & Stephen Arterburn) with the sole intention of winning her heart in every way you can, and ask that she read Every Woman’s Marriage (available at https://www.shannonethridge.com) simultaneously. The last section of that book is all about lighting your husband’s fire, and the entire book is about igniting the joy and passion you both desire. See if that doesn’t warm things up enough that if you then want to recommend reading The Sexually Confident Wife together, it will feel more natural.
Lifting you up in prayer, Sir, for God to continue showing you how to be the spiritual leader she longs for and create the marriage you both deserve.