LDS Spouse Treatment System – Hope for LDS Members and Their Marriage Using The Treatment System
When a person enters into a relationship, there are many ‘firsts’ that are expected and anticipated. The first kiss, the first declaration of love, the first time meeting each other`s family… once married, the first house, the first child etc.. All of these milestones in the relationship are cherished and are never to be forgotten. One ‘first’ that I will always remember was the first time I found out that my husband was addicted to pornography.– Doesn’t seem to fit, does it? No one would ever add such a thing into their ‘happily ever after.’ Yet, one day out of the blue, the love of your life is telling you that he’s viewing pornography. It is hard to take, but he promises to never do it again, so you believe him and move on… then it happens again and again and again…what do you do then? It is like slowly realizing that a little chunk of ice floating in the water is actually a life-threatening iceberg. Suddenly everything in your world is destined for destruction, and there does not seem to be anything you can do about it. A spouse’s pornography addiction affects every part of life, both personally and relational as a whole. I do not pretend to know how every spouse feels or should act when confronted with their partner’s pornography addiction. The purpose in relating my experience is to share how my husband and I found understanding and hope to replace the awful confusion and despair.
Often, so much emphasis is placed on the addict that the addiction’s affect on the spouse is overlooked. I remember on several occasions listening to my husband pour out his broken heart, relating how hard it was to deal with his addiction. I believed him and wanted to help him, but inside I was shouting “This is not only affecting you!” I was hurting too, in more ways than one. Sometimes I doubted myself as a wife, wondering what I was or wasn’t doing to drive him to the pornography, (This was absolutely flawed reasoning, and I knew that logically, but I still felt that way for a while.) I felt betrayed; every time he confessed to viewing pornography I felt personally violated. I also felt humiliated that MY husband would be a part of something so despicable. Why didn`t he just stop? Did he not love our family enough to stop destroying it? Day after day I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions. Mixed in with all the negative feelings, I also felt a burning desire to help this man I loved. I saw his tears and his pain and how this terrible addiction had truly enslaved him, but I felt completely helpless, and at times completely hopeless.
When you pour such a mixture of feelings into a marriage from both sides, it has a great impact on the relationship as a whole. The most obvious is the fundamental element of trust. I did not feel like I could trust my husband; he didn’t even feel that he could trust himself. (It is a very hard thing to be grocery shopping and feel like you need to get home because you don`t want to leave your husband home alone.) There was an overall strain placed on the entire relationship simply by the gamut of feelings we were both dealing with. It is difficult for even the strongest relationship to bear such a load when so many of its foundational elements are being compromised. My husband and I both felt trapped. We loved each other and wanted to have a strong and vibrant marriage, but it was hard to believe that could be truly happy while encircled by the chains of his pornography addiction.
Then there was another life-changing ‘first.’ It was the first time I saw hope in my husband’s eyes. After his first counseling visit and introduction to the Treatment Program, sunlight started to break through the clouds of despair that had encompassed my husband and our family.
We started understanding the true nature of pornography addiction and what we needed to do together and individually. We were no longer helpless or hopeless. I started to attend the spouse support group which helped in many ways. I saw that I was not alone in my feelings or internal struggles. I also gained a greater appreciation for my husband, a better understanding of all he was going through, and an understanding of the treatment program itself. Together, my husband and I have gained the knowledge and the tools needed to avoid the great ‘iceberg’ of pornography addiction that had threatened to destroyed us. Our relationship is stronger than it has ever been, and we now are believing again in our ‘happily ever after.’
The first time my husband told me he had a problem with pornography was when we were engaged. At the time, I didn’t think much of it and was madly in love so I didn’t care. I also had the false belief that he could just stop doing it and didn’t give it another thought at that time. It was only after we had been married a few months and he told me he had been looking at pornography that it really hit me. Again, I held onto his assurance that he could just stop doing it. After a few more slips, we talked to our bishop who gave my husband a blessing and told him to just stop. My husband got online and found a church-sponsored addiction group that we tried. However, the group was for multiple addictions and we both felt like it didn’t help much and we quit going. We tried multiple things to help him over many years and it wasn’t until we had been married for 5 years and had talked to multiple bishops that we were referred to the right place. Our marriage was on the edge of falling apart.
During that 5 years, my emotions were on a rollercoaster. Originally, I was devastated and blamed myself. I thought if I was prettier, a better wife, more available to him, etc. that it would solve the problem. I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and trying to be the “perfect” wife. The stress of everything affected me to the point where I had to go on antidepressants. I remember one night after my husband had a particularly hard day that I almost didn’t come home from work. It was only because I couldn’t think of a good excuse to tell my parents about why I wanted to stay at their house that I went home. I was embarrassed about my husband’s problem and didn’t want anyone else to know.
After multiple times of being hurt, my feelings turned to anger. I was mad at my husband for not being able to just stop and mad that I had to deal with the problem. I felt like I had to be his mother and constantly “police” him which I resented. Next, my emotions turned to indifference. This was when I began to get scared. I put up multiple walls around myself to avoid getting hurt anymore. When my husband would tell me he had a slip, I would just ignore him and pretend like everything was fine. I flip-flopped through these emotions many times over the years.
The trust we had in our marriage had been gone for a long time and I wasn’t sure it would ever come back. Every time I went to work or left my husband at home, I was worried he would slip again. When he would call me at work or when I was gone, my first thought was always that he had slipped again.
When we first came in, I was in the anger stage and ready to leave my husband. I felt like this was our last chance to help him and if it didn’t work, I was done. I couldn’t take being hurt again. I resisted going to couple sessions and to women’s group. I felt like this was my husband’s problem so why did I have to do all these things? Checking in was initially a challenge for the same reason. I didn’t want to have to put in the effort, I just wanted the problem to go away.
Only after forcing myself to attend women’s group and couples counseling did my feelings begin to change. The addiction was explained to us like no one else had and seemed to understand everything, even what I was going through. He helped me understand that the addiction wasn’t my fault and had nothing to do with me personally. Women’s group helped me see that I was not alone and gave me a place to openly discuss my feelings about my husband’s addiction. I still hadn’t told anyone about my husband’s problem and had never been able to talk about my experience with it. This group is what helped me the most.
I would like to be able to say that things changed overnight, but they didn’t. It was slow and steady progress. We faithfully attended group meetings, couples counseling, and individual therapy for over a year. At one point, I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree. I was shocked when I realized that one of my reasons for doing so was if I ever left my husband, I would be able to comfortably provide for my daughter. This was after going to counseling for a few months and it shocked me that I still felt that way. I brought this up at the next group meeting and was able to openly discuss how I was feeling, as well as get a lot of positive feedback about it.
It’s been over a year since we stop regular counseling, and I can honestly say that our marriage has never been better. I no longer have feelings of leaving my husband and we are very happy! Without this amazing system, we both don’t know where we would be today and we are scared to even think about it. my husband still has rare slips, but we work through them together and they are becoming rarer.
In conclusion, I want to summarize the main things I learned through this process.
- First and foremost, my husband’s addiction is not my fault. His slips are not caused by anything I do or don’t do. Even if I was the perfect wife, he would still have this problem.
- Second, my husband cannot “just stop” viewing pornography. It is a serious addiction and requires a serious effort to control.
- Third, my husband will always be tempted by pornography. This is not an addiction that ever goes away. However, it can be controlled by doing small and simple things every day. Fourth, pornography doesn’t have to ruin your marriage. With a lot of effort and commitment on both spouses’ part, the trust can be rebuilt and your marriage can be better than it ever was.
Last, and most important, the Lord is there for you, you just need to ask. He will comfort you and help you be able to forgive your spouse. He knows each of us personally and understands what you are going through. He will ease your suffering and put systems like this in your life to help you.
I know that without this program I would not be as happy as I am now and hate to think what my life would be like. Through hard work and dedication on both mine and my husband’s part we were able to take back control of our lives and rebuild our marriage. I will be forever grateful to an inspired bishop who referred us to this system and for giving us back our hope when we were in the depths of despair.