Let’s Talk About Porn

A friend and reader asked if she could submit her story and contribution to our month of sexuality anonymously. Her marriage recently ended after a decades long struggle with porn addiction. As I prepare this entry to go live, I am praying that it goes where it needs to go, that God uses her painful story to free others who feel alone in this struggle.

Let’s talk about porn.

If I’d read that sentence a few years ago, I’d have shied away. I won’t blame you if you do, but I no longer have that luxury.

Several months ago, three police officers came to my door twenty minutes before the kids were due home from school. They were there to arrest my husband. Even after he was sitting in jail, it still took a few days for my honest, no-games-playing husband of twenty-one years to admit to taking part in a several-month “relationship” with someone in a sex chat room who said she was fourteen. She wasn’t; but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

That was the culmination of an eight-year sex chat room addiction. Other truths rolled out, depending on what I had evidence for, including many online flirtations as himself, using his own name (you’re anonymous in the chat rooms), but at least these seemed to be with adult women. It turns out he’d been addicted to online porn since there was such a thing. It started out with images and videos, but the more he saw, the more immune he’d get to it, and the more danger, the more transgression he needed to get the same old thrill, so he got into graphic sexual conversations with strangers.

All while refusing to have any kind of regular sex life with me.

 

porn-kills-marriages

We’d done so many things right. We were together for two years before we married. I was an “everything but penetration” kind of gal, and although we didn’t have sex with each other until we were married, we had a good time. Both our parents were still married. We valued our families of origin, and enjoyed spending time with them. We became very involved in every church we belonged to. We supported each other’s gifts and talents. We were both attractive, interesting, passionate people who always had more to talk about than our kids.

But sex had never gone particularly well. It was fine, but eventually the bedroom became a place of anger, shame, and heavy stress.

Even so, I craved that connection. It didn’t take long for me to become the only one who initiated sex. He’d go along, but he wouldn’t come to me on his own. Halfway through our marriage, during one of our annual fights about this issue, I begged him to initiate once a year; he did, for three years. We made many deals, none of which lived up to. And then the hammer fell. He got a new job with more stress and longer hours, and that’s when he moved into the chat room usage. A few years of that, and he could no longer achieve an erection with me.

A couple of years ago, he confessed the porn addiction to me (but not the chat room angle). I thought it was the greatest day in our marriage that he could trust me, and trust us that much. We sought counseling, but he stopped going after four sessions. We talked with some pastors at our church, but nothing changed. I finally got help for my depression and did a great deal of spiritual work to become softer and less angry at home, so our home life was at least pleasant.

Twenty-one years is a long time to feel such a deep level of rejection. So why did I stay? It was part of my value system to stay. I am a Christian, and I had promised to work things out. I stayed because he was a supportive, encouraging partner. I stayed because I loved him. These are the laudable reasons.

Mixed up in those are the less laudable reasons. I was a stay-at-home mother who worked freelance; I had no money and no way to make a steady living. If I’d left him for our sexual problems, in our world, I’d become the bad guy. I couldn’t imagine telling the kids. And I had a nagging belief that my marriage was God’s punishment for my sexually looser days – intellectually, I didn’t believe that was the kind of thing God did, but I could never entirely shake it.

His arrest and the subsequent revelations brought clarity to the situation, and my anger burned right through all my laudable reasons to stay. We are separated, and the divorce will soon be final. I am working through what is called betrayal trauma, and getting work and building a life. He sees the children regularly and we are in friendly contact, which is difficult for me, but my commitment to God’s grace and to my kids keeps me going.

porn-hurts-families

I’m sorry this isn’t a triumphant story of overcoming, but it’s an increasingly common story of what happens when porn becomes an addiction. And it’s happening in our churches – in my smallish congregation, many people came forward whose families had been affected by online porn addiction. There is hope for him; the brain is plastic, so he can change his thought and reward patterns if he wants to, and God is always at work, wanting to redeem and transform. There is hope for me. But not for our marriage.

If you are interested in reading the research bases for the whys and wherefores of stories like mine, I recommend a great website called Fight the New Drug (http://fightthenewdrug.org/). Its slogan is, Porn Kills Love.

It certainly killed mine.

 


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  • Julie Davis

    What a brave woman. Thank, Leanne, for letting her share her story here. As the church, we have much to learn in caring for the people in these heartbreaking situations. Jesus Himself created a caveat for divorce in cases of marital unfaithfulness, yet it seems like the church has such a hard time granting that freedom to the betrayed spouse.

    I know it’s complicated and each situation is nuanced (especially when porn is involved). It certainly demands others (church leadership and friends) to speak into it first, but it seems like we’ve been clinging too tightly to keeping marriages intact, no matter what the cost.