Hardcore Betrayal

For more than a decade, I was married to a man with a porn addiction. And I had no idea. This was partly because he was a computer programmer, so he was able to hide any evidence of porn on his computer. I also had no reason to suspect he had a problem. Sure, I realized that we had some intimacy issues. He would go for long periods of time without wanting or needing physical affection or sex. If I tried to talk with him about it, he would explain away his lack of desire or blame me somehow.

And sometimes he would act bizarrely — space out in conversations, or become frustrated easily when he had gone a while without time alone. In some ways, he acted like friends of mine who were addicted to alcohol or drugs. Though I suspected that he was addicted to something, I couldn’t find evidence that he was dependent on any substance. At the time I didn’t know someone could be addicted to porn.

The ironic thing was that my ex-husband was a vocal advocate against pornography. I remember when a friend asked my husband if he used pornography. He responded indignantly, “I would never disrespect my wife and daughters by looking at that stuff.” And I believed him.

So when he told me about his use of erotic images, I felt betrayed. Not only did it feel like he was somehow “cheating” on me with virtual images, but he had been living a lie, pretending to be someone he wasn’t. This was terrifying. He had presented himself as an honest, sexually faithful husband. But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

And the truth of his behaviors didn’t come out all at once. It leaked out over time. He would admit to one thing, like looking at lingerie catalogs, and then, when I felt that we had talked through that, he would confess to something else, something a lot worse. And this happened over and over.

I was stunned and frightened by his compulsive behaviors, many of which I didn’t learn about for years. Plus, when I found out he was looking at porn, I thought there must be something defective about myself. Obviously, I reasoned, I’m inadequate in some way. I’m not enough for him. I’m not beautiful enough, sexy enough, submissive enough, or feminine enough. And yet at the same time, I also felt like I was too much. I’m too real, too human, with emotions and desires that differed from his. I’m too needy, too sensitive, too flawed. I felt intense shame, rejection and loneliness.

Not only that, I felt completely devalued. The one person who I assumed considered me unique, irreplaceable, and desirable was choosing to channel his sexual energy towards a screen instead of me. I felt depersonalized, dehumanized, and easily replaced by an image or a thought.

To be honest, I felt ugly — truly, deeply, ugly. It seemed like I was being asked to meet an impossible standard of beauty, so I shut down. In crippling shame, I covered up.

The one person who I assumed considered me unique, irreplaceable, and desirable was choosing to channel his sexual energy towards a screen instead of me.

I’ve learned that my ex-husband thought I was too needy, not because I was, but because he was incapable of meeting my normal reasonable needs. I was not undesirable. He had trained himself to desire a fantasy. And no real person can compare to that. As C.S. Lewis says, “The harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival…. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.”

Unfortunately my husband wasn’t the only one to make me feel ashamed. Some people suggested that I was to blame for his addiction because they assumed that I was withholding sex. They didn’t understand that my husband was the one who didn’t want to have sex with me. I was also told I must be too controlling, too cold and unaffectionate, and not inviting or submissive enough. Again, I felt like I was somehow too much and yet not enough.

Yet, the wonderful reality is that I am fine. I was not the one with a problem. I was not responsible for his choices. I am neither too much nor too little. I am exactly as I should be, as God created me to be, with all the desires and needs that come with being human.

If your spouse has an addiction to pornography, know that you’re not alone. We would love to journey with you on this road. Just fill out your information below, and someone on our team will contact you shortly.

Photo Credit: Smile_Kerry