No one goes into marriage with the idea of hurting the other person; however, sometimes circumstances out of our control arise. Pornography and sexual addiction is a serious issue that hurts everyone involved.
As you begin to deal with your spouse’s addiction, you may find yourself asking, what do I do now?
To help you answer those questions, here are 11 important relationship tips to remember as you move forward in your own healing.
1. Don’t isolate. After your learn of your spouse’s addiction, one feeling you might experience is wanting to shut people out and isolate yourself. No matter how hard it is, now is not the time to shut people out of your life.
Build a support group around you, and find your tribe where you can talk openly and share how you’re feeling. The fact is, this is a hard time, one that can leave you questioning not only your relationship, but your self-worth. A therapist, close friend, support group, or spiritual leader are some great resources to turn to as you move forward on this path of recovery.
2. Learn more about addiction. The more you can learn about your spouse’s addiction and why they turned to pornography, you’ll help in your own recovery by understanding their addiction has nothing to do with you. In many cases, spouses of addicts find themselves asking why they weren’t good enough, sexy enough, smart enough, thin enough—the list is endless—and if because of their so called “failings” drove their spouse towards pornography.
The answer to those questions: no, it wasn’t you. Addiction affects the brain by flooding it with dopamine and over time, the user must look at more porngraphic images to get the rush. Because of that, addicts become trapped in a repetitive cycle of shame, compulsion, and betrayal.
3. Understand the trauma symptoms. After learning of your spouse’s betrayal, you may experience relational trauma. This is one of the hardest traumas a person endures because it shatters your internal world and leaves you questioning who you can trust. While you’re dealing with this trauma, you may find yourself in a fear cycle of fear, obsession, and control.
You may experience some of the following reactions while in the fear cycle: unhealthy eating, monitoring your spouse’s behavior, self-harm, and isolation. If you’ve found yourself turning towards unhealthy behaviors, now is the time to turn to your therapist, support group, or close friend to open up to on how your feeling. This is also a good time to create your own recovery plan and move forward in practicing self-care.
4. Create your own recovery plan. For those who are struggling with addiction, we recommend the create a Plan Of Recovery. This is equally important for spouses to help them set goals and work through their own healing. Take time to set your boundaries, practice positive self talk, write in a journal, pick up a hobby or learn a new skill; whatever brings you joy and allows you to take some time for yourself. This means putting yourself first—at least for a few minutes each day.
Remember as you move through the healing process, be compassionate with yourself. You are dealing with your own emotions, sense of betrayal, and need time to heal.
5. Finding their own support group and marriage counselor. Sexual addiction counseling is important, even for those struggling to cope with the pornography and sexual addiction of a loved one. During this time, spouses of addicts are dealing with their own emotions of denial, hurt, anger, and guilt.
While working through this difficult time, there are 2 important factors to keep in mind: this is not your fault, and you can overcome this. Remember, you don’t have go through this alone and there are people out there who understand what you’re going through. Take steps today to find help and move forward in your own recovery.
6. Self-care. While you’re moving through the path of recovery, taking time to practice self-care is critical to your healing. This can be particularly harder for women, who tend to have a difficult time putting themselves first, but taking even 5 minutes daily to focus on yourself can do a lot to boost your recovery.
If you’re still struggling with the idea of practicing self-care, consider the words of inspirational coach, Eleanor Brownn: “Self-care is NOT selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” By taking time to indulge in doing something for yourself—reading, writing in a journal, spending time on a hobby—you’re allowing yourself time to recharge and, in the end, will be better able to take care of those in your life.
7. Positive self talk. During this difficult time, you may find your thoughts turning negative and filling with self-blame. This can be devastating to your own recovery and further destroy your sense of self-worth. Instead, practice positive self talk and compassion towards yourself.
Practice your positive affirmations each morning when you get up, and at night right before you go to sleep. It is also recommended you practice your affirmations in front of a mirror. Louise Hay has a lot of wonderful affirmations you can use to help you in your healing. To get you started, here are a few affirmations:
- I replace my anger with understanding and compassion. I choose forgiveness.
- I draw from my inner strength and light and take each day at a time.
- I am a better and stronger person from the hardship I’ve gone through with my family.
8. Set your boundaries. Setting boundaries is an important skill to have for building well-rounded relationships and knowing yourself better. Weigh your limits and create a list of things that make you uncomfortable or stressed in all areas of your life—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. As you begin to set your boundaries, also include the things you’re willing to compromise on and those you’re not.
9. Connect with community. Sometimes, when you’re feeling lost and have no control of the situation, the best thing you can do is to step away from your problems and help someone else (at least for a little while). Take some time each week or month to go out and volunteer at your local library, shelter, or community center. If you’re unsure where to volunteer, check out to learn of opportunities around your area.
10. Practice open communication. Throughout your healing, communication between you and your spouse is essential. Practice open communication in a non-aggressive way by saying, “This happened and the way it made me feel was…” While you’re having these deeper conversations with your spouse, it’s also equally important for both of you to listen to what the other person is saying. If you’re both fighting to be heard, but not listening to the other how are you going to solve any problems?
11. Be supportive of your spouse. This will take time, but try to be as supportive of your spouse as you can. Remember that they are also healing from pornography and sexual addiction. This is a process and rebuilding trust takes time. During this time, practice being present and not dwell in the past. Instead focus on what is happening now and enjoy the time you’re spending with your spouse, family, and friends.
Pornography and sexual addiction hurts everyone involved and can leave everyone involved numb and unsure where to begin to heal. The key is to take it one day at a time. This is a long and difficult process, but each day you and your spouse have to make the choice to continue in your recovery.
Learn more about the recovery process and steps you can take by downloading our free ebook, The First Step: Taking the First Step Toward Recovery.