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Love You, Hate the Porn

Author, and psychologist Mark Chamberlain, says couples torn apart by pornography can heal their relationship.

What do you say to a woman who has just discovered her husband has a pornography habit and is trying to decide whether to leave or stay?

1. Relationships can heal. The title of our book and blog reflect what we hear from women: I hate porn enough that part of me wants to leave; I love him, we've built a life together. They want to know: Is there a way to work together to heal and conquer this? There is! Couples are stronger together than as individuals and they heal better with each other's help.

2. Work as a team. Women feel left out: "He deals with porn on his own. I'm an outsider and only occasionally get a window into how he's doing--and then by accident or because I do detective work." That's not a relationship. They're more willing to stay if it becomes us--husband and wife together--working against the problem of pornography. Men are surprised to hear, "Your dishonesty and secrecy hurts me more than the porn use," but it's typically true.

What can a wife do to help her husband overcome his pornography habit?

1. Cut yourself slack. Women say, "I'm not myself. I feel insecure, even paranoid. What's happening to me?" You're not going crazy. You thought you could count on your husband to be mentally faithful as well as physically. That got turned upside-down. Panic and confusion are natural reactions. It's traumatic. It takes time to get your bearings again.

2. Check in to rebuild trust. One client said, "Just his answering the phone at work is reassuring." For a while you may need concrete evidence you can trust his word.

3. Talk out feelings. Don't bottle up pain, fear, anger, hurt. Tell him, "Talking it out is how I'll heal." When something reminds you of his porn problem in a movie or in the middle of the day, talk it out. If you want him to just listen and reassure instead of defending, explaining, or promising to do better, tell him that. You're not holding it over his head and it won't go on forever. Just as his recovery is a gradual process, you're healing will take time, too.

4. Support him. Assure him you want to be a part of his healing. He may been trying to do it on his own because he's ashamed and frustrated with himself. You're the most important person in his life, he hates letting you down! He thought just needed to be a man and kick this habit on his own without bothering you about it. Obviously that hasn't worked. Over time men realize: we are stronger together and do heal better with each other's help. Many men say, "I can't tell her about a close call or lapse. She can't handle it." The truth is, she can't handle it without getting emotional, and he has a hard time dealing with her emotions. Learning to tolerate emotions--his own and hers--is an important part of his recovery. In recovery he will get to the point where he can handle you being upset.

5. Ask about feelings. If he says, "I struggled today with urges," don't ask, "What turned you on?" It's not about sex. Ask, "What dampened your spirits or hurt your feelings?" Men aren't used to exploring emotions, but if they don't reach out when they feel bad and talk out what's going on inside, they're more likely to act out sexually.

Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity is available at:

Mark Chamberlain is a psychologist and clinical director of the Addiction Resource Center for Healing

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