Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Should He Tell His Wife He Got Back Into Porn?

Just over a month ago Clint reached out: "I am part of the lay clergy in our LDS ward and was enjoying over 6 years sobriety from porn... until last month, that is! I'm so incredibly ashamed and terrified that I'm going to to lose everything this time.

"I haven't told my wife yet because I know it will destroy her faith in me. She knows that I struggled with pornography but thought it was all in the past. It will be so hard for her to hear I've gone back to it. I haven't told my Bishop because I'm so ashamed and terrified that he won't understand what I'm going through. I found the site and have received some comfort reading those essays.

"I feel so alone. I know there are others suffering the same, but I don't know how to reach out to them. I know I need to get back to 12-step meetings but I don't want to go to our local one because I'll be recognized. I'm thinking of going to one in the suburb next to us. I wanted to reach out but not sure what you can offer me. I sure hope I can get--and stay!--sober again (7 days sober now)."

I wrote back: "Hi Clint, SO glad you reached out. That's the key, and for now you're doing it in an arena that does feel doable. Just keep doing what you can and building on that."

Clint: "Thank you for responding.... I'm struggling right now to get the strength to tell my Bishop. I know how disappointed I would feel if the roles were reversed, and am not sure how he will react. It is just so overwhelming to think that I have to go through that again. I can't count how many Bishops I've had to have that discussion with in the past. But I can count how many I haven't: two. That's really depressing."

Five days later Clint sent this update: "I set an appointment to meet with my Bishop. That was a terrifying thing to do. I typed the text asking to set up the appointment and looked at it for what seemed like forever. My heart was thumping and I was all sweaty. But, I decided that in order to start my healing process, I had to send that text. So, I took three deep breaths and pushed send. So, my appointment is set for 8:30 tomorrow night."

A week later I got this email: "Just want to check in and let you know I'm still sober. Today is my two week mark! I spoke to my Bishop on Monday. It went very well.... He encouraged me to immerse myself in service to others. I haven't been able to tell my wife yet. That is the hardest part. I did tell her that I was going to attend 12-step meetings for my anger issues. Part truth :(

"I did go to ARP and started on step 1. Bishop suggested that I also seek counseling and that my wife and I try marriage counseling. After I talk to my wife, I'm not sure she will agree to any counseling. In the past she has said this is my problem and she didn't need any help."

I responded to Clint: "Great work so far!"

Another week went by, then this question from Clint: "I'm still doing well--at least I'm sober, going on 3 weeks tomorrow! The one thing I'm really struggling with is the right way and appropriate time to tell my wife about my relapse. Do you have any good blog posts or resources to help me figure this out?"

My best recommendations are these three about Why Your Husband Won't Read This Blog, Overcoming the Shame that Keeps Us from Reaching Out, and Want Porn Out? Let Wife In! My Friends Rory Reid and Dan Gray have also written a great book on the topic of discussing porn with a spouse.

Two weeks later Clint wrote, "Tomorrow is my 1 month sober mark!" When I congratulated him he responded, "Thanks, though I don't feel much like celebrating right now. I told my wife last night and I feel awful. How do we get past this?"

Oh. Wow. Wow! He did it! He faced the fear and spilled the beans! I got chills then and I get chills now re-reading that email. A part of me couldn't believe it. He mustered the courage and pulled it off! Another client, Raymond, describes how painful it was to open up to his wife about porn: "It was so scary, so hard to talk in that moment. My head was spinning, I felt small, I felt sick. It was awful."

Clint added details later about how it had gone between him and his wife: "It was 'the worse day of my life' as my 11-year-old puts it. My wife said, 'I'm not mad, just disappointed.' But it felt a lot worse than that the next day. I was miserable, and I'm sure she was hurting a lot, too.

"After two days of pretty much silence between us, I told her 'I love you' on my way out to work. She turned around, came to me and we hugged and kissed. That lifted my spirits so much! That night we went to my daughter's concert and we were holding hands, hugging, and at night kissing again. We also started discussing plans for recovery and my upcoming appointment with a therapist. So, even though Sunday was the worst day of my life, I think we're heading down the right path now. I'm so grateful for her love and support."

A week later I wrote Clint: "All week I've been basking in admiration for the courage you had to talk to your wife and her tender response even when she was hurting. Great work to both of you!"

Now it's been two weeks since Clint opened up to his wife. Yesterday when I asked him for permission to write a post about his experience, he gave me this update:

"Something incredible has happened over the last week that you may want to include. We're having 'cuddle time'. We spend an hour or two every night (yes, staying up past midnight most nights) cuddling and talking. We're having some very deep conversations that we've never had before. She told me that the reason she stopped being mad was she chose to see me as Christ would see me, as a small child who was exposed to something horrific that I had no control over.

"By the way, every night we ask our daughters their Highs and Lows as you suggested in your post on helping kids prevent porn problems. Some of them really like the experience, some of them kind of blow it off.

"My wife is planning to go to counseling with me tonight. She may also be thinking of going to the 12-step ARP Family group meetings.

All in all, it was a fantastic week. I keep having the thought, 'I never knew it could be this good!'"

Thank you, Clint, for showing us what happens when you have the guts to connect even when it feels incredibly risky. And for giving us a taste of the sweet return you've already started reaping from that courageous investment.

Not everyone thinks it's wise to open up about porn to a spouse. Nor is everyone who opens up glad they did. What has your experience been?

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