Your pornography habit is out in the open. She's dying inside emotionally because of it. You both still love each other and want to make it work. Where do you go from here?
At this point communication can be a real struggle, even with the best intentions and sincere effort on the part of both partners. She might try to put her pain behind her and move forward, only to find that she can't set aside her feelings so easily. She might feel an urgency to talk and talk about the issue, but pretty soon both of you can get burned out by the draining discussions that continue into the wee hours of the morning.
The following are some steps you might take to make your communication about pornography more productive and healing:
Step 1: When the wound gets reopened, see it as an opportunity.
If the pain is awake again, that's a good thing in that it can only be healed at those times when she's feeling it. It's a chance for the wound to be cleaned out and for some healing to occur.
This healing occurs when she talks about it and you listen and try to be understanding and supportive.
There are a certain amount of healing time together like this that she needs--a certain number of man hours that will need to be put in sooner or later. It's a lot of time, and you might as well be working on it, rather than letting the pain fester under the surface because it is not being addressed.
Step 2: See if you can hold aside defensiveness or frustration.
It's completely normal to feel defensive: "But it wasn't that I loved porn more than you!" It's completely normal to feel frustrated: "When are we going to be able to put this to rest? I'm trying to put it BEHIND me!"
If you can hold those understandable and normal reactions aside for a time while you focus on empathizing with her, the process of talking things out is actually often quite helpful and healing. Men sometimes fear that talking about the problem over and over again will just mire them as a couple more deeply in the problem. Over the years I've seen that the opposite can be true, if the discussions are carried out in a productive way.
Step 3: Encourage her to talk about how she's feeling.
Sometimes during painful discussions she is the one asking him questions: "How can you say you really love me when I don't look anything like the images you searched out?" "You seriously were viewing porn then, which I thought was one of the best times of our marriage?"
It may be helpful for him to ask more of the questions:
"What was it like for you when you discovered I was on porn? How did you feel? How did it change the way you feel about yourself? How did it change the way you felt about me? About men in general? About sex?"
Step 4: Ask where she feels the distress in her body.
This one may seem odd or awkward to bring up, but it will both help her be aware of what's going on inside and it will give you a handle to hold onto as you try to get a sense of what she's feeling so that you can feel some of it for yourself.
Step 5: See if you can feel a little bit of what she's feeling.
To better empathize with her, see if you can let into your own body a little taste of what she describes feeling. And along with those bodily sensations, some of the emotion that she identified.
Step 6: Let her know that her distress has registered with you.
Only take this step if, indeed, you were able to feel some of what she's going through. You may let her know by way of a simple statement such as, "Ouch, I get why that's hard for you."
Even if you don't register or her feelings or can't grasp why it's so hard emotionally, you might still let her know, "I want to better understand what you're going through and better support you in it. I'm not sure I get it yet, but I'll keep trying."
We'd love to hear how it goes for you as you put some of these pointers into practice. Were these guidelines helpful? What additional pointers or tips you have for other couples in your shoes, based on your experience?