I am getting married in five months to a wonderful man of God who's really growing for the Lord. However, in the last year or so I've discovered that he has an addiction to pornography.
I've challenged him on it a few times, and he's taken steps to try and end the addiction. Obviously though, it's not something that's going to disappear overnight.
We've been blessed enough to be able to talk openly about this issue, and I've been able to share with him how it makes me feel, and he's shared his perspectives. The closer we get to marriage, though, the more concerned I am that this will affect our marriage negatively. I know that this won't have completely gone away in the next five months, but I'm concerned about our future.
He says that whenever he's viewing pornography online, I'm always the woman on his mind and that he doesn't really care for the women on his screen. But it still upsets me.
The thing that makes it much harder, though, is that a couple of years before I discovered my fiancé had this addiction, I discovered that my father, a man whom I love and respect infinitely and I've always regarded as a wonderful spiritual leader in our home, has the same problem. Needless to say, I was shocked and sickened when I discovered it was a problem for him, and it upset me greatly. I realized that I shouldn't have put him on such a high pedestal, but I confronted him on the issue, and he has been seeking help from our pastor about it.
At the time I found out, my mom didn't know, but because of the way I confronted my dad, she also found out. I've seen since how it's impacted my parents' marriage and how it was very difficult for them for a while. I'm pleased to say that God has really been working in their relationship, and they're much closer now than they have been for a long time. But having seen how my dad's addiction has affected my parents' marriage fills me with fear for how my fiancé's addiction might affect our marriage.
I read your article on pornography the other day, and there was one quote that particularly worried me, where the writer said:
As one doctor specializing in neuropsychiatry related, a number of the men whom he treated in the mid-to-late 1990s had become so dependent upon pornographic images to become sexually aroused that they were no longer attracted enough to their wives to have intercourse with them. Moreover, research suggests that exposure to pornography decreases sexual satisfaction with one's partner for both men and women.
I desperately don't want this to become the case in my marriage, and sent the quote to my fiancé to share my fears with him. He knows it could happen and says he's trying his hardest to not let this be our future.
I don't really know how to address this issue, how to prepare myself for marriage or if there's anything I can do beyond praying. I know that this is a common issue for men, and I need to forgive. But any advice you have would be well received!
Thank you for writing. I'm so sorry to hear that your engagement — what should be a season characterized by anticipation and joy — is being tainted by your fiancé's ongoing sin. But I'm so very glad you wrote, because this truly is a huge issue and one that you can't afford to ignore. As hard as it must be to imagine bringing this up again and addressing it before the wedding, it will be exponentially harder after.
I've answered many, many similar questions from young women who have discovered their boyfriends had porn addictions. You're right that this sin is common. Thankfully, many of them found out after the addiction ended. They were able to see it as past and forgiven sin and assess the man's behavior going forward. Was he repentant? Had his behavior changed? And importantly, was he taking steps to guard himself and his future marriage and children from this sin, going forward? This was essential to continuing the relationship.
Unfortunately, you don't have that benefit. What's worse, from what you've written, it sounds as if your fiancé is of the mind that this is something he needs to control, but not necessarily overcome. The mere fact that a whole year has passed and he's still "struggling" leads me to believe that he's not yet serious about conquering this sin.
And it is sin. It's not enough to recognize that pornography is bad, with the power of addiction (though that's progress over a culture that thinks it's harmless). Still, it's become common in our day to label sin "addiction" and treat it as if it's an illness. Doing so makes it easier to play the victim; to take away personal responsibility for the behavior. While there are chemical and physiological issues at work, the heart of this matter is his heart.
That he justifies his sin by saying you are the woman he sees while using porn is alarming. Every time he looks at other naked women (or men) on the screen he is committing adultery. Every time he masturbates to those images with you in mind, he is doing great violence to your purity and great harm to his shot at a healthy, even functional, marriage.
Regardless of what culture tries to justify as OK or even desirable, Scripture is clear and science confirms that this sexual sin does vast and great damage to the user and everyone else he is in relationship with.
It is, I believe, God's goodness that you have discovered his ongoing porn use before the wedding. There is still time to confront it; still time for him to repent and turn away from it. Indeed five months is not too short a time to stop this habit. If he does not, and if you were sitting here with me, I would urge you to end your engagement.
I know this must be hard to hear. And I know there are countless men, Christian men, caught in the web of pornography. Families are suffering for it, as you know from your own father's sin. That so many do it is no justification to continue in it. That it is difficult to stop it is no defense against trying.
A man who professes Christ but continues in this sin is not ready to take on the role of husband. If he were to try, his marriage would be a lie. Why? Because marriage is not just about the husband and wife. It's not just "the two of you against the world." Marriage is a picture of Christ and His bride. That is why it's so important that Christian marriages strive to honor God. And sexual purity and holiness and fidelity is an inseparable part of that honor.
I would encourage you not to try and solve this alone. Do you have a mentor you can confide in? You need one who will acknowledge with Scripture that what your fiancé is doing is wrong. And harmful. And unacceptable. Any pastor, counselor or mentor who would try to pass this off as simply "what everyone does these days" or even classify it as merely "a struggle" will not be helpful to you. You need the counsel and protection of other more mature believers.
This should be the subject you discuss as soon as possible, in your very next pre-marital counseling session. I don't think you should have to tell on your fiancé. Rather, I think you should ask him to tell the pastor himself. To confess. And to do it with you there.
To avoid this really is to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if you get all the other topics right: agree on budgeting, on where you'll go to church, on how many children you'll have, on your conflict style, on your relationship with the in-laws, etc. If you miss this issue, you're setting your marriage up for great heartache and failure, with the potential for devastation in the process.
Think of how your father's addiction has hurt your mother and you. The pain and heartache will only continue if you go into marriage with a man who has not conquered this sin. And I mean obliterated it. There's no room for image management or damage control or trying to change. He must truly be transformed by the power of Christ's forgiveness if you are to form a marriage and family that will be able to thrive.
You say you need to forgive him. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. Your forgiveness is a gift that has the power to restore his dignity. But forgiveness isn't a pass to keep on sinning. When Christ forgave sinners — and He did forgive grave sinners — His forgiveness was the door to freedom. To the woman caught in adultery, He didn't say, "I know you're trying hard to change and this is a major struggle for you. I know the culture makes sex so easy to get. I know you're addicted to the rush of hormones. Keep doing your best!" No! He said, "Then neither do I condemn you. ... Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11)
In Christ, we are able to be victorious over sin. To conquer it. Without Him we can do nothing. But in Him, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). Even stop using Internet porn. This is the good news of the Gospel. And it is good news!
My advice is to ask your fiancé if he is willing to discuss this with his pastor in the next seven days. Even if you have to have a consult by phone, I think it's imperative to deal with this now. If he is unwilling, I think you should postpone the wedding. Even call it off. He needs to know that you are serious.
Also, he needs to have a plan for how he is going to remove the opportunity to sin from his life. That includes accountability software on his computer (e.g., Covenant Eyes), as well as filtering software (e.g., Safe Eyes). It also means not using any computers that don't have such software. Does he view porn at work? If so, he should ask for filtering software to make it impossible; to take away temptation.
As for the two of you together, you must also have a plan in place that makes temptation, and sexual sin, impossible. That means if you're going to be alone together, it needs to be in a public place. Need time to talk privately? Meet in a restaurant. Don't be alone together in your apartment or his. Spend time together with other couples — ideally older Christian couples who can mentor you in the process.
You'll have your whole life to be alone together in cozy, romantic settings. Now is not the time. Better to use your engagement to be growing in spiritual maturity and preparing to take on the roles of husband and wife. One of the best ways to do that is in the company of godly, married friends.
As I said, I do not believe you are without hope. But I do believe that what it will take to form a godly marriage will require hard work and not always easy conversations and decisions. But it will certainly be worth it. Both of you need to replace your desire for sexual sin with the desire to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and believing, "I love you God, more than I love pornography; more than I love pre-marital sex."
I am not without hope that given the risk of losing you, along with biblical confrontation, your fiancé may yet repent and turn from his sin, toward forgiveness and new life in Christ.
If he does not, I pray you will have the courage to end this relationship. It cannot function, cannot bear fruit, cannot bring God glory — as God designed marriage to do — as long as your future husband would willingly embrace his sin.
You are in my prayers.
Copyright 2010 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.