Beating the Odds: 10 indicators your marriage will survive porn addiction

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Jeff has struggled with pornography since he was 11 years old. It started innocently enough when he found a magazine at a construction site. But that one exposure led to three decades of increasing addiction. Now a pastor in his 40s, Jeff and his wife came to me for counseling, feeling discouraged and ashamed. But after several months, Jeff learned how to overcome his sex addiction, restore his wife's trust and minister to others caught in secret sin.

How did Jeff and his wife restore their marriage when many other couples don't? Ultimately an addict is dependent on God for both the desire to recover and the means to do so, but certain patterns lead to healing while others result in heartbreak. Here are the top 10 qualities common to marriages that survive:

The addict initiates confession

Of the couples in my counseling practice, only one in 10 addicts confesses on his own. That means the vast majority of wives bear the burden of confronting sin, finding help and convincing their husband to attend therapy. The other nine couples might recover, but the addicts who confess on their own accord are a step ahead in the journey. Rather than playing a passive role in the marriage, the addict responds to the Holy Spirit by taking responsibility for his own walk with Christ and seeks help for his addiction.

The addict shows empathy for his wife's pain

Addiction distorts personality development and causes people to become self-absorbed. If the addiction continues long enough, it can contribute to serious psychological issues, such as antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. When an addict shows empathy for his wife, however, he strengthens his ability to think beyond himself and his own desires. For the marriage to survive, he will need to understand that his wife may feel a great sense of grief, loss and betrayal. Indeed, because the use of pornography is a form of marital betrayal, she will need to pursue help for her recovery and grief process.

The couple has strong support from their community, family and church

Unfortunately, many churches address the spiritual aspects of addiction but ignore the need for mental, emotional and behavioral support. Others minimize and hide sexual sin instead of addressing it purposefully with love. Healthy churches respond to the needs of the whole Christian.

Scriptural church discipline is essential to restoring individuals and families. The restoration process is always harder and longer than anyone imagines, and the couple often can't do it alone. Who is going to provide childcare for date nights or couples therapy? Who will serve as recovery partners? Who will help them afford therapy? They need the family of God now more than ever.

The couple understands the limitations of filters and accountability

Couples who persevere don't put their faith solely in surface strategies. Technological accountability systems are helpful, but they don't deal with the thoughts, feelings and desires that drive addictive behavior. Realistic couples know that almost anyone can manipulate a filter or lie to an accountability partner. People who overcome pornography addiction have these tools in place, but they know they need to back them up with godly counsel and strategies that address the deeper issues.

The marriage is centered on the spiritual bond and marked by communication, respect and teamwork

Christian spouses aren't just husband and wife. Scripture teaches that the marriage bond is temporary, ending with the death of a spouse. Their relationship as brother and sister in Christ, however, is eternal. It does not depend on romantic feelings or emotional connection. When conflict arises, this partnership is anchored by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience instead of escalating into drama.

Previous counseling has not been superficial

Putting off recovery and hoping addiction will go away only makes it worse. Many couples receive partial treatment and fail because the help addressed only surface behavior rather than the deeper issues. God can certainly redeem a marriage that has fallen into a long-term cycle of secrecy and betrayal, but a couple who receives adequate care right from the start can avoid the time-wasting, just-slap-on-a-Band-Aid approach.

The couple quickly seeks pastoral and professional care

Couples who survive a pornography addiction realize that each spouse is an eternal spirit who needs the spiritual healing provided by pastoral care. They also understand that their individual personalities play a role in the family system of addiction. Professional Christian counselors address topics such as family-of-origin issues, gender differences, personality disorders, addictive behaviors and trauma. Ideally, pastors and therapists work together to ensure comprehensive, biblical care for the addict's body, mind, spirit, spouse, marriage, family and role within the church community.

The addict is willing to do whatever it takes to get better

When I meet an addict who finds a therapist, makes appointments, sets up accountability and proactively tries to make amends, I eagerly anticipate God's healing in his marriage. His recovery isn't dependent on his wife's efforts to root out his secrets or scrape together treatment resources. The motivated addict is grieved that loved ones are paying a price for his addiction, and he neither expects nor receives cheap grace from his family. His attitude is marked by godly sorrow and a sense of personal responsibility. He feels the urgency and knows the stakes are high.

The addict is repentant and concerned about his relationship with God

The porn addict on the road to freedom understands that his soul is more important than his sexuality. He's truly sorry for hurting his wife and kids, but he is most concerned that he has grieved God. He's keenly aware of the ultimate price Christ paid for his sins. Against this backdrop of spiritual remorse, his relationship with God will grow deeper and stronger.

The couple focuses on glorifying God

True recovery does not focus on managing symptoms or preserving a public image. The couple who understands the process of redemptive suffering trusts that God has a bigger plan and is working this out for their good. Rather than fearing public opinion or resorting to quick fixes, they are committed to the process and live out the promise of Romans 8:13, "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Too many Christians allow the shame of pornography to keep them from reaching out for help. For Christian couples seeking healing, the good news is beautifully simple: The same grace that saved you is the grace that will recover you.

Rob Jackson is a marriage and family counselor. He is also a contributing writer to the Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage.

A variety of issues can fuel habitual pornography use. Understanding the deeper needs of individuals affected by this common problem is important. Reach out to well-trained helpers, and if you are a married couple do so together. Change is possible! We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or
help@FocusOnTheFamily.com
www.FocusontheFamily.com/FindaCounselor

© 2018 Rob Jackson. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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