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3 Ways to Rebuild Your Marriage

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Three things couples can do

It’s a common defense that “pornography doesn’t hurt anyone”; “it’s not like it’s cheating”; “it’s just a private way to blow off some steam.” Yet, the number of marriages and families deeply damaged by a spouse’s use of pornography tell a different story.

Spouses feel betrayed, trust is broken, and often a spouse or a child accidentally finds pornographic material on a parent’s computer—scarred by images they never chose to see. When a porn addiction comes to light, a couple’s marriage vows are sorely tested. Anger, depression, and detachment are all common reactions to dealing with this cross.

One spouse relates, “We’ve both professed to feeling like we were drowning, desperate to grasp onto anything that might resemble a life raft that would carry us safely to shore as we struggled in the raging storm.” Another shares, “I had times of sadness and depression that would last for days. I was often confused and hopeless.”

Many spouses ask themselves honestly whether rebuilding their marriage is possible. Will the pornography user be able to quit? Will we be able to trust each other again? Will we ever feel safe being intimate?

But, as many couples will tell you, there is hope.

Luke Gilkerson, Educational Resource Manager at Covenant Eyes—an Internet Accountability and Filtering company—says that there are three main things that couples can do rebuild their marriage:

First, a couple needs wise guidance from experienced advisors. Second, a couple needs to set clear expectations for transparency and accountability. And last, a couple needs to set aside time for intimacy—and not even primarily physical intimacy, but emotional and spiritual intimacy.

1. Wise Guidance: So where can couples find this guidance? Of course, Catholic couples struggling with this issue can find both grace and solace in the Sacrament of Confession. Priests are no strangers to hearing about sexual addictions and often offer words of wisdom along with God’s mercy. Couples can also choose to find a solid psychologist, either individually, or as a couple, to work with. Those who are struggling to cast off a deeply-ingrained pornography habit may find that there are underlying reasons that they are seeking out pornography. Groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous—that follow a 12 step program—also offer the accountability that many people need to resist returning to pornography use.

2. Transparency and accountability. After what could have been years of keeping pornography secret, transparency is an uphill battle. Yet, honesty is the only way to rebuild the trust that was lost. Setting clear boundaries together, such as when to turn the computer off for the evening, how you want to discuss potential future “slip-ups,” and how a spouse can be supportive in this process are all important steps to healing.

However, while transparency is essential to rebuilding, it can be difficult for one spouse to feel like they are constantly policing the other’s Internet use. It is for this reason that having an accountability buddy other than a spouse (either through an accountability group or a good friend from Church) is often effective. Additionally, filtering and accountability software makes it more difficult to access pornographic material and can send an accountability buddy reports when access was attempted.

3. Intimacy: And finally, time spent together is essential. Especially when couples have been hurt and feel betrayed, the last thing they feel like doing is spending “quality time” together. But intimacy reminds you why it is that you vowed to spend your life loving your spouse. Time spent doing things other than discussing this challenge in marriage gives us the gift of hope that healing can actually take place.

If you’re hurting from your spouse’s pornography use and these steps sound like an arduous journey, that’s because it is. The damage that comes from pornography is real and cannot be brushed under the rug nor tolerated. But God gave you your spouse and wants the best for your marriage – in the words of St. Paul, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
Caitlin Bootsma is the editor of Human Life International’s Truth and Charity Forum (truthandcharityforum.com) as well as the Communications Director for Fuzati, Inc., a Catholic marketing company.

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