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416 || I Am a Habitual Porn User—Occasionally

Curtis: I was 12 years old when a friend showed me one of his dad’s pornography videos. That introduction to the female body provoked a curiosity that only grew as I grew. As a teenager, I would occasionally gain access to magazines, but mostly I kept busy with sports, hanging with friends and girlfriends. Sex was usually on my teenaged mind, but pornography wasn’t easily accessible in our strict Christian home.

That changed when I moved out on my own. Thanks to the internet, free pornography was easy to find, and it seemed like a harmless habit. It didn’t control my life, and it was an easy secret to keep.

Christina: I’ll never forget the day I first discovered the pictures. It was two weeks before our wedding, and in seconds I went from excitement to fear and uncertainty. In anger, I threatened to call off the wedding. He apologized for the way it had hurt me and promised it would never happen again.

But, of course, it did.

A few months after we got married, I found myself turning back with ease to my old habit. I was more tech-savvy than she was. I figured I could look when I wanted and hide it from her so it wouldn’t affect us.

The first couple of years of our marriage were a vicious cycle. We shared some of the most incredible experiences and memories. But those years also held some of the deepest pain. Sometimes, I stumbled across pictures he had downloaded, but other times I purposefully checked his browser history and saw the sites he frequented.

Feeling betrayed and equally insufficient as a wife, I resorted to teary meltdowns or days of silent treatment. I couldn’t understand how he could continue to hurt me so badly if he truly loved me. I wondered why I wasn’t enough.

He always apologized and always promised he would stop.

Our friends often said, “You guys get along so well; you never fight!” But they couldn’t have known everything.

We worked together, enjoyed life’s adventure together and rarely argued. Even though we were close, the sexual side of our relationship sometimes felt lacking to me. An argument here and there caused feelings of rejection and inadequacy to creep in, and my natural reaction was to turn to the girl on the screen. She didn’t fight back or reject me.

She was ready when I was.

Afterward my conscience always consumed me, and I would quit for months. I hated hearing how much I hurt her, knowing she believed I was intentionally hurting her. But I always reasoned that all guys struggled with pornography.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” When I was pregnant with our second child, I adopted that mentality. The cycle had been exhausting—catch him, believe him, catch him again. I believed if I watched porn with him, maybe he would stop watching on his own and trying to hide it.

About once or twice a month, he would ask me to watch one of the videos he had downloaded to initiate intimacy. I would often drink to numb my own conscience. These sexual encounters left me feeling guilty, distant from God, and with even lower self worth. I knew I couldn’t compare with the women on the screen—not with their flawless looks and certainly not with their enthusiastic performances.

I always felt guilty when I watched porn alone. Somehow, on the occasions we watched it together, it seemed acceptable. Like many males, my sex drive is higher then hers. There is sexual abuse in her past, and I became convinced watching videos together might actually help us in the bedroom.

By this time, I had stopped checking his computer history—not because I trusted him. I was simply tired of being hurt by what I found. Finding pornography again and again was too painful, so I forced myself to stop caring.

Five years ago, I turned my life back to God, and my conscience could no longer handle watching porn. I told him I would never watch it with him again. He understood.

I love Curtis and wanted our marriage to work, but this issue had ripped us apart time and time again. I became bitter and resentful that he expected our intimate encounters to compete with the high expectations the pornography industry painted as normal. We rarely fought, but when we did, it was usually about sex.

Sexual frequency was never really a problem, but the desire I craved from Christina was often nonexistent in the bedroom. Seeing those women online, seeming to be passionately thrilled to be with a man, made me feel I was missing out on something.

Fights always seemed to be about sex—or money first and then sex. This resentment I felt in feeling unwanted usually ended up in obsessive binge-watching for a day or two. But other times, I went weeks, or even months, without viewing anything.

As our children grew older, I was concerned they might find pictures on his devices. I begged him to stop, begged him to get accountability, begged him to install filters on his phone and laptop, begged him to go to counseling. I wanted our marriage to work, but I knew we could no longer handle this on our own.

I could deal with my own hurt feelings, but the risk of our kids being exposed was too much. Our marriage felt hopeless. I felt I couldn’t safely raise kids with this issue being so prevalent.

So, after 11 years of marriage and countless hours of counsel and prayer, I asked for a separation.

I was blindsided. I hadn’t even looked at anything pornographic for a couple of weeks. I thought I could just talk my way out of it again like I had in the past, but she was set and demanded I move out. I felt my world pressing down with a weight I had never felt before. I’m used to stress, but this was slow-motion drowning.

I spent that first week in anger—angry that she dared to go so far with my issue when I had forgiven her flaws. My anger fueled resentment, but it also fueled progress. I stopped looking at pornography that first night and didn’t return to it. At the time, it was just me telling myself I could stop. But I really couldn’t stop on my own.

I took my belongings—a suitcase of clothes—and stayed in the back area of our business, sleeping every night in a hammock. Every morning I went for breakfast and Bible study at a nearby restaurant. I tried everything in my own power to win her back and that included some extremely stupid ideas that only made things far worse.

By the second week, I started to understand this: Only with God and a true understanding of what I was doing to my wife could I ever begin to have peace—with or without her. I had to give up and give it to God. I had to change without expecting she ever would. I had to focus on myself and admit I had a problem —I was an occasional habitual porn user, and I had cheated on my wife thousands of times.

Every day I prayed for him. I realized, more than ever, how fully dependent on God’s power and grace I was. I couldn’t fix Curtis. A counselor had prepared me for reality—there were no promises restoration would happen. Those first weeks were an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I felt very hopeful, and other times I was scared our marriage was over.

It was extremely difficult to shield our four, young kids from what was happening; they wanted their daddy home, and I couldn’t explain how the actions I took were necessary and ultimately for their good. The fact that we had to put personal issues aside to work together daily in our family business made the situation even stranger. We worked side by side during the day, and then I went home alone to the stresses and demands of single parenting. There was a lot of suffering in silence because we didn’t share our situation with our church, friends or employees. In fact, we didn’t even tell our parents right away.

Four weeks had gone by. Every day I prayed for God to give me some guidance, and finally He did. Not particularly what I was looking for, though. He put an unnatural pressure on my chest, and told me if I wanted to be free, I needed to follow James’ lead. James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

I knew He was saying, “You are to go to church this morning and go before the altar (in front of everyone) and pray, and then confess your sins to all.”

Seriously?

I knew I had heard God clearly, but I was scared and strangely excited at the same time. On the ride to church, I was screaming to God for help. I told Him, “Satan is going to toy with me even harder than he is now. He is going to throw every shame at me at once. If You want me to go up there, You are going to have to keep pressing on me this hard, so I know You are right beside me.”

I wrote a full, complete confession before I went to church and posted it on Facebook after I left.

We had been in church our entire marriage and had never once been up to the altar; yet that Sunday, he grabbed my hand and led me there. Ironically, I was the one who was embarrassed—I didn’t want people to know we had issues.

After church, we split up and went our separate ways, the same as we had been doing for weeks. As I was driving the kids to an activity that afternoon, my Facebook alerts kept popping up. People were rapidly commenting on a status I was tagged in, but because I was driving, I had yet to see it.

As soon as I parked the car, I checked my Facebook. There, I saw Curtis had posted a very long, detailed confession of his pornography addiction, the extent of how much he had hurt me, and the reality of our separation. It was honest and shockingly bold. He didn’t make excuses for his behavior, nor did he even hint at blaming me. I sat in the car for a long time, tears streaming down my face, shocked, embarrassed and…. relieved. I no longer had to hide and pretend everything was okay when it clearly was not.

I was free, and I felt all the promises God gives when we obey His word—unfathomable peace and freedom. They came when I followed through and removed the mask. God released all my shame and guilt. I can now say, “Yes, I was like that; I did that. But praise Jesus, I am new!”

It didn’t end there, though. God was not done.

Another two weeks went by, and we were still separated. But I was excited. I had an overwhelming desire to stay in what God had for me, whatever that was, and what He was teaching me. Then one day, He spoke again during my Bible study time at breakfast. He said, “Curtis, your time is over. Go and cling to your wife.”

And that was it. I got up, went to work, saw my wife and told her the good news! However, she was hesitant. She thought she was the one who was supposed to end this.

I was furious with his announcement and honestly wondered if he was a little delusional. I angrily told him HE did not get to decide when to come home. God would tell ME when it was time. Obviously God hadn’t had that conversation with me. I was even more annoyed with his insistence and the fact he was not fazed by my reaction. I ended that conversation with, “Whatever. I haven’t heard from God, and you aren’t coming home until I do.”

I began to pray harder than I ever had during this journey. I needed to know what God wanted, and I needed to know beyond a shadow of any doubt. This wasn’t the time for guessing, and if God wasn’t done working on us individually, I didn’t want to prematurely come back together.

Less than 24 hours later, I knew. Curtis and I talked for hours, and as we did, I knew I was talking to a changed man—not one who was jumping through hoops to get his family back. God’s perfect peace settled into my heart, and though I knew there was a process that still needed to happen for our marriage to heal, it was clear we were to walk the next leg of the journey together.

The day after I came home, we decided to count the days we were separated. It was exactly 40. Ironically, in the Bible the number 40 usually has to do with testing. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasted for 40 days before being tempted, and the rain that flooded the Earth came for 40 days and nights.

Throughout the years, several friends and even Christian counselors had suggested divorce, but I know Satan’s goal in the Christian marriage is to destroy the marriage bond. Our separation could have easily ended badly, but God knew what the end result would be. Our tests have now become our testimony. God isn’t into behavior modification or just stopping a habit. He’s about life transformation. From the most difficult struggle of our lives, a God-centered marriage emerged.

I’ve learned pornography usage isn’t solely the guy’s problem, and it’s usually not fueled by lust alone. For many men, it’s an escape or coping mechanism when other issues are prevalent in and outside the bedroom. Sex is God’s design for marital intimacy, yet I’ve learned Satan can pervert and use it for destruction.

If you were to ask Curtis and me about our separation, you might be surprised by our different views. I believe without a doubt this period of time was God-ordained and initiated. I knew my efforts in trying to change Curtis had been insanity. I kept hearing God asking me if I trusted Him, and more specifically, if I trusted Him with my husband. Curtis finds it hard to believe God would tell me to separate from my husband, but he realizes God used it regardless.

I’m not sure, this side of Heaven, if we will know which one of us heard God clearly, but we do know God used the time of separation to redeem our marriage and our lives. We aren’t naïve to believe this will be the last temptation and attack. But for us, there is great comfort in the promise God will use ALL things for His glory, the good ones, and yes, even the painful ones (Romans 8:28).

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One Comment

  1. “I’ve learned pornography usage isn’t solely the guy’s problem, and it’s usually not fueled by lust alone. For many men, it’s an escape or coping mechanism when other issues are prevalent in and outside the bedroom. Sex is God’s design for marital intimacy, yet I’ve learned Satan can pervert and use it for destruction.”

    This is the most important paragraph in this excellent article.

    Reply

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