Healing from porn addiction

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There is help available for women hurt by their husbands’ use of porn — and for their marriages

"I recently discovered that my husband has relapsed in his struggle with porn. I am hurting pretty badly right now.”

“My husband’s life is consumed with porn. He’s living a lie and it’s destroying our family. I can’t even begin to describe the sadness I feel about this.”

Betrayal trauma hurts like nothing else. This is what many wives feel when they find out about their husbands’ secret porn use. An increasing number of women in the church are suffering acutely because of their husbands’ pornography use or addiction. As the porn epidemic continues to grow, we need to know how to offer help to women hurting in this way. This pain is intimate, shameful and isolating. Women need to know what resources are available, and they need to know what actions are most effective. Most of all, they need to know that they are not alone.

Confrontation

Fr. Sean Kilcawley
Father Sean Kilcawley

“Did she confront her husband? She needs to confront her husband. And there needs to be consequences. Like: ‘You’re sleeping on the couch,’ or ‘You’re out of the house until you take care of this.’” Father Sean Kilcawley is the theological advisor to IntegrityRestored.com and a national expert on addressing pornography from a Catholic context. I was serendipitously able to give him a ride from the airport to Ocean Shores, where he was speaking for the Archdiocese of Seattle’s annual Priest Days event. While he rode in the passenger seat of my minivan, I asked how to best help women suffering from their husbands’ porn use.

“The most successful couples,” he told me, “are the ones in which the wives make a really big deal about it. Guys don’t change unless they face serious consequences.” The “good Catholic wives” who patiently endure their husbands’ use are not likely to see a change. Father Sean recounted conversations with married Catholic men addicted to porn who continued their pattern of use. “What about your wife? What is this doing to her?” he asks them. When they say, “Oh, she’s such a saint, she’s so forgiving, she’s so understanding,” Father Sean knows they are not motivated to make serious change.

Treatment

The most effective treatment to change compulsive pornography use or other sexual addictions is from a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist. The husband needs individual therapy, and so does the wife, in order to work on her healing. The deep pain of betrayal trauma manifests similarly to post-traumatic stress disorder, and it needs care. The couple also needs to see a therapist together.

Therapy is not a quick fix. Trust takes time to rebuild. However, there is great hope for healing each individual in the marriage as well as the marriage itself.

Resources

Grace Erickson
Grace Erickson

“Bloom” is an online resource for Catholic women in this situation (BloomforCatholicWomen.com). Bloom’s online classes, coaching and private community provide education, understanding and strength. It truly helps women rebuild and blossom.

Grace Erickson is a Catholic therapist in Seattle currently working on her CSAT training. This specialized, evidence-based, research-backed approach is considered the “gold standard” of sexual addiction therapy, and her presence in the Puget Sound is a treasure. Grace is also available to speak at parishes about preventing pornography addiction among children as well as addressing its impact on marriage.

Connection

“Women have a right to have their story heard,” Father Sean emphasized. He’s seen women shunned from their own Catholic communities when they reveal the struggle with porn in their marriage. One woman he worked with was part of a group of Catholic homeschoolers; when the other moms found out about her husband’s porn addiction, they wouldn’t let their children come over to her house for playdates anymore. This exacerbates women’s suffering.

We need to work to change the culture in our own church so that we can talk about this issue. Out in the light, we can better bring the healing power of Jesus’ love to those affected by pornography use.

Northwest Catholic - September 2018

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

Website: www.drsarahbartel.com