talking about porn

Talking About Porn with Your Wife

You’ve been working on your marriage because you want your relationship to be healthy. Date night? Check. Serving her needs before your own? Check. Listening well? Check. But it’s time to look deeper because healthy marriages don’t keep secrets. Even in our marriages, we can present a calm cool and collected exterior while our hidden wounds lay buried beneath the surface. Hidden infection that remains secret and never receives treatment can have a disastrous long-term effect.

So you want to move in a healthy direction? Take the step of simply saying the truth out loud to your wife, no matter how difficult. [Tweet This] You’re moving toward love and wholeness even when it’s a messy conversation. Which means you’ve got a tough task ahead of you: It’s time to talk to your wife about porn. You might think this is ridiculous or that survival is the best possible outcome from talking about porn. But at All Pro Dad, we think this can be both a wise and a redemptive conversation to have. There are, however, better and worse ways to handle hot topics. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be proactive.

It’s better to bring it up yourself rather than wait until she catches you and is angry. Proactivity says, “Babe, I’ve been thinking about us. I want us together and healthy as possible so here’s a topic I don’t like bringing up, but we should talk anyway.” On the other hand, waiting until she discovers you leaves the burden of responsibility on your wife to initiate difficult dialogue. Waiting until your wife is hurt or angry infuses extra levels of high emotion and defensiveness into an already uneasy conversation.

Know your game plan.

What are you hoping to accomplish in this conversation? Are you confessing something and apologizing? Are you seeking understanding from her as you face the temptation to use porn? Are you initiating the conversation in order to reach out and better understand her perspective and her hurts surrounding porn? Are you looking for an ally who can help you see yourself and understand why you do the things you do? Let her know as early in the conversation as possible why you want to talk about this difficult subject.

Balance courage with sensitivity.

It’s always going to take courage to talk about porn—or anything else that could cause conflict. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it. Use courage, be bold, and pursue the hard topic. But balance your approach with sensitivity. This topic isn’t any easier for your wife. She’s likely to be surprised or embarrassed or hurt. You probably aren’t at your best when surprised, embarrassed, and hurt, either. So how would you like to be approached? With gentleness. With a recognition of the cost being paid simply to engage in the conversation. To have this conversation, you pay a cost in courage; she pays a cost in self-sacrificing love, patience, and likely, emotional exhaustion. Honor the cost she pays.

Determine mutually safe boundaries for how specific you’ll be.

Being specific when you apologize is a good thing. Being overly specific with every single gory detail can cause additional wounds. Find out how much detail your wife needs from you. Share what she needs to hear and make sure it’s enough so that you are not hiding. But once you find the appropriate level of detail, take care that your words aren’t causing unnecessary hurt.

Don’t do all the talking.

It is easily possible to build a wall with words. You can end up talking over the top of another person. Yes, communicate. But your wife is sure to have a reaction and response to what you’re saying. This involves her too. Make space for her to talk, and listen with your eyes and your ears.

Following these steps doesn’t guarantee your talk will go the way you wanted. Any conversation about porn is likely to be tricky and involve emotion so allow room for the unexpected. But remember that you are leading your family toward health and your marriage toward honest connectedness. If you can start this conversation in a way that aims proactively to benefit your marriage rather than trying to reactively appease an upset spouse, you’re off to a good start.

Sound Off

What else does a husband need to consider when initiating this discussion?

  • I would suggest talking to a couple guys in person about this before talking to your wife – and remember that your wife will likely not identify with any inclination you have to view other women sexually.

  • Single Dad

    Good info as always. Was just thinking that these steps could be used in opening up about any secrets being kept, not only those relating to porn. It takes two willing, strong people to have these communications, imo,

  • Erik

    Don’t forget to involve the Lord. Pray before, during and/or after as needed to invite the Spirit into your heart and into the discussion. He is as interested in the success of your marriage as anyone and will help guide you.

  • kyboy45

    Also, prior to the conversation, have an action plan ready on how you are going to attach the issue (if you’re admitting a problem/addiction). This may help the conversation because it will show you’re dedicated to seeking change. This is not ground breaking advice, but the action plan could include internet monitoring software, an accountability partner, professional counseling for both as individuals and as a couple, support groups…etc

  • Freethinker02

    I’d like the next article to be, “How to talk to your wife about her adulterous relationship with food.”

    Let’s face it. One of the temptations that drives men to porn is that women let themselves go, put on tons of extra fat, and lose a bunch of their physical sexual attractiveness. Since society in general approves of being obese or overweight, there’s almost no respect for the fact that a big part of a man’s sexual needs are fulfilled through his eyes.

    The contract is regularly violated, but only men are held accountable. Not even the church will address the problem (hence my moniker).

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Huddle up with your wife and say, “I don’t know how to do this perfectly, but I love you. I read this article today about porn. Can we talk about it?”

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