By Noryne Mascarella

At the moment in time the wife finds out about her husband's use of pornography, sexually acting out or sexual addiction, her world is forever changed. Most women describe this as a time of numbness, shock, hurt, anger, despair and confusion. They feel inadequate, deceived, rejected, responsible, desperate, and very confused. The life they thought they had no longer exists. She may even wonder if she even knows this man she calls her husband.

This can be an incredibly painful time for many women. This is especially true for a wife whose husband is in the ministry. I counsel with many wives during this painful time and I have found that the more isolated the wife is the more time it will take for healing to take place and the more pain she remains in.

Many pastor's wives have no one whom they can talk to about this. They feel a strong loyalty to their husband's image and to the congregation their husband leads. One pastor's wife was filled with hurt and anger after finding out that her husband would often stay up late at night, after she had gone to bed, viewing pornography on the internet. For years she had blamed herself and the fact that she was overweight for her husband's seemingly disinterest in sex. Her life changed one night when she was on the computer and looked at the web site history. She was shocked at what her husband had been viewing. Because of her isolation, hurt, shame, anger and sadness, she became very depressed and suicidal. Fortunately, she did get the help she needed and was able to find a counselor and a close friend in whom she could confide.

Many wives also feel responsible, blaming themselves for their husband's need to view porn or act out sexually. They often believe if they were sexier or more sexually responsive and available their husbands would not have to or need to seek sexual fulfillment elsewhere. This simply is not true. One thing you need to know as truth: YOU DIDN'T CAUSE IT AND YOU CANNOT CURE IT.

Another huge confusion for the wife is, "How could he do this if he says he loves me?" and "How is it possible to make love to me and then later get out of bed and look for pornography on TV or the Internet?"

This is a very confusing time with lots of questions and sometimes few answers. I will address the most common questions that I get asked as I journey with the wives of husbands who are involved in pornography or who are sexually addicted.

Questions Like . . .

·Why am I not to blame or responsible for his use of pornography or sexual addiction?

·How could he do this if he says he loves me?

·Will I ever be able to trust him again?

·Is there any hope for us?

·How will I be able to tell if he is getting help and getting better?

·What do I need to know about his problem?

·What is OK for me to ask? What do I need to know?

·Is it OK for us to have sex with one another?

·Should I stay with him?

·Why or how does a person develop a problem with pornography or become sexually addicted?


This question is one of the first questions a wife asks. She wants to know what she did wrong and why she isn't enough to satisfy her husband. Also, she wants to know what she can do to stop his acting out. She has a hard time believing that she didn't some how contribute to the problem.

Remember: You have nothing to do with your husband acting out.

Why am I not to blame?

Your husband was probably like this way before he met you. It most likely began in childhood or adolescence, growing day-by-day and getting an unyielding grip on his life.

All addictions get worse over time, much like that of an alcoholic. Over time any addiction will begin to erode away at the personhood of the individual. The addiction takes on a life of its own and has nothing to do with you. Nothing you were doing or not doing was making the addiction worse. You are there in his life and perhaps a witness to the behavioral changes because of the pornography's impact on his life, but it doesn't make you responsible. He would struggle with pornography no matter whom he married.

He's problem with pornography or sexual addiction is not about sex, it's not about attractiveness, and it's not about your body parts. He is not comparing you to another human being; he is comparing you to some bizarre interpretation of a fantasy that does not exist. The fantasy is not real. There is no way you can compete with this fantasy. Even the fantasy itself cannot be satisfied because it does not exist and it is constantly changing into a different and often more bizarre fantasy.

No person can compete with a fantasy on any level. You can't measure up because you are a real person. You are totally disqualified because you are not part of the fantasy.

Your husband may have repeatedly tried to blame you saying, "You're not good enough. You don't look the way you did when we first got married. You are always nagging me." But remember, these are lies. It is NOT about you.

Think about it. It doesn't make sense that a rational husband would leave his wife who loves him to have sex with himself and view pornography or to pay someone to be with him. It's irrational. It doesn't make sense. The second step in the 12-step program addresses a life of insanity. This is clearly a life of insanity. This is a type of insanity that you will never understand unless you have also dealt with addictions in your own life.

Don't blame yourself for his behavior no matter what he has told you. No matter what lie he told you. You can't make somebody want to view pornography or sexually act out with another person or with themselves. You are not big enough or strong enough.


You might be thinking, "He's promised me so many times he has stopped and I still catch him acting out. How can I trust him?" This is a question you should be asking. After all, he has lied to you, betrayed you, and you have lost intimacy and lost years and maybe even experienced financial losses.

Trust take time; sometimes a long time, to rebuild. Trust can never be regained until there is a change in his behavior.

If you have to choose between what he says and what he does, always believe what the behavior is telling you.

Addicts live in 'verbal reality'. Whatever they say is true, is true, regardless of their behavior.

They say 'I love you' but they act out sexually.

They say one thing, but they do another.

Always believe behavior.

The behavior is telling you the truth.


Because addicts do what they want to do. You can't stop an addict once they want to focus on something. Nothing stops them because they are driven. If they are truly in recovery you should see behavior changes like reading recovery books, going to meetings, getting an accountability partner and/or a sponsor.

Don't trust what they say only what they do.All addicts lie about their addictions. In today's culture of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, his being dishonest can kill you.

There are 2 types of truth.

Objective truth – can be measured

Subjective Truth – what I feel about something – your "gut" feeling

Addicts understand this. They attempt to get you into subjective truth. They don't want to be measured by their behavior. They don't want you to assess what is really going on.

As long as they can manipulate you into feeling sorry for them, or trusting them one more time or giving them a break, they will get you into a subjective measure, your feelings. Then it becomes how you feel about them. If

you feel you can trust them, then the addict is back "in" and then they don't have to change their behavior. Addicts hate being measured based on behavior.

Objective Truth is where you need to stay.

Remember what Forrest Gump says, "Sorry is as sorry does." It is just this simple.


Yes, IF he is willing to do the work that is required to recover. It has been my experience that he can become even more emotionally intimate with you than either of you have ever experienced. It is impossible to have close and healthy intimacy when one partner is living a secret life or living a fantasy life.

There is hope if YOU do the work necessary to recover. You have been damaged, betrayed, lied to, and hurt over the years. You are going to need to heal too. This is your personal responsibility. You cannot blame him if you do not heal.

If you both work hard there is hope. Always watch behavior. Don't take any excuses of why he isn't doing what he needs to do in order to get better. If he is making excuses, he is making plans to relapse.

There are support groups for wives of sexual addicts. Look in your local community for a COSA (co-sex addicts anonymous) or SANAN (partners of sex addicts), 12-step groups or a support group at your local church. There are some good books for wives dealing with this issue. See Resources.


Remember the advice of Forrest Gump; "Sorry is as sorry does."

The only way you will be able to tell if he is getting help is to watch his behavior. Is he is willing to put in maximum effort with the things he needs to do to gain sobriety and victory in his life?

He is either working or not. Someone who really wants to get better will. If he uses the same effort to recover that he did to medicate his pain and act out, there is no stopping his recovery process.

It takes time to heal and rebuild a relationship. So give him time. How much time? If he is doing what he needs to do, reading recovery books, going to meetings, reconnecting to God, finding an accountability person (same sex) and making daily phone calls to his accountability partner, he will get better. You will begin to see changes in his behavior and attitude within a month or two. He will begin to be warmer and more attentive in his interactions with you.

A person who relies on pornography or sexually acting out to medicate his pain is a person who is stuck in his inability to develop true intimacy with another person. Only after the he has sobriety from pornography and acting out, will he be able to develop relationally where he can begin to understand your pain and the pain he has caused you. Don't expect this until he has at least 90 days of sobriety.

Also, be cautious of the word "try". The word 'try' can be a cop-out word. If he says he is trying but you see no behaviors changes, that indicates he is trying to manipulate you into believing him. Don't take any excuses of why he isn't doing what he needs to do in order to get better. If he is making excuses, he is making plans to relapse.

In the movie The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda makes this statement to Luke Skywalker; "Do or do not do. There is no try." Luke learns from Yoda that being a Jedi Knight involves profound commitment. The sex addict has to have a profound commitment to sobriety to get better. He can no longer believe his own lies of wanting to get better.


There may be several reasons why a person develops a problem with pornography and/or becomes sexually addicted but we will look at the four main reasons that we currently know about.

Biological Conditioning

One of the reasons is from biological conditioning that begins long before he marries. The conditioning usually starts in early childhood with an early exposure to pornography. At one time a boy's first exposure to pornography was around 11 or 12 years of age. More recent studies are showing that with easy access to the internet, the first time exposure is becoming earlier and earlier. Now it is believed that some boys are exposed to pornogra

phy as early as 6 or 7 years old.

This exposure, coupled with the excitement of seeing something forbidden, begins the biological conditioning process. As the boy gets a little older he begins to fantasize sexually while viewing pornography. Couple this with self-stimulation through masturbation and ejaculation. During ejaculation a high level of chemicals are released in the brain. These chemicals (which are neurotransmitters that have a similar chemical make-up to morphine) are like "brain candy" and the body desires more and more of this great stuff.

THE PROBLEM: This was designed to happen in the context of a committed relationship with someone you love and care about. But during childhood or early adolescence the person escapes into a fantasy world with images that are not people but objects --- to be used and manipulated to generate more "brain candy." The boy begins to condition his sexuality towards a fantasy world fueled by pornography.

Studies show that a boy may have had hundreds of sexual experiences with themselves before they have ever had any sexual contact with another person. The boy (or man) has conditioned his body to seek this chemical release, which produces "feel good brain candy", except now this chemical release is connected to an inappropriate fantasy world.

Many men start this conditioning at an early age and continue this conditioning throughout their entire life. They have never learned how to have an exciting sexual relationship within the context of any intimate relationship with someone else. So even when they are being sexual with someone they love, they still escape inside their head to their fantasy world to get excited enough to ejaculate. Which continues to condition and fuel their sexual addiction.

Many wives have noticed their husbands "leaving" mentally while lovemaking complaining that it seems like their husband is not really with them. The wife no longer feels a connection with her husband. She is right. Most likely the husband has gone to his fantasy world in order to reach orgasm.

To the man who struggles with pornography and/or a sexual addiction, sex does not equal connecting to a real person; it means escaping into his fantasy world. Within the fantasy, a sex addict feels loved, important, and significant. Of course everyone in his fantasy world are objects who are easily manipulated to do everything he wants without requiring any commitment or intimacy in return. He always wins in his fantasy. There is never a fear of rejection or inadequacy.

Fantasy worlds are hard to understand if you do not have a problem with pornography or if you are not sexually addicted. However, this is why masturbation has to be addressed in the recovery process. If he continues to masturbate to pornography or fantasy he will continue to reinforce the loop and continue the conditioning process.

Neurological Conditioning

Another reason why a person may develop a problem with pornography and/or become sexually addicted has to do with the neurological conditioning which is very powerful.

Anything that you do over and over again, the brain creates a neurological pathway for this behavior. Have you ever wondered how an Olympic gymnast can remember their routine? It's because they do the routine over and over again. Then it only takes an initial move to start the whole routine. They have conditioned their body to respond.

Anyone who has ever taken an introductory class in Psychology has heard of classical conditioning. You probably remember the experiment with Pavlov's dog. In this experiment, Pavlov's dog was given food after a bell had rung. This was done each time the dog was given food. Over a period of time, the dog connected the bell with the food so much, that when the bell would ring, the dog would begin to salivate, which is biological response. The dog was conditioned to salivate to a bell.

In the same way, sexually acting out behavior creates a neuropathway, which can become the major pathway the sex addict uses to meet his neurological needs. Many people, who use the Internet to fulfill their sexual needs, begin to get excited when they hear the modem connecting. Many people refer to this as the "handshake" of the computer. Sometimes this is all it takes to begin the fantasy ritual.

Therefore, a person who has a problem with pornography or is a sexual addict has to take behavioral steps to recondition their brain so they stop the unhealthy conditioned responses.

God's created intent for our sexuality: God designed our sexuality so that our brain would be conditioned to our partner. So even after 50+ years of marriage and having sex with only your partner, you would still respond and be excited by them. We are to condition our biological and neurological responses to our spouse and only our spouse.

Psychological Reasons

A third reason why a person may develop a problem with pornography and/or become sexually addicted has to do with psychological reasons.

Some stats: Family of Origin Issues -

Over 90%emotionally abused

81%sexually abused

70%physically abused

10-15% don't fit within this psychological profile.

Their problem with pornography or sexual addiction is purely biologically and/or neurologically conditioned. These statistics come from people who have been hospitalized for the treatment of sexual addiction. The psychological factors are important to understand because a lot of time, energy, and resources are used to try to medicate emotional pain instead of dealing with it. Several people who have sought treatment for their sexual addiction have also reported coming from abusive childhoods including emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual abuse and neglect.

Think about it. If you are a young boy living in an emotionally and psychologically abusive environment, how do you deal with the pain? The boy may not chose to drink or do drugs to medicate, but he might find being sexual with himself works to feel better.

THE PROBLEM: You begin to develop a psychological dependency on sex to medicate your pain, it then becomes a major coping mechanism for pain. Many people develop a problem with pornography or become a sexual addict because they are medicating their pain. They are coping the best they think they can.

Sexual Trauma

When a child is sexually abused it affects him/her spiritually, emotionally, physically and psychologically. Some people get "stuck" in that sexual trauma and begin to reenact it over and over again, affecting the way they are sexually.

Sexual abuse pushes the victim into experiencing sex as a sexual object and to objectify themselves sexually. This experience creates a need to medicate to escape the pain. These reasons are the main factors of how a person can develop a problem with pornography or become sexually addicted. It is important that these issues be addressed in your recovery process.

In summary, the way many people develop a sexual problem is through biological and/or neurological conditioning, which is a result of painful childhood experiences, or sexual trauma. Sex then becomes an escape from the pain and a way to cope with their environment.

The person depends on this unhealthy but 'faithful relationship' because there is the illusion that he maintains total control of his sexuality and doesn't have to risk emotionally or be vulnerable with another person. The sad thing is he never learns how to be intimate with another person. In fact, he can't be intimate as long as he is acting out in his sexual addiction. So he stays stuck.