Pornography and sexual addiction can have a devastating impact on a marriage. In many cases, spouses are traumatized by the addiction and are left feeling inadequate, disconnected, and feel low self-worth.
While going through the process of rebuilding trust, as the offending spouse, you will have to understand and accept that your spouse will need space and time to work through his or her emotions. He or she may have many questions, or even anger toward you. Accept that some days are going to be harder than others; commit to keeping the promises you make, and be compassionate to what he or she is going through and feeling.
Although you cannot force your spouse to forgive or trust again, there are some things you can do to show him or her that you are putting in a real effort to make changes and become someone he or she can trust again.
While moving through the healing process, here are six tips for rebuilding trust with your spouse:
1. Own your problems
You can't heal from your addiction if you don't take ownership of it. You must take total responsibility and not blame others. By owning up to the problem, you also own the solutions. Be accountable for your actions and your spouse will see you are committed to making a serious effort to save your marriage.
2. Be the change
Ralph Waldo Emerson put it perfectly when he said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." Stop trying to convince your spouse that you've changed, and instead, change. Set clear goals and ask yourself what you want most out of life. It is easier to make positive changes when you make specific plans and follow through with them.
Rebuild trust with your spouse by putting him or her, and your family, first. Take your spouse on a date, participate in family time and be there for them.
4. Seek support
Make the effort to seek help — show your spouse that you are serious in your recovery. Find a support group or 12-step program, or talk to a trusted friend or licensed therapist to help you during your recovery. In most cases, actively seeking and participating in treatment can help couples rebuild trust.
Trust isn't earned in a day, but rather by being honest and opening the lines of communication. Build boundaries around your temptations by establishing rules with your Internet use, or being more open with the activities you are doing on your smart phone. Go to bed with your spouse at the same time and avoid spending alone time on the computer.
Many times when a person is deep in their addiction, he or she stops living life. Show your spouse that the "real you" is back by being present in the moment and enjoying the time you spend with your spouse and family. The key is to focus on what is going on around you and not lose yourself in distractions.
Keep in mind that healing from pornography and sexual addiction is a process. Each day you are going to have to make a conscious decision to abstain from pornography and make healthier choices. It is also important to remember that trust takes time to rebuild, and that your spouse is going through his or her own emotions and underlying issues. Allow him or her time to heal.
Pornography and sexual addiction devastates marriages; but that doesn't have to mean the relationship is over. The healing process can be long and difficult, so use this time to show your spouse how important he or she is to you.
Dan Gray (LCSW, CSAT) is the Clinical Director and Cofounder at Life Star Therapy. He has a master’s degree in social work and is a CSAT (Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist). He is also certified as an addictions counselor with the National Association of Forensic Counselors.
He has co-authored and edited two books: Confronting Pornography: A Guide to Prevention and Recovery for Individuals, Loved Ones, and Leaders and Discussing Pornography Problems with a Spouse: Confronting and Disclosing Secret Behaviors. Dan is married and the father of four.