Welcome, Dearest Friends, to the first guest post in our Love & Making It series, written by Sarah Wheeler, a woman of valor and heart.  Through a truly awesome writing community called Story Sessions, I have gotten to know and love Sarah.  The following words are hers – about her journey with her husband through the trenches of sex and porn addiction and marriage.

Read her words and let them read you. This is her story and one told with thoughtful attention to detail in her reactions and her husband’s.
You will agree and you will disagree. Pay attention to what and why you feel the way you do.  Read yourself as you read her story.

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Beauty and the Porn Beast by Sarah Wheeler

If I’m honest with myself, I knew about his porn habit when we were dating. There were a stack of magazines in his closet, and I acted as though I was cool with the whole thing. Because, really, he’s a single guy and what do I expect? Every guy I’ve ever known looks at porn, at least he didn’t have a life-sized poster hanging on his wall. I told myself that this was what he used to cope with being single and allowed myself to believe that if we became more than just this “thing” we refused to label, the magazines would disappear and he would be enamored with me (and me alone) and we would live happily ever after. I blame my obsession with Beauty and the Beast for that mindset: “if you love him, magical glitter will melt away all his ugly parts and he will be perfect and you will be happy forever.” Dead wrong. You can fast forward to six weeks after our wedding night when I stumbled across the videos through the google image search history, and you can see how wrong I was.

Our premarital counselors had talked with us about issues within our sex-life during our marriage. I had laughed. Neither of us were able to keep our hands off the other before marriage, so I doubted our sex-life would ever be anything we needed to be concerned about. Dead wrong again.

But something changed the night I found those videos on our laptop in our first apartment together: the fairytale was shattered. I had a husband with a porn addiction: that was the painful and embarrassing truth. And in that pain and embarrassment, I began the task of preventing all images from ever wandering into this house again. I blamed the culture for constantly inundating men with these images and told myself that it wasn’t his fault. They were emailing him pictures, they were posting them in their feeds. It was them. We had a long discussion (in which I cried a lot and he sat confused) about how those videos made me feel undesired, unappreciated, and cheap being among the main descriptions. “I just feel like you want those girls more than me,” I remember telling him. I remember his response being, “I’d like it if you did some things like those girls, but I don’t want them more than you. I love you.” Our talk had left me even more bruised, and ignited a panicked fear inside me. I was afraid that if I didn’t do what those girls did, if I wasn’t what they were to him, that eventually he would leave me for someone who was closer to his image of “sexy.” I wasn’t going to allow that to happen.

I took control of the situation by making a list. Of course. The first thing on my list was pass-coding the internet access in our house. The laptop could now only be used for non-internet purposes while I wasn’t at home. We also installed an app on his phone that would notify me if he wandered onto any unauthorized cites. Also on the list were random and unannounced entrances into rooms, in hopes to keep him on his toes and off of porn sites. All of my efforts were responded to by him saying, “Ok, you can put a passcode on the internet and whatever you want. It just makes me feel like a child, though.” I honestly didn’t care and thought he was being remarkably whiney for all of the pain he had recently inflicted. I continued in my pursuit to defend our home from certain wreckage by changing things about myself. My husband is attracted to women with round butts, this was not a shock, but it became an obsession. I spent hours researching ways to “tone, tighten, and lift” and even more time studying pole dancing routines in order to hold his interest. I was certain that all my efforts in keeping him interested in me and blocked from them would be enough. Do I need to tell you I was wrong again? I think you get it. Changing myself may be the single most harmful thing I have done in our marriage; even today, I am struggling to regain the girl I lost during the months of trying to meet someone else’s view of beauty.

He came to me the next time he had a “slip.” He had found a hole in my online defenses. He told me because he “felt guilty,” he “knew it was wrong,” and he “wanted to make things right and not keep secrets.” I was shattered: I was sure I had made it clear how his addiction made me feel and this felt like a full rejection. This felt like him telling me, “I don’t want you, I want them.” To say that there was a distance in our relationship would be a gross understatement. I didn’t want him anymore. When he wanted me, I pushed him away; when he told me he was sorry, I didn’t hear him; when he swore he would stop, I didn’t believe him. Sex simply didn’t happen- for a very long time.

I was talking with a friend one afternoon about it, a friend whose husband struggled with the same issue, and after listening to my fear and pain she said flatly, “you know this isn’t about you right?” I was taken aback, but after letting it sink in I realized that she was right. This wasn’t about me. All of these things I had been doing were to protect myself from being hurt, but the battle had nothing to do with me, or even them. This battle was inside him. She encouraged me to pray for him and to start mentally fighting the lies that ran through my head every day. The lies that said “you are not enough,” “he wants someone else,” “this marriage has no hope,” “he will never love you.” These were very real and destructive thoughts that needed to be pushed back against. So, during the next few weeks, every time I had one of those thoughts, I would pray (the tight-chested and terrified kind of pray) that God would bring me peace and help me push back the lies and that He would begin to change my husband’s heart: I was begging God to make the porn-beast disappear. When we walked through the aisles at Target and walked past the women’s underwear section, I prayed. When he was alone at the house, I prayed. When I saw him on his phone and my mind began to convince me that he was looking at other girls right in front of me, I prayed. When I was falling asleep alone in bed, I prayed. This was a struggle, constantly.

I have always believed I could do for myself, and always (perhaps not consciously, but definitely) told God that I didn’t need his help with this. “I got this, God, I have a firewall, I have check points, and I have all of it under control.” It is painful when He takes away my control, but I love Him for doing it. Oh how I love Him. These weeks, months even, I was an infant and God fathered me as such, with gentle whispers of “I have you and I have him. I joined you. I will not let this come apart.” He wrapped strong arms tightly around me and after thrashing and fighting a bit, I believed Him. I learned the futility of my control and the absoluteness of His, and when I finally let go and stopped fighting, the shame went away and I could see things a bit clearer through His eyes. This was not about me, this was not about the onslaught of images from the sex industry: this was about my husband’s heart wandering from God. As I let go of more and more control, a strange thing happened. My control was replaced with compassion, not only for my husband, but the girls that lay bare on the screen. This is a pit that so many fall into and from which few escape because we tell ourselves that this pit is safe, it’s harmless, its sexy, its human nature. What terrible little lies we tell ourselves.

After months of praying, seeking, and crying (rinse and repeat), there was a shift, however subtle. I noticed it on a night when my husband came to me, again, confessing that he had “slipped,” except this time he said: “I hate it. I hate this addiction, I hate that I can’t stop myself, it’s disgusting and I hate it.” I knew he meant it, and I knew that this was God working in him. I knew that he wouldn’t have the strength to fight it until he hated it as much as I did, and as much as God does. And you know what else? This time, I prayed with my husband. I spoke over him the words that I had been whispering to God night after night, and again, no magical glitter, but there were tears and apologies and forgiveness and grace… and sex.

This isn’t over. There will be more days of confession. But we are finally in this fight together, we are struggling side-by-side instead of face-to-face. I’ve learned that no matter what my husband choses, I am beautiful and damn sexy just the way I am, and I’ve learned that one of the greatest and most powerful forces against the addiction my husband faces are my whispered prayers. And when (yes, when) it overcomes us again, we know that He has picked us up from the destruction of ourselves before, and we know Who to reach for when we fall in again.

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Sarah WheelerScout 275

 

I’m a wife, a mother, and an Austinite, writer, and lover of the little things. Fun fact: I often dream in movies complete with musical soundtracks, and, occasionally, my dreams roll credits at the end. That should say something to my love of movies, but I’ll let you get there on your own. While on the topic of dreams, I hope to one day visit Greece, Australia, and Israel. I like puppies, love wine, would die without music, and am fascinated by the tangled parts of life. I’m working on a memior and I blog at sarahbellewrites.com.