That immediate moment after porn use is revealed or discovered is one of shock. Once porn use is out in the open the hurricane of thoughts and emotions is overwhelming. The future health of your marriage depends on how you handle this situation. Porn has ended many marriages but it does not have to end yours. There are several things you must do after the shock wears off, and even before.
7 Things To Do After You Discover Porn Use
#1 Step Away If You Need To
“The moment after I confronted him and he actually admitted it I was so in shock I felt like the walls of the house were closing in on me. I had experienced panic attacks a handful of times as a teen and that's what I felt like. I had to get out. I told him I had to get away for a little. I promised I was coming back and I kissed him and left. I drove maybe 15 minutes and that was the most healing 15 minutes of my life. God did something when I walked away and didn't scream at my husband.”*
Whatever you do, don't make any rash decisions like moving out, breaking computers, drowning cell phones or even screaming. I know it's hard, especially the last one but it is not productive to act on your emotions. There is nothing wrong with feeling anger, hurt, disgust and even rage but you do not want to make decisions based on those feelings. If you need to do so, step away until you can calm down and think clearly. If he has admitted it to you, you may need to tell him you need to leave the conversation (and the house) to clear your head and that's fine. Leaving to clear you head is different than moving out.
#2 Allow Yourself Time To Process
Pornography is no laughing, light matter. The process of recovering as a spouse is a grieving process. You must deal with your emotions and confusion surrounding his use of porn. Please don't try to get life back to normal as quickly as possible by burying your emotions. You need time to process what has taken place and the range of emotions you will feel. This will likely include anger, shame, guilt, sorrow and more.
#3 Don't Hide It
“When I discovered his porn on the computer and confronted him, he thought the best thing to do was forget all about it and go back to normal.”*
“..But even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” ~ Psalm 139:12 NLT
It's tempting, especially when your husband is truly repentant and sorry for his actions, to want to just move on and not tell anyone about this horrible thing. This is not the healing and healthy option. Darkness cannot hide in the light so we must expose this dark trap for what it is and bring it into the light. We must do this both physically and spiritually. Hiding it from your pastor or mentor allows this thing to fester inside your family. Trying to hide it spiritually, from God, isn't even possible so don't believe the lie that you're in this alone.
#4 Don't Shame Him
“I didn't even tell my best friend about it. Part of me really wanted to, but I also didn't want him to live with an invisible scar. I didn't tell my mom, or his. I told a friend from church whose husband has struggled with porn. They were open about it and he has even spoken about it publicly so I knew she was a safe person who understood but was also healed from her experience.”*
Thanks to social media, public shaming has become the new parenting and marriage tool and the ultimate revenge when you've been wronged. Don't broadcast to the world that your husband has used pornography. Shaming him is not the goal and it will do nothing to heal your marriage or help him change. Sharing with trusted friends is one thing, but broadcasting it to the world is another.
#5 Get Help
“I met with the gal from church and he met with her husband. We told the pastor and I met with the pastor for a few sessions to help me process what was going on.”*
It's not enough for him to apologize and promise he won't look at porn again or that he'll give up his cell phone. The lure of pornography is strong and depending on how long this has been a struggle in his life the healing process can be a long one as well. If he is truly repentant then counseling can help him heal from the root of his addiction and give him some strategies to avoiding the temptation in the future.
You may also need a safe place, besides just a good friend and a Christian counselor will help you through the process of forgiveness and healing.
Accountability is key in avoiding the temptation because let's be honest, the temptation will come. No one, man or woman is immune to temptations and this lure is a strong one.
#6 Don't Harbor Hate
“Everything in me wanted to hate him. I totally wanted to sleep on the couch for the rest of our lives but Holy Spirit nudged me to connect with my husband and weirdly, we had the most intimate, connecting experience right after our confrontation about what I found online. Holy Spirit moved quickly and it was like He redeemed in a moment what Satan was trying to destroy. I can't explain it but looking back it was like God was saying, ‘No Satan, you cannot have this marriage, what you tried to sever I am bonding together even tighter.'”*
I can't promise you an experience like this one but harboring hate will not help the situation or bring you closer to God through it. Hate only eats you from the inside out. The poison you drink will kill you if you do not accept and forgive. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness. It doesn't mean you sweep it under the rug or don't ever question future actions. Hate only brings death but forgiveness brings you freedom to let God handle the situation His way.
The pull to fall back into using porn is strong. Accountability is part of the rebuilding process. It will give you comfort in knowing that he has someone to go to if he's struggling. An accountability partner will also help him know there's someone there to turn to when he's tempted.
Rebuilding after pornography won't be easy but if can be done. If your husband is repentant and willing to put in the effort it takes, you can move past this and be stronger because of it.
XXX Church is a great resource for accountability, tips, and support.
*Quotes from a woman who wishes to remain anonymous but who walked through the discovery of her husband's pornography.