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Establishing Boundaries When Your Husband’s Addicted to Pornography

By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate


When you are married to a partner who is addicted to pornography (or other sexual behavior), it becomes critical to establish non-negotiable boundaries.  You will need boundaries in order to restore a sense of safety for yourself.  Oftentimes the emotional chaos produced by his disclosure leaves you feeling confused and upset.  When you establish healthy boundaries the atmosphere begins to settle and it’s easier to make decisions.

However, make sure that boundaries you establish are not an effort on your part to control your spouse.  Boundaries should always reflect your own personal need for safety and self-care.  When you are trying to control your spouse’s behavior, you are essentially still attempting to establish safety, but doing so in an unhealthy approach.  You don’t want to be left living in continual attempts to prevent him from acting out.  This is not healthy for either of you.

Non-negotiable boundaries are limits that are essential to your safety and self-care.  For example, you might ask him to cut off all interaction with the affair person, to ask him to eliminate all pornography from your home, or to ask him to enter a structured recovery program.  Again, make sure the boundary always relates to your own sense of safety and self-care.

When establishing boundaries, it would be wise to also consider how you will respond when your partner violates the boundary.  Don’t ever threaten a consequence in the heat of upset.  You should be mentally prepared ahead of time with your response.  I suggest you write down possible responses and review them with your support group or therapist, to make sure you are not trying to control your spouse, but rather focusing on your safety and self-care.

Some healthy responses might include things like sleeping in another room from your spouse, not engaging in sexual activity with your spouse, or instituting a therapeutic separation.  Although some consequences are more extreme, they don’t need to be.  Simply consider what needs your have for safety and self-care.

Emotional boundaries are also important to consider.  In the early stages of your partner’s recovery, you are trying “to preserve your mental and emotional health…  By setting emotional boundaries, you state what you need to protect your sanity and meet your own needs while living with an addict in early recovery.”[1]  For example, you might ask him to discuss his triggers or temptations with his group or therapist rather than with you.  Another example might be to request that if he remembers a sexual behavior he never disclosed, that you would like to be informed in the presence of a therapist.

Don't forget that any boundary you set should always relate back to your needs for safety and self-care.  The shock of disclosure leaves most women feeling confused.  Establishing boundaries will be essential for you in healing when your husband’s addicted to pornography.  Call us if you need professional counseling during this difficult time.  We have a team of therapists that specialize in pornography addiction in Mesa Arizona: (480) 668-8301.


[1] “Facing Heartbreak,” by Carnes, Lee & Rodriguez, p. 36.