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What Wives Wish Their LDS Bishops Knew About Porn Addiction in Mesa AZ

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By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate

 

After working with many LDS women who are married to pornography or sex addicts in Mesa Arizona, I’ve witnessed the intense need they feel for spiritual strength from their bishop and priesthood leaders.  Sometimes it can be difficult for church leaders when members of the congregation expect them to be professional counselors.  I can only imagine the pressure they feel as they seek to rely upon the Lord for inspiration.

Recently I stumbled onto this wonderful list that was compiled by Mark Chamberlain, PhD who has worked extensively with this topic.  Each statement echoes the many stories I’ve heard in my office.  I believe it’s extremely useful to help provide bishops and priesthood leaders with information about what wives are experiencing when their husbands are addicted to pornography.

  1. We are simply devastated.  
  2. We did not cause this and we cannot cure it.
  3. We may feel that if we were prettier, smarter, or more “something,” they would not have this problem. This is not true. In almost all cases, they were addicted before they ever met us. “ENUF”
  4. We need to know about our husbands’ actions so that we don’t blame ourselves for whatever feels wrong in our marriages
  5. We also need to know of our husbands’ actions to help protect our children, our homes, and ourselves. Keeping someone in a relationship under false pretenses represents exploitation.
  6. In most cases we have done nothing to bring this situation into our lives.  It feels so unfair that we have no choice but to deal with it.
  7. We are baffled that we ended up here.  We have tried to do all the things that we thought would bring us our happy eternal marriage.  This is the last thing we expected.  We may feel cheated and angry with God.
  8. We feel really ashamed.  We feel embarrassed that we married someone with this problem, or that we didn’t see it sooner.
  9. Extreme emotions are normal in our circumstances.  We should not feel ashamed for feeling them.
  10. We may need help remembering that we have worth as individuals, no matter the outcome of our marriages or future choices of our husbands.
  11. We feel alone. We feel like no one else has this problem. Isolation compounds our pain.
  12. It is hard for us to reach out for support.
  13. We need support.
  14. Other women who have been in our shoes can provide vital support.
  15. We may need ongoing support from our bishops.  It may be hard for us to ask for this ongoing support.  A little bit of reaching out and following up from our bishops may go a long way in helping us not feel overlooked or forgotten.
  16. We need to know what resources are available to help us.  A bishop who is familiar with this problem and what these resources are could help us feel better sooner.
  17. We may want and need increased access to Priesthood blessings.  Our husbands may not be worthy to give those blessings, and even if they are, they might not be the ones we want to ask to give them to us.  It may be valuable to have our bishops help us identify who we can ask when we need this particular type of help.
  18. Our bishops may be the first people we reach out to after discovering our husbands’ addictions.  It may be hard for us to trust Priesthood holders since our husbands have held the Priesthood in our homes.  If we feel invalidated by our bishops, it will be so much harder for us to reach out for further support.  We sometimes feel invalidated when it seems that the Church does not hold our husbands accountable for their actions.
  19. Our husbands do not act out with pornography and masturbation because we give them too little sex; they will not stop acting out with pornography and masturbation if we give them more sex.
  20. If we are encouraged to “not withhold sex” we will feel like we are being told that our feelings are not as important as our husbands’ feelings.  Our need for exclusivity trumps their “need” for sex.  Men are expected to remain abstinent until marriage, which implies it is possible for men to survive without sex.  Our having sex with them does not help them to recover.
  21. We are in no position to be asked to give our husbands support.  If anything we need their support for us as we come to terms with what they have done.
  22. The best way for us to support our husbands is to hold them accountable.  Being asked to “forgive and forget” too early will hurt us both.
  23. Letting our husbands off the hook too easily may decrease the urgency they feel about getting help.
  24. We need to set some boundaries for ourselves with our husbands to protect ourselves from ongoing harm.
  25. The best support we can give to our husbands is a healthy wife.  We need to do what it takes to find our way back to our own personal health.
  26. If our husbands have been caught instead of voluntarily disclosing, they may not actually have any desire to get better, no matter what impression they may give a bishop when discussing addiction.
  27. If we are asked to make changes to help our husbands overcome their problems, and they don’t change, then we feel like we didn’t try hard enough or lacked faith.  It may increase our shame.  Only our husbands are responsible for their own behavior.
  28. Most addicts lie or minimize when asked about their addictions.  We and their bishops are not likely to have heard the entire story from our husbands.
  29. Many of our husbands will continue to act out and to lie to us (and to their bishops) after their initial meetings with their bishops.  It may not be appropriate to encourage us to trust them yet because they may not be trustworthy yet.
  30. Our husbands are incapable of giving up their addictions if they keep them a secret.
  31. Our husbands’ lies have harmed us at least as much as the actual betrayal.
  32. We need to eventually forgive our husbands.  We may not be capable of forgiving them as early as we may be asked to do.  We will do our best to leave a place in our hearts for forgiveness to come.  
  33. Forgiveness does not mean tolerating harm.
  34. Trust and forgiveness are not the same things. Forgiveness is a benefit for us; trust is a benefit for our husbands.  Trust needs to be earned once it has been lost.  We will probably forgive before we trust again.
  35. We will not get over it quickly.  We would if we could, but it will take time and effort to find our way back to emotional health.
  36. We need help regardless of our husbands’ desire for help.
  37. We will not automatically get better when our husbands stop acting out.  Our progress may actually lag behind theirs.  The history of deception keeps us from being able to trust that we are now safe, even if they say that they have not relapsed in a long time.
  38. Our husbands have not been good husbands. They have been selfish and lacking in empathy. Addiction results in other bad behaviors that have been harming us.
  39. We have experienced trauma because of our husbands’ betrayals.  This trauma is not an indicator that we are not using the Atonement.
  40. Our husbands’ actions in no way decrease our own worthiness.
  41. Our husbands have most likely been trying for years to overcome their addictions by fasting, praying, reading the scriptures and attending the temple.  These are vital components in their repentance and in building their spirituality.  However, in most cases our husbands need more help than this to recover from addiction.  
  42. We most likely need outside help to recover, just like our husbands do.  Good counseling and regular support group meetings can help us tremendously.
  43. Even addicts dedicated to recovery tend to relapse several times before achieving lengthy sobriety.
  44. We value our anonymity. We would appreciate our bishops encouraging discretion in anyone who may realize we are meeting frequently (e.g. executive secretary).
  45. We would like our bishops to not assume they know everything they need to know on this topic. Be open to good information. Do not be afraid to admit what they don't know. They can ask us what they can do to help us.
  46. We should not simply replace all negative thoughts with positive ones.  That shows denial of the impact this problem has in our lives.  In order to heal from these difficult emotions, we need to allow ourselves to feel them.
  47. Many marriages that fail from this problem actually fail because of the continued lying more than the continued acting out.
  48. Our husbands' dedication to complete transparency in our marriage will help us to feel that we know everything we need to know.  This transparency may include ongoing access to all email, social media, bank accounts, cell phones, computers and electronic devices.  Transparency may also include an agreement on future disclosures.
  49. Despite our best efforts, our marriages may not survive.
  50. This addiction has caused us to doubt ourselves, our own intuition and the guidance we are receiving from the Lord.  We need you to support us as we seek for our own answers from the Spirit and make our own choices going forward.

Hopefully this list of statements from wives, whose husbands struggle with pornography addiction, can be helpful to bishops and priesthood leaders as they pray and ponder on ways to help.  We are always available for clinical consultation with priesthood leaders by simply calling our office.  We specialize in pornography addiction in Mesa Arizona.  (480) 668-8301.