Dealing With the Shock of Discovering Your Spouse’s Pornography Use

A devastating discovery

The devastating moment of first discovering your spouse’s pornography use is unforgettable. In an instant, your life changes, and everything you believed to be real in your marriage comes into question. Your mind races as you struggle to keep your head above the waves of emotions of anger, sadness, shock, guilt, etc. The important thing to keep in mind is that your actions do not need to travel so fast.

Everything had come crashing down on her. What she knew to be a perfect life – a great husband, three children, and a nice home – became memories of a distant past in an instant. She had been searching for dresses to buy online and had come across a website that had been visited a few times in the last week: a pornographic website.

At first, she felt complete and utter shock. How could this be? Who could be looking at pornography in her home? Her thoughts raced to a dinner party she had hosted a few nights ago and wondered if one of the guests had gone on the computer. She remembered that nobody had and then her mind immediately turned to the only other adult in the home: her husband. How could this be? He couldn’t have. Could he? The shock remained for a few more moments. She sat at the desk feeling completely numb. When the realization that her husband had indeed been looking at porn hit her like a freight train, she felt a sharp pain in her heart and suddenly burst into tears over the keyboard.

The devastating moment of first discovering your spouse’s pornography use is unforgettable. In an instant, your life changes, and everything you believed to be real in your marriage comes into question. Your mind races as you struggle to keep your head above the waves of emotions of anger, sadness, shock, guilt, etc. The important thing to keep in mind is that your actions do not need to travel so fast. It is essential to take time to process what has just occurred. Allow yourself to slow down enough to feel and to recognize each emotion. When you jump into action while you are in a state of unpredictable emotions, you are not able to think clearly and may take an action you will later regret. When you allow yourself to slow your mind down, take a few deep breaths, and process what you are feeling, you are able to think things through and take the right course of action.

Know that whatever you are feeling is absolutely normal because you have just experienced a type of trauma. Anger, guilt, grief, sadness, betrayal, disbelief, etc. are all normal responses to this situation. You may feel that you have done something wrong or that you were not good enough to compete with the porn stars. Feelings of guilt and shame are natural responses to a betrayal of this type. However, the reality of the matter is that your spouse’s choice to view pornography is not your fault at all. It was completely his/her choice to engage in it, and your spouse must own up to his/her actions.

Someone who has discovered this devastating news is like one who has lost a loved one and, similarly, will travel through the stages of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. The stages of grief are like waves in the ocean, some overlapping others and some occurring before others. Regardless of how each individual experiences these stages, the final goal is acceptance. This does not mean that you accept your spouse’s behavior, but instead implies an acceptance of what has occurred and an ability to move beyond and rise above. Although at this raw moment, that final stage seems to be a lifetime away, know that you will arrive there through support, faith, and healing.

Important steps to take

After discovering that your spouse has been viewing pornography, it may be extremely difficult to figure out what actions to take next. Knowing that you are not alone and reaching out to the proper channels can help you navigate this storm successfully. Addressing what you have discovered with your spouse is a necessary step, but how to go about it is often difficult to discern. Having a trusted professional to help you choose the best course of action will provide you with the strength needed to move forward. Therefore, getting outside professional support is the most important first step towards healing.

Not only will this help you decide what to do, but it will allow you to work through the complex emotions that you are experiencing. This guidance of a counselor or therapist will assist you in uncovering the beliefs about yourself, your spouse, and your relationship that have surfaced due to this catastrophic event. If you do not work through your powerful emotions, they can easily begin to negatively transform your life, which can take you into a fast-moving downward spiral. Avoid this by seeking out professional help.

It is essential that, in addition to getting the help of a trained professional, you turn to someone for support. This may be a religious mentor or close friend or family member. This will provide you with a trusted shoulder to lean on outside of your therapy sessions. Spiritual support is necessary as well, because turning to Allah and prayer for support will help you overcome this trying time.

Once you are able to give yourself time to process what has occurred and allow your emotions room to be expressed, you will be on the path towards healing and growth. All throughout this time, you must remind yourself that you are not alone, that you are stronger than you believe, and better days are yet to come. Your relationship is able to last beyond this with the proper guidance and commitment from both of you to work towards recovery. You can and will overcome this hardship. Turn to Allah for guidance and never give up on the path towards your own personal healing.

About the author

Saadia Yunus

Saadia Z. Yunus, MA, LMFT holds a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hofstra University in New York. She has experience working with individuals, couples, families, and groups from many backgrounds. She is a graduate of the Institute of Islamic Sciences, where she studied the explanation of the Quran, Islamic literature, Arabic grammar, and Islamic history. After she graduated, she became a teacher of the Quran. She is a mental health columnist for The Message International magazine and a motivational speaker providing workshops and presentations throughout the country. She may be contacted at www.saadiazyunus.com