The moment at which you discover your husband’s use of pornography, your world turns upside down. You feel shock, disgust, and despair. Your head spins. Many women fear approaching their husbands about their discovery or consider it wrong for a wife to confront her husband. Some women feel safer ignoring it. Others take the opposite approach and engage with anger, and their elevated response becomes the focus rather than their spouse's sin.
I want to help you confront your husband in a way that expresses care for him and concern for your marriage. But first, it needs to be said that pornography is a grievous and serious sin. Hebrews 13:4 puts it succinctly: "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." Sexual sin is infectious, leading to other sins like deception.1 It is divisive and harmful to a marriage, so it is critical that you address it.
However, the most important thing at this moment is that you are hurting, and you do not know what to do. Here are some ways to help you think about how to approach your husband. These steps are not linear, but they are designed to help guide you in the conversation you will have with your husband—the one you never wanted to have.
1. Pray. Your emotions will be swirling, and the uncertainty of how big the problem is or how your husband will respond will most likely trigger anxious thoughts. Ask the One who loves you faithfully to give you strength, peace of mind, a discerning heart, and answers about what to do. He promises to establish your steps, and his steadfast love never ceases (Prov 16:9; Lam 3:22).
2. Enlist support. Using pornography is a serious sin. Its discovery can turn your world upside down, causing you to question many things.
- Am I enough for my spouse?
- Do I even know my husband?
- Will we get past his betrayal?
- Does he fantasize about other women when he is with me?
A trusted friend or counselor can help you sort through your thoughts, come alongside you in prayer, and help you bear this burden. They can help you prioritize your concerns and questions and pray for your husband to respond honestly and humbly.
If talking about your husband's sin with another person feels like a betrayal or causes you shame, you do not have to share the details. Simply tell your friend or pastor that you are wrestling with a serious issue in your marriage and need prayer and support.
Your marriage will benefit from having the wise counsel of other people during this crisis. And your husband will definitely need someone to speak to and check in on how he is fighting temptation. It is good to enlist help early on.
3. Seek to understand the extent of the problem. There is a wide range of pornography. Knowing the type of pornography viewed (e.g., heterosexual, homosexual, child, BDSM, incestual, or interactive) is helpful.2 If possible, seek to determine how much time has been devoted to it. Has your husband spent any money to speak to or interact with someone online? Inventory what you discovered, being careful not to minimize or make assumptions. Checking browser history, telephone bills, or credit card statements can yield helpful information, but do not click on links or interact with what you find. For one, you cannot unsee anything that pops up. Two, you do not need proof to share your concerns. Three, repairing the marriage might be easier if you have less detail to wrestle with.
One necessary caution: God does not want you to be a detective spying on your spouse. Simply ask God to reveal to you what you need to know. God hates sin and loves your spouse more than you do. Trust that he will bring important details into the light.
4. Consider your safety. There is a correlation between pornography and domestic abuse, including sexual abuse. If you are a domestic abuse victim or feel yourself to be at risk, plan for your safety before confronting your spouse. Getting help for the abuse before you confront your spouse about his use of pornography might be best.3
5. Decide to address his sin. We confront sin out of love for the offender, for "better is open rebuke than hidden love" (Prov 27:5). Scripture tells us, "if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness" (Gal 6:1). Pornography is harmful not just to you, but also to him and his relationship with God.
It might take time to gain the courage or know what you want to say. That’s ok. In most cases, you do not need to confront your husband immediately.
6. Plan what you will say. The goal of this conversation is to share your heart and concern for your spouse. Try to put any anger aside. Write out your list of concerns, then try to frame them as questions.
- How do you handle online sexual temptations?
- How often are you viewing porn?
- Do you notice it affecting you?
- How do you think it impacts our relationship?
- …And your relationship with Jesus?
List your reasons why pornography use is unacceptable to you. Is it his deception, his withdrawal, your feeling of rejection, your desire to honor the Lord? Explain how it is impacting you and potentially your children.4 Leave room for him to answer your questions.
7. Be prepared for his possible reactions. You will not know how your husband will respond until you broach this difficult conversation. Be prepared for three types of responses:
- Brokenness: Your husband might be convicted and eager to address it. He might even be relieved to talk about it, knowing he needed help but not knowing what to do. If so, he will be the one asking what he can do to rebuild trust and seek out help for himself.
- Defensiveness: He might respond by offering excuses or minimizing it. If this happens, ask him to pray about his posture towards sexual sin and tell him you need him to take time to consider the impacts of his behavior. You might need to wait a while before you talk again. Give the Holy Spirit time to work. Or the next best step might be to invite someone in to help him see the seriousness of his sin.
- Denial: If your husband refutes what you are certain of, this will be very disheartening. If your concerns are met with anger, lies, or blame-shifting, say something like, "Your response is hurtful to me. I am concerned for you and our marriage," and end the conversation. You do not need to spend time debating this issue if he is not concerned about your pain or his sin. At this point, contact the people you asked for support from earlier and plan out your next steps. Continue to be praying that God lifts his blindness.
8. Know what outcomes you are asking him to implement. Depending on the scope of the problem, there are many ways to address a pornography issue. Name the specific outcomes you desire him to implement. Do you want him to install software, seek counseling, give up his smartphone, or get help at church?  Avoid placing yourself in the position of being the person he is accountable to. Tell him what support you are seeking out for yourself.
Having to engage in such a difficult conversation might feel overwhelming. You might fear your spouse’s response, your emotions taking over, or the conversation deteriorating into a fruitless argument. Ask God to give you his gentle strength, allowing you to move toward your spouse. Just a few verses after God calls us to keep the marriage bed holy, he reminds us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," allowing us to confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Heb 13:5b-6). These are great promises for this unwanted journey.
Resources for Further Help
- Rescue Plan: Charting a Course to Restore Prisoners of Pornography by Deepak Reju and Jonathan D. Holmes (P & R Publishing, 2021) provides concrete suggestions to help fight the temptation of pornography.
- Reclaim Your Marriage: Grace for Wives Who Have Been Hurt by Pornography (New Growth Press, 2022). Jenny Solomon writes from personal experience. She gently encourages hurt wives to turn to the Lord amid their pain and offers ways to care for themselves.
- “How to Discern True Repentance When Serious Sin Has Occurred” by Darby Strickland is an article that will help you recognize if your spouse is genuinely repentant. It was published in the Journal of Biblical Counseling 34:3 (2020): 30-47.
- This blog aims to address the unique challenges that women face in confronting their husbands on the use of pornography, but I recognize that men are not the sole consumers of it. Thirteen million American women click on pornographic sites each month too. Source: Mikala Simpson, “What you should know about women and pornography,” September 20, 2018, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-you-should-know-about-women-and-pornography/.
- In addition, possession of child pornography is a crime that must be reported. If you come across it, do not send images to yourself for proof. Find someone who can support you as you make this report—perhaps a knowledgeable pastor or trusted friend. The effects of child porn use are alarming, so you will need to think about protecting your own children. To report child pornography, visit www.cybertipline.com or call 1-800-843-5678.
- National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-7233; SMS: Text START to 88788; visit www.thehotline.org. You will also find information on safety planning in my book: Is it Abuse? A Biblical Guide for Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims, (P&R Publishing, 2020).
- It is not uncommon for children to be the ones to discover a parent’s pornography use. Not only do they bear the burden of deciding how to handle their discovery, but they have also been exposed to vile images.
- There is a new filtering program called Canopy. It is a “next generation” product that you can install on your computer and cell phone. It does not just block sites; it blocks images too.