In this article I am going to focus on the wife’s perspective as I have predominately worked with wives, although the reality is that sex and pornography addiction is not a gender-specific issue.
One of the most heart-breaking stages in the therapy room for me is often the first session with the spouse of the porn or sex addict. The session is often dominated with heavy, sad emotions, feelings of distress, hopelessness, anguish, disappointment, fear and a seemingly endless sense of failure. Allowing the wife time to express these emotions is vital as well as acknowledging that she has experienced a huge trauma; these emotions are okay to hold onto for now as they are key for the therapeutic alliance. The reality is that the spouse is often unable to overcome the painful fact that the husband has been involved in either watching pornography or having multiple affairs often for months or sometimes years without her knowing. For the wife, the discovery means betrayal in addition to an immense loss of trust and respect. At this stage, she cannot rationalise his actions as being a brain disorder or compulsive or addictive behaviour, which it most likely is and stems from a lot of underlying emotional or psychological issues.

The initial disclosure is perhaps the most painful and unbearable event for the wife; even if addiction is mentioned initially, it is often rejected, as this behaviour is seen as immoral and a spiritual failure, driven by Nafs e Ammara and lead by shaitaan. The spouse will often voice that she rather the addiction be drugs or alcohol related as the cognitive distortion makes her believe that she would cope with that better. At this stage, emerges the strong sense of failure; she begins to blame herself, wondering had she been more attractive or sassy, she could have prevented the entire thing. This way of thinking starts eroding her self-esteem and confidence; this and many other cognitive distortions mean that she gets in a very volatile mental and emotional state. It is paramount to recognise the impact addiction has on the wife and to support her emotionally, spiritually and mentally. This article aims to help those wives who are married to porn and sex addicts and Insha’Allah will also be a useful guide for other concerned, whether it’s family, friends, counsellors or Imams.

In the first part, I would like to briefly describe what Sex and Porn addiction is, in order for the wife, when she is ready, to be able to understand the true nature of the problem rather than labelling it as a moral or spiritual issue or a straight forward issue of infidelity which may lead to the sudden and complete termination of the relationship. I hope that this clarity might allow the couple to break the barriers and stigmas attached to this particular topic, eventually being able to seek help both for the addiction and for relationship repair, if they chose to do so.

The Wife’s Perspective

Then I would like to explore in detail the wife’s perspective, strategies to regain confidence, self-esteem building and how to move forward. There must be space for the wife to focus on herself, avoiding falling between being passive while thinking she has to suffer in silence due to the stigma or on the other hand being volatile and aggressive, thinking that since her husband has been unfaithful he can’t be trusted, and loses all respect and love which makes the marriage toxic and unbearable, the couple starts suffering in silence without any help or intervention. The last section will focus on the couple’s relationship; if the couple wants to help each other and repair the relationship by working on building trust. They can reclaim  their sexuality and learn how to gradually bring back a healthy sex life to the marriage.

Sex addiction is a term that describes any sexual behaviour that feels ‘out of control’. It is not the behaviour itself that defines it as an addiction, but rather the dependency on it, to numb out negative emotions and difficult experiences. As with all addictions, most people with sex and porn addiction will have tried to stop or limit their behaviour on many occasions – but despite continuing harmful consequences to their self as well as others, especially their close relationships, they cannot stop. While they may go on for a short while without acting out, the relapse is never far. Many addicts in my experience are often victims of some form of trauma and childhood abuse. Sometimes early access can also make a person dependent. It is crucial to do the research and find appropriate help both for the addict and for the partner. Unfortunately, no intervention is ever effective if the person with the problem does not take ownership. The best chance for a healthy recovery is when the addict understands their cycle of addiction and takes responsibility for recovery.

The best chance for a healthy recovery is when the addict understands their cycle of addiction and takes responsibility for recovery.

As a wife, you can support them by helping them identify a qualified professional who will provide a safe and non-judgmental environment alongside the help they need. However, it is very important to remember that you, the spouse, have not caused this- you cannot cure it and you certainly cannot control it.

If the addict takes responsibility and acknowledges that there is an issue that is beyond his control and he is ready to seek help as well as take ownership of their own problem, then Insha’Allah that is the first step towards the road to recovery. It is also essential for you to take responsibility of dealing with your own hurt or trauma. Unresolved trauma can lead to a toxic cycle of guilt-tripping and fights, resulting in the relationship turning toxic and unbearable. Reducing shame is essential for recovery for both you and your partner. If he stays in a place which is shame ridden, shaaitan will isolate him by making him feel small, damaged and unredeemable- this state of mind will further push him toward the addiction.

Remember Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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says,

“O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
— Quran, Sura 39 (Az-Zumar), ayah 53

Similarly, if you decide to isolate yourself and not seek help due to shame and stigma you too will become emotionally and mentally unwell together with shaatian making you feel weak and vulnerable, costing you both, amongst other things, your relationship. It is paramount that your husband starts the recovery programme and works on resolving the underlying issues. He has to establish relapse prevention strategies while understanding his triggers and explaining them to you. At the same time, you will have to understand your triggers and how you are going to manage your emotional health and wellbeing. You will for a long time keep having flash backs of the initial disclosure. You both will have to work on three areas; he will have to focus on treating his addiction, you on healing your trauma and finally you both will work on building the relationship Insha’Allah.

You might often breakdown in despair and wonder why Allah tested you in this way, questioning your self-worth and dignity, wondering how you could live with someone who leads a double life and has made such morally degrading choices. Although these thoughts are natural, if unchecked they can erode you spiritually and socially. So it is important for you to remember that you have a choice to make and that choice will allow you to reclaim yourself. You had a life before you came into this relationship and you as a person are not defined by your marriage. Remember your role as a servant of Allah, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or as a cousin. Reconnecting with your authentic self, where you see your core strengths like courage, perseverance, love, kindness, gratitude, hope, teamwork, creativity, humour and generosity will help you to ground yourself. Additionally, one of the most powerful and easily accessible tool is establishing your spiritual connection. Try to remember you cannot use religion to spiritually bypass your hurt, sadness and frustration. You must work through these emotions to get to a better place Insha’Allah.

When we are down, due to one aspect of our life not working well, we seem to see everything from a position of deprivation and hopelessness. We have to stand at a position of plenty and look at what has worked for us all our lives and not let this take over our lives completely. Remember that Allah swt tells us, “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…” (Qur’an, 2:286). This does not mean that you passively disengage with your situation, it means that you have tawakul in Allah and believe that if you seek help and actively engage Insha’Allah you will find solace and comfort. Like our beloved Prophet saw said, “Tie your camel first, and then put your trust in Allah.” This is a time to look at your strengths as an individual. You can do this in therapy and explore your inner grit and resilience. Allah swt has blessed you with wonderful and amazing attributes.

This is the time to remember that if you want to stay and work alongside your husband, then you will have to work on fixing and healing yourself first and foremost. You may objectively look at your marriage and see that over the years, you have both shared many good things and generally complement one another, in addition to the fact that he has taken good care of you, honouring his responsibilities as a husband. If that is not the case and your relationship has not been a safe space and you have felt generally unhappy than it is time to seek help. A relationship health check is advised, through investing in therapy which can help you decide whether to fix the marriage or finish it. Living in a toxic, unhealthy and unsafe relationship should never be an option.

You will be tempted to cut ties with people around you and self-isolate, and although that may feel like a good coping strategy, it is unfortunately very unhealthy and unsustainable. Pluck up the courage to reach out to a few friends or family members that you trust and know will give you appropriate spiritual, social and emotional support. Be honest and transparent but refrain from constantly regurgitating the entire story to your support network. Constantly reliving the trauma can be like picking the scab- you have to leave that work for the therapy room. We all need recreation, rest and relaxation the most when we are mentally and emotionally drained. Make sure you let your family and friends look after you and create opportunities for you to practice some self-care and nurturing.

The ultimate question for you both will be whether or not the marriage will survive. In my experience over the years, many couples have bravely and beautifully survived through the trauma and turbulence of sex and porn addiction, but not all. The important thing is not to rush into making a decision. If after the disclosure you both feel that there is enough love between you both and you share the same goals; or you feel as though your children need both their parents, as you make a good parenting team and you believe that can help to build back the relationship, then make the decision to work on it. It is key that you take each day as it comes so that you can start rebuilding the relationship. The essential components for repair and rebuilding work are honesty, empathy, accountability and transparency. Your therapist should be able to lay down some rules for you which you both will have to adhere to.

Reclaiming and rekindling your sex life is extremely important but it will take time. Sexuality in marriage is a beautiful gift from Allah and although it isn’t the most important aspect of marriage, it is pretty important. Please remember that intimacy outside the bedroom will, in fact, lead to healthy sexual experience; investing time in each other by giving your relationship the respect it deserves and by gradually putting small but regular routines in place such as date nights. You might have lost all self-esteem and confidence in yourself or you might not feel attracted to your spouse due to the knowledge of his addictive behaviour, but the truth is, once you make the decision to work on the relationship you will Insha’Allah start separating him from his issue. Initially, it will be difficult, as you might constantly wonder if you are enough? Or if he is fantasizing about someone else whilst being intimate with you. Please remember that Shaytan will relentlessly try everything to put waswasas in your heart and head, as the best outcome for him is always separation between the couple. Remember to read the duaa that the Prophet

ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
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gave us before being intimate, “In the Name of Allah. O Allah, keep the Shaytan away from us and keep the Shaytan away from what You have blessed us with”.

Take your time, be more open about your sexual needs, take responsibility and talk about these issues in your therapy sessions. Your partner might struggle with arousal or erection, but this does not mean that he is not interested in you. Remember that the addict must go through his own long, lonely and painful journey towards healing and recovery.
To conclude, I must say that some of the most amazing and wonderful women that I have had the privilege to work with over the years have been spouses of sex and porn addicts. They have worked with grace and fortitude and many have managed to save their marriages, keeping the children out of it completely. Many have made the bold and brave decision to leave the relationship as they understood & accepted that they could not save it.

Where ever you are, whatever your struggle may be, please seek help and take it from there, may Allah (swt) hold your hearts & hands and guide you to what is best for your deen, Duniya & Aakirah.

The post Sex And Porn Addiction: Advice For The Wife appeared first on MuslimMatters.org.

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Source: Muslim Matters