My heart aches as my husband recently asked for a divorce after many years of marriage and 4 kids later. I have stuck by this man as he has struggled with porn addiction and has acted out a few times. This past 6 months he has turned into a workaholic spending countless hours at work and not being there for our kids or I. Seems like he switched from one addiction to another all though I may be missing something. For now he has decided to wait on his plans for divorce stating he is confused. The kids are being affected and so am I by his absence but he won’t talk about what he is going through and I am tired of dealing with his troubles. I am just trying to be a strong mom. I don’t know that divorce is the answer but this has gone on for so long and I wonder how it’s going to affect our 4 children. Would love your thoughts on this matter.
My heart sorrows over the trials your entire family is facing right now. Addiction is a terrible burden for anyone to carry, and the weight sadly ladens loved ones as well. You must act on what the Lord reveals to you personally for your situation, but in the meantime you have turned to me for counsel so I will share my thoughts.
Your husband should be congratulated on his porn sobriety. It is a difficult habit to break and relapses are not uncommon. The very nature of addiction is self-sustaining as it cycles from a trigger (or stimulus) towards craving and eventually a release. But the release is short-lived and guilt follows. I’m sure you recognize that guilt can be a powerful emotion, leading to all kinds of negative stimuli, and eventually feeding the very indulgence that induces the guilt. Interrupting that cycle is life-altering and commendable. But if your husband has only replaced one harmful release with another one, then he has even more work still ahead of him to break the cycle. There is no shame in turning to support groups and programs to aid him in identifying his triggers and coming up with plans and strategies to bypass the cycle’s stages. I would encourage him to seek such out.
I would encourage you to learn more about addiction just so you can understand better what your husband is going through and how you can assist him. As he progresses in his journey, you will become an accountability partner for him. It can be a difficult to learn the balance between helping him stay clean without him feeling shamed back into the cycle. I would recommend for you to also turn to support groups and programs to aid you in assisting him. One of the things you’ll learn is that addiction is not generally about the substance so much as it is about the release. That is, a man will turn to porn (or excessive work, or overeating, or smoking, or shopping, or any other vice you can think of) to avoid an unpleasant conversation, or to feel like he’s in control of his life, or simply because he feels stressed, or some such thing.
Even if he doesn’t share his stressors and triggers with you, let him know that you fully support and encourage him in his recovery. You want him to attend his meetings and talk to whoever he needs to talk to because you like the better husband and father it makes him. And you show this by giving him the time he needs for these meetings and helping him with whatever solutions he presents to you. Conversely, you need him to support you and encourage you as a recovering addict’s wife. You need to attend your meetings and talk to therapists or whomever because it will make you a better wife and mother. And you need him to show his support by giving you the time you need for the meetings and educating you in some of the experiences he’s having as he’s recovering (for instance, “I just learned about the addiction cycle, do you often feel guilt after a relapse? What does that feel like for you? Can I do anything to ease that guilt so it doesn’t send you back into the cycle?”).
Like any marriage, you both need to be invested in it to make it work. Your children are not oblivious to what goes on in your home. You can talk to others in your support group about what it’s like to go through recovery with children and what pitfalls should be avoided.
The Church has a recovery program, complete with meetings for addicts, as well as family and friends. You can read more about it (or even find a meeting near you) at the website: LDS Addiction Recovery Program