“He feels so ashamed of it,” I used to say. Where did I get that idea from? Him; he’s always felt extreme shame over his hidden life. I also picked it up from others who said something like, “Men feel so ashamed of this that when wives talk about it, it increases the shame.”
For many years I felt bad for my husband because he seemed really ashamed of his actions. And I used to believe him when he said porn made him feel a lot of shame, so once he’d start hinting that talking about it made him feel more guilty, we’d end the conversation. (And secretly, I didn’t want to shame him more because I was afraid increasing the bad feelings he felt would drive him into the arms of porn again.)
So, not talking about it became the norm, and it only made us more distant.
But after the last confession, I ended up taking a different approach. Several months into our healing, I began thinking about it in a new light:
“He’s always said it brought him nothing but shame. The only thing he ever tells me is how bad he felt about it and that it was ruining his life.
But if it was that bad for him, why didn’t he do something about it?
Does it make sense to keep doing very thing he feels such shame for, or does it make more sense to get help?”
It was then that I knew we needed to talk about this shame thing differently.
We needed to
shame and true guilt
and his own
sense of integrity.
So we did. He’d hint at feeling ashamed, and instead of backing off, I’d say, “I know you’re feeling shame, but there are things you should feel legitimately guilty for, because you are at fault for turning outside the marriage and lying about it and for not stepping up in our conversations about it. I need you to own those things and not allow shame to let you dodge them.”
The more I did this, the more the shame of porn was finally put into perspective. It began falling off him.
And, over time, our fear of shame no longer stopped our healing.