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One of the many victims of an addiction to pornography is “hope.”

A person addicted to porn may believe there is none. The marriage partner likewise may feel a painful mixture of anger, betrayal and hopelessness.

There is in fact great hope, according to marriage and family therapist Geoff Steurer.

The good news is that the marriage itself can be a couple’s most powerful tool in healing a pornography habit, reports Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News staffer Scott Livingston, writing on the website of “Out in the Light: Women Uniting Against Pornography.” 

“When someone has the real thing (the bond of marriage), porn can’t hold a candle to it,” Steurer told Livingston, noting that the “opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection.”

Steurer cited three phases of porn addiction recovery: his, hers and theirs. This third aspect of recovery, the couple’s, is the one most often neglected: “A common misunderstanding is that if the addict can just stop, everything else will somehow heal itself.”

Pornography corrupts this connection and, especially for men, creates a deception whereby they transfer this emotional attachment to the porn instead of to their spouse. 

“An addiction to pornography is not about sex,” says Steurer. “It’s about attachment. Spouses threatened by porn can learn that the emotional connection only they can offer is a powerful means of helping their spouse to recover.”

Instead of viewing their spouse as the enemy, they must come to see “that working together as a couple is the most powerful means of helping their spouse to overcome this terrible addiction.”

“Learning that their husband is addicted to pornography is especially devastating to a woman’s self-esteem and ability to trust,” says Mark Chamberlain, who co-authored a book, Love You, Hate the Porn, with Steurer. “And it’s perfectly natural to feel that way.”

Both Steurer and Chamberlain say a great marriage relationship isn’t enough to help a man recover from a porn addiction.

“In order to completely recover, a man has to emotionally connect with himself,” said Chamberlain. This is also where a supportive spouse can make all the difference. Rather than suppressing their feelings of hurt and betrayal, honestly expressing those emotions within the exclusive environment of the marriage has potent healing power for both the addict and their spouse.

“There are a lot of forces at work in a porn addiction,” said Steurer.

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