I have been married to Jeff for almost 30 years. We have eight children ranging in age from 28 to 10 years old. Jeff and I met at the Catholic Newman Center, we were both going to daily Mass, regular confession, retreats twice a year, and made good lifelong friends.
We started dating and after eighteen months we got engaged. Jeff was always a lot of fun, hard-working and full of life. We did marriage preparation, attended engaged encounter, and took Natural Family Planning classes to prepare ourselves for a great marriage.
I Wanted Him to Leave
Our wedding was in November, Jeff graduated from college, and went to work in December. I became a full-time wife and mother, we had children, and we bought a nice home. The longer we were married I noticed more and more that Jeff was having mood swings and how depressed he would get. He was never happy or satisfied with anything. When we lost our fourth child at 15 weeks of pregnancy, I struggled with anxiety and began doing everything medically, emotionally, and spiritually to take care of myself. Jeff had no compassion for me and told me to “just get over it.” I could not understand why he was being so mean to me.
Then one day, after 11 years of marriage, my husband came home from work and told me that he had been suspended for a day without pay for viewing pornography at work. His only reason for telling me was because I handle the budget and I would have noticed that his paycheck amount was less. His boss even offered to help him hide it from me, which is disturbing. I was completely blindsided. Jeff told me that he had only been looking at porn for a year and that he would stop. I believed him. For the next 14 years everything got worse. We fought constantly. His mood swings and depression continued. He could only see the negative in everything. Jeff became emotionally abusive to the point I wanted him to leave.
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me
I have been talking with wives and engaged women, connected to me by Father Sean Kilcawley, for the last three years. I want to help women before they get married by sharing information that I wish someone would have given me more than thirty years ago.
1. Seek counseling and spiritual direction for your past traumas. Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse from anyone, unexpected deaths, or other trauma you’ve experienced. Do you have a sexual addiction? If you are looking at porn or acting out sexually then that also needs to be addressed. Start pursuing healing for yourself before you begin dating. Use internet monitoring like Covenant Eyes on your devices, it is for everyone’s protection. You need to be healthy before entering a relationship.
2. Ask hard questions to the person you're dating when things start to get serious, but before you are madly in love. “How often are you looking at porn?” Do not ask, “Are you looking at porn?” because this is more likely to be answered with a lie. By asking “how often” you are more likely to get a truthful answer because the question assumes that it has already happened. It is important to give space for honesty because pornography addiction is all about lies. “What are you viewing?” This is an important question because it lets you know how escalated things are. Be ready for an honest answer because pornography is violent and degrading. Also, recognize the signs–mood swings, depression, other addictions, instability, putting you down or making fun of you, boundary violations, pressuring you for sex, or being secretive with his phone or computer devices. These can be indications that he is not being honest with you.
3. Insist he seek help if there is a problem by receiving professional counseling and being honest with himself. Make sure he follows through. If he keeps putting it off, you must be willing to walk away.
Have This Fixed By Our Wedding Day
Setting a timeline so you can get engaged or married will not work. For example, “You have six months to get this stopped so we can get married, or in other words, have this fixed by our wedding day. You can always change a wedding or engagement date. It is important to take the time for healing to take place or understand that the problem will continue into the marriage and you will have to work through it then. Do not think that having sex in marriage will stop the addiction.
I wish someone could have talked to me about these things before I got married to Jeff. We carry so many things from our past and they affect us in so many ways that we don’t realize.
Four years ago, my husband was finally honest with me about his addiction which started at a young age. Through the help of counselors, spiritual direction, and support groups, we have rebuilt our marriage into a loving relationship. If I had known when we were dating what I know now, we could have gotten help earlier and had a healthy marriage starting thirty years ago instead of just four years ago.
Bloom For Catholic Women
Bloom For Catholic Women offers therapeutic and Catholic-based online courses for women healing from the trauma of discovering their husband's sexual and/or pornography addiction.
Resource Type: Online courses
Cost: Monthly subscription - $10. Individuals courses - $50.