How can I best help my spouse? Healthy boundaries

    Though we may want to make this problem go away, our spouses are the only ones who can decide whether they will overcome their pornography habits. Our responsibility is to focus on our own emotional well-being and create boundaries between ourselves and their behavior that will help us maintain emotional well-being.

    Our Spouses’ Healing

    When our spouses are viewing pornography, we want to do everything we can to help them stop. However, we can’t make them decide to change. Whether or not they will change their behavior is their choice.

    We have each been gifted with agency. As we read in the scriptures, “Behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free” (Helaman 14:30). In order for our spouses to successfully remove pornography from their lives, they must make that decision on their own and then earnestly pursue that goal.

    Trying to take charge of our spouses’ behavior may remove some of the responsibility they need to feel to achieve their goals. In the end, they must be responsible for their own decisions and put in the necessary work.

    The effects of pornography in a marriage often leave us with our own wounds that need attention. Nurturing ourselves strengthens us to be supportive of our children and other family members impacted by the situation.

    Ponder the following:

    • How do you respect the agency of others when their decisions cause you emotional pain?
    • What are things you can do to help yourself when dealing with the pain caused by others’ decisions?

    Focusing on Our Own Emotional Well-Being

    After letting go of the urge to control our spouses, we might feel powerless, but we can still do a lot to improve our situations. Focusing on becoming spiritually and emotionally healthy can lead to greater peace. As we strive to take care of our own emotional health, our spouses and marriages may also eventually benefit from our choices. Building a strong relationship with our Savior and Heavenly Father can be instrumental in improving our emotional health.

    Ponder the following:

    Forgiving others who have wronged us is difficult, and it is made more difficult if they continue their harmful behavior or their level of remorse is far less than the pain they caused. Yet, when compared to harboring anger, forgiving helps us become healthier emotionally. Finding ways to let go of anger and forgive someone who has wronged us can often bring greater levels of emotional peace. We can seek to forgive our spouses regardless of whether they choose to make better choices or whether our marriages end.

    • How has seeking to forgive blessed you in the past?
    • When has God responded to your attempts to forgive?
    • How can God help strengthen your efforts to forgive now?

    Establishing Boundaries

    Creating personalized and appropriate boundaries protects our emotional health. We need to protect and nurture ourselves, and while we cannot control our spouses’ behavior, we can control our own efforts to find emotional health.

    Establishing boundaries can help us maintain control of our own lives in a healthy way. We cannot decide whether our spouses will stay away from pornography, but we do get to decide what we will and won’t live with. We determine the parameters and the degree to which we will be vulnerable with and connected to our spouses. Then they get to decide what they will do, and we act accordingly. It is appropriate to recognize and encourage our spouses’ efforts, as long as we don’t try to take over their responsibility to change their behavior.

    Ponder the following:

    • How do your boundaries contribute to your sense of emotional safety?
    • How do they help you show love to yourself and others?
    • How can boundaries and consequences help both you and your loved one find strength and healing?

    Ideas for Taking Action

    Here are some ideas that others have found helpful. Prayerfully consider what actions might be best for you, taking into account that they may or may not be listed here.

    • Learn more about your biological, psychological, social, and spiritual influences. (See “What does the path forward look like?”)
    • Seek to continue to strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. This can invite the Spirit into your life and home, benefiting all who enter there.
    • Attend to your biological needs, which are often neglected in difficult situations such as discovering a spouse’s pornography use. Strive for a sense of well-being.
    • Contemplate what it means to have self-compassion and how it may help you as you seek healing.
    • Consider reaching out to others. It can be particularly helpful to connect with those who have experienced something similar. (See “Reach Out.”)