“What does the path forward look like?” Help for Spouses (2019)
“What does the path forward look like?” Help for Spouses
Discovering a spouse’s pornography use can be crushing, exhausting, and overwhelming. We may feel isolated and alone. We might be experiencing a major betrayal of trust. However, life doesn’t come to a convenient halt while we attempt to recover. We still have responsibilities for home, family, and occupation, and it can be easy to neglect ourselves and our healing. We must take time to find balance and take care of ourselves.
In times of suffering, healing happens as we care for ourselves physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. While it may be difficult to imagine a positive future, it is possible to find hope, and we can receive revelation about the direction we should go. Our efforts to evaluate and care for ourselves help us to determine a path forward.
The following video shares thoughts about caring for ourselves and meeting our needs biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. As unique individuals, we each have a difference blend of these needs, and this blend doesn’t always stay the same. As we seek to understand our needs, we can become more self-aware and better understand how to care for ourselves.
When we are confronted with our spouses’ pornography use, the intense emotions we feel can distract us into neglecting our own physical needs. Striking a balance of proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition can be a challenge regardless of what is happening in our lives, but in times of suffering, it’s important that we do what we can to meet these needs. In the scriptures, we are promised that as we care for the body, we will be strengthened both physically and spiritually. (See Doctrine and Covenants 89.)
Learning to understand the difficult emotions we’re feeling can be a slow, frustrating process. Our feelings about our spouses’ pornography problem may magnify or reopen past painful experiences for us. Being aware of this possibility is important. We may need to step back and address each of our challenges individually. (See “God Supports Us” to hear about one spouse’s experience.)
If we are not careful, we can allow our spouses’ choices and related issues to consume us or cause us to neglect our own well-being. The Lord asks us to be “temperate in all things” (Alma 7:23) and to not “run faster than [we have] strength” (Mosiah 4:27). It is important to make sure that our own needs are being met.
Heavenly Father’s plan can provide inner peace and healing as we seek to reconcile complicated emotions. God will not leave us comfortless. That comfort may be found in talking with a trusted friend, ecclesiastical leader, or mental health professional. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us to prayerfully seek the advice of “reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values” (“Like a Broken Vessel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 40).
When bearing the burden of a spouse’s pornography use, we may feel isolated, ashamed, and alone. There may be times when we feel that there is nobody we can turn to. We may feel unsure about sharing our struggles at all.
Finding wise, confidential listeners can strengthen use. Even if we don’t divulge the depths of our suffering, we can share our day-to-day struggles with trusted confidants and support people. In time, we may feel guided to share our deeper pains. As followers of Christ, we have covenanted to bear one another’s burdens, and we can reach out to others for the help we need.
Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the way forward (see John 14:6). As we seek to build a relationship with Him through prayer, scripture study, and worship, we can receive strength through the enabling power of His Atonement.
Many of us feel pressure to forgive our spouses instantly; however, forgiveness takes time. We should be patient with ourselves in the forgiving process—even if it takes us a long time, even years, to forgive. Forgiveness is a personal decision made individually with guidance from Heavenly Father. Whether or not our marriages continue or we again have a relationship of trust with our spouses, forgiveness is important.
As we seek to care for ourselves, practice self-compassion, and set needed boundaries, we can chart a path forward. The journey ahead is personal and will look different for each of us. We can seek revelation as we make decisions regarding what happens next, including decisions about boundaries, what we can do to help our spouses and families and whether or not our marriages should continue. (See “Be Firm and Steadfast” in Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery (2017) for more information on establishing and maintaining boundaries.)
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.
Continue to learn about your biological, psychological, social, and spiritual influences (see “How can I take care of my needs?”).
Evaluate possible biological factors that could contribute to current struggles. For example, previous depression, anxiety, or other issues may need treatment now. Some have found help in consulting with medical professionals, improving diet and exercise, getting proper sleep, or finding ways to reduce stress.
Evaluate possible psychological factors. It can be helpful to consult with mental health specialists, practice meditation, read self-help books, and research anxiety, depression, and other psychological topics using credible websites.
Evaluate possible social resources that might help you. Consider joining a support group, getting involved in worthy causes, volunteering with a service organization, or spending time with loved ones.
Evaluate possible spiritual resources, such as consulting with Church leaders, studying the scriptures or your patriarchal blessing, seeking priesthood blessings, and so on.