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4 Tips for Supporting Your Partner as They Recover From a Porn Addiction

4 Tips for Supporting Your Partner as They Recover From a Porn Addiction
This article was written by Shakil Mirza, MPH, and Issra Killawi, B.A.

Fareed has struggled with pornography since the age of 13. It began when his middle school friends were exchanging websites he was unfamiliar with. Fareed went home, looked up the websites and stumbled across porn for the first time. His curiosity quickly grew into an addiction. Now at the age of 27, Fareed has tried to quit many times without success. 

Unfortunately, Fareed’s porn addiction now impacts his wife Jenna, who senses that something is off with her husband whenever she tries to initiate intimacy with him. As their one-year wedding anniversary approaches, Jenna urges Fareed to open up to her. Exhausted from hiding his secret for so long, Fareed breaks the news of his addiction to his wife. 

Jenna feels shocked, hurt and betrayed. Even though she cares deeply for Fareed, she wonders whether their marriage will survive. After taking some time to work through her emotions, Jenna decides to support Fareed’s recovery. Although this story reflects a scenario where the addicted spouse is the husband and even though it’s more common for men to be addicted to pornography, both men and women are vulnerable to struggling with a porn addiction. Like Fareed and Jenna, many couples struggle with the impact of a porn addiction on their marriage. After the disclosure of a porn addiction, they may both wonder – is there hope for their relationship to survive? For some couples, the best decision may be to end the relationship and that is completely okay. Other couples may decide to stay together and work towards recovery.

Choosing to support the recovery of your spouse is a courageous decision. As your partner works to heal, you will also be on your own journey of healing. Rebuilding the relationship will come with its own challenges, but your effort to be there for your spouse will certainly be recorded and rewarded by Allah SWT.

“If anyone relieves a Muslim believer from one of the hardships of this worldly life, Allah will relieve him of one of the hardships of the Day of Resurrection. [Sahih Muslim]

As you begin the journey of healing and recovery with your spouse, here are some tips that can help you along the way.

1. Build your own support system first.

  • The discovery of your partner’s addiction and the emotions you feel can be overwhelming. You’ve likely felt a mix of shock, confusion, rejection, betrayal and many other strong emotions. Just because you’ve chosen to support your partner doesn’t mean that you will be ready to forgive right away and that you will not feel these strong emotions. In fact, they will likely resurface when your partner relapses or when you are struggling to communicate with each other. What you’re experiencing is difficult, and it’s important to acknowledge this and give yourself space to work through your emotions all throughout the journey.
  • You may want support from others but hesitate because of the shame you feel about your spouse’s behavior. It will be difficult to support your spouse if you don’t have your own support system. You need to cope in healthy ways that support your well-being. Even if it’s difficult initially, find someone who you can talk to. This can be a therapist, mentor, trusted friend or all of the above. You can try attending a support group with others who are coping with their partner’s porn addiction.
  • Learn about addiction – how it begins, the cycles it creates, how it impacts the brain and psyche, and how it can be overcome. The more you know, the more you can empathize with your spouse and better support him/her.
  • Taking some time alone can be helpful, but isolating yourself is the opposite of what you’ll need in the long run. It will take time for your partner to recover and for your relationship to improve. Nurture a sense of connection and productivity outside of your marriage. Take classes, get involved at the mosque or work on a cause that you care about. Invest time in your personal growth as your spouse works on his/her own transformation.

2. Let your spouse create their recovery plan.

For many people who have tried to quit an addiction and failed, they feel like they’ve lost control of their life. Creating a recovery plan can help an addicted person regain that sense of control. That’s why it’s important that your spouse creates their own recovery plan. He/she must take ownership of their recovery.

  • It’s not your role to police your partner or to be on the lookout for suspicious behaviors. Instead, encourage your partner to create a recovery plan but make sure that he/she is taking the lead in coming up with solutions and choosing what works best for them.
  • To help, you can ask your spouse about what goals they have, how they plan on reducing their pornography consumption, and how they will rebound after a relapse. Ask them how you can support them in the recovery plan and during relapse.
  • Help your spouse widen their circle of support. You can suggest an accountability partner like a mentor, chaplain, or close friend. You can also encourage them to seek out therapy.

3. Be open, honest and communicative.

Pornography is highly stigmatized, which means that those who are struggling are left to internalize their addiction in silence and shame.  Providing a non-judgemental listening space for your spouse can help release a lot of the shame that he/she feels. It also helps to disrupt the cycle of addiction that is fueled by the negative feelings he/she has about themselves.

  • If you are able to, allow your partner to express his/her emotions with you. Chances are that this is something your spouse has struggled to do before, or as a result of the addiction.
  • As a spouse supporting your partner, you deserve to be heard too. Make room for the emotions that you are each experiencing during this time. You don’t have to agree with one another, you just have to listen and make sure that each spouse feels heard and understood by the other. This may take many conversations on different days.
  • Take turns saying something like, “Today, this happened… and the way I felt was…” Make this a regular exercise you both practice at the end of the day. Doing so can help you become more comfortable sharing your emotions with one another while rebuilding intimacy in your marriage.

4. Work on rebuilding the relationship together.

During porn addiction recovery, bonding with each other is important to rebuilding trust in the relationship. Think of ways that you can spend more time together, even in simple ways like grocery shopping, cooking, attending a class together, home reno/decor projects, walks or drives. Try starting a new hobby or interest as a couple to make new memories. Or choose a new habit to build together.

  • Focus on the present with your partner and take it one day at a time. Put your mental and physical energy into the things that you can do now to take care of yourself and support your partner.
  • Take ownership of your emotions and behavior. Don’t use your spouse’s addiction as an excuse to treat him/her badly or lash out without accountability. It’s their responsibility to work on recovery, but it’s the responsibility of both partners to make an effort if they want to rebuild the marriage together.
  • If you are both open to it, look into marriage counseling. A marriage counselor can help you strengthen your marriage after the addiction and guide you through this journey. He/she can help you communicate to understand each other better and work through the complex emotions that you are each experiencing.

As a spouse supporting your partner with their recovery, remember that your first and foremost responsibility is caring for your emotional and mental well-being. It is your spouse’s responsibility to stay committed to his/her own recovery. The road ahead won’t necessarily be easy, but it can bring about a powerful transformation for you as individuals and for your marriage.

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The Prophet (SAS) said, “There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days”
(Bukhari).

Guarantee your blessings!

Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).