A reader recently asked me, “What does it mean to enable a pornography addiction?” Great question!
Miriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an ‘enabler’ as: “One who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.”
Here are three common ways people enable pornography addictions:
- Turning a blind eye to pornography use
- Changing core beliefs to accommodate a spouse’s pornography use
- Failure to enforce consequences regarding pornography use
Turning a Blind Eye
There are many men and women in denial about their spouse’s pornography use. For example, a woman might find pornographic websites on the family computer’s Internet browser history and convince herself that a recent houseguest, not her husband, is responsible. The challenge people often face with regard to their spouse’s pornography use is that other than using pornography the spouse is basically a good, decent person. Instead of accepting and confronting a spouse’s pornography use, people rationalize and deny the addiction that is destroying their relationship.
Changing Core Beliefs
Believing a spouse is basically a good, decent person with a ‘bad habit’ leads people to accommodate a spouse’s pornography use by changing one’s core beliefs. A wife might say to herself, “I know what the Bible says about adultery, and I’ve heard our pastor preach about pornography, but my husband is a great dad and a wonderful husband. I hate the fact that he uses pornography, but as long as it doesn’t directly affect me or the kids I guess I can put up with it.” With this rationalization people compromise those core beliefs which define who they are. One of my greatest regrets with regard to my own pornography addiction is that I hurt my wife this way. I forced my wife to compromise what she knew to be right in order to accommodate my behavior. If you use pornography you are probably hurting your spouse in the same way.
Failure to Enforce Consequences
Some people overcome their denial about their spouse’s addiction and confront the fact that they have compromised their own core beliefs. They confront their spouses and demand that the pornography use stop. Threats are made; consequences are outlined or given in detail. At this point the offending spouse is often contrite and pledges such measures will not be necessary; he will stop using pornography today. However, several weeks go by and the wife discovers her husband is at it again (he is an addict, after all). At this point a significant choice faces the woman: Make good on her threats or let it slide one last time. Of course you and I both know that if she ‘lets it slide’ this won’t be the last time. But is it worth enforcing the consequences? Many women often threaten separation or divorce if a husband’s pornography use doesn’t stop, but later convince themselves they spoke in haste before. They don’t want to lose their husband (though they already have) and they don’t want their children to lose a father. They don’t really want a divorce; they just want him to stop using pornography.
What people in this situation fail to understand is that until an addict is forced to pay a price he is unwilling to pay, he will not change.
Are you enabling someone’s pornography addiction?