Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” and no one knows that more than I, who once was enslaved to lust through pornography. I was a slave because I could not control my desires; they controlled me.
The habit of lust wore deep ruts in my soul, ones that the wheels of my interior car could not escape from on their own. It took God’s grace for those ruts to be filled in, slowly, over the course of years. Then it took more years for the habit of purity to take root and grow into a towering oak tree, one that could not easily be cut down.
I want to explain to women especially how powerful this compulsion to lust is in men, especially in those of us who were addicted to pornography for years, even from the early teens. I knew it was wrong; I wanted to stop doing it, but I couldn’t. Even once I became a Christian, the desire to look lustfully at women and be impure with myself was stronger than my nascent virtue.
But that virtue, that starts as a little sapling, has God’s grace to give it resilience and spring in its stem. Every time lust smashed it down, it righted itself again and kept growing. Leaves were ripped off; it grew more to replace them. This was through God’s grace of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, through the Eucharist, and through those human helps that Christ offers to us: friendship, prudence about being alone with computer access, and so on.
It can be devastating for a woman to discover that her husband looked lustfully at other women via pornography and was impure with himself. It feels like an awful betrayal, and while it is a betrayal, I would caution against excessive over-reaction to it. The power of the compulsion caused by the evil habits is incredibly strong; it is thus not that your husband is personally attacking you, but this vice which compels him to lust. The common enemy is not your husband, but the vice. And you, along with God, are his greatest ally in overcoming this sin.
There are tons of faithful Catholic men, the majority most likely, who struggle with this sin. They are good husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, but they are still fighting this difficult fight. If your husband doesn’t struggle with this sin, rejoice, for he is the exception, not the rule. But if your husband does struggle with it, take heart, because he can and will conquer this evil and grow strong in the virtue of purity. God can overcome anything, and He gives grace to every man to resist this temptation.
For men, always remember that God will forgive you. Go to confession, as many humiliating times as it takes. Go to Mass often, for the Church teaches that the Eucharist strengthens us against mortal sin. Learn about the theology of the body; study and meditate on God’s beautiful plan for you and your spouse, consider the man you want to be for your daughters and your sons.
For women, be patient with your husband. Do not despair. Do not over-react. He will know how hurt you are by it; how betrayed you feel. He needs to ask for your forgiveness, and you need to forgive him. This may need to be done every week, or every month, or every so often. Pray for him; encourage him in it; work together to find ways to minimize the temptations he may face.
God set me free from this sin, and he can set you free as well. It took years for me, and blessedly they were before I met Katie, but that is not the case for many couples. Christ is faithful and will set you free to love. God bless!