St. Augustine, our very own saint who struggled with an attachment/addiction to sexual compulsivity and lust, can be a heavenly brother for all men who desire holiness and change. This is true even if you merely desire to desire that holiness and change. As St. Augustine writes:
“The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes, you may see and be utterly satisfied.”
Holy desire alone can be the prayer that imbues a man with the inspiration and will to crush sexual and sinful habits. God is calling many men to this path to sainthood in the midst of these difficult and sinful times in our world. As St. Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Still, it’s not too late to enlist into the army of God and give testimony to purity and holiness in our homes and society. Of course, in order to be part of this holy army, you must address this terrible sickness of the soul: sexual addiction.
The Healing “Doctors” of Guilt and Shame
Guilt and shame are getting a bad rap these days. However, I believe these are the two best friends to a man on the road to desiring sexual purity like St. Augustine. I am not suggesting that one must be perfect in order to serve God, but sexual sin can and does interfere and distract—especially within the context of marriage and family. That’s why seeing the communal effects of one’s sin, and allowing these two “doctors” to work their magic, can inspire true repentance!
With that in mind, I’ve listed four ways my un-recovered Catholic husband’s pornography addiction and sexual immorality negatively affected our family and led us away from God’s will. Perhaps some of these will resonate with your experience and help prompt a deep desire for you to repent and give your life over to God.
Remember, we have a mighty God who can use our sins and testimonies of transformation to change the world! I share my experiences so that they may inspire others to seek healing and recovery from their own sexual addictions and sinfulness.
(1) Creating an Environment of Lies and Hypocrisy
By compartmentalizing his sexual addictions from the rest of his life, my husband became a pathological liar in order to keep hidden his addictions to masturbation and pornography, voyeurism, and other infidelities. If anyone in the family confronted him about his odd behaviors he would become enraged and turn the issues around on us.
This tactic is known as “gaslighting,” and it’s an abusive strategy that wreaks harm within a family. I don’t believe he ever intended to be abusive but that doesn’t change that he was. He had this addiction he hid for almost three decades prior to getting married. He thought getting married would fix him and I was left in the dark as to why he was then not sexually interested in me.
This caused me to grow uncharacteristically insecure. His lying and hiding prevented me from truly knowing him and being able to partner with him through his struggles. As a result of his lying and hypocrisy, our two oldest children have stopped attending Mass altogether. It also prevented him from knowing me. Instead, he perceived me as his enemy in order to justify his lying, acting out and neglectful treatment of me
(2) Neglecting His Role as Spiritual Protector of Our Family
By secretly using pornography in our home, he channeled demonic activity within our walls. I, the nurturer, had to pick up the sword that my husband had abandoned. This resulted in my children always having mysterious fears from a lack of fatherly protection.
We lost our family’s “priest, prophet, and king,” along with our protector and provider. Connected with his sexual sins, he had been hiding money and lying about work. As a result, my children and I had to endure the cross of financial strife and constant struggle.
(3) Severely Damaging His Wife’s Health and Wellbeing
The stress on me from the lying, slowly uncovering his sexual immorality, lack of true intimacy, and sexual abuse (e.g. waking me up in the middle of the night regularly to have sex after becoming aroused from viewing porn, etc.) over the course of 20 years of our marriage caused me to become physically ill.
I began having migraines, hormonal and thyroid imbalances, tragic miscarriages, and feeling generally exhausted. I intuitively detected the grave state of our marriage and I became very frightened of having children. Having once been an NFP instructor, though, I remained faithful to the Church’s teachings and did not resort to birth control. Nevertheless, my fears made me critical of myself because I had always wanted to be joyfully open to as many children as God would give us.
I also lived with an uneasiness about the possibility that he was doing something that could give me an STD. And my gifts and talents as a professional, homemaker, and homeschooling mother were compromised as a result of these health issues (health issues that have improved since separating from him).
(4) Damaging His Wife’s Reputation in the Community
In his commitment to maintaining his image as an exemplary Catholic husband and father, he portrayed me negatively as a wife and mother to my children and to our community in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. He was mostly a “counter-parent” instead of a “co-parent.”
He would undermine me as a mother in order to make himself look better. When our children had major issues or crises he would leave me alone to deal with them. When I sought marriage counseling over the years he would manipulate our counselors into focusing on what was wrong with me.
For 21 years, instead of humbly confessing his sins honestly that were blocking the sacramental graces of our marriage, he allowed me to come under harsh scrutiny and judgment from those whom we sought help. This was true when it came to our family and friends as well.
Because so much of his behaviors were covert, I could not understand them or describe them to others. This left me feeling less and less sociable. Additionally, our sexual issues were very difficult to discuss with others (again, since I didn’t know what was really going on) and I felt like I needed to tiptoe around his ego to not destroy his sense of manhood.
Turning to God to Find Healing for You and Your Family
If any of these effects are things your spouse and/or children have suffered as a result of your sexual immorality or addiction to pornography, masturbation, or other sexual activity, it may be time to start doing some honest self-reflecting in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
You might even consider journaling about how you believe your sins have affected you, your family, your community, and God. But don’t stop there. I would suggest you also write out ways holy practices can reverse or help heal these negative effects.
And remember, you are unconditionally loved by God no matter what damage you have done to yourself, loved ones, and our merciful God. By humbling yourself before God and desiring—or at least desiring to desire—release from your sexual addictions and sins, you are taking the first step to allow God to bring His merciful grace and healing into your life.
Veronica, a faithful Catholic for her entire life, discovered her husband’s secretive addiction to sex after 21 years of marriage. Now prayerfully separated, she continues to seek healing from “Betrayal Trauma.” She is the mother of three children who are also on a journey of healing. Veronica hopes to share her experience with women who’ve had similar experiences to bring comfort and healing through one-on-one and group support coaching. If you would like to get in touch with her, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org (she will have a website available soon as well).