So, you have come to the realization that porn and sex addiction is a problem in your life. Maybe you’ve even started working with a coach to help guide you through the process of breaking free.
One of the hardest parts of recovery, but arguably the most necessary is confession.
Healing requires confession.
You cannot defeat porn addiction without confessing your actions. This is not some little secret that you can keep tucked away and hope no one will ever know. You must disclose your addiction, first by admitting it to yourself, second, confess your sins to God, and third, disclose your behavior to your wife or other people it affects..
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”James 5:16
You will not break the chains of addiction and your marriage will not recover from your actions if you are still keeping secrets.
Confession and disclosure is not optional. It is necessary. Don’t give me the argument “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her”. Bull Shit. I gave that same excuse for years and all it did was cause more pain down the road.
If you’re married or in a committed relationship and fighting porn addiction, or worse, have acted out physically, she deserves to know. You will only cause more damage by withholding the truth.
“The truth will set you free.”John 8:32
Will confessing destroy your marriage? It could. But withholding the truth for the sake of saving your marriage is living a lie. You acted out, you took the sinful action. You might have to live with the consequences.
But confession doesn’t have to end your relationship. Confession was the start to healing mine. We could never have recovered and gotten to where we are today if I was still keeping secrets.
Even if you’re not married or in a relationship, you should make a disclosure to someone. I require the men I coach to make a full disclosure to me. I cannot fully help you if I do not understand everything that happened. Confess to your coach, counselor, pastor, or even a trusted friend.
Now that you’ve accepted the fact you must confess your actions, how do you do it?
You need to be adequately prepared to make your confession and disclosure. This is not something you should do on a whim. Do not just blurt it out unprepared and without a plan. I see many men whose hearts are convicted, and feel the need to confess. This is good, but they just go right ahead and spill their guts without any prior planning or preparation which can actually cause more damage.
In order for your confession to lead to forgiveness and healing instead of brokenness and divorce, you need to handle your disclosure in a safe and healthy manner.
Do NOT do it alone
Under no circumstances should you disclose your behaviors alone with your wife. This is going to be shocking news and emotions will be running high. It can very easily devolve into shouting and arguing, saying things that aren’t truly meant, and at worse, violence. None of this is productive nor will do anything to lead toward healing.
Disclosure needs to be done in a way that can be productive and not cause further damage.
When you are ready to make your confession, do it with a professional who is trained and has experience in this field. Sit down with a counselor, therapist, pastor, or coach who can act as a mediator and keep the discussion on track.
I gave my disclosure to my wife with our pastor. It was very helpful. In fact, he didn’t really say much. He simply helped us to guide the conversation and make sure things didn’t get out of hand.
Always give your confession with another party present to help.
Find a safe place
I recommend that you do not give your confession at home. In fact, when I did mine, we went to the pastor’s office at church and even drove in separate cars.
There are too many distractions at home. Between kids, phones, etc., it’s too easy to get off track. This disclosure needs to be a focused and uninterrupted conversation. Find a place to have it where there will be no intrusions, where you can take the time you need to have the necessary discussions.
Write it down
Do not go into your confession and talk off the cuff. Write it down. In my book, Living Porn Free: 10 Steps to Recovery, Redemption, and Renewal, I provide a template to help you make account of your addiction and behaviors.
Take your time preparing your disclosure. Try to think of everything you have done. You might discover some things you had blocked from your memory. If there are things you truly don’t remember, make note of that.
When you give your confession, read it. Don’t try to memorize it. Stick to the facts and list off the addictive behaviors. This is not the time or the place to defend yourself, make excuses, or cast off blame. You are simply disclosing what you have done. Understanding the “why’s” and what led to the addiction can come later.
My recommendation is once you have made your disclosure, do not keep your written version. Get rid of it or give it to your counselor, pastor, or coach who oversaw your confession.
This isn’t to avoid having a paper trail. Rather, it is symbolic of moving on. That was the past. You are confessing your sins, repenting and going the other way. Too often I have seen couples regularly go back to the confession and use it against each other. Make the confession fully and once and for all, then start moving forward.
Once you have made your disclosure, allow your wife to ask any questions. Answer them. Be honest. She may ask you some off the wall questions. Don’t hide from them.
This is her opportunity to fully understand what happened. Give her this time. Do not get defensive or to try to avoid topics which you might rather not talk about. Answer the questions without comment.
However, there might be questions she may ask which she may not actually want to know the answers to. This is where your professional can help you. Sometimes, knowing the full details does more damage than good. This isn’t lying or withholding information. It’s disclosing the information in a manner that is encouraging to healing.
What if I get caught?
Many times, men don’t even get the chance to plan out their confession and disclosure. Men often get caught. Somehow, your wife found out and confronts you with your behavior
This is a very difficult situation. She is obviously going to be upset. She is going to want a full confession right then and there. Honestly, she deserves one. But for the reasons we’ve discussed above, confession needs to be done in a proper manner.
If this happens, stay calm. Do not get defensive. Do not try to deny it or explain it away. Tell her you need to talk and you will tell her everything she needs to know but you want to do it in a way that does not cause further damage or unnecessary pain.
Honestly, this is a hell of a lot easier said than done. But going into a confession without a plan and when emotions are running extremely high will not be helpful to either of you.
Do your best to be calm and plan a time to give a proper disclosure as soon as possible.
Confession is not the end of your recovery. It is the beginning.
Once you make a full disclosure and confession, the real work of healing can begin.
Be patient. Your wife may need some space for a while. You may feel better for getting it off your chest and finally admitting the truth, but you just wrecked her world. Give her space to process everything that just happened
Confession happens instantly, healing takes time.
Now is the time to get to work. You need to set boundaries to avoid relapse and establish routines and techniques to help you begin the process of recovery. Work with a coach to help guide you and give you the tools you need to break free. Do the deep work to discover WHY you are addicted and find out what your deep inner wounds are that led you to act out through porn and sex.
Confession leads to forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to healing. Healing leads to a new life.