Dear Dr. Glick,
I have been reading your articles every week and, though I haven’t written until now, I was overwhelmed by something you wrote about in your last two columns. You wrote about marriages facing extremely difficult problems and the need to work tirelessly toward finding some way to keep going in the face of impossible challenges.
I am terrified because my marriage is facing such a problem, but my wife doesn’t know it. My wife is wonderful, we are married for some time and have several children. But you see, the problem is my problem and no matter what I try, it is getting worse! As far as my wife is concerned everything is generally fine. Except that if she knew what I am struggling with I am quite sure she couldn’t handle it and would probably feel forced to end the marriage. I love my wife, I love my children. But no matter what I do, I can’t control my desires. I am addicted to pornography. I’ve had this problem for much of my life. I try desperately to control it, and except for a few brief periods of success, it is getting worse. I need your help. Please!!
A Desperate Husband.
The first thing you need to know is that though it is EXTREMELY difficult to control, your behavior is, or shortly will be, tearing your family apart. You know that already. It is tearing you apart! While you sometimes rationalize it, you are well aware that it is not who you are. It tears at the core of your self-esteem. You feel helpless, and despite tremendous effort, are fighting a losing battle. You are terrified that at some unpredictable moment, your whole world will come crashing down. And you are fighting a very lonely battle, with any hope of victory impossible to imagine. You are helpless! Your ubiquitous smart phones and computers are ALWAYS within reach, you can access any kind of smut instantaneously, and though you possibly are free of the behavior on Shabbos, it always comes to an end and you are quickly caught up again in the quicksand that your life has become. Your marriage has probably become more difficult of late. You are likely away more often. You are probably less intimate with your wife and less close and in some way it filters down to your children.
Your struggle is unfortunately quite common. In the Orthodox community, it seems even worse because it is seen as such a disgusting, terrible thing. It IS, but is not much less common than in the general world. Your fears are real. It is the kind of problem that is diminishing the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.
There is no easy fix for this. It is going to be difficult, disheartening work. You CAN do it, but not alone. You can contact me or contact someone else, but you need to begin by opening up to someone you can trust and having the courage to describe the terrible web you are caught in. In addition, while it may be unthinkable, it is important, nevertheless, to try to build up the courage to share with your wife the trap you are in. It may not be absolutely necessary, but will nevertheless be very much a part of rebuilding your marriage to becoming what marriage is meant to be. It will take a lot of support to help her hear it. She may not be able to and may, in fact, struggle with the drive to get away from it all and end the marriage. Hopefully she won’t, and eventually become your partner in fighting this terrible lonely test. She is in no way a part of this problem, even though you may sometimes think that it may not have been so bad, had the two of you had intimacy more frequently or more freely. But she IS a part of the problem because she is your wife. And it is therefore HER problem as well. It may seem unfair, but the very root of marriage is eventually sharing everything that is hidden deep inside our hearts.
May Hashem help you successfully make this journey.
Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to mordechaiglick_gmail.com .
Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as a rabbi of Congregation Ahavast Yisroel. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached at mordechaiglick_gmail.com
By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick