Seven Strategies for Finding Freedom from Digital Adultery

Guest Blog by Forest Benedict

Both God and pornography grabbed my attention at a young age. At age six, my father introduced me to Jesus and at twelve, a classmate presented me with pornography. For years these two loves would compete, as I sought to serve God while secretly hiding an insatiable hunger for self-destructive sexual indulgence. This conflict continued for over a decade. Years of false starts and self-induced suffering eventually resulted in surrender. I finally sought help.

How God redeemed my story is beyond belief. I am now a therapist who specializes in the treatment of sexual addiction. I teach and train therapists to assist individuals both overcome by addiction and overwhelmed by betrayal trauma. God continues to use my work and writing to bring hope and help to others.

Maybe you can relate to my story. The odds are that everyone reading this is either experiencing the draw of pornography or knows someone who is. Sadly, the Church is steeped in sexual addiction. Though too few are talking about it, many men, women, and children are mesmerized by this siren’s song. Pornography has a strangle-hold on the Church, with an estimated 2/3 of Christian men and 1/3 of Christian women viewing it.[1] Adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 are the largest consumers of pornography[2] and the estimated average age of first exposure is 11 years old.[3] In shame-driven isolation, too many stay silent.

Harmed Relationships

Pornography use harms all areas of life, especially relationships. Most couples come to me in crisis. So often, one partner experienced early exposure to pornography and believed the myth that married sex would substitute their sexual compulsivity. In shame, they concealed a secret addiction. This was the first betrayal that would someday surface. Maybe they abstained for a season but, eventually, when the stresses and struggles of life emerged, they often ran back to their comfort of choice: pornography.

When spouses seek a pixilated prostitute, they trade their relationship for wreckage. Here are three ways marriages are harmed when this happens:

1. Hindering intimacy. Connection and addiction cannot coexist in a relationship.[4] When one partner uses pornography addictively, it prevents intimacy. The connection that comes from reaching out to their spouse does not occur when they run to pornography to cope with life’s pressures. Time and attention that could be invested in their relationship is instead spent on sexually compulsive pursuits.[5]

A similar impact on one’s relationship with God can also result. Repeatedly reaching to pornography rather than God’s outstretched arms is the sad story of one who forsakes their “first love.”[6] They must choose between lust and love but cannot have both.

2. Stifling sexuality. It is baffling to me that pornography is sometimes promoted as a sexual aid. If anything, pornography use diminishes sexual satisfaction.[7] Premature ejaculation[8] and erectile dysfunction[9] can be consequences. Not only can pornography use diminish sexual ability, it also alters sexual attitudes.[10] According to Covenant Eyes, 88 percent of porn scenes contain physical aggression and 49 percent contain verbal aggression.[11] It is no surprise that this skews views of sex. The “blessed” and satisfying sexuality hailed in Proverbs 5:18 is light-years away from the demeaning distortion of sex presented in most pornography.

3. Causing unparalleled pain. Even when sexual addiction only involves pornography, it is often experienced as infidelity.[12] Many partners who undergo this type of relational trauma experience symptoms of PTSD, losing their sense of safety.[13] These partners can experience anxiety, depression, rage, hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, and shame. They may blame themselves, becoming preoccupied with their body image. They may lose trust in their spouse and in God. Sadly, these symptoms often persist long after the day of discovery. Covenant Eyes reported over half of divorce cases being related to pornography addiction,[14] so it is apparent that pornography use can poison a marriage.

Countless Consequences

Pornography use harms more than just marriages. Relationships with children, God, and others are impacted. Neurologically, self-control is impaired.[15] Self-image suffers. Witness to the world is silenced. Justice is undermined, as the porn industry propels sex trafficking forward.[16] No sphere of life is untouched. How fitting that the plea of Proverbs is to keep to a path far from the adulteress.[17]

Specific Strategies

For the reader who is ready to pursue a new path, here are seven crucial strategies for finding freedom:

1. Humble yourself. Attitude is everything. Pride pours gas on the fires of addictive desires. Humility douses the flames. The sobering truth I see repeatedly is this: Find humility or humility will find you. The latter includes incomprehensible losses. Choose with great care.

2. Find same-gender support. Accountability is essential for both prevention and confession. When tempted, humbly call for help. Grace-based, not shame-based, support will sustain lasting change. Both addicts and partners can benefit from a guided group setting where their secrets are safe and their hearts can find healing.

3.  Go deep with God. Brennan Manning writes that the journey from mistrust to trust can be like a “second conversion.”[18] Letting God compassionately hold one’s heart in trying and tempting times is much different than simply memorizing scripture. Both may be helpful but recovery will entail daily experiences with God, not just learning about God.

4. External and internal protection. Easy access to the portable prostitute is a trap. Protecting devices with filters and accountability software is often necessary. Implementing internal protection means learning self-care routines that strengthen self-control. Adequate sleep, exercise, and healthy eating will bolster the brain’s resistance to temptation.[19] For those traumatized, self-care is equally essential.

5. Seek out a skilled professional. Stories abound of those who sought support in all the wrong places. Seeking someone who specializes in sexual addiction treatment can prevent unnecessary pain and promote lasting healing (See Week 1 of the Recovery Roadmap). This will be important for both addicts and their spouses. Couples in recovery must be coached as they learn how to connect, likely for the first time in the history of their marriage.

6. Disclose with discretion. Dumping every detail of a pornography problem on a partner can be detrimental. Honesty and transparency about the past and present are necessary but without the guidance of a trained professional, some specifics may cause unnecessary wounds.

7. Be patient with your partner. Recovery for both addicts and partners is a long-term commitment. Lasting change will require significant soul-work. Patience will provide endurance for the lengthy road ahead.

The Hope of Renewal

For both the reader who is far down the path of pornography and their traumatized spouse, there is hope. God has the unrivaled ability to resurrect that which was once dead. For those who have humbly sought help, I have seen relationships reconditioned to a new level of intimacy. There may be years between the present reality and a healed marriage. Yet, this rough road to recovery is far superior to the instability of a divided heart, the despair of disconnection, and the anguish of an unfulfilled life lost to lust.

I believe God is raising up a Church that rejects pornography and seeks authentic connection. As God unshackles us, He invites us into His mission of setting captives free. Though this path to healing is steep and treacherous at times, it is incredibly rewarding. And the view from the top is spectacular. It is my steadfast hope that someday I’ll see you there.

This is an excerpt from: Life After Lust: Stories & Strategies for Sex & Pornography Addiction Recovery by Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP  

Originally published in Christian Leader, Jan. 2016.

[1] Laaser, M. (2015). Lecture presented in the SATP program, Mid-America Nazarene University (online)

[2] Internet Pornography Statistics. (2006-2008). Retrieved from

[3] Internet Pornography Statistics - TopTenREVIEWS. (2014). Retrieved from

[4] Reid, R. C., & Woolley, S. R. (2006). Using emotionally focused therapy for couples to resolve attachment ruptures created by hypersexual behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13(2-3), 219-239.

[5] Reid, R. C., & Woolley, S. R. (2006). Using emotionally focused therapy for couples to resolve attachment ruptures created by hypersexual behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 13(2-3), 219-239.

[6] Revelation 2:4; Holy Bible, NIV

[7] Zillmann, D., & Bryant, J. (1988). Pornography’s impact on sexual satisfaction1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18(5), 438-453.

[8] Castleman, M. (2010, May 28). Premature ejaculation: the two causes of men’s #1 sex problem. Retrieved from

[9] Deem, G. (2014, June 9). Porn: many teens watch it, and two reasons that’s a problem. Retrieved from

[10] Doidge, N. (2007). The brain that changes itself: stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York: Viking.

[11] Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Sun, C., & Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and sexual behavior in best-selling pornography videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women, 16(10), 1065-1085.

[12] Weeks, N. (2010). Effects of pornography on relationships. Families & Communities. Retrieved from

[13] Sisterhood of Support. (2014, July 21). Barbara steffens part 1. Retrieved from

[14] American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. (2002, November 14). Is the internet bad for your marriage? online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces. Retrieved from

[15] Hilton, D. L. (2009). He restoreth my soul: understanding and breaking the chemical and spiritual chains of pornography addiction through the atonement of jesus christ. San Antonio, TX: Forward Press Pub. 71.

[16] Pornography and Sex Trafficking. (n.d.). Trafficking within the professional porn industry. Retrieved from

[17] Proverbs 5:8; Holy Bible, NIV

[18] Manning, B. (2000). Ruthless trust: the ragamuffin’s path to god. San Francisco: Harper.

[19] McGonigal, K. (2012, February 01). The willpower instinct. Retrieved from



Posted on May 12, 2017 .