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What if he never changes?

Mar 3rd, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My husband has been addicted to pornography for over 40 years. He was addicted before we were married, and tried to get me interested in sharing it with him and acting out together. I refused, and he has felt angry and rejected ever since. We have been to Church counseling, and the advice seemed to be get a divorce. Outside counseling aggravated the problem to the extent that our marriage has collapsed entirely, except for the fact we still live together and operate a small business–purely for financial reasons. I have been shattered by the realization that our marriage was always a sham–spiritually we were totally dead, although we were married in the temple–unworthily, I might add, due to heavy petting. We live with no contact, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. He has severe chronic depression and still views pornography infrequently. We attend LDS services, hold minor positions, and temple recommends. I attend the temple with friends, he does not. My question is: shouldn’t he have confessed this addiction during the temple worthiness interview? But my real question which really bothers me, is what will happen if he dies without resolving this problem? And where will I be as his wife? Is our temple marriage nullified in regard to the next world?


Dear BJ,

In terms of your husband’s life-long addiction to pornography, it is a sad state of affairs! The forty years of acting out have completely destroyed any kind of spirituality he might have had. The fact that he’s depressed is not surprising at all. If he lives another 40 years without a major life change, he will continue to feel empty, depressed angry and downright miserable. Sadly, the chances of him changing after all this time are diminishing…You guys are not only thriving in your marriage, but barely surviving. Is this the life you want?

Your business account might have something in it…but your love and spiritual account is facing bankruptcy! Why are you still in it then? What do you get out of this marriage and don’t you deserve something better? I’m just posing the questions…I hope you take time to ponder them…

You raise several important questions as to the eternal aspects of your marriage. Clearly this is outside my level of comfort in terms of giving you advice. The best course of actions would be to visit, at length I might add, with your ecclesiastical leader (stake president.) Let me ask you one last question…Let’s say you never divorce him but he also never changes in this lifetime…If you knew that you would be given a chance to decide on the other side if you want him forever or not, what would your decision be then??? The answer might help you in this lifetime more that you can imagine.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Rejection is the Trigger!

Feb 26th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

One of my biggest problems is rationalizing my use of pornography and
the other problems that go along with it. I say to myself: “my wife
rejected me, or hurt me, so it is okay to do this to get revenge”.
Sometimes I rationalize due to her sins prior to marriage. She never had
intercourse with a person, but she engaged in other issues. We tried
working with a bishop, and he counseled me to forgive her. In some ways
I haven’t, and I use those feelings of anger to rationalize pornography
use. I tell myself: “she hurt me, so it is okay”.

My question is, can you recommend any reading or provide any suggestions
for dealing with rejection because this seems to be a huge trigger for me.



Dear Tyler,

You certainly have enough insight as to what triggers your
pornography habit. Usually I would refer people to an addiction recovery
book or the latest best-selling self-help book. In your situation
however, the only reading materials I would recommend are the
scriptures. You have been given sound advice and counsel from a bishop:
forgive your wife! Yet you have chosen not to follow it and continue to
indulge in this self-destructive behavior.

Perhaps it is you that needs to ask your wife for forgiveness. You are
the one that needs to make amends in your marriage. What behaviors your
wife engaged in before is ever met you are not really an issue.
Hopefully she took care of all that with her ecclesiastical leaders and
found forgiveness in the Savior. The betrayal within the marriage falls
on you. So unless she’s doing something to hurt and undermine your
marriage (which you don’t state in your question), the ball is in your

Start by meeting with your current bishop. He can certainly help keep
you accountable as you work towards complete forgiveness. Begin
attending the church addiction-recovery meetings in your area. If
additional help is required, seek to work with an expert in the field of
pornography addiction. If you are serious about overcoming it once and
for all, have the courage and take the necessary steps required.

Finally, I want you to understand that the ultimate rejection is not
coming from your wife. It’s is coming from you…the “natural man” is
rejecting the “spiritual man” within you!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Pornography addiction: What happens to the spouse

Feb 24th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

I recently received a question at that addresses a very important topic. What happens to the spouse of a pornography/sex addict? Here’s the question:

“Brother Gourgouris,
I had the privilege of hearing you speak at our Stake Enrichment Conference
and ever since, I have wanted to ask you about one of my closest friends.
Her husband was excommunicated a few years ago and has worked very hard
to come back into full fellowship and even be re-baptized. He was baptized in the fall, but his wife is still very hurt and very distant and just can’t seem to let go of her anger. I have tried talking to her about the atonement and taking full advantage of it, but I just don’t know if there’s any way to help her gain a testimony of its power. Is there anything that can be said that might help to heal her broken heart? Thank you for your time and the beautiful spirit that you left in our building.”

Over the years I’ve been able to counsel with many spouses (mostly wives) of pornography and sexual addicts. The symptoms are pretty universal when a spouse has caused such tremendous damage to the marriage. Initially, the reaction is often disbelief, as in “This can’t possibly be happening in my marriage, or to my family.” Then, once reality sets in, it can be followed by anger, depression, fear of what people will say if they find out, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, escaping by overeating or a variety of other feelings and emotions.

In the early days of treatment, the main focus was always on the addicts themselves, helping them with their physical, mental and spiritual recovery. The wives would try to be supportive of the endeavor, while suffering in silence, often unable to even talk with their friends about such a sensitive topic. Not only were they on the receiving end of infidelity and the absence of the priesthood in their home, but almost always, no help was available. As the addict continued to recover, there was an unspoken expectation that the spouse also needed to be getting better. Forgiveness should be given, support extended and trust re-established.

Well, all these are easy to do on paper — in real life however it takes a very long time. I’ve known some marriages that never fully recover from such an ordeal. Others stay together for the sake of the kids, but once the “glass is broken” it can never be put back together again. I want to be clear that these are very normal reactions — if we try to do it all by ourselves! But there is another way, and thankfully the church has established local support groups for these dear sisters. If you are interested in joining one, contact your local Stake President to find out if one already exists in your area. If it does not, ask if he might be willing to help you get one started.

Aside from creating a support system, the best and ultimate resource of love and support needs to come from God! No amount of education or well meaning family and friends, can accomplish what He can do for a troubled and broken heart. In Mark 10:27 we read ” for with God all things are possible.” He alone can heal, comfort, love us through out toughest times in life, give us hope and most importantly help us to truly forgive. I have not found another way around it but I have witnessed many miracles of families re-uniting, couples re-building their marriages and eventually creating outstanding relationships. The recipe for success is as follows: repentance, forgiveness, trust and ultimately Christ-like love!

Know that there is always hope for the addict and their spouse if they can have an open mind, a willing heart and a tender spirit!

My son’s a porn-addict

Jan 3rd, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My son is 26 years old and lives away in a small town and is completing
graduate school. He was married for two years ( no children) but is now
divorced. He has struggled with pornography since being exposed to it
at a summer camp at age 16. My husband never talks with him about it
and I haven’t either for a couple of years. He is now completely
inactive in the church and has very angry feelings towards it. In the
past he would say that he had the addiction under control but last week
I came home and surprised him (home for the holidays) on the computer
while we were at church. I wish my husband would talk with him but he
won’t so I need to do something. What do I do?


Dear vh,

First of all, Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! I have
dealt with the treatment of addictions for the last twenty years with
quite a bit of success. Over the years the addicts themselves taught me
a lot more than what I learned in graduate school. Rule #1 is that you
cannot help someone who isn’t ready to help themselves. As a matter of
fact he (addict) will resent you for trying to “fix” him, especially
when he’s in denial of having a problem.

Pornography addiction is one of the toughest to treat
successfully. It requires the addicts’ admission that life is out of
control. If your son gets to that point, (it usually will happen when he
hits rock bottom), then there’s lots of hope. The approach that I’ve
taken to treat addictions is threefold. First, he needs to be meeting
with his spiritual leader (if he’s LDS i.e. Bishop) on a weekly basis.
Then he needs to attend a 12 Step-program like Sexaholics-Anonymous or
the church’s addiction program on a weekly basis. Finally he needs to
meet one on one with someone who specializes on sexual addiction, or as
I call it “lust addiction”.

This last piece of the solution is the most vital. Going to someone who
does counseling is not enough. That would be like someone that has a
tumor going to see a podiatrist. He may be an M.D. but he’s not the
right kind of doctor. He needs to see an oncologist. The same is true in
this case…unless an expert on sexual-addiction sees him, your son will
have limited and short term success. A “band-aid” approach can actually
be more harmful long term, than not getting any help at all.

Let’s say your son visits with someone who is unfamiliar with such an
addiction, but is pretty good at what he/she does. Your son might see a
little improvement and feel better for a while. He then stops going for
help, thinking that his problem is over with. When the addiction
returns, and trust me it will return with a vengeance, he will feel
like giving up the struggle. Discouragement will set in…because he’ll
say to himself, “Well, I went and got help and in the end, I’m still
struggling with this. What’s the point? That’s who I am! I’ve been doing
it most of my life…”

Nothing is worst than this ultimate discouragement! In the meantime, can
you talk to your son about your concerns out of love? If he’s receptive
to listening to you and your concerns then you can share with him my
suggestions. If he’s not ready then, you wait and pray and continue to
love him!

Best of luck!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Am I enabling my husband?

Nov 14th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

Last year on Valentine’s Day my husband finally told me what I had
suspected for many years. That he has actively used porn for almost all
of our marriage. I have dealt with this silently, at his wish, because
he told me he wasn’t ready to talk to the Bishop. Now his 13-year-old
son from his 1st marriage has been caught downloading porn to his cell
phone. My husband is avoiding the question of getting help for him or
his son. If I bring it up, he tells me I’m attacking him, or being mean,
or he just ignores me.

Along with his porn addiction there has been verbal and emotional abuse
– stemming in part from his guilt. I have tried to love him through it
all. But now, with his son’s problem, I wonder if I’ve been too much of
an enabler.

My friends and one of my sisters tells me I need to take a break – leave
him for a few months – to shock him into changing. As I pray about the
situation, I am feeling that divorce might not be the best answer, in
fact I feel like I need to be patient and give him time. I also get a
strong impression, especially lately, that I need to put a stop to
abusive behavior.

I am determined to protect my children from abuse and possible exposure
to a harmful addiction through either my husband or step-son. I just
don’t have the tools I need to stop letting him treat us poorly. I have
looked into support groups and am trying to change my work schedule to
start attending. Until then, what can I do?
Thank you for any advice or support you can give. I am a bit lost as to
what direction to take.



Dear A,

If you have been reading some of the Q & A’s on this site, you’ll
quickly recognize that you are not alone. So many families and marriages
are being affected by the tsunami of this addiction. To put it in
perspective, when I was in private practice as a psychologist I used to
receive about 4 or 5 referrals every year about Word of Wisdom issues.
Some that struggled with alcohol, nicotine addiction, abusing
prescription drugs, and seldom a cocaine addiction.
For internet pornography or sexual addiction in general, I would receive
one referral a WEEK, 52 weeks out of the year, year after year (mostly
through Bishops, Stake, and Relief Society leaders.)

In your situation, you are now faced with two generations of porn
addicts. The role of a mother and her stewardship first and foremost is
to protect her children from harm. The harm could be physical, like
don’t let them run in front of a fast moving vehicle…it could be
emotional/spiritual like having something in the home that is worst than
any drug out there. Would you ever allow a drug dealer living in your
basement? Of course not! Will you continue to allow porn to be in your
home, poisoning the most vital of relationships, meaning your marriage?
Of course there has been verbal and emotional abuse…

You are absolutely right when you say that you’ve been too much of an
enabler. I’m not sure divorce is the answer either at this point.
Following your spiritual promptings should always come first, no matter
what your well-meaning family and friends say (who love you dearly and
are worried about you.) The Lord knows what’s best for you and your
family and He will direct you accordingly.

Having said that however and from my 20 year experience in working with
addicts on a daily basis, I will tell you this: Most men do NOT seek
help on their own in regards to this addiction. Some do, but it’s the
exception to the rule. Most respond to their wives threatening
separation or divorce, or because their Bishop said to them, ” Brother,
Smith you need professional help…go and see Dr. so and so…”

I don’t know if you have younger children in the home and what the
potential exposure would be for them. This is a major concern that needs
to be addressed ASAP, especially if a 13 year old in your home is
actively seeking such inappropriate material and is downloading it. It
could very easily spread to the rest of the family. You need to take
action to help your husband and step-son. They might be upset at first,
but eventually, as they heal and overcome their addiction, they will
thank you profusely. I have seen that SO many times, when months later a
husband will say to me, “You know, my wife saved my life…I was so mad
at her at first, but really I was mad at myself. I was shocked when she
asked me to leave…I had no place to go and I ended going to see my
Bishop and that was the beginning of my healing…”

May the Lord bless you and your husband to do the right thing.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

My Husband’s a Porn-Addict

Sep 8th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0
Dear Dr. Elia:

In 1997 my 1st marriage ended in divorce for a long list of reasons, but foremost was my husband’s addiction to pornography. Not long after I met and married another man who I thought was the total opposite of my first husband. What attracted me to him among other things were what I thought were his strong faith and morals.

Two years later my current husband began watching pornogrpahic movies on satellite TV. This progressed to buying them. Not long after we purchased a computer and this is when the SERIOUS trouble began. Now we are at a point where he is up at 5 am and immediately get son the computer for about 90 minutes before he goes to work. If I leave the house, even for 10 minutes he immediately rushes to the computer.

He has told me many times he knows it is wrong and says he will quit but it lasts no more than 3 days and he is right back to it. It is like being married to a drug addict. I have tried everything. I have been to counseling myself, but he refuses to go. I have tried talking and reasoning for years but it gets me nowhere. I have prayed and prayed and prayed about it asking God for guidance, but all I have received is silence.

It is so discouraging. I do not want another divorce, but I do not want to live the rest of my life like this. ANY adivce you could give me on how and what I need to do to deal with this would be very much appreciated.


Dear D.S.

Unfortunately I know what you’re going through all too well. I spent 18 years working with sex-addicts and I know the devastation it caused to their spouses and families. Let me ask you something…if he was smoking crack every morning before he went to work, how long would you put up with that? If he was injecting heroin into his veins every morning, how long before you made a decision that enough is enough? If you want a different (and by that I mean healthier) life, it is time to stop enabling him!

I realize you don’t want to go through another divorce…but this is no way to live life. He’s making a mockery out of your marriage…DAILY! His addiction is way beyond simple solutions…Most of the men that I worked with, did not seek help on their own, until two things happened. Their wives told them to “GET OUT” or their bishop told them that they needed to get help. The pain of losing you and his family has to be greater than the pain of giving up his porn. If he refuses to get help then he has made his choice.

Pornography is destroying his mind, body and spirit…never mind his love, fidelity and respect for your marriage and of course you. So here’s the bottom line:

1) He needs to talk to his spiritual advisor and be held accountable on a weekly basis.
2) He needs to find a therapist who’s sole expertise is sexual addiction. Working with someone who’s a good counselor, but doesn’t specifically deal with porn-addiction will not work.
3) He needs to start attending a 12-Step program called Sexaholics Anonymous…They say 90 meetings in 90 days would be a good start.
4) He needs to start working the 12-Steps and then and ONLY then will he have a chance of overcoming this insidious habit that now has taken complete control of his life.

He’s married to lust not you…If you want him to get better this is the way. If he does ALL these things then slowly and over a long period of time the husband you fell in love with may return. This addiction is SO hard to overcome and he is as addicted as anyone I’ve ever heard of…You will need some additional support during this difficult time…you deserve it. Let me know if you need any additional advice.

Good Luck,

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

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