12 minute read

What to Do if Your Husband Lies About Porn Use

Last Updated: September 20, 2021

Lisa Eldred
Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

You’ve felt it.

The sinking feeling in your stomach. The stab across your chest when you saw what your husband was looking at. Maybe even the screaming void that wordlessly reminds you this wasn’t the first time.

But when you try to confront him, he just denies it. Maybe he claims it was someone else. Maybe he claims it was just this once. Maybe he even claims he only went to those sites because he knew you were spying on him.

Regardless of why or how your husband is lying to you about his porn use, the fact that he’s lying at all is always difficult. Depending on how often you’ve caught him lying, it may even feel like your marriage is hopeless.

I won’t lie—this will be rough, but it’s not hopeless! With time, commitment, and hard work from both of you, your marriage can be restored.

So how do you move past the porn use and the lies and find restoration for your marriage? We’ll get to that… but first, let’s talk about what not to do.

What NOT to Do if Your Husband Lies About Porn

Don’t spy on him.

For a long time, some of the most common calls to the Covenant Eyes Member Care team were either from wives who wanted to use our software to spy on their husbands or from husbands whose wives installed the software without their knowledge.

Spoiler alert: these were never pleasant phone calls.

One of your first instincts may be to “catch” him in a lie, which means gathering evidence. But this puts your marriage in the position of cop and criminal, not partners in life. It puts him on the defensive and will most likely drive him to deeper anger and shame—some of the feelings that may be driving him to porn in the first place.

In other words, try not to gather any more evidence than you strictly need (and if you have browser history or walked in on him watching porn, you already have enough).

What to do instead: If you’re in that position, set a boundary for him to find accountability with a peer or mentor—someone who is not you.

Don’t go on the offensive.

When you confront your husband about his porn use, it can be very tempting to react out of your own pain. This may include calling him names, swearing at him, asking how he could be so stupid, etc.

Now, your feelings of pain and betrayal are valid! You have a lot of recovery of your own to go through as you and your husband work to restore your marriage. But your husband is likely dealing with a deep-rooted sense of shame—that he’s somehow defective or undesirable. That shame often keeps people in a cycle of porn use. Hurling insults and going on the offensive will just deepen that shame.

What to do instead: Stay calm as you confront him. If you need to, pause the conversation and leave the room to try to calm down. When you do explode on him, apologize for not handling your reaction well—but don’t apologize for your feelings.

Don’t take on too much responsibility.

One of your early responses to the discovery of your husband’s porn use may be to try to fix him—to try to be his replacement porn or take control of his recovery journey. There are a few things to realize with this.

  1. He uses porn for a reason, and that reason probably stems from something that happened long before you came into the picture.
  2. He will never successfully quit using porn unless he wants to quit. You can help motivate that decision, but you cannot force it.
  3. Trying to take on everything about his recovery will put you in the role of cop or mother, when you should be his partner in marriage.

Don’t blame yourself.

One of the ways your husband may lie about his porn use is by trying to blameshift—a tactic as old as Adam and Eve. He may say it’s your fault for not being sexually available enough for him or for not taking care of your body (never mind any health issues or children you’ve had). The reality is, his porn use almost certainly started long before he met you and would almost certainly continue even if he had married a supermodel.

What to Do if Your Husband Lies About Watching Porn

Now that you know what NOT to do when he lies, what should you do to help your marriage recover? The following steps will help you move forward.

Please note, though: these steps are not necessarily linear, but rather guides to help you think through all the issues surrounding both your husband’s porn use and his lies.

Determine the truth behind your husband’s lies.

This is one of those phrases that’s easy to just throw out there. “Find out the truth,” as if you can just make him take a polygraph test online. The reality is, finding out the truth is a LONG process. It may take months or even years. So let’s break it down into shorter steps.

Determine the truth about this particular incident. Was it truly an isolated event? Was he actually to blame at all? If you’re reading an article like this, there’s a high likelihood that the answers to these are “no” and “yes,” but they’re worth asking. Here are some example scenarios:

  1. If he’s already in recovery from porn, slip-ups are a normal (but hurtful) part of the recovery process. This may be his first slip-up in a long time.
  2. If he lied and said it didn’t happen, or he admits to it but tries to blame-shift, then you are absolutely right in being concerned.
  3. But if he’s otherwise shown signs of progress and says it was just once, he may not be lying.
  4. Similarly, if he says it wasn’t him, it’s also worth pausing to look into. For example, maybe your daughter used your husband’s phone to look at porn. (That sort of thing is not uncommon when people share devices.)

Do what you can to ascertain the basic scope, but with two caveats:

  1. You don’t want to spy on him. If you choose to investigate his phone, for example, it should be a one-time thing.
  2. You don’t need to know all the details of his porn use. While you have the right to choose how many details you want about his recovery, knowing too many details (like names of porn videos) may cause you more personal hurt than help. It should be enough to know that you have a credit card charge to a porn site or to have an incident in his YouTube history.

Give him an opportunity to come clean.

Once you’ve gathered enough evidence to confront him (and remember, it does not have to be everything), give him an opportunity to come clean.

Try to avoid acting out of anger and confrontation; rather, present it as an opportunity to become open and honest about struggles. You may want to say something like, “I love you, and I know you’re better than your porn. I want you to come clean so we can move forward—together.”

Seek to understand the lies themselves.

The root of all lies is a love of self—usually self-protection when we’re talking about pornography use, though occasionally it may be about self-gain. The form of his lies, however, might give you insight into how to move forward. Here are three common forms his lies might take:

  1. Protecting: Sometimes men think they’re somehow protecting you or your marriage through their lies. This is the stereotypical “what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her” mentality. You’ll need to help him understand that it does hurt regardless, and lies only compound the pain; honesty is necessary for moving forward.
  2. Blameshifting: If he’s blameshifting (e.g. “I wouldn’t have needed to look at porn if you still looked like you did when you were 23”), you will have to make it very clear that you will not tolerate that behavior. For example, you may want to set a boundary, like “If you talk like that to me, I will leave the room.” Remind yourself that blame-shifting dates back to Adam and Eve in the garden, and that pornography has been warping his mind, likely for decades; his brain has been trained to be turned on by the variety of porn. In other words, you are in no way responsible for his porn use, and you should not be expected to take on a responsibility—his sin—that does not belong to you.
  3. Gaslighting: Sometimes men gaslight—in other words, on top of merely lying, he may actually be trying to cause you to question your sense of reality. It’s often a form of blameshifting taken to the next level. For example, your husband could be moody and distant (which you’ve come to recognize as a sign of a porn binge), but he claims he’s acting fine; you’re just being paranoid or nagging or something else. He may even turn all marital counseling sessions into being about you and your “problems.”

Don’t doubt your intuition; seek out a licensed therapist for your own recovery and for advice for your particular situation. In addition, be prepared to make his lies a crisis in your marriage. Often, if a husband otherwise shows no signs of repentance, a crisis serves as the wake-up call men need to finally want to seek freedom.

It is also worth noting that you cannot control him or his behavior, but you can take actions to ensure your physical and emotional safety—and in the case of gaslighting, that may be the most important thing you can do.

To sum this up, you and your husband will have to address his lies if you want to recover from his porn use. But understanding how and why he lies may help provide a path forward.

Related: 3 Reasons Deception Is More Destructive Than Porn for a Wife

Seek to understand the porn use itself.

We’ve alluded to this several times, but his porn use probably started long before he met you. Sexual templates start in childhood and can be quickly co-opted by pornography (whether by finding a magazine, tuning into that blurred-out cable channel, or stumbling across it online as a kid or teen).

Worse, counselors like Jay Stringer have found correlations between sexual abuse as a child and pornography use as an adult. In his book Unwanted, Jay reported that as many as a third were touched inappropriately by another child; 21% were touched inappropriately by adults. In fact, he found the type of porn they seek out often indicates more about their early sexual experiences than it says about you or your body. There are also strong correlations between parenting style and pornography use. If his parents weren’t open to discussing sex with him, he may have not just developed the habit of porn in childhood, he may have developed the habit of lying about it.

Let me be clear: it will take a lot of time, work, and professional therapy to reveal all the reasons he turns to porn, but it is worth fighting for the truth. His unhealed childhood experiences impact who he is as an adult. Learning about them will help you extend grace and compassion as he strives for freedom from porn, and the knowledge will help him find the path to true healing—making him an overall happier, healthier person.

Set boundaries for his healing and your protection.

I don’t necessarily mean your physical protection—though if he’s been gaslighting you or is otherwise abusive, that may also be true. Rather, boundaries protect you emotionally in two big ways:

  • They put the responsibility for healing and recovery on his shoulders—so you don’t take on a responsibility that is not yours.
  • They provide a clear path for him to rebuild trust in your marriage.

Now, there are a number of boundaries to establish. You may want to consider a period of sexual abstinence while his body does an initial detox from porn, for example. You can read more in our free ebook Porn and Your Husband: A Recovery Guide for Wives. For now, though, we will only focus on two: boundaries regarding accountability and boundaries regarding his lies.

Boundaries regarding accountability. In a survey conducted by Lisa Taylor and Marsha Means, they found that 77% of couples instituted accountability as part of their recovery.¹ In other words, they installed software like Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability on the husband’s computer and phone, and reports of his device use were sent to an accountability partner. If he viewed porn, his accountability partner (or ally, as we like to call them) would know about it and could ask about it—what led up to it, what was going on in his heart and mind, and other issues along those lines.

Since your husband has been lying about his porn use, accountability is particularly important. Not only will accountability simply bring his porn use to light, but it will also provide him a safe place to practice honesty about where and why he struggles.

It’s important to note, though, that while you should set the boundary that he needs to use Covenant Eyes before you will begin to trust him again, you should not be the person holding him accountable. Yes, you might choose to be one of the people who receives his reports, but you should not be the one taking responsibility of having conversations about it. Doing so will put you in the role of police officer, compounding his shame. And when he inevitably slips up (a normal part of the recovery process), it will cause you unnecessary pain. Rather than taking on this responsibility, work with your husband to find him someone else who you both trust to act as his ally.

Boundaries regarding lying. Since lying has been a problem in your marriage, some of the most important boundaries you can establish are regarding his lies. He needs to know that his lies will not be tolerated, and his honesty is required to rebuild trust.

  1. Determine how honest is too honest. Again, you do not need to know all the dirty details of his porn use. “I watched porn last night” is probably enough. “I spent three hours browsing for this particular type of porn” is almost always too much.
  2. Look for other opportunities for lies and honesty as well. You may decide you don’t need to know about his porn binges at all if he has a proven track record of honesty with the ally who actively reviews his Screen Accountability reports, for example. That said, if he lies about meeting with his ally, consider treating it as a breach of the boundary of using Covenant Eyes at all. No lies should be tolerated.

With that all in mind, the exact shape of these boundaries may depend on the type of lies he has been telling. If he’s been lying to protect himself (and, theoretically, you) without blameshifting, you may be able to come up with a delayed-consequence boundary (e.g. “if I find out you lied again, I will not share my bed with you that night”). If he does blameshift, boundaries should be immediate (e.g. “If you start accusing me of causing your porn problem, I will leave the room”).

Remember: the goal of these boundaries is not to catch him out—it’s to encourage him to take responsibility for his own behavior and give him a clear path forward to rebuild broken trust. Treat them accordingly! The more he works and follows those boundaries, the more you should extend trust and confidence in him. Even when he breaks the boundaries, try to present positive confidence in his abilities, and that he’s better than his lies.

A quick note about physical abuse: All of these boundaries assume that you are in no physical danger (verbal abuse is bad enough). The physical safety of you and your children is of utmost importance. If he is throwing objects in rage at you, forcing unwanted sex on you, or otherwise making you feel physically unsafe, we encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233 or texting “START” to 88788.

Seek your own healing.

We’ve focused throughout this post on what to do to encourage your husband to seek healing, but one other thing is very important: you need to seek healing for yourself as well. Your husband has betrayed your trust, and you need time and assistance to recover from those feelings of betrayal and trauma, especially if he’s been gaslighting you or using other abusive tactics. You need grace and mercy too!

At best, even if your husband is truly repentant and wants to change, you would likely benefit from an afternoon or weekend retreat—a spa day for a therapeutic massage, a day at the beach, or an Airbnb in the mountains with your best friend. Whatever a break looks like for you, it’s okay to say you need a little bit of time to emotionally recover.

More realistically, you need more than a good backrub and a chocolate chip cookie to find your own emotional wellbeing. Just as your husband needs an ally, get one of your own—a trusted friend who hears the dark and ugly truth, and who will support you and your emotional needs with just enough of an outsider’s perspective to help you see clearly when you yourself cannot. She will help you understand when you’re trying to gloss over something important, and she will see victories and forward progress that you may forget in the heat of the moment.

Sometimes, though, an untrained friend won’t be equipped to provide more than empathy. You may also want to look into recovery groups for spouses, where you can meet with other women who are dealing with addicted husbands and share experiences and strategies. Depending on the layers of trauma in your own life, you may also benefit from seeing a trained therapist for your own healing.

How Long Will Recovery Take?

This is probably the biggest question you’re asking right now! You’ve exposed his lies, and now you just want him to be the guy you thought he was when you first started dating.

Again, unfortunately, this will not be an easy road. Most counselors recommend at least a 90-day detox from porn, but the reality of a lifetime addiction is that 90 days is just the start. It could take months or years, depending on the factors leading to his porn use and the depth of his use. He may quit multiple times, only to turn back to it again in times of stress or conflict. And that assumes he wants to quit—you can influence that desire, but you can’t control it.

Still, don’t give up hope! With hard work, commitment, and prayer, many women like you have found restoration for their marriages. You can read some of their stories in our free ebook, Hope After Porn.


¹ Lisa Taylor and Marsha Means, M. “2014/2015 survey of partners of sex addicts.: In L. Taylor, Beyond Betrayal: How God is Healing Women (and Couples) from Infidelity (Whangarei, New Zealand: Oil of Joy Press, 2015).