• Zach Spafford

My wife used sex as a way to try and control me and I wanted her to

My wife is a wonderful woman, whom I love and adore.


She also used to try and control me with sex.


It wasn’t always overt, and it wasn’t usually something that was designed to make me do something that I didn’t want to do.


In fact, it was the opposite.


She was trying to get me to not do something.


She was trying to keep me from looking at porn and I didn’t really want to look at porn. I wanted to stop.


It was always, in her mind, something she would do to “meet my needs”.


And I thought she was, by her actions, “meeting my needs.”


In her mind, my pornography problem was about controlling how often I needed to give in to my urges. If she could interrupt my urge by engaging with me sexually, then she was helping me. She thought she was helping control my choice to use pornography.


She would ask questions like, “How are you doing today?” in an effort to gauge where I was and if she “needed” to intervene by providing me with an outlet for the day.


What she was doing, in reality, was frustrating herself and rewarding my pleasure center for disconnected, isolating behavior.


Two main things were frustrating her.


First, was the fact that she could not, despite her best efforts, control my urges or when or how I acted on them.


Whenever we try to control others, we will always find ourselves frustrated. They will rebel, they will deceive, they will find a way around you. People are like water; they will go wherever their personal gravity takes them.


It is inevitable.


Second, and I think more importantly, when what each of us really wanted was intimacy in the deepest and most connected sense of the word she was creating resentment and I was creating disappointment.


Control is antithetical to intimacy because inherent in intimacy is trust and control requires none.


She resented needing to look over my shoulder to make sure I was making good decisions.


I was disappointed that the intimacy that I wanted wasn’t available in a resentful spouse


Don’t get me wrong, when you and your spouse decide that pornography use is not ok in your household then both of you should take steps to create an environment where viewing pornography is difficult. I am also not condoning pornography use.


I am also saying, whether you are a man or a woman, making a decision to intercede in the urges of your spouse in an effort to control their actions is not going to work out in the long run.


Let’s flip this on its head for a moment.


Imagine a wife who is struggling with eating sugary treats. Each morning her husband asks her how she is feeling about that cheesecake with fresh strawberries in the fridge.



During that discussion the husband hears the wife is having a hard time not sneaking a piece. She knows that it is for dessert after dinner this evening, but that she really wants to have just a little.


So, he says, I know what, I’ll help you out. I’ll meet your needs. I have a carrot for you. It should tide you over because carrots have a lot of sugar.


His attempt to “help her out” places him in a position that makes no sense to anyone.


He’s giving her a “sweet treat”, but it isn’t what she wants. Not really.


She may even take and eat it. But she may feel resentful that he is trying to control what she eats.


Do you see the parallels?


What we all have to understand is that controlling others behavior isn’t really going to bring us or them to the place we want to be.


It may only to create a short-term fix and will probably create a long-term negative effect.


How do you avoid this?

1. Ask yourself, is it working? Is trying to control his behavior or her behavior working?

2. Make your decision about you being your best you.

a. If you need time before reengaging with your spouse sexually, let them know and wait until you are ready to begin trusting again.

b. If your spouse is offering you carrots when you really want cake, discuss it and be prepared to wait until you can come to a mutually agreed on timeline.


For a long time, I wanted my wife to control internet access on my phone, my computer, anything that I could get into trouble with.


I found out that doesn’t work because in the end I needed to make good decisions based on my long-term desires, not my short-term urges.


Being the person taking the carrots then being mad that I wasn’t happy with them and mad that my partner was putting “health food” in my face when what I really wanted was dessert that evening with my spouse.


Here is what I know:

- Setting up boundaries and parameters around pornography use is important to you and your spouse’s communication.

- Being held accountable doesn’t mean someone is constantly checking your phone. We all know that things can be hidden and that is not your spouse’s job.

- User’s must be solely responsible for their actions, no one else. There is never a reality where, “she didn’t meet my needs” or “you didn’t make the internet safe” or anything like that. The “devil made me do it” isn’t true. You chose to look or not look. Feel free to curiously explore why.

- You are going to have negative feelings like loneliness, disappointment, anger. Don’t let them compound by making decisions that temporarily block the emotion. Seek instead to feel it, understand it and honestly and lovingly express it.

- Intimacy comes through honesty and trust, not sex, not control, not buffering. Seek to find ways to experience intimacy.


I love my wife and she loves me.


I can’t control her and she can’t control me.


I want you to know that it is possible to figure this out. I coach men and women who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel who finally reach the sunshine and see how much better it is on the other side.


If you are a pornography user or the spouse of a user, sign up for a free mini session and let me help you begin the process of letting go of control so you can have greater intimacy in your life, home and marriage.

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