“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

These words used in a court of law are aimed to “get to the bottom of things” — the “basement level reality,” if you will.  It’s the place where there are no more “lower down” daunting tales and hidden misdeeds.  It’s the pathway to a right outcome in the proceedings.

Assuring that the truth is told creates certainty, safety and a reliable path to “solve a case.”  Why do we look for such a reliable path?  It’s because lies, half-truths and diversions only perpetuate pain and problems.

The same is true when dealing with discovery and confession of intimacy-damaging pornography use in a marriage.  A couple desiring a full and healthy recovery from pornography addiction must bravely get to the “basement level truth” and face those realities and fears through a healthy, guided and full disclosure of what is and what has been.

How the user of pornography helps (or hurts) that process is key.  How the hurting and offended spouse seeks the truth is also key.  There are ways to go about truth-telling and truth-seeking that can even complicate matters – especially if the whole truth is either intentionally or unintentionally not told.

Planning a full disclosure — plus asking the right questions and avoiding the truly unhelpful ones — is the best path to a redemptive and healed outcome. The whole truth offers hope and freedom from pornography addiction.

Rosie and Mark Makinney, trained professionals and a humble Christian couple who have walked this path themselves, help illuminate.

While pornography use can be by the husband or the wife, the discussion below is shared from the perspective of this couple’s story.  Rosie learned of Mark’s highly detrimental pornography use, and with God’s help they received guidance and carved a path to freedom. Now they help others with the same.

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Wives of porn addicts experience similar fears, or even worse, when faced with their husband’s secret sexual addictions. There’s a host of unknown terrors in your husband’s mental basement that threaten to destroy your marriage and everything you’ve built together.

What do you do with all these secrets? Should you fight your way in? Do you just lock the door and hope they die on their own?

The truth is, it’s not your responsibility to clean up your husband’s pornographic mess — he needs to fight his own demons. But you are a team. For the sake of your marriage, you need to know what he’s been keeping from you. So make your preparations, take your husband’s hand, and descend into the basement together to evict the monsters he’s been hiding down there.

Table of Contents

What Is Clearing Out the Basement?

Rosie Makinney, author of Fight for Love, says that clearing out the basement means full disclosure of secrets. No more hiding, no more throwing sin down the stairs and turning off the lights. Hopefully your husband, with you expectation and invitation, will choose to  hit the light switch in the basement so you both can know everything he’s been engaging in. Once he has told you everything, you will be on the same page regarding what has transpired.

There are two important things to note about this process:

  • Never attempt to clear the basement on your own. The full disclosure process is an important step in your marriage restoration, but it can easily cause more damage if done incorrectly. Plan to complete this in full with a licensed counselor acting as an unbiased mediator.  Counselors help prepare couples for this process.
  • Full disclosure needs to happen all at once, not a little at a time. The “a little at a time” approach is called staggered disclosure and can cause additional trauma to the wife of the porn user  Plus, it keeps the offender on a yo-yo string of shame and regret much longer, causing more torture and damage to both of their souls.

You may feel like this is an awful and risky experience to engage in. You’re right. So is it really worth it?

How Clearing Out the Basement Helps the Porn Addict

We all have a deep need to be known and loved, but we often avoid the ‘known’ part. It is absolutely essential to be honest in marriage — it is the cornerstone of trust.

The primary reason a person keeps a secret from their spouse is they fear they will lose love or respect if their spouse knows the secret. So they keep it hidden, effectively fracturing the relationship they are trying to maintain.

Makinney’s husband, Mark, an individual highly trained in sexual addiction recovery, says, “Keeping a secret is like holing up an umbrella to block the outpouring of God’s grace and your spouse’s love.” Lowering the umbrella — revealing the secrets — puts your husband back in a place where he is open to grace, forgiveness, and healing.

This is the only way you and your husband can restore your marriage.

Here’s a quick word to husbands: When sharing this sensitive information with your wife, don’t be vague or minimize your actions. This will only spike your wife’s anxiety — instead of rebuilding trust, you’re making it worse. Mark Makinney encourages you to “Get rid of all subjective language and make it as specific as possible.” This is both for your sake and for the sake of your wife who is already having a rough time. But again, get guidance as you prepare for this – no one is objective enough about themselves and the impacts of their story to advisably do this all alone.

How to Protect Yourself While in the Basement

Wives, when your husband admits to you — or you find out on your own —that he’s been habitually using pornography (maybe even addicted), it will be devastating. There’s really no way around that, unfortunately. Your husband has breached your trust and deeply damaged your intimacy together. You’re going to feel hurt and betrayed. It’s okay to sit in that and process.

Just be careful what you ask him when you’re in the basement together.

You have the right to know anything you ask, but some answers will only hurt you instead of provide closure. This is another reason it is important to have a professional facilitate this conversation.

If you can manage it, stay away from questions like, “Is there anyone in my family you are attracted to?” or “Tell me every woman you’ve ever fantasized about.” These kind of questions refer more to unintentional thoughts than intentional actions.

The Makinneys can’t say why, but the data suggests that these questions do not aid in a wife’s healing process and will only cause more damage.

So protect yourself. Focus more on the questions concerning where, when, and why.

  • “How many times a day do you look at porn?”
  • “Do you look at porn while I am in the room? When the kids are present?”
  • “Why did you start looking at porn initially?”

Specific answers to specific questions like these will benefit you much more. It will be hard, but you can overcome the trauma of your husband’s betrayal.

Resources for Couples Navigating Recovery

Clearing the basement is just one step in the recovery process for habitual porn users and their wives. It will be a long journey, but there is still hope for your marriage.

Here are more resources about pornography addiction:

Other recommended cross links that inform this issue:

The Importance of Vulnerability in Fighting Pornogrpahy Addiction

Restoring Trust After a Confession of Pornography Addiction

Book:  Aftershock: Overcoming His Secret Life with Pornography – A Plan for Recovery




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