One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten from the men I’ve worked with is this: “How do I even begin the conversation with my wife about my porn addiction &/or the recovery journey that I’m on?”
For many men, just the thought of talking to their wives about their struggles is terrifying. And truthfully, it’s not a conversation that every spouse can handle. But it’s my opinion that you should never leave your spouse in the dark when it comes to your recovery journey. Being willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly is essential for growth and credibility to be restored between you and your wife. There’s no way around it.
But believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be a conversation that feels awkward, tense, or ends with two people storming out of the room. It can be a conversation that’s healthy and good for you both. One in which you actually grow in intimacy with each other.
In her book, “Shattered Vows” (ps. 184-186) author Debra Laaser shares a way for couples to be able to connect emotionally with one another through a couples sharing exercise called FANOS. FANOS is an acronym that stands for Feelings, Affirmation, Needs, Ownership, & Sobriety.
Throughout the course of a week, we’ve all found it difficult to have deep, meaningful conversations with our spouses. Between our busy schedules, demanding jobs, and family commitments, it feels like at the end of the day, our brains are just fried. And we might be tempted to just check out from engaging with our spouses.
We’ve found in our marriage that this very simple sharing exercise can really help! Especially as it relates to talking to your spouse about your recovery if you’ve never started. Once a week, we’ll take around 15-20 minutes going back and forth sharing from each letter of the acronym. Note: This is usually done when there is no kids around! Car rides are especially great for using this tool!
Let’s briefly break down what each word is and what you specifically share:
- F – Feelings: How am I feeling this week? (emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally etc.) This is a huge one so don’t skim over it. Go deep here. And remember, no feeling is invalid or unimportant. Feelings aren’t always based in truth, but they allow your spouse to really see inside your heart. This is probably the hardest area for a man to share from, other than sobriety. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
- A – Affirmation: What ways can I possibly encourage my wife this week? How can I speak to her as a wife, mother, daughter of God? Speak life over your wife. Whether or not you realize it, she so desperately longs to hear your appreciation and encouragement. Being a wife and a mother is an incredibly difficult, and at times a thankless job. Tell her how much she means to you!
- N – Needs: What needs do I have from my wife? (again emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexually, etc.)? This is an important one so don’t just think “more sex, please” on this one. Be real. Is there a need you have from your wife you may be tempted to receive from someone or something else? This requires some keen insight in your heart, so take your time on this one.
- O – Ownership: What can I take ownership of this week that I’m not doing so well in? Guys, we should have plenty to express here! As a husband, dad, worker, whatever, what are areas that you can grow in? Be honest with yourself and your wife: Where are you screwing up or slacking? The goal of ownership isn’t meant for you to throw yourself under the bus. It’s meant for you to have enough humility to remember you’re actually not perfect, and you need help. We all do.
- S – Sobriety: How is my sobriety going this week? This question is typically only for you so be honest. If there were slips, confess them. If there was growth, share it. Don’t leave anything out on this one. Details are important. Your wife deserves to know the truth in how you’re doing. Instead of you merely coming to her and confessing something, you have both worked through a conversational tool that has helped you communicate. At this point in FANOS, you have both shared intimately with each other. So it’s the perfect time to check-in with her about your progress in recovery.
One of the greatest things I cherish about my relationship with my wife is our commitment to complete honesty. Believe it or not, this is a characteristic that didn’t come instantly on day one of marriage. It’s one that’s been cultivated over the last 12 years. And I believe each and every day, it’s gotten better. But it’s only gotten better because Tracey and I have practiced. And as one person I heard revise the classic quote, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”
I love this model for communication with my wife. We practiced it early on in my recovery journey and have just recently come back to it for a model of conversation. I pray that it’s helpful to you as well as you grow in oneness with the man or woman God has given you.
Being involved in community helps the process of learning how to talk to your spouse much easier. And you don’t even have to go far to find it! Small Groups Online offers specific groups that you can become apart of to help you meet others who are walking through the same struggles that you are. Through weekly Zoom meetings online and the Live Free app, you’ll find there’s always another brother who you can reach out to in your time of need. Check out SGO today!!!
Frank is passionate about helping individuals live with sexual integrity. He also works alongside his wife Tracey in helping spouses who have been devastated by their partner’s addiction. Frank & Tracey live in beautiful southern Delaware with their two children: Nathan and Addison.