What do you do when you find out your spouse is deeply involved with pornography and lying about it? Roxanne Granata shares her story and the lessons learned with God’s help.
Roxanne Granata: How God Helped Me with My Husband’s Pornography Addiction
Roxanne Kennedy-Granata was raised in Northern California and lived for 20 years in Idaho. The past six years she has lived in Utah. She has worked in sales the majority of her adult life, teaching and training others to reach personal success in their businesses. Roxanne is the author of Cutting Ties: Healing from Betrayal Trauma as the Spouse of an Addict. She loves tennis when she makes the time for it. Her true passion has become meeting and talking with individuals and groups about healing from trials and challenges addiction bring into a family and relationships.
She recently married a man she dated in college 27 years ago after they reconnected through a friend. Together, they have nine children. Roxanne met her current husband in college. However, that relationship ended and they both got married. He had been married for 25 years and Roxanne was married for 21 years. Those marriages both ended. They had a mutual friend who was his roommate in college who read Roxanne’s book. He sent his friend Roxanne’s book, mostly to help his friend but also to help set them up. He read Roxanne’s book twice and left her review, and that’s how their relationship rekindled.
Roxanne’s First Marriage
Six months into their marriage, Roxanne found the first clue her husband struggled with pornography. She was totally shocked. She didn’t think it made sense. Roxanne remembers thinking they were married, they were intimate, so something must be wrong with her. She thought she wasn’t cute enough or smart enough.
But as Roxanne learned more about addiction, she learned it actually has nothing to do with the person and everything to do with the addict and what they’re missing in their own lives. Roxanne confronted him and he admitted he had a problem. They went to see their church leader, who was very loving and shared his own struggle with pornography. He told them to continue to read scriptures and pray together. Roxanne says those things are good, but that’s not what takes the addiction away. It’s not just a choice.
While they came away from their meeting feeling better, Roxanne’s trust was gone. She felt anxious about what he could be doing while she wasn’t home. Their lives had become extremely difficult. She wouldn’t understand until many years later, but Roxanne was experiencing betrayal trauma.
Betrayal trauma is when someone you love (and who is supposed to care for you) lies, manipulates, and deceives. All of the sudden, your whole world has been turned upside down and you feel trauma and anxiety over things you didn’t before. You might be triggered over something. For Roxanne, seeing someone not fully clothed might trigger her and make her worry about what he might think. When those things happen, your body goes into a traumatic response similar to PTSD. Your body could start shaking, your heart could start to race and it takes times to calm yourself down.
Initially, Roxanne went into, “I can do this and I can save everybody” mode. She realized after going to counseling she was trying to make up for the fact this was all happening. She felt her husband was present and supportive, in spite of everything going on. So she was still very confused as to why he was making the choices he was making.
Roxanne learned later her reality was skewed. She began to understand that being good dad but still choosing pornography was manipulative. He was lying to them so his other life wouldn’t be discovered. Over 17 years, Roxanne continued to find evidence her husband was still having problems with pornography. Her trust in him was continually broken.
Things That Helped
When she found more things indicating a bigger problem than she first thought, she decided she couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening.
Take One Step at a Time with God
Roxanne knows now God gives us one step at a time and we have the opportunity to choose to learn and grow or we can be scared and wait. Roxanne did both, but now she was taking the chance to try and grow. She and her husband decided to meet with their church leader again. She remembers praying he would have something more to say outside of reading scriptures and saying prayers. While those things helped Roxanne in her own personal relationship with God, it wasn’t helping their situation.
This time, their leader recommended a 12 step program, along with a support group for spouses and family members. They started attending these groups and Roxanne thought they were doing well at first. But over the course of a year, she continued to feel her husband wasn’t being honest with her. After that first year, she found out about an even bigger problem that was kind of at the heart of his double life.
Roxanne started looking for more resources, and they started counseling. When she first started 12 step, she thought she was going to learn what she needed to do in order to save her husband, but in counseling she realized she needed to have her own healing and recovery. Counseling gave her the tools to see the red flags and manipulation.
The first time Roxanne walked into her support group, she was terrified. She knew going into the room that everyone in the room was struggling with the same things she was struggling with. For her, that was a very vulnerable moment because she had not confided in anyone about her husband’s struggles over all these years.
Roxanne knew that walking into the room was basically admitting that her husband struggled with pornography. What if she knew someone and they would then know her secret? But she decided to put those fears aside and go in anyway, and she is incredibly grateful that she did.
Roxanne found so much love and support there. It was a huge relief to find people who knew her because of shared experience.
On her first day, she remembers a woman crying while she shared her story, but she also seemed happy. She was distraught over what was happening to her family, but she was also full of peace. Roxanne wanted to be her, because at that time she felt like she was in pieces. She felt like she was in a fog and she couldn’t see the way out of. This support group gave her hope. She says her truest friends to this day were in those groups with her. This was the first time she didn’t feel alone.
Don’t Be Lonely–Find Your Angels
Roxanne thinks that feeling of loneliness and hopelessness is something the adversary uses. But she says by reaching out, you can find out the opposite is true. When you reach out, you find not only is God there for you, but there are earthly angels God has sent your way to help and support you.
God knows we have to build a relationship with Him, but He also knows we are humans who need tangible, physical help. That is where friends and relationships come in. Sometimes you need a hug, you need to be able to call someone and tell them you aren’t ok, and you need to know someone is there for you and will let you talk through it.
A Great Gift of Healing From God
Although she was finding peace through her support group and friends, the triggers and pain kept coming. New evidence kept coming up that her husband was still involved with pornography.
Roxanne felt like her love tank was empty. At many different points, she felt she might die from the pain. She had never felt so broken in her life. She would escape to her closet to have time to herself just to cry and feel all of her emotions.
One night she was praying in her closet and she had a prompting to imagine the Savior holding her heart. She realized He could fill her up. So she started doing that every time she felt broken. For a while, she didn’t feel a change.
And then one day, in her closet again, she felt it–Her heart filled and overflowed. She had never felt so full of love before.
That experience didn’t change her circumstances. God didn’t keep her from being hurt. But she knew God was there for her and He would walk her through it.
Roxanne explained sometimes we want to fill the loneliness with a void or we want to just be numb and jump into something else. But, she explained, “If we sit with our feelings of pain and sadness, God can come in and be the one to fill it rather than us trying to fill it with an outside source.”
Perspective: Life’s Rolling Hills
While it can feel like hard things just keep coming our way, Roxanne likes to think of her journey as a path through rolling hills. Something hard comes and then there is a reprieve. Then another hard thing is placed in front of her, on and on. All of it is a path back to God. When she looked at it that way, she could move herself forward instead of turning backwards and wondering why these things keep happening to her.
Roxanne learned a lot of important lessons throughout her experience.
Lesson #1: Agency–You Can’t Make Anyone Do Anything
One lesson learned was that she could not make someone do something they didn’t want to do. God can give us all kinds of tools and people to help us through what we are going through, but ultimately, we have to choose to use them.
That is how Roxanne felt with her ex-husband. He was given the 12 step program, counselors, even inpatient treatment for his addiction, but Roxanne realized he had to choose to do the recovery work.
That was a very hard lesson for her. She remembers praying in her closet asking how one person’s decisions could affect an entire family and her innocent children, and it was so frustrating to her that she couldn’t do anything about it.
Letting go of control of the outcome allowed her to relax and give everything to God.
Lesson #2: What To Hate
Roxanne also had to learn to differentiate between hating a person and hating an addiction. She knows now that she really loved her first husband. She loved him as a person, as a spouse, and as a father, but she didn’t agree with what he was choosing. Because of that, she came to terms with the fact she may not get to keep him in her life because of how his choices were affecting her.
Lesson #3: Setting Boundaries
Learning these lessons and working with a counselor helped her learn to set boundaries. Her counselor discussed appropriate boundaries with her, things like, “If you do this, you can’t sleep in my room.” At first she says that felt like a punishment and she didn’t want to do that because it felt like she wasn’t being loving and supportive.
But her counselor taught her boundaries aren’t about the other person. The boundary is set because something doesn’t feel good or safe for you. So in the example of not sleeping in her room, that boundary was put in place because if Roxanne found out her husband had been lying, she felt anxious and stressed. She couldn’t sleep or would end up sleeping in her closet.
Roxanne needed a safe place. She needed space in her own room to process, pray, rest, sleep, and just take care of herself after experiencing emotional trauma. So for Roxanne, the boundary became that he made a choice, she would need him to sleep in the other room. She would let him know when she was feeling better and felt comfortable with him sleeping in their room again. It was about her and her feelings, not a punishment.
Lesson #4: Venting & Healing with a Loving God
Roxanne had a few different things she would do when the anxiety of her situation would well up. She would go take a drive and look at the scenery. She would play soft, spiritual music. And she would just talk it out with herself.
Roxanne always invited God to be with her when she talked it or because she didn’t want to add more resentment or anger or invite Satan in. She would also write. Sometimes it was just bullet points of feelings, fears, etc., sometimes it was an angry letter to her husband, sometimes it was a letter to God. All of these things helped to free up her soul.
There were times when Roxanne was angry with God. She would go on drives to get away and yell and yell and yell until she got it all out. She kept wondering why God hadn’t saved her from the situation yet. But every time, she would feel reassurance He understood and knew her and He loved her.
God was never angry with her for yelling. He was right there, and the only times she couldn’t feel love was when she turned away. In her book, Roxanne writes, “I come honest and broken… God knows how broken I am and the pain that is pressing on my heart and He just loves me. He loves me exactly where I am at now. He doesn’t think I’m a terrible person.”
Lesson #5: Education Helps Understanding
Roxanne struggled through her marriage without realizing that she was being abused. It was a shocking realization. The lies, manipulation, gaslighting, and deceit all made her feel like she was the one with the problem. That is abusive.
When she finally understood her relationship was abusive, she was embarrassed. She wondered how she missed that. Roxanne felt shame–and she realized that was Satan telling her she was dumb. But she can look back with mercy on her younger self because she wasn’t ready to know and understand. She didn’t have the tools or education on what she was dealing with. Roxanne was just being a good person, a trusting wife, and doing all that she knew how to do.
God led her to helpful resources like the 12 step program and a counselor who dealt specifically with sex addiction and understood betrayal trauma. All of those things helped her to realize that for many years she tried to be accountable for the actions of her husband–and she thought it was her fault.
In reality, it was his actions. He chose to lie. He chose to manipulate, and it had nothing to do with her.
It took a lot of therapy so she could recognize those negative thoughts for what they were. She learned to challenge those thoughts and ask herself, “What is true?” and she would repeat the things she already knew to be true. Roxanne would remind herself she was doing the work, and she was healing. She would state what things were working for her and would just talk herself back into reality.
Lesson #6: Allow Yourself Grace To Heal Emotionally
Roxanne compares emotional trauma to physical trauma. “If you are in an accident and go to the hospital, you take care of yourself, you use crutches or a wheelchair or whatever else you might need to get yourself back to your whole and complete self.” Roxanne continues her explanation that it’s the same idea with emotional trauma. If you don’t try to challenge those negative thoughts and behaviors, you’re never going to be free to move forward. “You have to take care of yourself and the person who hurt you is not the one that can do it. We cannot tell ourselves the lie that ‘if they just stopped doing something, we would be ok.’ You’re already hurt. You’ve already been hit by the car.”
“So the person who hit you, the person who stabbed you, the person who did whatever cannot be the one now to come pick you back up because you don’t even trust that person. That has to be rebuilt. And so it’s just like an accident. That person who hits you with their car leaves. You never see them again. But you still have to do the work. You still have to choose healing.” And healing looks like counseling, working on your thoughts, going to meetings, and meeting with your support group.
The Choice To Leave a Spouse
Roxanne knows choosing to stay with or leave a spouse is an extremely personal decision. For her, their major path of recovery and the start of counseling began in February of 2012. Roxanne decided on a divorce in August of 2015. She says some people know they need to get out immediately.
Others will be able to stay and they will be able to get into recovery. She knows plenty of people who have chosen recovery and their families are doing great.
Roxanne remembers going to a conference by Maurice Harker. He was teaching a class on pornography addiction and a question came up about knowing when it was time to leave the relationship. At this point, Roxanne and her husband were about a year into their journey and she thought that they were doing the work and she was saving him.
Maurice gave an analogy of a tree. He said your life is like a tree and every time your spouse does something which goes against marriage and family, a leaf falls off. And one day, you wake up and the last leaf has fallen and you just know. That was the first step for Roxanne. She started to realize sometimes breaking a family apart is the best thing you can do.
A while later, Roxanne could feel something was wrong. It was Easter weekend and she had family in town, but she felt God tell her that her husband needed to leave on Monday after everyone had gone. Roxanne began to worry maybe she was wrong, maybe he hadn’t done anything, maybe he was telling the truth. But she had ignored enough promptings to know she needed to listen even if she didn’t have proof.
So she told her husband he needed to leave on Monday. He told her that she was crazy, that she needed medication, that she needed help, that he was sober. She told him she didn’t believe him and after that he left house.
Roxanne then went into the closet to clean up and found a key to her husband’s office that had been missing. She immediately knew she needed to use it. She went to the office and pulled up his computer history. There she found all sorts of horrible pornographic things at a much higher level than before. She was disgusted.
Up to this point Roxanne had not confided in anyone outside of her support group and didn’t feel ready to speak to her family. So she kept everything inside and tried to continue on as normal.
That night, her husband brought her a list of eleven things which were wrong with her. He told Roxanne she couldn’t call him a liar, she needed to get medication, and that her inspirations were wrong. At this point Roxanne realized addiction really steals people’s lives. She understood how much he was gaslighting and manipulating her.
She read him what she had found on his computer and he broke down. He went and spoke with their church leader the next day and they spoke with Roxanne’s parents, who prayed with them. Monday night rolled around and Roxanne felt he could stay because he wanted to change.
Roxanne explains sometimes we get a different answer because we are showing our willingness to do the work. Her husband took that opportunity to humble himself and do the work. He didn’t have to, but he did, so Heavenly Father gave him a chance. God still loves him as a child and as a person.
Why Isn’t God Saving Me?
Roxanne says it was important for her to stay many years in her relationship with her first husband so she could have the tools and understanding that she does now. In the beginning it felt like God wasn’t saving her. But in reality He was–just in His own timing.
Sometimes we aren’t ready for the tools God is trying to give us, so He just tries again another way. He doesn’t shake His head at us. He loves us and understands we aren’t ready yet. God never gives up on us.
Advice to Other Women
Roxanne’s advice for women is written in her book. It says, “I wish I could tell every woman who discovers her husband’s secret life, how much she is loved. And as she opens her eyes and heart, she will find a network of people to support her and show her the way she is not alone. You are not alone. There are so many of us beautiful survivors that are awesome and are making it. The key is to take care of you.”
“This is not about him. He made his choices. Those are his, it is not your job to coddle, nurture and support him in his pain. Yes, support him in his recovery, but you can’t fix his sadness and take it away from him. He wasn’t thinking of you when he made those decisions that broke your heart. He’s not sitting with you understanding the depth of despair he put on you. Nope. If he’s in recovery, he’s learning the tools to stay sober and he will do whatever it takes to find freedom from the trap of addiction. This is just a very long road.”
What About the Kids?
Roxanne explains, “People are really scared about what happens to the kids. What do we do?” She went on to explain that it is important to teach children to let God be part of their journey too. “We don’t want it to be their journey, but it is. And the sooner that they can know what truth is and recognize that their body’s saying something’s not right and learn how to see it clearly” that is important.
A Personal Story
Roxanne explained she had an experience with her children (ranging in ages 10-18) when her husband was in rehab. They were praying for him, that all would be well.
“And my kids were really focused. They had even done some fasting so they were skipping their breakfast and praying.” Roxanne when on to explain, “After we were done praying this one particular day, I felt inspired that they needed to know that what they were praying for was being heard, that God was hearing them and that these prayers are for them. So that even though even if their dad did not choose to do the work, even if he didn’t choose into recovery, even if our family got divorced, their prayers were heard and this was their way to build a relationship with God so that they weren’t alone.”
Leaving Kids With a Spouse
Roxanne added that people often ask her, “How do I leave when my child will then be with him? How do I leave if I know they’re going to be abused?” She responds, “The only advice I can give you is that when you do leave, when you take that step in the dark and just trust that God’s gonna take care of them–not keep them from pain but take care of them, they’re going to be able to feel the difference when they’re with you and the when your they’re with their other parent. They will feel what feels healthy. They will feel what feels like love. And then that helps them in their life to be able to manage the things that are coming later on.”
So, the most important thing to teach children is to point them to God. It is also important to teach them a parent’s pornography addiction this isn’t their fault.
Roxanne went on to explain some women choose to keep their family together until all of their children graduate. But she points out, “They’re watching a not a healthy relationship. They’re living in a home where they can feel the pain, they can feel the chaos, they see the abuse, they’re watching how people treat each other. So they’re taking that in. So we think we’re saving them by staying as a family, but sometimes saving them, means showing them what the truth is actually is.”
Roxanne reminds women to make these important decisions “directed with God” to know “when or how.” And to examine your reasons for wanting to stay. She cautions, “If they’re based on fear again, then that is Satan, that’s not God.”
Favorite Bible Verses
Roxanne’s favorite Bible verses which helped her throughout her journey are Proverbs 3:5-6, which reads,
“Trust in the Lord with online all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding in all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path.”
This verses helped Roxanne remember God was going to direct her path, and she couldn’t keep controlling everything. When things were spiraling out of control Roxanne would remind herself, “Trust in Him. He has you. He’s going to direct the path. Let Him do it. It was just one of those things that I could recite over and over that would kind of get me from clenching my fists, to letting go and breathing out. Like just breathing that sigh of relief.”
Second Timothy 1:7, is another favorite verse for Roxanne.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Roxanne reminds us that fear is from Satan. Whereas God gave her power and a sound mind. “So just clear your mind and listen,” Roxanne reminds us.
Resources for Pornography Addiction
Roxanne recommends a few different addiction programs. She started out with a religious 12 step group that is part of the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP). There are also many different community addiction groups, including Sexaholics Anonymous, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous but for sex addiction. There are offshoots of SA, like SA Lifeline. All of these meetings are free, and there is even the option to phone in to meetings for some of these groups. There are also Facebook Groups to help with things like pornography, but Roxanne cautions you to be specific what you are looking for–Christian based, positive and supportive, etc.
For therapists, Roxanne worked with a certified sex addiction therapist or CSAT. She highly recommends people who have this type of training as they understand what you’re feeling and going through on a different level. Roxanne says an addiction needs to be worked first on so a spouse can recognize their behaviors of lying, manipulating, and deceiving before marriage counseling can be effective. You have to work with someone who is living in reality and is clear and safe.
Roxanne also recommends a video to help husbands understand what their wife has gone through with betrayal trauma. This video production is called Helping Her Heal by Dr. Doug Weiss. Roxanne explains “These are for men to listen to so they can understand what they have caused to their spouse so they can really see it clear. And it’s amazing. It’s a beautiful video. It gave me so much validation and I felt yes, that’s exactly what it is. That’s exactly how I feel.”
Other resources could include Roxanne’s Book or podcast:
Roxanne’s Podcast https://www.chooseinpodcast.com/
Roxanne concludes, “If you are suffering or if your family is suffering or if your children have addiction struggles, nobody’s alone. There are resource sources for everybody. This happens with men, women, children–boys and girl, doesn’t matter. This is a Satan problem and a human problem, not just a male problem.”
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