From an early age I have had a keen interest in corporal punishment (spanking and caning) and during my single years bought magazines and videos on the subject and visited ladies to act out my fantasies. Before getting married I discussed these interests with my wife, who does not share them, and we hoped they would go away. Now two years into our marriage our sexual relationship is enjoyable but slightly predictable. Therefore, worryingly, I have returned to my habits mentioned above - unknown to my wife. This causes tremendous guilt as well as cost and it is addictive. I have prayed to the Lord in confession and asked for help but so far none seems to have come. I simply cannot discuss this with any of the elders at church. Equally my wife would be devastated.

It’s good you have confessed to God, but you also need some practical help, which will involve you taking steps to help yourself. Don’t wait passively to be rescued. I don’t think you are going to break out of this problem by yourself, so I suggest you pick someone from church and ask if you can be accountable to them, as well as organising some professional help.

You have fed an unhealthy sexual arousal pattern for many years, causing it to strengthen. This will need planned strategies to weaken it and instead strengthen healthy ways of getting turned on between you and your wife. It will be important for you to grow together in creativity in your lovemaking, exploring sensuality for each of you, without this crossing into addictive hooks. I would encourage you to take initiative in this, thinking through how you can tailor your times of love making to be most romantic and pleasure inducing for your wife. Make her enjoyment your focus. Please don’t blame her for any sexual boredom between you. Take responsibility for this and lead in love.

There are pleasures for you to find in sex that are mutually uplifting, not degrading one person beneath the other; sex that honours and worships the other, rather than creating an unequal slave/master fantasy. 1 Peter 5:3 reveals the attitude God wants us to have in relationships in the church, but it would also apply to marriage when he says, ‘do not lord it over those entrusted to you’. Similarly, Romans 12:10 tells us to ‘honour one another’. Sex should honour and treasure the human body rather than hurt it.

It’s time to face the skeletons in your cupboard that have felt happy in the acts of inflicting pain and the dynamics of power. Something has caused your interest in corporal punishment. Acknowledge what the roots are and ask God for healing as well as new learning in those places. Work to gain understanding of the drives within you and learn how to dissipate them. Take time in prayer to give God space to heal you of the damaged roots that have caused this sexual problem for you.

You also need to work on the addictive side of this problem. Addictive behaviour comes as an outlet for a build up of emotions that have lost their equilibrium. There will be a pattern for you in the cycle you go through before, as well as after, feeling the need to engage in sexualised corporal punishment. It would be a good idea to keep a diary and note down the emotions you go through in this cycle, as well as any ‘trigger’ experiences that push you into this default mechanism. As you identify the build-up emotions and trigger experiences in your cycle, you can then plan alternative ways of coping with these things. This can be agreed with your accountability person or counsellor, with whom you can feedback how effectively you are using these alternative strategies.

For example, you may notice that you often feel lonely, isolated or misunderstood in the build-up period before acting out your addictive sexual fantasy. If that is the case, then alternative strategies will be a list of practical things you can do and emotional things you can believe that will connect you with other people again. This might be that you phone a friend, save birthday or Christmas cards and read over them, or join something like a snooker club that you can go to any time and chat to people. Another thing you can do that often breaks the build up of difficult emotions as well as sexual pressure, is to go for a run in order to change your body chemistry. Plan these and other strategies and use them instead of organising a sexual encounter that will be unhelpful to you and destructive to your marriage. Stick with it. It will take time, but you can do it!