This post is third of a 4-part series: Overcoming Pornography Addiction
When I came across the blog Couples Against Pornography I was entranced by the first post I read and then the next and the next. I immediately liked their facebook page AND signed up for their newsletter. I don’t ever do that, but I’m a BIG time believer in their cause. Their blog is full of hope, support, success stories and good writing.
If there is one, underlying message of their blog it is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Couples all over the world WANT to overcome pornography, but the task can seem impossible. Today, I’ve asked Blake to teach us a little about how they supported their marriage while overcoming the addiction. A HUGE thanks to Blake and Liesel for being a beacon of hope to so many couples. – Celeste
A few years after I was married, I came to a startling conclusion: I had a pornography addiction. A problem that had nagged at me since I was young had followed me into my marriage and was now reaching a level that I could not control. I tried hard to eliminate the problem on my own, but for various reasons it kept popping back up. I simply could not win. So, though I was terrified to do it, I finally sought my wife’s help. I needed insight and strength I simply did not have on my own, plus I wanted the best marriage I could have. That wasn’t going to happen unless I opened up and talked to my wife.
I can tell you that was one tough conversation. And, to be frank, the next few months were pretty miserable. Neither of us were quite sure how to handle this sudden wedge between us, and we struggled to regain our sense of direction as a couple.
But I can also tell you it got better. Because we were both committed to each other and our marriage, we actively sought ways to meet each other’s needs. I learned to communicate with her. She learned to recognize when I needed to feel loved. We both learned what addiction meant and how to best plan for and overcome it.
So how did we get to this point? With a lot of work. With a lot of planning, goal setting, implementing, and revising. Overcoming any addiction takes a proactive plan and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win—just like strengthening a marriage.
I have many tips for couples working on a pornography problem together, and I am happy to share any and everything I have learned. If you are facing a pornography problem and have questions about my experience, please feel free to contact me. But if I were to boil my advice down to five top tips, they would be:
5. Ask for Help
As addicts, we can’t overcome our addiction on our own. That’s precisely why our problem has developed to the point of an addiction. We need to open up and rely on someone else for insight, help, and accountability. I worked with multiple people to help me get on my feet and stay there: my church leaders, a professional counselor (yes, I would recommend professional help) and my wife. Each played a different and vital role in my ability to fight pornography, and I am very glad that I worked up the courage to start talking.
4. Find Your Own Reasons
There are so many reasons for giving up pornography (it distracts, it desensitizes, it offends, it violates morals, etc). But you will only successfully overcome a pornography problem once you find your own reasons for giving up and eliminating pornography from your life. All the reasons in the world won’t be enough to truly give up pornography unless those reasons come from within. To give it up, you have to want to give it up. Brainstorm all your reasons for giving up pornography, write them down, then give yourself constant reminders. There will be days that your resolve is low, and you will need to rely on those reminders from the past. Make sure you have put those reminders in place (as a side note, I will reiterate those reasons and reminders should come from the person fighting the addiction, not from his spouse. These need to be internal motivators).
3. Give Up EVERY Access Point
Yes, I said every access point. The need to give up every access point is why you need to have your own reasons for giving up pornography. When you have an addiction, two things are going to eliminate your rational thought and drive you to focusing only on giving into that addiction: a trigger and an access point. Talk to your spouse about both. What triggers your cravings? Is it an emotion? A certain situation? Then plan for ways to eliminate those triggers. You need to have a plan to keep your brain in rational mode.
Next, because we live in a world where pornography triggers are everywhere, start brainstorming every access point available to you. The time to eliminate an access point is while you are thinking rationally and planning ahead, not when you are in the clutches of a craving driving you to irrationality. So work with your spouse to put barriers in place. Put filters and passwords on your computer, phone, and gaming console. Give your wife the smartphone. Yes, you will be giving up some freedoms. Yes, giving up those freedoms can feel incredibly annoying. But those freedoms are not more important than your marriage.
2. Don’t Give Up
There will be days that you feel overcoming pornography is impossible. There will be times that you relapse. But don’t give up. Fighting a pornography addiction is a marathon. It is a long hike up a steep mountain. But falling on your face during that hike doesn’t mean the hike is over. Just get back up and keep climbing. As you plan ahead, set goals, and really push yourself to eliminate triggers and hold yourself accountable, those falls will become less and less frequent. The cravings will diminish. And life will feel much more normal again.
1. Be Honest
The most important thing for our marriage has been complete honesty. This can feel so difficult sometimes. Confessing to your wife that you messed up can feel impossible. We all want to feel respected and loved. But trust me, once your wife understands how an addiction really works, she will also understand how hard it is to avoid a relapse. That may hurt her, but it is not fatal. Lying to your wife, on the other hand, can be fatal. A lack of trust destroys relationships pretty quickly. And when you first confess a pornography addiction, your wife will likely feel that you have been dishonest to her. So you must eliminate all dishonesty and actively work to regain her trust. You regain that trust by showing you are not only working hard, but you are also being totally transparent about it. Talk to her about triggers and access points. Tell her about the emotions that drive you to pornography. Tell her about your failures AND your successes. And always keep your lines of communication open.
My heart goes out to any individual and couple facing pornography. It is a tough addiction to deal with. And I have seen so many marriages struggle because of the emotions and mistrust that inevitably seep in. BUT, I also want couples to know that there are others out there who have gone through this and are finding success. There is hope. There is a way forward. And while the future may feel so dark at times, the right combination of planning, communication, effort, and time can make it feel light again. Your marriage can be strengthened. You can overcome pornography. You can both feel whole again. I wish you the best of luck in doing so.