This post come from Marlee, one of the WOPA (wives of pornography addict) wives who blog, reprinted here with her permission. (Information below is written directed to women, but the same information would be applicable if a man was dating a woman who has used pornography in the past.)
Do you ever talk to imaginary friends? I do. I give them advice, in fact. Sometimes I want so much to pass on what I’ve learned about surviving a pornography addiction that I preach a sermon to someone in my head. Someone new to the problem, someone who could avoid so many of the mistakes I’ve made.
A few days ago, a friend on the Hope and Healing Forum asked the question, “Why would God let me marry him?” I think nearly all of us have asked that question, and God has answered it for each of us in unique ways. But the question reminded me of one of my imaginary conversations. The one where I talk to a girl who just got engaged. And she just found out through her finance’s own admission, that he once had “a problem” with pornography. She’s shocked, she’s scared, and she is wondering, what should I do now? Here’s what I would tell her:
This road hasn’t been easy, but I am glad that I married G because he is who I love. I wouldn’t change who I married. But there is one thing I wish I could go back in time and change. It was the day after we had the “the talk.” The one where he told me he’d had issues with pornography in his youth, he’d repented and it was long over. I spent that day deep in thought and prayed a lot. It seemed like a scary admission, but it flew in the face of everything else I knew about him and so it wasn’t very hard to dismiss. After one day of soul searching, I was ready to fall back into his arms and move forward with our wedding plans.
Here’s what future me would say to past me, “I know you love him and want to ride off into the sunset with your prince. I know how he makes you laugh and all the good emotions that wash over you the second you see his face. He told you it’s no longer a problem and you believe him. Your heart is good and you want to trust him. His heart is good and he wants to keep this evil out of his life forever. But his involvement with pornography was part of a compulsive behavior. It falls in the realm of addiction, and this realm is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. The atonement is real, and you can believe him when he says he repented and he is clean. But his sincerity and your love will not shield you from the addiction returning. There are layers of complexity to unravel and it is simply not a problem that if you pray harder and read your scriptures more diligently, it will all go away. Before you move forward in this engagement, you must see a counselor. Someone who is trained in addiction recovery and can give you all the information you need to stay ahead of this beast. He or she will help you prepare for this new life, should you choose to follow this path. The path ahead won’t be awful. If you have the right tools, addiction can be overcome! There can and will be love without measure, beautiful children, and the light of the gospel coupled with Christ’s love. Don’t walk away from your dreams of a happy ending, but don’t hide in the shadow of ignorance either. Talk to your parents, your bishop, and your Savior. Gather your courage to tell your fiancee that although you believe him that his sins are in the past, you want to see a counselor together. You don’t doubt his sincerity, you simply doubt his awareness of how deep addiction runs. You can do this. You can still have the marriage you want. But be aware that the marriage you want may require some very specific instructions that you can only get from a professional. Hang in there friend, some of the best experiences of your life are just around the corner. And can I come to your wedding? I’d love to experience that day all over again.”
As a side note, I would also encourage every girl recently engaged to find out if her fiancee has had a problem with pornography in the past. It may be awkward to bring up, but the knowledge gained, regardless of his answer, will be absolutely worth it.
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Editor’s note: It may be wise to have the discussion even earlier in a serious relationship. Statistics show that a majority of young adult men have a problem with pornography at some level. Be educated about how addiction works and the impact it can have on an individual and on a marriage (not in a paranoid way, but so you can be informed). Be courageous and put the topic on the table (seeking God’s guidance, of course) if you are pursuing a serious relationship.
Following are some resources that we hope might be helpful.
Editor’s note: SA Lifeline recently did a major upgrade of their website, which unfortunately meant that many of the old links no longer work. For information about porn and dating, see their free online PDF about pornography. Sections about porn and dating start on p. 28. Other links that were listed below have also been found to be broken. Not sure what has happened with some of them, but I’ve tried to find a few more resources on the topic. Be sure to listen to Elder M. Russell Ballard’s CES broadcast talk from March 4, 2014.
Preparing for Healthy Intimacy: A Message for Singles Part 1 (see below video for Part 2…series continues beyond that) — SA Lifeline
Some perspectives from a recovering LDS addict (may help you understand more about how addiction works, why it often comes back, and how recovery worked for him):
– Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship
– The ABCs of porn addiction — information about why men often cannot stop…but how recovery is possible!…understanding how lust is at the root of pornography use/addiction, and how understanding that root cause (using lust as a drug to cope with life’s stresses, problems, boredom)