Single Sisters Should Know (about pornography)

discussing-pornography-in-dating-courtship

Editor’s note: If you are interested in helping the creator of this project, Single Sisters Should know, please contact her at singlesistersshouldknow@gmail.com

When I was 17 years old, my best friend and I promised each other that if we were ever seriously dating a guy, no matter how “good” of a guy he was, we would ask him if he viewed pornography.

I wish I could say we were well-informed girls who understood the importance of taking a proactive approach to an, unfortunately, all too common reality. The truth is we were just scared, or at least I was. We learned in Young Women’s that if we ever found out that a young man was involved in pornography, to stay away from him, and that was what we were going to do.

Fast forward seven years, one high school diploma, one bachelor’s degree, three research internships, a summer backpacking in India, four months of humanitarian work in South America, living in two major US cities, and one semester into a masters program later.

I am two months into the best relationship I have ever been in. He is incredible. After one date we both knew we did not want to date anyone else. He has treated me better than anyone I have ever dated, by far. I am not talking about opening my doors and pulling out my chairs-though he does all of that, of course. I am talking about when (two weeks into dating) he had a major test to study for and I had to leave work early due to illness, and he invited me to take a nap at his place, made me dinner, went to my place and got my dirty laundry and washed, dried, and folded it for me, and then basically carried me home. I am talking about respecting my wishes to wait a month to kiss me (so we could get to know one another better before starting a physical relationship), without ever pushing the issue. I am talking about looking up vegetarian restaurants for our first date, even though he really loves meat, because he knew I didn’t eat it.

I mean, THIS GUY was as close to perfect as it gets, right? Served a faithful mission, incredibly intelligent, studying at one of the top universities in the world, home taught all SIX of his home-teechees every month (without waiting until the last day), never gave a second thought the week he was called 4 times to give semi-nearby members blessings (even though it was midterms and he had to pull two all-nighters that week), is an ordinance worker at the temple, serves diligently in his calling, goes out teaching with the missionaries each month, invites non-members to church every month (at least)….need I go on?

So when two months into our relationship I had a prompting to ask him that question, which I had long ago promised my best friend I would ask, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Of course he wasn’t involved in pornography. This was the easiest question I would ever ask.

And then my world crumbled.

I cried as he told me honestly that he had struggled with it for years prior to serving a mission, but had not looked at it once since before his mission, four years ago. He said he understood if I did not want to date him anymore and he would think no less of me if I wanted to walk away. “STAY AWAY.” Those words from my brilliant, faithful, all knowing Young Women’s leaders so many years ago lingered in my head for days. Now was my chance to leave.

But I couldn’t walk away. I loved him and cared about him so deeply already. I knew that if I truly believed in the cleansing and changing power of the atonement I had no reason to leave. So I stayed. The bad him was gone. I didn’t know that person. He disappeared long ago and this new man, a man I look up to so much, replaced him.

It took a couple of weeks of earnest prayer and scripture study to forgive him of his past, and again trust our future together, and then we moved forward. I was so happy to put that all behind us.

Four months later we were long distance and things had changed. He was moody and talking to one another was getting less and less enjoyable with every phone call or Skype session. Late one night on the phone I asked him what was going on. Had our relationship run its course? Did he meet someone else he’d rather date? Were we done? He was silent for 45 minutes. We just stayed on the phone, silent.

He broke down, sobbing, as he told me of his relapse. He had slipped back into using pornography. To say he was devastated is an understatement. He hated himself. He loathed himself. For betraying God, and me, and himself. How did this happen? He had gone over four years without slipping. Hadn’t he beat it?

To this date, I have never witnessed a man so broken.

My response was nothing short of a miracle from God. I had no words but somehow the Spirit encompassed me and God filled me with words of love, support, and encouragement. I felt prompted to promise him I would not break up with him and to send him a journal entry I had made a few days before about all the things I loved about him. By the grace of God only, in that moment I was patient, kind, longsuffering, and charitable. I was love.

It was 4am when we finished that dreadful phone call. I had class in five hours. After an hour and half of lying wide awake in my bed, I walked out to the living room, sat on the couch, and cried. The tears were a mix of hurt, betrayal, anger, and a shattered self-esteem pouring out from inside of me. They were everything I wanted to say to him to hurt him back.

The next few months would be the hardest of my life. I was drowning in thoughts of inadequacy, paranoia over what he could be doing at any moment, doubts as to how much he really liked me, jealousy over any interaction he had with another girl, and my self-esteem, which had been fully intact for years, took a plunge.

I felt impressed to begin researching Church resources for men who struggled with pornography, and was shocked to find all of the resources for their loved ones, particularly their wives. I gave him an ultimatum that he either begin attending a support group and therapy, or we were done.

The details of my life between that phone call and where I am now, sitting next to this same man, who is my husband, could fill a book. Up until that phone call, if anyone had asked me if I would ever even consider dating someone who was actively struggling with pornography I would have laughed and replied with a very loud “OF COURSE NOT!” However with much support from God, often coming through married and single sisters in similar situations,  I was able to make an informed decision to marry my husband, understanding the reality I was choosing.

Now, I have been happily married for three months and they have been the best three months of my life. Does my husband still struggle? Of course. So do I. His first slip after we were married I spent 24 hours in bed crying, with no appetite.

I am learning every day that his addiction has nothing to do with me. I am learning what it feels like to watch the person you care about most fight Satan with all of their being, and sometimes fall short but never give up. I am learning how to love all of someone, when I don’t like parts of him. I am learning what it feels like to develop Christ-like compassion, longsuffering, and charity. I am learning to love like Christ does, and it is the most difficult, and best lesson I have ever received.

And I get to do all of this learning, every day, with my best friend, who is sitting next to me as I write this, telling me I praise him too much in the 5th paragraph. This is a happy life.

So why am I sharing this story with you now? Because I am not alone in this story. Many women out there share my story, and many more are (unknowingly) preparing to join us. We encourage our girls to be married in the temple to a faithful priesthood brother. Well, with an estimated 70% of men in the Church viewing pornography at least once a month, many of which are struggling with a physical/chemical addiction, a number of these women (like myself) will choose to marry amazing, temple worthy priesthood holders who happen to struggle with pornography. Many of these men, like my husband, are changed men who have to deal with the long-term consequences of poor decisions made years ago.

My husband despises pornography more than anyone I know. More than I could even begin to understand. He once told me that if he had understood, as a teenager, the impact of his decision to begin viewing pornography on his future spouse and family, or on himself, he would have never even been tempted to look.

I want to make very clear for women currently dating someone who struggles with pornography that I do NOT share my story to convince you to marry him. It is OKAY to walk away. Marrying a porn-involved/addicted partner is not, and should not be, the solution for everyone. Do not think any less of yourself if you decide to leave.

This story is meant to plant a seed. A seed of conversation with our single sisters about the reality of pornography. Hopefully a conversation that is positive and will serve to help our sisters make informed decisions in their dating and marriage choices.

This story is also meant to be a call for more stories. Your stories, and the stories of other women like me. I am in the process of creating an online space for these women to find information, connect with each other, and hopefully be able to hear some of your stories and advice. In addition to your stories, I am asking for your opinions. I would appreciate your advice about what information to include or leave out, how to reach these women, or even what to title this new direction. I am reaching out for support and friends. We owe it to our single sisters to prepare them, to enable them to be able to choose whether or not to enter the situation many of us now find ourselves in. A choice I know many of you never had.

I want all young girls to promise each other that if they ever get serious with a guy they will ask him about his involvement with pornography, and the law of chastity, past and present. And not so they can automatically run away or shame and belittle him. I want them to have the opportunity to make an informed decision, like I did, so that we can become the “help meet” our loved ones deserve. This is how we help our brethren; this is how we better ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

Please send comments, advice, and feedback to singlesistersshouldknow@gmail.com

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For some resources on our site for LDS singles, see this post: For those dating/engaged to someone who has dealt with a pornography addiction/compulsion

Another recommended resource is Don Hilton’s book, He Restoreth My Soul. In this book, he talks about why almost all LDS returned missionaries who dealt with pornography problems before their missions return to pornography after their missions. Elder M. Russell Ballard also recently talked about how missions and marriage don’t cure pornography addictions. But there is help and hope! If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, help is available. The LDS Addiction Recovery program, Sexaholics Anonymous, or other resources can be helpful. Qualified therapists are also recommended by those who have walked this path.