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5 Ways You can Support Your Partner as They Kick Their Porn Habit

By September 26, 2019 No Comments
This post contains selected portions from an article originally posted on Verily by Andrew Mentock. Edited for length and content. 8 minute read.

Perhaps you and your partner have already had “the talk” about porn. If not, you should. If you’re avoiding the subject because you’re afraid of what you might hear, that’s all the more reason to do it. No, it’s not easy to hear that your loved one struggles with porn addiction and choosing to stay with them as they try to kick the habit isn’t easy either.

I know this because my girlfriend and I were in this position not too long ago.

Watching porn wasn’t an addiction per se, but it was a habit I had developed when I was 13. Often when I was in my room and felt lonely or bored, my mind would wander. Soon after that my fingers would click on my keyboard where they would search for porn. It wasn’t always conscious, but looking back I see now how my aimless searches on the internet were an attempt conceal a deep feeling of emptiness with hyper-stimulating images of sex.

Conversation Blueprint

In the first month after I started dating my current girlfriend, we had an open and loving discussion about porn. The conversation came up when we realized we wanted our relationship to get more serious. She began by asking me if I watched porn. I answered honestly that, yes, I did. Then she said she would like me to stop. She spoke gently but was explicit in explaining why porn couldn’t be a part of our relationship. I was able to share my struggle with porn, and we both agreed that it was crucial for me to quickly give up this relationship-damaging habit.

RelatedHow Shame Made My Struggle With Porn Worse, Not Better

It was difficult as I struggled to kick this decade-long habit, as it is giving up anything you have done hundreds of times. I had to check myself when my reflex was to reach for porn, instead of real intimacy with my girlfriend. I had to create boundaries around my personal time to resist the temptation of a mindless search. Luckily I didn’t have as serious an obsession as many do, but my girlfriend stood beside me, and still supports me, and it has made all the difference.

I have committed to ending my viewing habits of porn once and for all, and her confidence in me has made avoiding porn, which is always only one click away, much easier.

This experience has taught us both a lot about the helpful (and not-so-helpful) ways that a significant other can best support their partner through the difficult journey of ditching porn. Here are five ways you can be their support while they kick a toxic habit (or addiction) to the curb. And while the following language is about a heterosexual relationship, this can apply to relationships of all kinds where either partner is struggling.

Brain Heart World

1. Remain compassionate.

It can be easy to assume that if your partner really loves you and wants to be truly intimate with you, then abstaining from porn would be easy. This is not the case. Research shows that the sexual imagery can have a very real effect on the consumer’s brain. It’s likely that they have been exposed to porn since adolescence, when they began turning to porn for arousal and comfort.

RelatedWhy Being Anti-Porn & Anti-Shame Go Hand In Hand

As the partner of someone struggling to let go of porn, it’s crucial that you try to see the other person’s perspective. Understanding the addictive nature will help to cultivate compassion for your love as they quit. They are going to have urges, and may even have instances of failure. But don’t dismiss the effort. In fact, the best way to protect yourself and be there for them is to be aware of those efforts. If they are progressing, encourage them in that. If they are not making an effort, it might be best for you to end the relationship. So remember that no matter how much they love you, they may find that a chemical addiction is working against them.

2. Don’t police them.

My girlfriend has not once checked in with me to see if I am watching porn. It’s not your job to police your partner or be their “avoidance partner.” Nevertheless, I did find it helpful when my girlfriend asked me more generally how I was doing.

By showing that she cares and giving me the space to either talk about the struggle or not, I feel safer opening up to her.

RelatedHow To Tell If Your Partner Is Struggling With Porn & What To Do If They Are

Affirming words such as “I am so proud of you! I never doubted you,” will allow your partner to also feel comfortable telling you when their struggles have been high. Reinforce this by letting them know that you appreciate them having told you, and by not being upset with them for having been triggered. What they do after that is up to their own self-control and motivation, but knowing that you are in their corner will help immensely.

Store - General

3. Stay informed.

The movement of people who want to give up porn is growing strong. In Time magazine’s feature, “Porn: Why Young Men who Grew up with Internet Porn Are Becoming Advocates for Turning It Off,” we see that many men (and women) are becoming advocates for quitting porn because they have firsthand experience of the rewiring effect porn can have on their brain.

RelatedYour Brain On Porn: Gary Wilson’s Online Guide To The Latest Science & Research

Today, there are also a number of support groups, Reddit pages, and other tools at your partner’s disposal. I was reassured by knowing that they were there, but I did not end up using them. What’s important is that you know what they are, and that you stay informed about porn addiction.

My girlfriend shared with me a funny yet informative clip of the sexually liberated Russell Brand talking about his own struggles with porn. This gave me someone to relate to and showed me that she was thinking about me.

WATCH: Russell Brand Talks Sex, Softcore, & Hardcore Porn

When I discovered “The Great Porn Experiment” TEDx talk, I was so excited to share it with her. The speaker in this clip has an optimistic take on the future of men and their abilities to rid their lives of porn, as opposed to accepting their demise like others have.

4. Be active with them.

Their temptation will be at its highest when sitting at home alone, mindlessly searching the internet, with seemingly nothing better to do. This is similar to leaving an alcoholic alone at a bar. You can’t be with your partner every moment (nor should you), but if you know there are certain days or times where they are accustomed to unproductive downtime, plan intentional and purposeful time with one another.

It could be a convenient date night, enjoying a movie on the couch with one another, or even as simple as taking the dog for a walk in the park together.

RelatedTips To Quit: What Sleep, Food, And Exercise Have To Do With Porn Recovery

This way you have more intentional and purposeful time with one another, while they feel less burdened by loneliness and complacency at home. Again, your time together doesn’t have to be stressful or forced, but the less time they spend unoccupied the better their chances of success.

People Are Not Products - Black

5. Don’t act like a substitute for porn.

Do not alter your own romantic life to act as a substitute for porn. You may be tempted to become a substitute for porn in any physical intimacy you have with your partner. In particular, they may ask you to do something more adventurous, so that they are less tempted to watch porn. The reality is that it would be reinforcing damaging behavior.

Related: How These Women Supported Their Partners Through Compulsive Porn Habits

Your partner is quitting porn for their own health, and so that they can take care of a healthy intimate relationship. Showing them the benefits of nonsexual intimacy will be very encouraging, as it has been for my relationship. Just holding someone in my arms or holding hands has never felt so good, and has never been so important. I do not ever want to lose that feeling of importance, and I know that if I watch porn I will.

I have not watched porn since my girlfriend and I had our original discussion. With your support, not dependency, your significant other can do the same. They will do it for your relationship, but it’s important that they will have also done it for them self. He or she can do it without you, as many others have done it alone, but your support will make giving up porn much easier and more fulfilling.

Click here to read the original Verily article by Andrew Mentock.

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Why This Matters

We continually encourage couples to make decisions about their relationship that’s best for them. Sometimes, that choice is to go their separate ways, and sometimes, that choice is to stay and support each other through the struggles porn brings. It all depends on the couple, and we respect the decisions people make for themselves. There’s no “correct” answer, seeing as every relationship is different.

Related: 4 Ways To Support Yourself & Your Partner Through A Struggle With Porn

At Fight The New Drug, we get messages like this asking for help all the time:

“Hey FTND, I love what you guys do and I just wanted to say thank you! My boyfriend has struggled with porn pretty much our whole relationship and it was only until recently that he finally understands how it’s affected our relationship. He came to me and asked me if I could help him kick this addiction. I was wondering if you had any good resources I could use to help me know how I can be a support and maybe some resources or advice to help him? I’m sorry you probably get messages like this all the time but if you could send me anything I would appreciate it so much!”

It can be so frustrating to feel helpless in helping your partner overcome their habit. It’s their personal battle to fight, but you can be a huge encouragement and support to them through it all.

RelatedEven After My Divorce, I Don’t Believe Porn Is A Dating Deal-Breaker

In the end, love wins over shaming, and teamwork wins over fighting alone. Following these tips won’t guarantee a successful recovery, but it won’t hurt their chances, either. Regardless of the struggle, love is always worth fighting for when both partners are in it.

Fortify

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your compulsive behavior, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Get Help – For Partners

If your partner is struggling with porn, you are not alone—know that there is hope, and there is help. As you navigate this difficult situation, there are supportive communities and resources available to you. Below, we’ve got a non-exhaustive list of several resources for those experiencing betrayal trauma. Because this isn’t a complete resource list, feel free to look for more betrayal trauma resources that are catered to your specific needs and/or location. Note that while both men and women can experience betrayal trauma, some of the resources are gender-specific. Please also note that while some of the resources below are religiously affiliated, Fight the New Drug is not.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Recover

Bloom

Addo Recovery

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