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I’m Terrified to Tell My Partner I Still Struggle with Porn

"My wife would be extremely hurt by this, and the last thing I want to do is hurt her. I’ve never told her about the struggle, but I’ve said quite a few things that have suggested an old habit."

By September 20, 2022No Comments

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

We received this story from a Fighter who wishes he could open up about his struggle with porn, but fears the consequences from his partner if he does. In the end, honest, open communication from both partners can make a world of difference in this fight for healthy relationships.

Hey! I read a lot of the posts on FB and read one this morning that convinced me to write an anonymous note.

If it helps, awesome. If not, don’t worry about it. But here’s my story:

I was heavily addicted to porn before my marriage. I can remember times where the entire day was spent struggling with it. Now, eight years later, I still feel the draw and even sometimes—more than I’d like to admit—fall backward into it.

Related: How Avoiding Shame Can Help Partners Who are Healing From Betrayal Trauma

My wife would be extremely hurt by this, and the last thing I want to do is hurt her. I’ve never told her about the struggle, but I’ve said quite a few things that have suggested an old habit. She knows, I’m sure, that I’ve been there before…but I do not believe she knows that it comes up now and then to this day.

She is the type to always take the side of the cheating victim in the movies, while I sit back quietly and pretend I feel the same way but hold back any condemnation for the cheater. Because I am that cheater. So I get it.

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Weaponized shame affects our relationship

I don’t want to keep struggling—I don’t want this. But she wouldn’t understand that—I’ve seen her use shame as a weapon in situations like ours. Therefore, I do not have her to go to when I struggle. It would ruin our marriage.

I didn’t want to write this. I don’t want to take the chance on revealing anything about me. But I felt compelled to share this morning while reading another post from an anonymous writer and thought I should.

For the man who struggles and has a partner he can’t go to—you’re not alone.

Related: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: What Partners of Porn Consumers Want You to Know

For the wife who doesn’t understand it and condemns it unquestionably—consider listening, consider understanding, consider not using shame. I beg you.

Choosing love in the midst of something as painful as this is not easy, not at all. And also consider that my struggle is not something that can just stop in its tracks—for most of us, it takes years.

Developing new pathways without porn

In my studies for psychology, I learned that everything you learn creates a pathway in your brain. The way you retain information is by repeatedly using that pathway and it’s an actual physiological structure that you can strengthen. It’s how you learn information, and it’s also how you create addictions.

Related: 3 Reasons Not to Rule Out Dating Someone Who has Struggled with Porn

That’s why we can be addicted to things that do not necessarily have an “addictive property.” For example, OCD routines or a Soap Opera.

Throw in some dopamine like you get with drugs, food, and porn, and you not only have a strengthened route, but a chemically pleasing one as well.

Here’s the trick. As much as you can strengthen that route, you can weaken it. You can eventually break it too.

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I’ve been working on this for years, and it gets better. I promise. Think of that addiction like a route you’ve taken before, and take it less often. It’s likely that you can’t stop entirely, immediately. Each day you go down that route a little less, is a day that habit gets weaker.

I know this concept has helped me to slowly kill this habit, and I hope it helps you, whoever you are, reading this.

Related: These 4 Studies Show How Recovering From a Porn Habit is Absolutely Possible

I’m not a victim, I’m a Fighter

I haven’t been porn free, but I am not a victim either. Neither are you, if you’re struggling. I don’t care how overwhelming it is. I know. I’ve been there. Worse than I would ever even type out anonymously.

In the midst of a struggle, you are not some damsel in distress, trapped in a high tower waiting for a knight in shining armor to come and save you. I believe we often think of our bad habits like this. We wait until something happens to save us.

You and I, we are not pathetic. We are not prisoners. We are not victims. We are warriors and we are in this intangible battle that rages.

Related: I Think My Partner is Looking At Porn After Promising Not To—What Do I Do?

This is a war, and we are taking arrows from the enemy left and right. They won’t stop coming either. The question becomes, do we lay down and let the arrows fill us up, or do we keep going even though we know we’re going to take more hits?

We live in a time now where it will always be around us, this sex-saturated culture, and sexual exploitation. It will always be there. We may dodge a few arrows here and there, but the harsh truth is that technology has put us in the center of a war. Don’t get me wrong, technology can be used for great things, but we are treading dangerous territory like nothing ever before, truly.

Related: So You Can’t Stop Watching Porn Even Though You’ve Tried—What Do You Do?

Those little ads at the bottom of an innocent article you were reading out of boredom that show more than enough to get your heart pumping? Arrows. Take a different route, there are arrows on that one. Weaken that route by going somewhere else. And if you go there and take a hit, think of it as a reminder that you are not in that tower. You are on the battlefield.

Get out of the tower and live your life despite the arrows. That thing is burning down and it will take you with it when it falls. Don’t be a victim, take the hits, and keep fighting. Because in the end, I know it will be worth it.

I write this knowing it may expose me. That sucks. But I have to take my own advice. I hope you do too.

M.

Conversation Blueprint

The importance of honesty and openness

It’s admirable that this Fighter didn’t fall into a victim mentality with his struggle, and want to emphasize that we highly encourage open and honest communication about porn within relationships at any stage. Honesty is crucial in a relationship where a porn struggle might be involved.

We want to be clear that it is okay for partners to feel upset by their significant other’s struggle with porn, and it is never the responsibility of a partner to “fix” their significant other’s struggle with porn. With all of that in mind, having open, honest lines of communication in a relationship—aimed toward love and understanding—can make a world of difference in the fight.

And honestly, there is only one sure way to know if a partner is struggling with pornography: communication.

Even when it’s tough and heartbreaking, talking through things can be a huge help in finding resolution, if that’s what both partners desire. And if resolution and reconciliation isn’t wanted by both partners, that’s okay, too. Everyone will respond to this issue in a way that is unique to them.

Related: My Girlfriend Watches Porn Behind My Back. What Do I Do?

The research is clear—porn is not a harmless pastime, especially when it’s hurting a romantic partner. But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.Copy  According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182Copy 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

Fortify

Porn kills love through secrecy

Let’s talk more about shame.

We always say that porn kills love, and one way porn can do that is because of the secrecy and deep shame felt by those who haven’t yet been broken free from porn. If their partner finds out about their private struggle, the hiding then can make the confrontation feel much worse.

Another way porn can kill love is through the betrayal that partners often feel when they learn about their significant other’s secret porn habit.

The pain goes both ways.

Related: I Think My Partner is Looking At Porn After Promising Not To—What Do I Do?

The only sure way to avoid these issues in a relationship is to throw it out into the light, and talk openly about it as early as possible. If your partner is a habitual consumer of porn who doesn’t have an awareness it can be harmful, try to express to them the harmful effects it can have, and especially how their viewing it makes you feel. Have a totally open and honest dialogue that comes from a place of love and not shame.

And as the affected partner, try your best to see things from their point of view, and avoid make them feel shameful for what they’ve seen (chances are, they may already feel that shame). Try to be loving, supportive, and open when you address it if your heart is invested in continuing the relationship. If they truly care about you and your feelings, they will listen to you, and they will ideally open up about what they’ve been dealing with, too. Honest communication goes both ways.

Related: What I Did When I Found Out My Boyfriend Watches Porn Behind My Back

Shame and shaming make a struggle worse, not better

If a struggling partner admits what’s been going on in their fight, be careful not to judge or shame. As their partner, you may feel hurt, and understand that are likely dealing with a serious issue that started years before your relationship. Seeing as the average age of first exposure to porn is before age 13, their porn struggle very likely predated your relationship—their struggle is not personal, even though it can be very hurtful.

Judging and shaming do not solve the problem, and just because they’re struggling, that doesn’t have to mean it’s automatically the end of your relationship if neither of you want it to be.

Related: Your Partner Just Told You They Struggle with Porn. Now What?

Let’s face it: having a desire to watch porn doesn’t automatically turn someone into a “gross” or perverted human being. It means that they’re human, hardwired with an interest in sex. But porn has ultimately been shown to be hurtful to partners, which is why honest communication is so important to thriving relationships.

Let’s fight for love together by being transparent, honest, and anti-shame, whether you’re struggling, or you’re the partner of someone who is.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out 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 unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

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 is a non-exhaustive list of several resources for those experiencing hurt because of their partner's porn consumption. Note that this isn’t a complete resource list.

Bloom    Addo Recovery

Disclaimer: For those who may find themselves involved in this sensitive situation, their responses can differ. This is why resources need to fit the specific needs of whoever is seeking them. Some of these resources are gender-specific, others are religiously-affiliated, others use a variety of approaches. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization hoping to provide access to resources that are helpful to those who need support. Including this list of recommendations does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug.

If this post inspired you to start a conversation about porn with a loved one, we’ve got your back. Let us help you have a successful dialogue—click through our step-by-step conversation guide, Let’s Talk About Porn.

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