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What Happened When My Boyfriend Told Me About His Porn Addiction

"To find out my other half had struggled with pornography since he was 12 years old was surreal... I knew I had a critical decision to make."

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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.

FTND note: The aim of this post is to challenge the shaming narrative that can happen in this fight against porn, and offer up an alternative narrative via exploring actual, real-life experiences. It is not our intention to imply that anyone is obligated to date/marry someone with a porn struggle, if they do not want to. This person has a story that may look differently from many other former partners of porn consumers, and that’s okay. In the end, it is up to every individual to decide what is best for them—even if that means staying with a significant other who is working through a porn issue.

I was 17 years old when my heart was broken by my boyfriend’s porn habit.

I had been dating my sweetheart for a little over a year when I asked him, out of the blue, if he had a pornography problem. It was honestly more of a formality; I’d always been cautioned to have the “porn talk” with guys I dated, but it had seemed unnecessary with him. He was so good. He was—and is—my best friend. So call it fate, destiny, or something else someone made up in a horoscope, I decided to ask him.

And the answer changed my life.

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

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Why it hurt so badly

To find out my other half had struggled with pornography since he was 12 years old was surreal. Everything happened so fast; I remember my head spinning, my eyes tearing, and my limbs feeling numb.

For an innocent and naïve girl, this was certainly a new world. I’d never even heard the words he confessed when talking about his struggle with porn, let alone knew what they meant. Amidst my extensive sexual vocabulary lesson, my feelings of self-worth and my views on our relationship went straight into the blender.

Related: How Avoiding Shame Can Help With Healing From Betrayal Trauma

I don’t recall this event to solicit pity or even sympathy. We weren’t married, he wasn’t cheating on me, and he hadn’t viewed porn in a while—it could have been so much worse. Even though it hurt at first, I quickly came to realize that the past cannot be undone.

The reason why I recall this event is to bring hope to relationships everywhere and let those struggling know that pornography doesn’t have to be the end.

I watched my boyfriend break that night. I’d seen him cry only once before, but that night I watched wrenching emotional pain suffocate his 18-year-old body. I watched, dazed, as he humbly handed me his entire heart.

He felt the consequences of his actions, no matter how long ago or how changed a person he was. And I learned just how much my heart was capable of feeling. The exchange we had that night was indescribable, such a mix of intimacy, tenderness, and intense heartache that I never want to recreate.

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What should I do next?

I knew I had a critical decision to make. This was a boy I had wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but now, I wasn’t so sure because he had just shared this huge secret he had been hiding for so long.

I could walk away and escape from the inevitable pain and baggage of a relationship weighed down by pornography. I felt I had every right to leave, as any partner would when learning of a huge secret.

Related: Having A Porn Habit Isn’t Just A Personal Thing, It Affects Your Partner Too

But I didn’t leave. I chose not to.

I’d be lying if I told you the next few months weren’t challenging. Try excruciating.

Yet, if I had left, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I learned empathy and compassion. I learned not to judge and to stay away from shame. I learned that weakness and grief are just a couple of strings in life’s guitar that can be tuned out by joy, trust, and love. Ultimately, I learned love is synonymous with sacrifice.

It wasn’t easy, but I chose our story, I chose our relationship, and that meant I had to be willing to do anything for it.

He and I are not perfect, nor will we ever be. But through it all, I learned that light shines through what’s broken.

And I learned that through my broken heart, I can let the light in.

– S.

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For partners who both want to fight

Whether you’re the partner of someone who has an unwanted porn habit, or the one who can’t get control of your own porn habit, you are not alone. Not every story will end with partners working it out, but some do. There’s room for everyone to have their own version of a happy ending, whether that’s with a partner or not.

Keep in mind that, while scientific evidence shows that porn addiction is very real, not everyone who watches porn will become obsessed, compulsive, or addicted. Still, it’s not an insecurity of a partner’s porn habit that can harm relationships, research shows that porn itself can be very harmful to loving partnerships.

Related: Is My Partner’s Porn Habit Harming Our Relationship, Or Am I Just Insecure?

While research shows that consuming porn can fuel relationship issues, research also shows that it is possible to overcome a porn habit and its negative effects.Young K. S. (2013). Treatment outcomes using CBT-IA with Internet-addicted patients. Journal of behavioral addictions, 2(4), 209–215. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.2.2013.4.3Copy Nathanson, A. (2021). Psychotherapy with young people addicted to internet pornography. Psychoanal.Study Child, 74(1), 160-173. doi:10.1080/00797308.2020.1859286Copy  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 

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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