My husband’s business venture with NetAngel has been quite a learning experience for both of us. He has had the opportunity to meet lots of new people, learn new technologies in order to build parts of the filter, and practice staying focused without clear deadlines and management. For me, the learning has been quite different. I have learned a lot about those who have struggled with the pain of addiction, about the spouses of those who are affected by pornography and their road back to normality, and about the fact that pornography steamrollers part of almost every person’s life in one way or another.
So let’s start with those who have struggled with addiction. I have grown up in the LDS (Mormon) church all my life. Within that sphere, pornography is often a taboo subject. People skirt around it for fear of being judged or offending others. It is not talked about often, and those who are in the middle of a struggle with it don’t dare say anything.
As a teenage girl, one of the beliefs I had and heard a lot about was, “I will never date/marry someone who has (or has had) a porn addiction,” thinking that this will give us a better chance of staying together with our spouse throughout our lives rather than having a marriage end in betrayal and divorce. You see a couple large problems right there, the main of which I want to discuss is the idea that there is no road back from pornography; that once your life has been “tainted”, there is no way to get rid of that. That is simply not true. While it is true that it will still affect your life, there is still a way to come back from pornography. My own marriage is a testament that someone can fight porn addiction-- with the support of faith, family and friends-- and win.
Something else I learned is that those who struggle with pornography often are those you don’t expect-- an upstanding father of several children that regularly attends your church; a family member; an innocent child; a teen whose parents have taught him right from wrong since he was able to understand words; a grandfather; a friend; a co-worker. For me, there are real faces behind each of these. In this discovery, I realized that people with porn addictions are not necessarily bad people. Most of them are just regular people, looking for happiness like Glenn described in his article, Pornography isn’t the problem; it’s the solution. They have just, unfortunately, found a source of solace that doesn’t have any substance to it and leaves them feeling emptier than they were before. They have been misled, and need connection from friends and loved ones to bring them back to the present and find happiness in real things.
This brings me to the spouses and partners of those who are struggling. I have some experience with this area, though my experience is a little different. Feeling betrayed and hurt, angry and disappointed, and grieving, are all normal emotions for someone in this position. However, as I have said in one of my other posts, your reaction can make all the difference. Eric confided to me about his addiction when he was in the recovery stages, after we had been married for about a year and a half. To this day, I am grateful to God that I was prompted to respond without anger. He was afraid of my reaction, probably wondering if this would be bad enough that I would want to get up and leave, and he had even been mostly clean from it for 4 years. I was able to talk with him about it some, but I had to take some time to think about it by myself, and to sort through my emotions before being able to discuss it further and really working past it.
That day changed a lot for me, but not in the way many people would expect. It showed me many things about those who struggle with pornography, changed the way I felt about them, and it also showed me a lot about myself. It also drove home the truth that when you can respond with kindness and respect in a critical time, you lay the building blocks for the recovery and strengthening of both you and the other person.
Now, I know that many spouses and partners have quite different situations than I did. The most difficult would probably be the relationships that have lasted for years with unknown porn addiction in the background that affects aspects of the relationship without the spouse ever being aware of the why’s. I have never experienced this first-hand, but the same principles can still apply if your spouse is willing to begin recovery. Give yourself space to sort out your emotions. Sometimes that involves physical separation (Geoff Steurer, ucapconference.com). However, respectful and open communication can give your spouse the tools they need to connect with you to begin their own recovery. Getting to a point in your own recovery where you can offer your support to your partner if they are seeking to recover is a worthy goal.
Now, I speak to those who are like I was once-- on the outside of this situation looking in, wondering why it’s so hard to escape the grasp of pornography or saying that could never possibly happen to someone you know or love. Most likely, it has ALREADY happened. You never know who is struggling, and you never know how your influence has helped or hurt that struggle. If you can find ways to reach out and connect with others, show them you genuinely care about them, and give them someone safe to talk with, you could be helping to pull someone out of the dark hole that is addiction, or helping someone who is lonely to stay away from addiction as a source of happiness.