So your husband/boyfriend is addicted to porn…

The most common type of person I hear from is men who are struggling with their porn use or sexual dysfunction. The third most common is women who are struggling in the same way. The second most common is women who are in relationships with porn addicts and looking for guidance. I recently got two more such emails, which I’ll answer here.

The full text of Anon’s letter is below in italics. My comments are in bold.

Good evening! I know it is very late. But I thought I’d reach out to you for help. I have a boyfriend, and we have been together for almost 3 years. I graduate high school soon, and I will soon be going to nursing school. My boyfriend has an addiction. And I didn’t believe that it was real. We are sexually active and I feel like he would rather have porn than me. It makes me feel like he is cheating on me.

Using porn behind your partner’s back is definitely a form of cheating, and you are justified in feeling betrayed. My definition of “cheating” is engaging in any behavior that you’re hiding from your partner because you know it would hurt them–especially sexual or romantic behavior but not exclusive to it.

And it really makes me feel like I’m in competition. I’m extremely hurting. I don’t look at myself the same in the mirror. I’m not comfortable in my own skin and I judge myself by the appearance of the women he watched online.

You’re just be finding out a lot about your partner that you didn’t know. You’ve been together for a long time and may know him better than anyone, but this is a part of his life that he has probably never shared with you. Almost every partner of a porn addict I have ever worked with has felt their partner’s use as a personal rejection. But your boyfriend’s dependence on porn has nothing to do with you not being enough. Many porn addicts I’ve worked with are in relationships with or married to their perfect 10/10 partners, but they still are hooked on porn because they are addicted. That’s not at all the partners’ faults.

Porn has been an influence in your boyfriend’s life since before you ever met. He was a child when he first fell under porn’s influence, and no one warned him or educated him about how it could become an addiction and how it could sap away his desire for his real partner. For a porn addict, using provides a level of stimulation that a real person can never provide. It’s always available, never has any needs of its own, and provides infinite novelty and excitement. Over time, every addict becomes emotionally dependent on their behavior. It becomes their safety blanket, an escape hatch when they are stressed, depressed, lonely, overwhelmed, etc. This can make it very hard to leave behind. However, none of this means that he prefers porn over you in his heart; he’s just been conditioned to it for most of his life.

Tonight, we got in to it. I caught him watching porn. Even after I planned to be intimate tonight. He watches it on seriously anything. He had an iPad and he got it taken away. I hid his computer. I have his account on my phone (so our phones are linked) and he got his Playstation taken away due to the fact he watched girls in YouTube. Well tonight I could tell he’d been up to no good and I questioned him and he admitted he was watching it. ON HIS SCHOOL LAP TOP. And with him being the age he is I feel that could cause serious legal issues as well. I need help understanding how to handle all of this. I’m emotionally drained. I was going to break up with him. I’m still considering it right now. He has tried getting ahold of me the entire evening and I’ve hit the decline button. What if he is using me for sex to fill his addiction? After our huge fight he found you on the internet. So I watched some of your videos and I cried … watching all of them. And I can’t wrap my head around it. So I did more research and found your email. I really need your help. I hope you received this email! Thanks so much for your time.

You can’t make your boyfriend quit using porn. That can only happen if he makes the choice for himself that he no longer wants porn in his life. If he is a porn addict though, then that choice will just be the beginning of his journey. He’ll need a lot of education, support, guidance, and determination to stay pornfree. Recovery can be difficult, but it’s very possible and very worth it for him, whether or not you two stay together.

I won’t tell you to stay or leave. What I can say is that there is hope. I’ve seen many couples recover together from one partner’s porn addiction and come out stronger, closer, and more in love on the other side. I’ve also seen women decide that the best thing for themselves is to leave and move on. Both are legitimate choices.

I recommend that you both read my book if you haven’t. It may answer many of your questions. You can get the PDF for free here.

Mark Chamberlain and his book, Love You, Hate The Porn
If you do decide to stay, I also recommend this book, which is my favorite text for couples healing from a porn addiction together.

Our second letter comes from…let’s call her Anonym.

Noah, I want to thank you for your YouTube channel and website and for being a ray of hope on this very important problem in our society. Thank you for making yourself available to people like my husband and myself.

People like you and your husband are why I decided to do this, and I don’t regret it for a second!

My husband and I have been married for 6 months now and have been together for a little over 2 years. When we started dating he didn’t waste any time in telling me about his porn addiction. Because of his honesty and vulnerability, we obviously moved forward with our relationship and I knew it would be a long road to his recovery as he told me he started watching porn as a kid and it was his introduction to sex and has shaped much of his identity. He says he wants freedom and has recently reached out to therapists who specialize in this and so we are I guess on the way. I found your channel in trying to do my own research to gain more understanding of what porn does and how being addicted to it can affect someone’s life. 

Honesty and openness are great signs. Healing from an addiction is generally not possible until the addict opens up and accepts support and guidance, at least with a few key people. However, accepting that you have an addiction and being honest about it are just a couple of the first steps. This does not necessarily mean that the addict is committed to recovery, and some addicts will spin their wheels in this way for years (intentionally or unintentionally). This may be their way of mollifying loved ones while still indulging their addiction, not yet willing to take the necessary action to really heal and live pornfree.

We waited to have sex on our wedding night and all through our honeymoon, things were fine. It was great and I thought we were developing a healthy sexual relationship.

On our wedding day, he told me he was committed to recovering from this addiction and hadn’t watched porn in 3 days. Now, I wasn’t naive enough to think he’d never do it again, but at the same time I guess that gave me hope?

What was he doing to recover? Did he have a support group? Accountability? Is this something you regularly talked about, or was it largely unspoken and unaddressed?

We didn’t speak of it again until a few days ago.

Largely unaddressed, then.

About a month into our marriage, he just pulled away. He stopped initiating sex, pulled away when I tried to, and we’ve only had sex a very few times and very sporadically and only when he initiates. I’ve been so angry, hurt, alone and confused. So I asked him if he’s been watching porn and he said yes. I’m devastated but he still says he wants to be free. 

I guess my question is… how do I support him on this path? How can I help? What do I do? 

Sincerely,

Anonym

There is only so much that you can do. You can’t become his prison guard, pushing him into recovery and policing his behavior. I’ve seen many wives try that, and it doesn’t work out. He needs to take responsibility for his recovery and not accept failure as an option. What does a man truly in recovery look like? Well, he will

  • Seek guidance in the form of therapy, support groups, coaching, readings, etc.
  • Share insights and progress with you without you having to ask.
  • Accept protections and limitations on his devices that will keep him accountable and protect him from acting on impulses.
  • Actively be interested in rebuilding trust by being transparent and honest.
  • Admit when he’s had a slip and make significant change in order to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

If you’d like to read more along this line, check this post on the r/LoveAfterPorn subreddit. The subreddit itself has some very helpful info and camaraderie, but can also be host to hurt people who are nursing anger and hatred for porn users and men in general. Here’s another valuable LAP post of “must-have” info for partners.

What you can do, Anonym, is set your personal boundaries and make it clear to your husband how important this issue is to you and how much it hurts that he doesn’t seem committed to recovery and that the intimacy in your relationship has suffered because of it. You can schedule time to read and watch recovery materials together, then have more regular conversations about this issue, which will allow you to better understand where his mind is at. And you can recruit outside help for the both of you in the form of couple’s therapy, counseling, or coaching.

Lastly, be sure to take care of yourself. You’re each going to need your own support systems along this journey. You need friends and confidants you can vent to and get support from, and he of course needs the same in addition to recovery role models and accountability partners.

This should be enough to get you started, Anonym. If you either or both of you are looking for more guidance on this journey, you know where to find me.