This post was originally written and posted on http://www.thebeautifullychaoticlife.blogspot.com in August 2015
Before Joshua and I officially started courting, he told me that he had been involved in pornography. He wanted to make that clear before I committed to a relationship with him so that I knew exactly who he was and who he had previously been. He told me how sorry he was for his actions and the way his past would affect our future, and he asked me to forgive him. His complete honesty and humility impressed me.
Joshua’s confession came as no surprise. Perhaps I was a little jaded, but at least I wasn’t naïve. Few men escape childhood and adolescence unscarred by pornography’s claws, and I knew that no matter who I married the likelihood of my future husband having a history of porn use was extremely high. Even so, I was not as aware of the effects of pornography as I would like to have been. I knew it would affect our marriage, but I didn’t know how much. Here are five things about pornography that I wish I could go back and tell my unmarried self:
1. I wish I had known how a premarital history of pornography use affects marriage.
Even before Joshua started using porn again after we were married, the knowledge that he had struggled with it in the past affected our relationship. I was insecure, always wondering if/when he would start using porn again. I struggled to trust him in other areas. We had a hard time communicating well about pornography, which affected our ability to communicate about other topics.
A history of premarital porn use does not mean that it will continue into marriage, but it does mean that you will have to deal with the consequences it brings into your relationship. Getting premarital counseling specifically on this topic helps tremendously in dealing with the aftermath. You can have a beautiful marriage despite a history of pornography. God is merciful and forgiving. But there ARE consequences of sin, and it will affect your marriage no matter how long ago the addiction was. The past is not simply “the past.” It shapes who you are now.
2. I wish I had known that I am not enough.
Marriage is not a cure for sin. You cannot “fix” someone by marrying them. I knew I couldn’t change Joshua, but pornography was something in his past. I wasn’t trying to FIX him, but I did have this vague notion that I could KEEP him fixed if I was a good enough wife. I thought that by being available to meet my husband’s needs at all times I could keep him from being tempted to look at other women.
Having a legitimate way to fulfill sexual desires does not eliminate the temptation to look at porn. Why? Because it’s not about sex. People do not view pornography just because they have no outlet for their sexual desires. I thought that if I was enough, my husband wouldn’t struggle. And, therefore, because Joshua DID end up struggling, it meant that I wasn’t enough. Enough of a wife. Enough of a woman. Enough of anything.
The truth is, I WASN’T enough. You can never be “enough” to keep someone else from sin. Keeping my husband from looking at other women is not my job; it’s something only Joshua can do. Sex is not the answer to a porn addiction. A healthy sex life can make it easier to resist, but it will not eliminate temptation.
3. I wish I had known that we needed to set up accountability BEFORE there was a problem.
About a year into our marriage we installed Covenant Eyes on our computers. We should have done that much sooner. We should also have set up other safeguards. I wish we had been more selective in the movies we watched. I wish I had known how dangerous a cell phone with unlimited, unfiltered data could be. I wish I had insisted on an accountability partner for Joshua before he fell back into using porn. I wish we’d had regular discussions about how he was doing and how he was handling temptations. I wish we had taken preventative steps before pornography became an issue within our marriage.
Having safeguards in place does not mean that you do not trust your husband. It doesn’t mean that you think your son is looking at porn. It doesn’t mean that you are suspicious of anyone who uses a computer. It means that you are educated enough to know that there is material out there that can destroy lives and you are realistic enough to know that nobody is above temptation.
4. I wish I had known that pornography is a legal drug.
Before marriage, I had absolutely no idea what pornography does to the mind. I am no scientist and do not pretend to understand the complexities of the brain, but from the research I have done I have learned that pornography can be as addictive as cocaine or heroin. When one views pornography a chemical called dopamine is released which literally rewires the brain, creating new pathways and establishing a felt need for the substance. This is the same chemical process that happens when one uses cocaine. The dopamine release caused by viewing porn is addictive. It makes you want to go back for more. And it makes you want increasingly more hard core porn because your brain needs larger and larger doses to receive the same high. I knew that pornography was hard to break free from. I had no idea that it was as serious a battle as fighting a drug addiction. It needs to be handled as such.
5. I wish I had known the right questions to ask.
When Joshua first told me that he had battled a porn addiction, I didn’t say much. I didn’t ask questions. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answers. I thought the past was the past and there was no need to dwell on his mistakes. But asking questions would have helped me better understand his struggle and where he was at in his battle against pornography.
Before we started courting I should have asked:
a. When was the last time you viewed pornography?
If I had asked this one question, it would have changed things. It would have changed my plans for beginning our courtship just then. It would have changed the way I dealt with the effects of Joshua’s porn use. It would have changed how we began our marriage. The answer would have been painful, but it was one I should have known. Ask the uncomfortable questions.
b. What safeguards do you have in place to ensure that you do not fall back into viewing pornography?
A mental resolution is rarely (if ever) enough to break the cycle of pornography addiction. Covenant Eyes or something similar helps keep your family safe and helps give you peace of mind. Ideally, safeguards will be in place before there is a problem.
c. Who is holding you accountable and helping you stay pure?
Having someone to talk to who understands the struggle and who will ask the hard questions is important. I should have asked Joshua who else knew about his struggle and who was helping him stay pure. Several people knew and had helped him in the past, but I was the only one actively holding him accountable during our courtship and early days of marriage. That was a mistake.
Joshua did not intentionally keep this information from me. Neither one of us thought to bring these things up. But if we had it to do over, we would have talked about the uncomfortable topics more.
Pornography is evil. It has the potential to destroy lives. But it doesn’t have to. Like any other sin, a porn addiction can be overcome. If your boyfriend, fiancé, or husband has a history of pornography use, help him get help. The problem does not just disappear. Let’s help our men fight this battle to the end.
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” 2 Timothy 2:22.