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May 22 2015

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Having “The Porn Conversation” With The Man You’re Dating

The Porn Effect by Polly Scott

When my husband and I were dating seriously, I asked him if he looked at pornography and/or masturbated. Of course, he told me about how he detested pornography, and generally gave me the impression that he “would never do that stuff”.

Truth was: he had a history of masturbation and porn use. He wasn’t using porn while we dated, so his answers were technically true (except for the lies). Ever noticed how the “technical” truth is never really the truth at all?

Sometimes Porn Addicts Don’t Know They’re Addicted

During our courtship and engagement, he stopped for a time – like many addicts would – thinking he had quit for good. In fact, at the time he didn’t even think he had an addiction. He also mistakenly thought that marriage would solve the problem because he could finally have sex. (Just hold out long enough, and my wife will be the answer to all my sinful problems! Not so much.)

Marriage Doesn’t Solve the Problem

We had only been married three months when he started using porn again. Why? Because porn isn’t about real life healthy sex – porn is generally for numbing negative emotions. We turn to it when we’re bored, angry, lonely, etc. My dad used to say, “Being single is no disease, and getting married is no cure.” It’s true in the context of porn. Being single is not the cause of your porn use, and getting married won’t fix it.

When I found out that my husband had lied to me before our marriage and then for 18 months into our marriage, I felt so stupid. I felt that our entire marriage was based on a lie. Every happy memory was tainted with the fact that he had been lying to me. I was so traumatized by the lies that I seriously considered divorce.

Since marriage won’t magically solve your fiancé’s habit of masturbating and looking at porn to cope with negative emotions, it’s very important to determine, to the best of your ability, your fiancé’s involvement with pornography. Your fiancé’s past, present and future pornography use will affect you. You cannot control whether or not your fiancé tells the truth, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it in a layered, ongoing fashion.

Yes, You Have a Right to Know the Truth

So yes, you have a right to ask about your fiancé’s porn use. And moreover, you have a right to know the truth. Let your fiancé know that you have a right to know the truth in order to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life.

My Theory: Talk About Porn A Lot and Unqualified Candidates Will Weed Themselves Out

My theory is that after conversations like this, some people will tell the truth, and you can work together to find solutions prior to deciding whether or not to marry. You can create a relationship based on honesty and true friendship.

If they aren’t willing to tell the truth, you may never know. Perhaps they found me boring. Or perhaps they didn’t want to have to talk about it. Maybe they said, “I don’t want to date anymore. It’s not you, it’s me,” Rather than the truth which was, “I don’t want to date you anymore because discussions about porn are annoying.” Who knows?

My husband did not enjoy or welcome his pornography use, and even though he didn’t tell me the truth, he agreed with me. He hated porn. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful in recovery. But believe me, if he (we) could do it over again, we’d skip all the trauma caused by the lies. That set our relationship back about five years. It’s not easy to heal from years of lying.

Who knows if my theory is correct? But since there are no guarantees, no matter what we do, it’s the best chance for a healthy relationship. We all just do the best we can, right?

Give Up If You’re Looking for A Porn Proof Spouse

Thinking that you can find someone to marry who has never had an experience with masturbation or porn is unrealistic. None of us is porn proof. We’re all susceptible to pornography addiction, and we need to work together to keep ourselves healthy.

It’s better to start talking, get educated, and learn what it really takes to recover than to expect to find someone who has never used porn.

How Do I Bring it Up with My Fiancé?

What’s the best way to have a genuine conversation about it? Start with yourself. Are you hiding anything? Do you have secrets you are keeping from your fiancé? You cannot expect someone to bare their soul to you, if you aren’t willing to do the same. In doing so, you’ll open up the type of intimate communication that marriages need to thrive.

Here are some conversations starters:

1. In order to have a healthy relationship, we need to learn how to be completely honest with each other. So we’re going to learn together how to discuss hard things. I’d like to talk about masturbation – I’m not a fan.

2. I believe that masturbation and pornography are infidelity and undermine healthy relationships. How do you feel about it? What type of relationship are you looking for?

3. I first encountered pornography . . . [tell your story]. Can you tell me the truth about your past and present porn use?

4. Many people think that masturbation / porn use will not be a problem after marriage because you can have sex with your spouse – how do you feel about this?

5. Did you know that generally speaking porn use becomes worse during stressful times? Since marriage is stressful, the problem usually gets worse? How do you deal with your negative emotions?

6. I’m concerned about the information people withhold surrounding porn use. Is there anything you haven’t told me yet?

7. Since honesty is so important in healthy relationships, how can we make sure to have a safe place to tell the truth?

Ask Questions Through Layered, Ongoing Conversations, Find Answers Through Observing Their Behavior

One thing to keep in mind is that actions speak louder than words. If you ask, “How do you deal with negative emotions?” they will likely answer, “Exercise, talking to friends, long walks on the beach.” I never heard anyone answer, “Oh, I masturbate when I get lonely. You?”

It’s imperative that you have these ongoing, layered conversations and then observe. When you disagree with them, do they throw a fit and say things like, “You don’t respect me! You don’t support me!”

When they feel cheated at work, do they cuddle up with seven 40oz bottles of vodka? Is there a lot of drama going on? (YOU LIED TO ME!!) Watch for red flag behaviors like lying, blaming, minimizing, making excuses, etc. Ask the questions by having the conversations, and keep in mind that your answers will come through observing their behavior.

Talking about such personal topics may seem uncomfortable. Remember, healthy marriages are founded and maintained on trust and open communication. After you are married, things won’t automatically change. The type of communication you have prior to marriage will basically be the same the day after the ceremony.

Start your marriage on the right foot by learning how to discuss difficult/uncomfortable topics. True friends, in healthy relationships can learn to talk through this, honestly, and build the foundation for a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

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Polly

Polly Scott

As Editor-in-Chief of the Addo Blog and the Producer & Host of Addo TV, Polly Scott, M.Ed. interviews therapists, recovering addicts, spouses… Full bio

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