What to do and not do when dating someone addicted to porn
Getting into a relationship only to find out that he struggles with porn can be devastating. On one hand, you want to assume the best, support him and be strong… but on the other hand, you feel angry, confused, and hurt. This is a real tension point for any relationship, be it dating, engaged, or married… they all suffer when pornography addiction is discovered or disclosed. The good news is that the suffering doesn’t have to be a life sentence or a reason to call it quits.
My wife knows firsthand what it’s like to date and marry someone who is addicted to porn and lying on a daily basis. She knows full well what was helpful and was not helpful during my recovery and in this article, I am going to unpack some of the insights from our podcast episode so you can learn how to help your partner with porn addiction in ways that are healthy and helpful.
PS – This episode and article came from an awesome question we got from a listener, check it out
“My boyfriend told me a few weeks ago that he struggles with pornography and in the midst of processing that I’m also trying to understand what my role is in his healing and how I can be supportive and encouraging while still maintaining an appropriate relationship given that we’re not married. I know walking through an addiction together can be painful and can also bring couples to a really deep level of intimacy because it’s such a personal issue, and I want to be wise about how emotionally intimate we become at this point in our relationship”
3 ways to help your partner with porn addiction
Have a Standard With Grace (Truth & Grace)
Having a standard is really important. It means you have values that are non-negotiables in your life. When these are rooted in Jesus and the Bible, it’s fair to say that you have decided that obedience to God’s will is more important than anything else. When this rules your life, you will naturally set up boundaries to protect what you hold dear. Anyone that oversteps or breaks your boundary will have to suffer a consequence. That may sound harsh, but that’s how discipline works!
However, this is why we want to have a standard WITH grace. Grace says that you’re loved and imperfect and yes, you may at times make a mistake, but I am looking at the heart. When trying to help your partner with porn addiction, it’s really important to set up your boundaries and make them very clear, but it’s also important to ensure you’re looking at his heart just as much as his performance. This is a beautiful combination of Truth and Grace.
It’s casting a vision, creating a path for him to talk down and communicate consequences, but it’s also reassurance that he is loved if his heart is in the right place and he is humble and willing when he makes mistakes. There’s a great book by John Eldridge called “wild at heart” which talks about men wanting beauty to rescue and a battle to fight. This is what you can stir up inside of him! Help him see that there is a fight worth winning and a beauty who desperately wants him to win.
When you’re dealing with a partner who is addicted to porn, it’s really important that you don’t get caught up in his recovery. You are his girlfriend, fiance, or spouse, NOT his coach, accountability partner, or support system. It will be crucial that you keep your focus on the relationship you two have together and the relationship you two have with Jesus. This will prove much more important.
CAVEAT: This only works if he is in recovery with people that can help him. This may be a coach, therapist, or a recovery group. He must be involved in recovery for you to be able to solely focus on the emotional intimacy. If he is not, you will wonder where he’s at, and lose trust and desire to be more involved in his recovery. Not to say you don’t get updates, but you don’t need to play a role you’re not called to play.
If you are looking for some extra tips and resources on how to stop porn addiction while dating one of the best things you can do to help your partner with porn addiction is to really nail down your values, help him understand them and then stick to them at all times. He will show his level of willingness and respect towards you based on how he upholds your values.
3. Really Get To Know One Another & Seek Professional Porn Addiction Help
We have a mantra we love to live by… not because it’s easy, but because it’s TRUE. “You must be fully known to be fully loved”. This quote gives us insight into how important vulnerability is in recovery. You need to know a heck of a lot more than just “my partner is addicted to porn”. You need to know his story, his aches, and pains, his deepest longings. This is what we call “story healing” and it is often done in a “full disclosure” process.
Knowing your partner’s story, and afterward, ideally, both of you know each other’s stories, brings such a deep empathy, understanding, and curiosity to your relationship. When I work with men and help them write their stories I get them to write it so it can be read to their partner. They go all the way back to as far as they can remember and begin writing down all the ways they were influenced, programmed, and hurt growing up which caused them to believe, think and do things that go against God’s will. Doing this really opens the eyes of both partners… it helps them see that this addiction to porn is about so much more than porn or sex. It actually has nothing to do with porn, sex, being horny or perversion. It has everything to do with pain, numbing, and safety.and discloses the need for inner child healing.
When things like this begin to be known and understood, your relationship will have such a wonderful opportunity to grow. You will begin talking about the deeper things at hand and feel as if you can truly help your partner with porn addiction. This is where you will be able to develop emotional intimacy. Learning about each other’s pains, fears and regrets is the doorway to deeper love between one another.
In conclusion, how to stop porn addiction in a dating relationship?
When you come to the reality that helping another with porn addiction may look radically different than you anticipated, you can take a deep breath and focus on what you can do, and leave the rest to him and to God. Your role as partner and non-addict is to set the standard, hold your standard, extend grace when the will is present, focus on the relationship with him and Jesus, and focus on the deeper story at hand and really get to know who you are dating (or engaged/married to).
When you’re addicted to porn, it can be easy to overlook the negative impact that it’s having on your life. As you quit porn, however, you’ll start to notice just how many benefits quitting porn has brought into your life, from better relationships to more money in the bank and even a higher level of satisfaction with your sex life and more self-confidence around members of the opposite sex.
Because there are so many benefits when you quit porn, we believe that it is paramount for you to shift your mind to these very things. It’s these benefits that will motivate and inspire when the going gets tough. Having a vision of the goodness available when you stop watching porn is one of the best ways to get fully committed to the recovery process. We are dedicated to helping you get from point a to point b and experiencing the benefits for yourself Porn Addiction Help Here. It’s important to share the positive outcomes, that way you will be able to have point B in mind, the vision of where you can be.
Benefit of Quitting Porn #1: Greater intimacy
It has been said that pornography addiction creates an intimacy disorder… Meaning that an addict will struggle to develop closeness and engage with those around them. This has an intense negative impact on close relationships such as marriage. Imagine for a moment, intimacy is all about being fully known so you can be fully loved. To become intimate with someone is to open yourself up to being fully known and become curious about knowing them fully.
Sadly, there is a power that keeps people from developing intimacy in this way, and that power is shame… There’s a quote Helena and I love: “Where secrets are present, intimacy is absent”. We keep secrets because we feel shame. We feel shame because we are doing things that go against God’s will and we believe that we are the bad habits we have developed. I want to share a TSN turning point that brought me out of this low place in my own life. I was addicted to porn and knew I needed help. I began opening up about my struggle and removed the secrecy from my life. It was not perfect, but it was a step in the right direction.
When I began sharing myself with other people, I began feeling loved, heard, and understood. I wasn’t being defined as a porn addict, but as a beloved son of God who struggled with porn. This was the beginning stage of intimacy in my life. Fast forward years later, I am writing this after celebrating 5 years of freedom from sexual addiction, and the intimacy I get to experience today is incredibly fulfilling… I have come to learn that intimacy is not just sexual! It can be emotional, relational, spiritual, physical, and sexual.
All 5 of them are absolutely beautiful, fulfilling, and shame-crushing. Having greater intimacy in these areas has helped me to feel truly loved in a way that has helped redefine who I am and whose I am. I now get to experience being fully known and fully loved in ways that simply make me smile. It is so satisfying to find greater intimacy and it is most certainly an amazing benefit of quitting porn
Benefit of Quitting Porn #2: Self-confidence
There’s nothing worse than going about your day with the constant urge to watch porn… I remember that feeling and HATED IT. I was constantly dysregulated and looked for anything to act as a coping mechanism. I had no confidence in myself or in my abilities. This had me stuck in my own head and it impacted my life in such negative ways.
I always doubted myself, hated myself, and isolated myself because of it. Because porn addiction feels so shameful, it’s easy to fall into the trap of mind reading… Always assuming you know all the negative things other people are thinking about you, it’s so exhausting. I have good news, you don’t have to stay here! Quitting porn is such a life-changing experience that opens the floodgates to a newfound confidence. There’s something so empowering about kicking a habit that you know doesn’t serve you.
For me, the changes to my life were almost instant! I was able to look people in the eyes, I was able to smile at people, and I felt dignity for the first time in my life! I remember feeling genuine as if I actually wanted to connect with others. Rather than just get through life, I wanted to live life because I felt as if I had value to add. It made me feel like a winner and it’s such a great feeling to win the day. With my marriage, I was able to bring my first fruits to Helena.
I was no longer outsourcing my love, affection, and desire. I was bringing her my heart, my mind, and my attention so I could give her my best. I have such fond memories of how masculine I started to feel knowing that my wife could trust me and rely on me – This for me was the ultimate confidence booster!
Benefit of Quitting Porn #3: Increased energy
Watching porn is an energy sucker! Not only does screen time affect your eyes, but most people are also consuming porn late at night. When you’re getting heavy doses of blue light and burning precious hours of sleep even a few times per week, you’re going to feel the negative impact… Maybe it’s become so familiar that you aren’t aware, but man, let’s be honest here.
If you need energy drinks, 3+ cups of coffee, and other stimulants just to get through the day, your body is trying to tell you something. I was the guy who would watch porn all throughout the day and late into the night… I was TIRED all the time. When I finally stopped watching porn for good, I was amazed at how much my energy levels changed. Not only was I getting more sleep, but I was also giving my brain the ability to recalibrate so that normal stimulus was appealing to me. The new-found energy I had turned into a new zest for life.
I was excited, grateful, convicted, and on purpose. I had an expanded capacity to do more with my days than ever before. This impacted my marriage, sex life, vocation, walk with God, and other areas I cared so much about. Imagine waking up and feeling awake. Imagine getting off work and feeling excited. Imagine going out for the night to have fun and not escape. I have experienced a whole new world since quitting porn and experiencing increased energy. I wouldn’t be doing the work I do today if it wasn’t for this benefit so I am so grateful!
Benefit of Quitting Porn #4: Better concentration
It’s so frustrating to be distracted… That’s how it can feel when you’re addicted to porn. The brain is foggy, the mind is dull and things don’t flow as they should. A common coping mechanism for those who watch porn is dissociation, aka. disconnecting from thinking or feeling. A life of watching porn teaches us to flee when things get tough. When this happens, it is so hard to concentrate on important areas of life – Such as your vocation, marriage, kids, recovery, finances, etc.
This is why quitting porn is crucial if you want to experience this benefit. Much like increased energy, there is an element here that is directly tied to the brain recalibrating. As your brain begins to rewire, the brain fog lifts and you’ll be able to think clearly. I remember when this happened to me! It was unreal how I started to think straight, I started working efficiently and I would finish the day feeling as if I was actually effective. I was able to prioritize what mattered to me most – My marriage began to thrive, I started to sense Gods calling on my life and the relationships I cared deeply about were better nurtured and able to flourish.
How to stop porn addiction?.. Having a porn blocker is a helpful part of the journey
As in, accountability software. I am all for Covenant Eyes being used as a way to help you break the patterns in your life. It can be a really helpful tool as you recalibrate your brain and seek to concentrate on other things. If you click the link, you can get 30 days free and see if it’s a good fit for you. Are you having questions about accountability? Read our blog: What are Christian Accountability Partners For Porn Recovery?
Benefit of Quitting Porn #5: Improved mood
When I was addicted to porn, I was not a happy camper. I constantly fell into shame, defeatism, and anger. I would become very demeaning to Helena and objectify/judge others, especially women. The hold that porn had on my brain was strong. I would have high highs and low lows, which is super common for porn addicts. When things were good in life, I was a blast to be around. But when things went astray, I was ANGRY. Helena never quite knew who she was going to get from day to day and would love to keep the boat from rocking. It wasn’t until I started my recovery that I was met with the reality of my emotional struggles.
It was during this time that I began getting in touch with those emotions rather than running from them. I learned that I had a ton of resentment, anger, and rage deep inside. It was quitting porn that was the catalyst for me being able to deal with the deepest roots of these pain points. Partnered with increased energy and concentration, I was able to tackle the root issues and find deep healing. The best part about dealing with and healing deep pain is that it begets a whole new outlook on life. And this new outlook creates a new soil for how you live. I have become so much more grateful and content than ever before.
I have been able to release control, surrender to God and live in His abundance. This has brought such a soul satisfaction that is hard to explain until you have experienced it. I love that Helena no longer needs to worry about who she’s going to wake up to in the morning… angry Shawn or happy Shawn. This for me is such a beautiful benefit to quitting porn that impacts everyone in your life.
The NoFap challenge is a good place to see just how drastic mood changes are. When someone gets past 30-60 days of sobriety, you’ll notice how their life begins to change slowly but surely. Check out more in the NoFap forums
Benefit of Quitting Porn #6: Living in the present
Porn is fake… its a false reality. It takes you away from the very life you’re living. You may think you have a good reason for watching porn, but ultimately, it’s nothing more than an escape from a reality you don’t want to face. Being able to face what you’re thinking and feeling is key to becoming present. I have learned so much from John Mark Comer about slowing down and becoming present with Jesus. His book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” was life-changing for me and I would highly recommend it to you.
Since quitting porn and learning to live more in the present, the benefits have been beyond my imagination. The deep satisfaction that comes from having a Holy Spirit moment with God, having eye-to-eye time with your wife, being fully engaged during sex, heck, even being able to stay calm and present during the conflict, these are all incredible blessings that have come from kicking the habit of watching porn. There’s something special about living life. Like really living life moment by moment.
Not trying to escape, flee, or numb. Imagine finding rest for your soul. For the weary and tired parts of your heart. That comes when you live in the present moment! You will experience abundance in all areas – God, marriage, family, work, relationships, church, and hobbies. Believe me, it’s so so sweet.
Benefit #7: Better relationships
Relationships are severely hindered by things like inauthenticity, isolation, shame, and lying. Sadly, all of these and more are negative by-products of an addiction to porn. To have fruitful, life-giving, and purposeful relationships, you need to become someone who can be authentic, real, and honest. Quitting porn was the greatest step I ever took to become someone who could be these things. It was amazing to me how after getting baptized and starting recovery from my porn addiction problems I started deepening my relationships.
It was through the healing journey that I became the true Shawn and felt ready to share him with others. This was amazing to me! It increased the intimacy in relationships that I already had, especially with God and Helena. But it also opened the door for so many new and blessed ones too. I really started feeling that relationships had a greater purpose and they began to fulfill me in ways they never did before. I became a very joyful extrovert and now love the depth of friendships I have. It’s wild to think about how shallow my relationships once were, to now be so real and authentic, wow, God is good.
One of the most healing parts of my journey to better relationships has been forgiving others, making amends, and reconciling. I never felt like I could truly do these things when I was addicted to porn. I always felt crippled and ashamed. But since being free from all sexual addiction, I have had so many relationships restored from the courageous steps to reconcile. That’s over 5 years of God’s gracious hand redeeming what porn tried to steal from my life.
I want to share a plug for men struggling with porn. Relationships can be tough when you feel all alone. This is why I launched the Secret Habit online community. It’s a safe place for the men I work with to meet one another and develop friendships. If you need community, you can join the Secret Habit Recovery Accelerator….
Benefit #8: Gaining respect from others
Respect is earned, and it sure is hard to earn it when you’re addicted to porn. On top of that, it’s hard to offer respect to others when you watch porn and spend your days objectifying men and women as sex objects. I’ll never forget the way Helena confronted me when I was lying to her about my sexual addiction.
I broke all of her trust, continually failed to follow through, and showed her that I was not someone worth respecting. It was that confrontation that was a game changer for me and I am so grateful today for it. She really helped me see the negative effects of porn in our lives and if nothing changed, how it would then impact our future too. I have never thought of it like that! After catching this paradigm shift and vision for life, I used it to fuel my recovery. Along the way, it was something special to see Helena begin to trust me again, to respect me as a man, and to see that I was someone she could count on. I had begun the journey to earning her respect back.
That journey has brought me to where I am at today. We have a marriage that is safe, intimate, and honest. It’s incredible to see how respect is the foundation of so many other blessings – Intimacy, thriving sex life, friendships, fulfilling work and so much more. On top of this, I have been able to renew my mind and learn how to see men and women as children of God and beautiful. Instead of seeing everyone as a sex object to consume, I see them as people to love.
It is not hard to see that there are some absolutely incredible benefits when you quit porn. The 8 listed here are simply a snapshot of so many more available. I hope that this has put a desire deep in your heart that you can kick the habit of watching porn and quit once and for all… not just because it’s a bad habit, but because there’s so much more life to be lived when you quit and experience freedom.