When people find out I have training in sex addiction they tend to be more bold and ask me questions about it. The questions I get most often surround internet pornography. A lot of the time, the questions are about whether someone needs to tell their partner about it, or how to bring it up in a relationship.
First of all, internet pornography isn’t a problem in all relationships. Some couples watch it together and use it to enhance their sex life. Other couples don’t mind that their significant other has his/her own sexual fantasy world outside of their relationship. However, sometimes it is a problem. Most of the time it is because the person is using it too much, or is lying about using it at all. Internet pornography isn’t the root of all evil, it mostly comes down to how you are using it and whether you’ve made it a “secret” part of your life.
If it has been kept a secret then it can cause a huge problem in the relationship. If someone doesn’t own up to their use of internet pornography, and it’s discovered by their partner, it can cause trust issues. If you are lying about your internet pornography use, then know it is only a matter of time before it blows up in your face. Most people lie about it because they are ashamed of it or feel they are using it too often and don’t want to admit the frequency. Either way, if you are too afraid to be open about it, you have a problem.
If it is a problem, you need to figure out why. Is it because someone told you it was wrong, disrespectful, disgusting or perverted? If the answer is yes, then you have a couple choices before you. You can agree with the belief above that it is wrong, disrespectful, disgusting or perverted and work to find more right, respectful, acceptable or better things to do with your time. You can also learn to change your belief and let go of the shame holding you back. Neither of these options is easy, but they are necessary to resolve guilty or shameful feelings.
Is it because you believe your partner would reject you or make you stop if he/she knew? If the answer is yes, then you again have a couple of options. You can find someone who won’t reject you, or stop before they find out. The other option is to be open and honest about it and see what happens. Lying is not an option.
If you are in a relationship where your partner is against internet or any other form of pornography, take a step back and figure out what is more important to you. Obviously, if you could keep both, you would. However, if you have to make a choice, weigh the pros and cons. How much does this person mean to you? Enough to make a sacrifice? Would you rather lose this person to keep the pornography that seems to relax and distract you from your stressful life? Most of the time, the pull to internet pornography is the fantasy. It gets you out of the real world and helps you to find a release. Some people find it hard to relax without it. For some people, they may need to let their relationship go until they find someone who is okay with their internet pornography habit. They realize they don’t want to quit and don’t feel like lying to cover it up.
Other people will find that their relationship is too important to them. They would rather find another way to relax besides using pornography. It isn’t easy, but it can be rewarding to find that you don’t NEED to watch porn to get through the day. Be honest about the fact that you will most likely miss it. Hopefully your significant other is giving up some stuff for you as well. Relationships do require sacrifice most of the time. Everyone wants their cake and eat it too, but in the real world, this isn’t always possible.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you need to give it up, be aware that it won’t be easy. You may slip up. The tendency is to cover up those slips. Instead, I would encourage you to be open about your struggle. Let your partner know you are giving this up for them and it isn’t easy for you. If you don’t share about it, you’ll build resentment in the relationship. Then it usually comes out in frustration, and you’ll end up throwing it in their face how much you’ve sacrificed. Telling your partner about your struggle will help them understand you better. It can help a relationship to admit to your partner how much they mean to you and that you’re willing to give up something you enjoy to make them happy. If your partner isn’t understanding of your struggle or thinks it’s disgusting that you like porn so much, then you have a whole other problem on your hands. For you to continue to be honest, you’ll need to be with someone who loves you and wants to try to understand you. You also will need to get past any shame you may feel about your use.
It really comes down to what you believe about internet pornography and whether you feel okay with what you’re doing. Remember, you can change your belief, but you can’t change your partner’s. You can agree to change your habits to please your partner, or find someone who feels the same way you do. You do have choices, they just won’t all be easy ones. If you have shame about your pornography use, it will be helpful to find a way to resolve it. Find a non-judgmental person to help you process your feelings and help you figure out your choices. You need to decide whether you will make changes to cut back on or eliminate your use of pornography or whether you will accept who you are and what your doing as is. If you’ve tried to stop and find that you can’t, even with a great relationship as motivation, find a counselor who understands internet pornography and sex addiction to help you.