One of the most blatant, destructive, and obvious evils attacking relationships today is pornography. In the United States alone, over 40 million people are sexually involved with the internet, meaning their capability to purely love in dating relationships and marriages is extremely damaged or seemingly beyond repair.
In a world where pornography is ridiculously accessible, many of us striving to live virtuous lives have fallen. What starts as an accidental click on the computer when you’re 10 years old turns into a battle for your life and heart. And the hearts of people you’re in relationship with. Struggling with pornography in dating relationships can be extremely painful, messy, and destructive, whether it’s you or your significant other. While there’s never a formula for dealing with this in relationships, it’s necessary for both of you to be honest with yourselves and each other.
As a woman who has personally struggled with this issue, mentors women through pornography addiction in themselves and their relationships, and has encountered porn addiction in her own dating world, I can testify that this issue hurts. It hurts you, it hurts anyone you’re dating, and above all, it hurts the Father who created your heart with so much more in mind.
Ways to Combat Pornography Addiction
So what’s a person who is trying to be faithful and virtuous to do with pornography in a dating relationship? Merely based on what I’ve seen in my ministry and my own life, the two absolutely crucial elements to handling pornography addiction in relationships are:
- active fighting
If you’re struggling, you’ve got to be up front about it. Unfortunately, there’s no set time in a relationship where you’re required to bring this up, so it’s left to your own discernment when you tell. However, I don’t think it’s ever too early to be honest. If this is a very present struggle, especially, the person you’re dating needs to know so it can be evaluated whether or not dating is the best thing for both of you right now. Hiding the addiction or denying it are both unacceptable and will only make it more hurtful in the long run.
However painful, terrifying, and embarrassing it can be to admit this issue to someone you’re dating, I can promise you your honesty is beyond worth it. Not only will your significant other be grateful, but you never know the fruits that can come from this conversation.
The same goes for if your struggle is in the past. The reactions I’ve gotten from the men I’ve told about my past have all been extremely uplifting and healing. Don’t automatically assume that it’s going to go badly.
If You’re on the Receiving End…
If you’re on the receiving end of this honesty, I want to let you know that you have permission to be hurt. It doesn’t mean the person telling you is terrible or dirty. It means the issue they’re telling you about is exactly what it is—destructive and distorted. You can be hurt by that without being ashamed of the person you care about.
Responding in this conversation with forgiveness and compassion is priceless. Offer your hurt to Jesus, because He’s right there with you. Only He can provide the love you need to see through this.
I cannot stress enough that there is a massive difference between someone who is being complacent in their addiction and someone who is bravely and actively fighting against it. You need to ask yourself, or your significant other, if real steps are being taken in the journey towards recovery.
Accountability is a must. It’s very rare for significant others to be successful accountability partners while also deepening their dating relationship. Make sure you or the person you’re dating has a honest, reliable, healthy accountability relationship with someone of the same gender. It’s rare that this is impossible to find.
One of the simplest aids in overcoming porn addiction (but also one of the hardest to actually motivate yourself or someone else to do) is getting rid of or seriously filtering the device that keeps you addicted.
There is nothing ridiculous about getting filters and blocks placed on your computer or phone, or getting replacing the device temporarily with something without access. These are steps that show that you, or your significant other, is serious about overcoming this.
Some journeys don’t require extreme measures, but I know a lot of people in recovery who would’ve gotten there sooner if the extreme measures had been taken.
Practices that help with gaining mastery over the body, like exercise and fasting, are also extremely helpful in overcoming porn addiction. Do you and your significant other both have a lifestyle that encourages a healthy body, therefore a healthy mind? This may seem like a superficial requirement, but it’s not about looking good. It’s about telling your body when it does and does not have permission to act on its urges.
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
The most important thing in pursuing recovery is an active prayer life. Jesus desires our freedom more than we could ever comprehend, and He supplies the grace to chase it.
Don’t focus your prayer on the issue of pornography—whether it’s you struggling, your significant other, or both of you. Rather, focus prayer on the Lord’s love and how to reflect that love more deeply. Pray for purity, bravery, perseverance, and hope. Receive His forgiveness in the confessional. Worship Him in Mass.
The most valuable thing I learned through my own journey is that you can have every physical and mental aid in place to help you fight pornography. But none will work as they should without hope.
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Pornography Addiction is a Major Issue in a Dating Relationship
Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to break this chain. And don’t be afraid to ask your significant other if they’re willing to do the same.
If complacency is a problem in your relationship right now, don’t be afraid to give an ultimatum. You deserve to be in relationship with someone who refuses to give into addiction, who gets up and fights harder when they fall. For God first, for themselves, and for you. And someone deserves that exact same fight in you. No matter one’s past with pornography, it’s never too late to give this battle all you’ve got.
You Can Have a Happy, Healthy Relationship
I absolutely have seen relationships bring out true and beautiful progress towards freedom. The common ingredient was always a deep, vulnerable honesty and a genuine commitment to fighting from all angles. Don’t be afraid to enter into this journey together if these elements are in place, and Jesus is calling.
On the flip side, don’t be afraid to lovingly walk away if that commitment to freedom isn’t there yet. The Lord has a lot of experience in bringing new life out of something ending. Walking away from someone you care about is painful, but you cannot be the chief reason they fight. You can’t make someone fight who isn’t ready to yet, and you can’t make someone stick around while you remain complacent.
Love means willing the good of the other, so genuinely pray about and discern if staying in the relationship or leaving will be most beneficial to both of you. Pornography can absolutely be a break-up worthy issue, but also isn’t always.
Remember—however hard it can be to accept—that the final goal is not staying together no matter what, it’s doing God’s will and seeking the fullest life in Him. Whether that means staying together or leaving, the grace will be supplied.
There is Hope!
Finally, I promise you, there is hope for recovery. I know how much pain you might be in. But freedom is possible, for both of you, whether together or apart.
As C.S. Lewis says in The Great Divorce:
Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.
Your fullest heart is waiting in the hands of the One who is true Love. Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to receive it.Dating and Pornography Addiction #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Rachael Gieger is a Colorado native residing in Florida as she works towards her masters degree in theology at Ave Maria University. She is passionate about women’s ministry—especially to those struggling with sexual addiction—as well as llamas, dance parties, and anything by written by C.S. Lewis.