What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Addicts
This is the fourth in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma. Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here.
We watched with interest the latest Face2Face event for YSA in the church. Questions surrounding dating and pornography appeared to be common. As LDS women who are married to LDS men who identify as having a sexual addiction to pornography and masturbation, we desired to share something that would be helpful to those who are still in dating relationships. The following are some of our top answers to the question, “What do you wish you would have known when you were dating?”
Because we wished we had known then, these are things that we want YOU to know NOW. We hope you will take them into consideration when you find yourself in a serious dating relationship, and address these things before engagement and marriage. We would also caution that young men, especially those who do not intentionally view pornography, would be wise to take these same points into consideration in their dating relationships, as the rate of sexual addiction among women is growing exponentially.
When I was dating, I wish I knew how important it was to be self-confident and to have courage to say what was in my heart even if it disappointed someone. I wish that I knew that it was more important to be true to myself then to sacrifice my morals to try to make someone else happy. It is always important to remember to not be afraid to offend Satan with truth-talk and fact-finding. I would have been braver to ask more questions about porn use: “When was the last time you saw pornography?”, “What do you think about pornography?”, “May I take a look at your phone?”, “What time did you go to bed last night?”
I wish I had known that even great, spiritual, temple-attending young men (and women) might have a “porn problem”…. that I should never just assume that I didn’t have to ask.
I wish I had known that it is okay to ask questions about past mistakes….EVEN IF THEY HAVE BEEN REPENTED OF. I wish that I had been more upfront about my past struggles in my teen years. If I had been COURAGEOUS enough to bring up those things, I wonder what might have changed. Maybe my husband would have confessed, maybe not. But at least I would have done my part in being transparent, brutally honest, and vulnerable. Deep down, even though I had really changed, I thought that my future husband wouldn’t love me as much if I confessed those things to him. I rationalized that I had repented, was a “new creature” and so the old me was a different person…I didn’t have to bring it up. I’m sure those were some of the things my husband told himself, even though he hadn’t fully repented. I think that if a couple is seriously considering engagement, these types of things must be discussed (not even just sexual things, there are a lot of areas this could apply to).
My stake president was recently telling me about a book he had read where they suggested that if you could be blackmailed or would want to cover something up if it was going to be revealed, that means you need to disclose it. Perhaps that is a good rule to follow? I think full disclosure is so important for marriage.
I wish I had known that most LDS people who view porn will likely lie TO SOME DEGREE about it when asked. It is common for a first disclosure to not be a full disclosure. So, don’t take anything for face value and don’t be embarrassed to ask probing questions.
Because of the shame around this addiction, I would not trust my ears but rather I would use my sixth sense and feel for what the Spirit has to say. This is the invisible addiction but there are clues. The addict may tell little lies in other areas of their lives, they may get angry when you talk about this subject, they don’t share their feelings easily, and they may not like anyone to touch their phone…
If the person you are dating is open to talking about the subject of pornography and brings it up on their own, then this is a good sign and if they have a problem with viewing pornography, they are still worthy of kindness and love. However, getting married to someone with sexual addiction is not a decision to take lightly. There is no quick fix to this problem and there are no words to describe how hard it can be to be married to someone with a sexual addiction. You would have to know for sure from God that he or she was the right one for you.
I wish I had known what addiction is–that it really has little to do with frequency of viewing; rather, addiction is best described by the idea that a person wishes to stop a certain maladaptive behavior, tells themselves they will stop, then finds themselves indulging in the behavior again. This process repeated over and over is addiction. I wish I had known how rampant this problem is, even among LDS men and women—that odds are, most of the men I dated, likely the majority, were struggling with this problem.
I wish I had known that sobriety is not recovery.
I wish I had known where to go for reliable information on lust addiction (a.k.a. sex addiction/pornography/masturbation addiction) and betrayal trauma. I wish I had known that while parents and ecclesiastical leaders such as bishops may be important support people in a recovery journey, they may not have adequate experience with this topic to give me and my loved one the information we need for true recovery. We will probably have to do some work on our own and not be afraid to seek out resources ourselves (including qualified sexual addiction therapists and non-Church sponsored 12 step groups).
I wish I had known that when I married someone with a lust addiction, we both were signing up for a lifetime of hard recovery work. Even if he were to get into a place of long term sobriety and recovery, there is always the possibility that he could relapse, and in order to prevent that he will have to employ his recovery tools and do the necessary work day in and day out, week in and week out. In order to get to a place of healing I will have to do the same. Although this work is the most rewarding work I have ever done in my life and I am infinitely grateful to God for this learning opportunity, it has been very painful, and is not for the faint of heart. It takes daily efforts, above and beyond prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance.
I wish I had known that I deserve to be married to a man in recovery. I wish I had known that marriage doesn’t fix this, it makes it harder. If a man or woman is dragging their feet to repent and recover while dating–when the desire to impress is the greatest—it is very possible that things are only going to be worse after marriage. I wish I had known that if I felt that I should end a relationship because of pornography use, that is a valid choice and completely okay.
Interested in reading further? Check out the resources below:
For info on what questions to ask and how to discuss pornography in dating relationships, see Love, Trust, and Truth: Talking about Pornography When You’re Dating by Vauna Davis with SA Lifeline, Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son by the Hope and Healing Alliance #hopelds, and pages 28, 63-65, and 125 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline.
What is lust/sexual/pornography/masturbation addiction and how do I know if I or my loved one is addicted? See pages 39-42 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline, and these three posts at Rowboat and Marbles: The ABCs of Porn Addiction: An LDS View, LDS View: Am I Addicted to Pornography?, andThe Mormon Working Man’s Definition of Porn Addiction.
How common is this problem? See page 37 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline, the results of Proven Men Ministries’ survey of Christian men regarding pornography use, and The Silent Seventy Percent of Men with a “Little Porn Problem” at Rowboat and Marbles.
If my children are currently dating or engaged, how can I discuss this topic with their future spouse? SeeDiscussing Pornography With Your Future Son-in-law by Geoff Steurer, LMFT and Director of LifeStar St. George (we believe this discussion should also be had with future daughters-in-law)
Read Scab’s blog post on how to ask questions and listen when talking about sensitive topics, when the other person may be tempted to lie (points #4 and #5 are especially relevant to dating discussions)
What does “sobriety is not recovery” mean? Being “Sober” Versus Being in “Recovery” by Sarah A. Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC discusses alcoholism, but like many addiction recovery concepts, it applies to sexual addiction as well.
Where can I go for reliable information on pornography addiction and betrayal trauma?
He Restoreth My Soul, by Dr. Donald Hilton (book)