I receive emails and calls from parents and partners of guys who are involved in pornographic or sexually addictive behaviors asking me how they can approach the men in their lives that they love so much. It’s a delicate situation and one that is worth addressing.
First, let’s remember a couple of ground rules about human behavior:
1) People change when they are ready to change, not when we’re ready for them to change. That doesn’t mean you have to wait, it means you can influence your guy, but HE has to ultimately make the decision to seek help or change his behaviors.
2) People see change as hard and will resist, even when they intellectualize that something different is better. This means that a discussion that what he’s doing is wrong will be met with stiff resistance. My advice is, “Don’t talk to him about his behavior, talk to him about its impact on you and the relationship.”
3) Someone can’t “just stop” an addictive behavior. Addiction is difficult to understand if you haven’t studied it, but know that the thought of “just stop doing it” might sound easy enough but if it’s truly an addiction, “just stop” doesn’t work. Don’t tell him to “just stop.”
4) Pornography makes him feel good. Of course it does – whether you find pornography disgusting, intriguing or something in between, sexual images bring about “feel good chemicals” in many people’s brains. It is hard for him to stop because he likes it. This is not an easy battle to win.
So, without getting too long-winded, when you talk to him, find a time when things are quiet or calm in the relationship, then let him know that you have something to talk about. Don’t blame or shame him. Tell him how his behavior affects you and the relationship. Tell him how you feel when he’s using or when you think of him using. Tell him what you want from him and what you want for him. If you want to add a consequence if he continues using and doesn’t seek help, do so, but be prepared to follow through on that consequence.
So, it might go like this: “There’s something I want to talk to you about and I’d like you to just listen for a couple minutes so I can get it all out. Your use of pornography makes me feel unimportant and not sexy enough or not good enough for you. I feel like less of a woman. And when we have sex I’m distracted wondering if you’re thinking about us or about some video or pictures you’ve been looking at. I think your use of pornography is ruining our relationship and stealing intimacy and connection from us. I’d like you to talk to someone about your pornography use and see what they think of it.”
You may also add a consequence, especially if you’ve had this conversation before and nothing has happened – “And if you don’t talk to someone about it by next Thursday I’m going to leave.” -or- “Until you stop I don’t want to have sex with you.”
Again, only put a consequence out there if you’re willing to follow through.
Remember that this is a tough situation for both of you. Avoid blaming and shaming and stick to talking about your feelings and the impact his use has on you.