How to Tell Your Fiance About Your Porn Problem

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An email I received from a young wife read, "I don't know what to do. I have struggled with pornography for years, even before I was married, and now I'm stuck."

She went on to share a life of secrecy complicated by a deep love for her husband. All throughout their dating relationship, she had kept her pornography use a secret. She promised herself that she would tell him once they got married. But when they did get married, she felt stuck. "I can't tell him. What if he leaves me?"

She was a mother of two, wrestling with shame and an active pornography addiction. She shared that she couldn't even be sexually intimate with her husband without first slipping away to watch pornography. "Then the whole time we're together, I have to replay what I just watched and pretend to be interested. I love him. I just can't tell him. What do I do?"

It's a story I kept in mind as I became acquainted with my own future husband. We first met after he read my book about my own struggles with pornography, so I had the advantage of his already knowing most of my story. Still, there were things he didn't know, and I had a choice: I could tell him or I could keep them hidden. I didn't want to become stuck between my secrets and my marriage like that young woman. No one does. There's nothing romantic about hiding your guilt and struggling to enjoy your lover.

Addressing sexual struggles, including pornography, before you say, "I do" is critical to the future of your marriage. But it's up to you to start this conversation.

So, how do you start? How do you tell your future spouse about your struggle with pornography?

Frame it in grace

Confessing a struggle like this opens your relationship to more grace and deeper intimacy. But you first have to experience that grace in your own life. Do you view yourself as damaged goods or as irreparably broken, or do you view yourself as redeemed and forgiven? If you understand God's love and redemptive work as it relates to your struggle, you can approach a conversation with your future spouse from a place of vulnerability and grace rather than fear and shame.

Sometimes Christians see the process of confessing a struggle as a form of punishment. For the longest time, I thought sharing my whole story with my future husband would be some kind of final penance. But that's not the correct view. Confession is not about punishing yourself for past failures. It's about moving toward freedom, healing and true intimacy.

Confessing and opening up to one you're engaged to is an important step toward healing. Share your story and ask your future spouse for forgiveness. Allow him or her the opportunity to extend grace to you, but also be willing to give him or her space to process the information you have just shared. He or she might be hurt or need a few days to think and pray. Graciously acknowledge that and allow adequate time. Your fiance may even call off the engagement or postpone it for a season. As painful as that might be for both of you, if that's what's needed to allow this conversation to lead to healing, then it's OK. You can't force someone to be gracious, but you can generously extend grace.

Keep it open for discussion

When you share, make it clear from the beginning you aren't intending this to be the last word on the topic. Closed-ended conversations often do more harm than good because they don't allow for growth, learning or processing. Your husband- or wife-to-be may have legitimate questions: When was the last time you watched it? How did you find it? When did you start seeking help? Be willing to receive those questions and answer them honestly. Give your fiance the freedom to bring up any topic or any question in the future, and promise you will try to answer the best you can. This gives him or her space to process everything you're sharing and it communicates how much you care for the relationship. This doesn't mean the conversation has to be brought up every time you talk.

Ideally, leaving the subject open for discussion gives you both the ability to bring it up again if you need to. This is especially helpful if your struggle were ever to resurface. While you may be walking in freedom now, deployments, pregnancy, job loss and other situations can be triggers that cause temptation later.

Have a battle plan for marriage

When you explain your problem, don't simply share your past struggle; share your present reality and future strategy. Equip your fiance with an idea for what this looks like moving forward. Show how much your future marriage matters to you by having a plan to protect it.

Don't enter the conversation expecting your future spouse to have the solution to your porn problem. Be wary of saddling all the responsibility on your partner by saying something like, "If we just have sex every other day, I should be fine." Doing so puts unfair expectations on him or her and an undue strain on the relationship. And keep in mind that marriage itself won't heal your addiction. If anything, your porn problem will damage your marriage or become more challenging as the relational stresses of marriage occur.

Instead, take responsibility for your own struggle and include your future spouse in your journey by giving him or her practical ways to help. For example, will you leave your phone unlocked so your spouse can check your history at any time? What are the triggers that cause you to relapse? What strategies help you avoid them? What steps did you take to break free in the past? What types of boundaries did you find helpful?

Owning your struggle while allowing your future spouse to support you will enable you to start your marriage off with hope and the peace of having a plan to prevent unhealthy patterns in the future. After all, you are a team, fighting for the same goal — a healthy and long-lasting marriage.

Don't be afraid to ask for outside help

This conversation is never easy, but certain situations can make it more complex. If your partner was sexually abused or has witnessed the effects of pornography in his or her own family, he or she may take this news especially hard. Seeking a counselor or pastor to help facilitate the conversation and to give clear steps is particularly critical in these situations. Even if one of you is a pastor or counselor, don't try to solve it on your own. Instead, reach out to a fellow professional for counsel.

If you are currently struggling with pornography, find a recovery partner outside of the relationship. This enables you and your significant other to continue working on your relationship without worrying specifically about the porn problem.

When you have initiated this conversation with your wife- or husband-to-be and have given him or her time to process and respond, you will have opened a path toward deeper intimacy.

Instead of hiding and faking a connection with your spouse, you will be able to say that you are truly known. And with a baseline for addressing issues as a couple with honesty and forgiveness, you will have a better foundation for any future difficulty. Together, you will be that much closer to the strong, vibrant marriage that you both are looking for.

Jessica Harris is the author of Beggar's Daughter.

A variety of issues can fuel habitual pornography use. Understanding the deeper needs of individuals affected by this common problem is important. Reach out to well-trained helpers, and if you are a married couple do so together. Change is possible! We can guide you as you seek a referral and take your first steps toward recovery. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or
help@FocusOnTheFamily.com
www.FocusontheFamily.com/FindaCounselor

© 2018 Jessica Harris. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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