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‘Cause I don’t want to relive, ever, the day you found out, that’s probably the worst day of my life. Well, now for what you all came here for: pornography. Really? I didn’t come here for that. To talk about pornography. Welcome to "Mended Light", I’m Alicia Decker, Cofounder. And I’m Jonathan Decker, a licensed therapist. You are, you are, and our special guest, that needs no introduction, because he’s in every single video almost. I’m sorry, and you’re welcome. Today, we’re talking about what to do if your spouse, or partner, has pornography addiction. Okay, so I want to start off the conversation with, "Is there anything wrong with pornography, from a clinical perspective?" I know there’s a ton of opinions out there when it comes to morality.

Right, well, so first of all, some people say addiction, some people say compulsion, but the issue is, is it a problem? Number one, number two, clinically, John and Julie Gottman, doctors of couples therapy, set out to answer that question. And their theory was that it wasn’t a problem, turns out it is. There’s a lot of reasons why porn can be harmful for relationships. Primarily, it’s a miseducation about sex. It glorifies and glamorizes nonromantic, nontender, non-respectful, non-affectionate sex. And it gives people inaccurate body representation. Now, are the people who can consume pornography in their relationships, rather harmlessly? Yeah, that absolutely happens.

For a lot of people, that’s not the case. So you need to decide, with your partner or spouse, as a couple, what your What your values are. Yeah, when it comes to pornography. And it’s something where you absolutely do need to be on the same page. Yes, that is true. And a lot of the tension in relationships, outside of the things that I just mentioned, about pornography itself, a lot of the tension and struggle comes when couples don’t have shared values on this subject, or they have shared values, but one partner is acting outside of those values. So this is something you and I have dealt with, on an individuallevel, and in our marriage.

SoI’ve been married three times. What? What, what, what? You didn’tyou didn’t know? This is the place, you telling me now. And this has been a challenge in each one of my marriages, and it’s looked different. And so we’re definitely gonna talk about that today. And then it’s something that you’ve had a challenge with. Yeah, it’s something that started in my teens, and, you know, dabbled in it through my 20s, and then was able to successfully, you know, I thought, conquer it, until later in my 30s. A lot of life stresses, and a lot of, you know, even stresses in our marriage. I’m not making excuses, but it’s how I coped, right? It was the release.

It’s noteworthy to recognize that it is used as a coping mechanism. And so one of the points I want to touch on, is if your spouse isif pornography is not a shared value, if that’s not something you want a part of your partnership, or your relationship, or your marriage, and it’s something your spouse struggles with, the very first step for you to take is to recognize that their struggle is not a reflection on you. That’s correct, I mean, it was never, for me, you’re not pretty enough, our sex life isn’t good enough. It was always about my shame, my anxiety, my sadness, my boredom, my selfloathing, the things that I was trying to escape.

And so even if you have a partner who says that to you, and I’m so, so sorry, if they blame you for their challenges, but you need to separate their behavior from your selfworth, and how you see yourself. Yeah. And even if they tell you, "Well, it’s your fault, like if you would sleep with me more, if you’d be intimate, if you’d be more interested, if you’d be more affectionate" And, "Get in better shape," I feel like, all these stupid things. Right, none of that is true. They have a challenge, it’s a coping mechanism, and you need to separate who you are as a person, and your selfworth and value as a person, from their behavior.

Yeah, well, and porn isn’t really about sex. It’s about coping, it’s about dealing, it’s about escaping. It takes on the flavor of sex, but it could just as easily be video games. It could just as easily be alcohol or drugs, it could be anything that we do to escape. Or food, or shopping. Yeah, exactly. Any compulsive coping behavior. Yeah. I mean, it takes on this added component of giving people ideas about sexuality that aren’t accurate. And I know that I hated my body. When I was consuming porn, I didn’t feel sexy because I hated my body. I didn’t look like the guys on screen, I didn’t feel attractive.

And I didn’t feel like I could measure up. Oh, that’s a terrible use of words. I get it. You get it? I mean, really it’s just so destructive, right? You’re talking about the selfloathing, and the lack of selfworth that you had, right? And so often, the other partner feels that way, too. Like, "Something must be wrong with me." You were talking about the judgment, and the shame, and stripping that away, and that being a critical first step, in the person who is wanting to make changes, and do something differently. Well, and to the point of, if your spouse is struggling with pornography use, this habit thrives in darkness.

Like it thrives in secrecy of, "Will I be left, will I be rejected, will I be judged if I come forward with this?" You know, when we were finally able to talk about it, and I knew that I could tell you anytime I was struggling, that is what broke it. You know, that level of shame. I want to say right here, right now, if you’re struggling with porn, it’s commonplace, it’s everywhere. You’ve got a phone, you’ve got a laptop, it’s designed to hook you. It’s designed to be exciting. We are sexual beings, and being curious about that is, it’s not shameful, but the shame is what drives a lot of secrecy.

It also drives a lot of the relationship problems. Like you were saying, "If my spouse is using this, then I feel ashamed, I feel like I failed them as a spouse," right? Instead of, this is like having a temper problem, this is like having, I mean, any sort of struggle. It’s human. And if we own it, and we don’t blame it on anybody else, and we ask for support in changing, that’s where the magic happens. I think that’s really beautiful and vulnerable. And I’mI know that’s gonna support a lot of people who are watching this. Oh, yeah, talking about this on camera today is not my favorite thing I’ve ever done.

Aww. Oh, okay, well thank you. So cute. So how do you work through it? Like, there obviously has to be individual accountability, because the question is, "Do I stay, do I go?" You know, maybe this has affected a relationship, a marriage, for decades, maybe it’s something new. Maybe And you’ve said this has been in all of your marriages, Right. but it looked different, so how do you decide to stay or go? Yeah, and, to be clear, it was never the single behavior, right? Like it was never the deciding factor. And in one of my marriages, it was really challenging, because it was just an assumed, shared value, right? Like it was a problem for me, and outwardly, he would say it was a problem for him.

But in his behavior, it was something he intentionally sought out, and that went on for years, right? And so that’s where it was a problem for me, it wasn’t a problem for him. And so it needs to be a problem for both of you. Whereas in our case, it definitely was a problem for both of us. I mean, I’d like to hear more about the reasons why. I mean, I already know, but I’d like for everyone to hear more of the reasons why it was a problem for you. But for me, I’m somebody who stands for healthy relationships. I mean, that’s my whole life. And I’m fairly passionate about women’s rights, and not just equality for women, but opportunity and respect for women, and the way I was raised to treat women.

And every time I was watching porn, I was like, "This is very contrary to who I am, this is very contrary to what I stand for," and I was feeling like I was a hypocrite. And you have a breakup story to talk about this. Yes, I came to this place of looking at porn, like an abusive relationship. Right? Like, I was with a woman who wasn’t good for me. And the thing abouthere’s the thing. If we look at porn as like just a negative, it’s actually harder to leave it, because we’re denying the fact that people consume porn ’cause they get something out of it. Well, and when you see it as negative, there’s judgment associated with this.

Yes, and I looked at it, and the more I looked at it with judgment, then there was shame. And then, because I felt ashamed, I would consume porn to escape the shame, and the cycle would just go on and on and on. And I looked at this as like, "No, listen porn, we’ve had some good times. You’ve helped me through some tough times, but ultimately, this is a toxic relationship that’s not aligned with who I want to be, right? It’s true that you’re always there for me, but you always take more than you give as well, right?" That wasand I actually, no, I actually sat down, and did a mental exercise, and I had a conversation outloud with porn, as if it was a girlfriend.

Yeah. And the reason for that, is because it was important to me to be truthful. And honestly, there are things to enjoy about porn, that’s why people watch it. But I wanted to make a trade, right, I wanted to make It wasn’t serving you, you recognized it as a coping mechanism, and you said, "This isn’t a coping mechanism I want in my life anymore." The way I see sexuality, the way I see women, the way I see with my wife, the way I see myself. Like, I don’t like any of that. Yeah, it was out of alignment, out of integrity with who you wanted to be. And then the more I learned about the industry, I was like, "Oh, I can’t support this," you know? And so all of this coalesced into, "I’m gonna make a trade, and I’m gonna lose the little rush of doing something wrong.

And I’m gonna lose the little rush of variety from all these carefully packaged products. And I’m gonna trade that for peace, and I’m gonna trade that for being happy with how I look, and I’m gonna trade that for a healthy view of sexuality, and healthy of relationships. And I’m gonna trade that to focus all of my affections on my spouse." And that is the reason why I broke it off. And sometimes, you know, I ignore her texts. Those flirty pictures that pop up on your phone. No, but that’s the thing, like you could if you want to carry the breakup analogy through, like, you could block her number, or you could, you know, you could put blocks on your computer, you can do things to keep yourself safe.

But the fact is, if I broke up with a woman, and I wanted to get back together with her, I could unblock her number, I could find a way to get in touch with her. Like the real thing is here, right? The real thing is, is reminding myself, ’cause I’m still tempted. I’ve got a different video called, "How to get free from a porn addiction", where I talk about the strategies that I use, any time I just feel that that urge. Well, and it’s worthwhile to note, like any time you’re changing a behavior, you’re rewiring your brain, right? Those pathways, your coping mechanisms, and the more you do a behavior, the easier it is to keep doing it, right? Yeah.

So that’s why the first time you said "no", was so much harder than saying "yes". But after the first time you said no, the second time got easier and easier. And now it’s significantly easier to say no, ’cause you’ve said no hundreds of times. Yeah, yeah, that’s absolutely true. On your end, why was porn against your values, and what do you think is helpful? I mean, what do you think is helpful for someone in your position? Yeah, so there’s a lot of layers to it, and it’s fascinating to hear your side of the experience, and all the insecurities, right, that basically built the foundation of that relationship, right? Like your relationship with porn, like it was based on insecurities, right? Yeah.

And if and it’s so easy for a reflection of that relationship, to be reflected over on to me, and to build that foundation on insecurities. And it’s just another way, in which partnerships, healthy relationships, families, get torn apart, right? Yeah. And so, like my background’s in construction. And so I will tie everything back to construction. "It’s such a poor foundation," right? And to build your foundation on a strong selfworth. Now, that doesn’t mean we hide from those insecurities. Like, they’re painful, they’re hard. They bring tears, they feel super vulnerable, but I can guarantee you, anybody who has a spouse who struggles with that, that brings up a lot of painful insecurities.

And so addressing those in a healthy way, right? Instead of turning to your own coping mechanisms, whatever they may be. And, oh, I want to rephrase that. It’s not that turning to a coping mechanism is a bad thing, we all have coping mechanisms. And they can be healthy. And they can be healthy. I use food as a coping mechanism, regularly. I do, I eat a lot less ice cream when my children are out of town, or on vacation without me. And I bring her food when I want things to go well, like anything to go well, I’m like, "Here, I’ve brought you food." It’s recognizing whether or not your coping mechanisms are serving you, and detaching your selfworth from another person’s behavior.

Yeah. Stereotypically, as a female, as a wife, or a mother, that is very, very hard for women to do. And there is a huge growth opportunity in doing so, and building your selfworth, and your value as a person, on who you are, instead of what you look like. That’s really powerful. And it goes more and more of the reverse, too, where you have women who are consuming pornography. And if, you know, if they’re in heterosexual relationships, their male spouses feel insecure. Right. But this, you know, this transcends sexualities as well. And that’s the thing, is I’mI think sex is amazing. And sexuality is a wonderful thing.

Like, I’m not antisexuality, I’m not scared of nudity. I don’t see art and be like, "Oh!" It’s not a prudish thing, it comes down to, what do I take in here, that affects how I act out here. It doesn’t cause it, it doesn’t determine it. I mean, I’m still the agent of my life, but everything that we take in affects us, it just does. And so what do I want to be taking in? If you and your partner can be can get on the same page, right, where it is a problem for both of you, then you can be on the same team, right? And depending on your dynamics, your experiences, I’ve spoken with women who this is something they dealt with for decades, right? And it’s hurtful, and it’s raw, and it goes deep, and there’s so much hope.

And then it gets dashed again. Build your support system around you, whatever that looks like for you. The partner that’s trying to overcome this challenge, they need accountability, right? That does not mean that I need to be your accountability partner. If we have the type of relationship where I feel comfortable doing that, great, I can be the accountability partner. But if it is too raw, if it is too real, get a therapist, get a clergyman, like get a best friend. There are groups for this, like you can have a sponsor. Right, and the first step, in every aspect, and even when you come back to this, is removing the judgment.

It is removing the shame for both of you,. because neither one of you can learn and grow,. and use this as a healing opportunity.. If you’re stuck in judgment,. all that will do is bring more shame and more guilt.. And speaking to that, I’ve never really brought this up,. and now I’m doing it on camera, so that’s smart.. Because I don’t want to relive, ever,. the day you found out.. That’s probably the worst day of my life.. But it meant so much to me, because I was so scared,. for so long, of what you would think if you found out.. And you weren’t okay with it, but you weren’t shaming.. You very much approached me as,. "I know my husband’s a good man,. so if he’s struggling with this,. what’s going on with him?". And it’s not to say like, you throw yourself. under the altar, for whatever my needs are,. because you were obviously hurt, too..

But you didn’t approach it with shame. And You were so understanding, which is not the same thing as condoning. And I wasn’t afraid anymore after that, to talk with you if I was struggling, to talk with you if I was tempted. Now you’re gonna make both of us cry, get the Kleenex. And that meant everything to me, and still does. And you know, you didn’t even have to make it very clear that day, what your position was, ’cause I already knew. And it was a problem for both of us, which is why we were still a match, even though that was a struggle of mine. So, thank you. You’re welcome. Sorry for making you cry.

On camera, gosh darn it. Yeah. To the camera, and cry a little. And as long as we’re alone, we feel hopeless, right? But once we’re not alone, there’s hope, right? And because we all have moments of weakness, and as long as we have someone, or something we can turn to, in those moments of weakness, there’s hope. And the conversation that we had, was for me, it’s not something I wanted in my relationship. And so the fact that it was there, was a problem, but that wasn’t a dealbreaker problem. The dealbreaker was the lying, or the secrecy, right? Yup. And that’s when you and I had a very honest conversation about as long as we can be honest with each other about our challenges, that this is something we can work through.

Yeah. And so that would be – And we did. Sorry. So that would be my last piece of advice, is as long as you can be on the same page, and you can have ground rules and guidelines about what this looks like. But I think, so often, we’re not on the same page, not you and I, but couples aren’t on the same page. Or it’s a problem for one, and not for the other. And the one spouse, you know, just keeps holding on, and just feels like they’re being beat up. Yeah. And it’s okay to leave when it’s not a fit, because so often, it’s just not that one aspect that’s not a fit, there’s a lot of other things.

And it’s not worth your selfworth, and your mental wellbeing, to be in an unhealthy relationship where you don’t feel loved, respected, and safe. So to that point, like, should you stay, or should you go, we’ve got a whole program on "Healing From Infidelity" that we’ve built out for you, starting with a masterclass, that is available free for you to gauge: "Is this a relationship I should stay in?" Now, infidelity, we define as getting a need met outside of the relationship, that should be reserved only for the relationship. And even though infidelity exists on a spectrum, porn isporn use is on that spectrum, if your value is that that’s infidelity.

And so "Healing From Infidelity", in the description below, there’s a link for our free masterclass, to give you some tools right out of the gate to start healing from this. Now, if you enjoyed this, we’d like to urge you to take a look at this other, "Married to a Therapist" video, how does the brain protect itself from traumatic experience? As always like, subscribe, click that bell, so you don’t miss a thing. You’ll get notified every time one of our videos drops. So until next time Remember to keep shining, we need your light. Oh, here it comes. Like I told you it would. Video sliding in, and you’re gonna watch it, ’cause you ain’t got nothing to do.

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