So you're struggling with porn, but your loved one doesn't know. You've wanted to tell them, but you know that it could create a mess. Or worse...they could leave you. This subject of disclosure has been a hot topic in the DeepClean world lately, so today's article is going to provide you a comprehensive guide for handling the process in an effective and appropriate way.
For starters, it's important to understand that "loved one" could mean a variety of things. In another article, we will address how to tell parents, friends, etc., but this article is primarily focused on how to tell a romantic partner about your addiction. I also would like to mention that it is 1000x better to confess than to get caught. What many men fear about disclosing their struggle (loss of relationship, extreme disappointment, causing anger/depression in spouse, etc) rarely happens when they choose to come clean. However, these worst-case scenarios become more likely when they are caught.
If you're in a dating relationship, I want to make it clear that you will need to tell your partner, but you have some time. Some people like to 'get the subject out of the way' early in the relationship (which I find highly commendable) and others prefer to wait until they're more comfortable (also commendable). There's no right or wrong, but you should make it your goal right now to prepare to have the conversation, knowing it will be the best thing you do for the relationship long-term.
If you're engaged, you need to have the conversation ASAP. The beauty of engagement is that a majority of couples choose to receive pre-marital counseling, and this is often a great environment to discuss more personal matters like porn addiction. Having a third party can be massively beneficial to facilitate these conversations and bring understanding on both sides of the discussion. However, you may prefer to have the conversation just the two of you, and that is totally fine as well.
The reason this conversation needs to happen soon is because you do not want to go into marriage with a secret of this magnitude. Something as significant as a porn addiction should be discussed openly BEFORE getting married. The chances of it changing your fiancée's mind about the marriage are slim, but if she finds out after you tie the knot you are going to make things way more complicated for her (and for you).
And if you are married, I have to be frank – this conversation needed to happen yesterday. I realize how scary it can be to even think about sharing something so difficult and personal with your partner, not knowing how they will respond. Choosing to not have this conversation is prioritizing your own personal security above the security of the relationship itself and of your spouse. If you want your spouse and marriage to have any lasting success, you must begin planning how you are going to disclose your struggle and you cannot afford to waste much more time.
Here are a few starting points to have the conversation successfully:
1) Prioritize connection. The goal of disclosure is to build long-term connection. Up until this point, your connection has been built on sinking sand. Coming clean and telling the truth is a chance for you to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level. It will not happen overnight, but this goal must be kept in mind as you choose how you share, what you share, when you share, etc.
2) Release control. Human tendency in these conversations is typically to mitigate the response of the loved one. That is what we call covert control. Your job is not to control your spouse or sugarcoat your situation. Be honest, upfront and allow them to respond.
3) Lead with empathy. We have our clients go through an exercise where they imagine they are on the receiving end of their shocking news to put things in perspective a little bit. The better you have explored their side of the equation, the better you will handle the conversation. While your goal is to disclose a very personal struggle, you should go into the conversation with the intent to listen, empathize, and understand their side.
4) Timing doesn't matter. If you are waiting for the right time, you should know that will never happen. One time a young married man told me, "I can't have this conversation with my wife now. She's studying for exams and she has been dealing with depression. It's not a good time." While this is totally logical reasoning, in reality he was just using her circumstances to talk himself out of the situation. He wound up having the conversation with her that night and it went really well. They're both receiving counseling at the time of writing.
5) Disclosure is ongoing. This one is HUGE. Do not make the mistake of verbally vomiting the last three decades of your struggle onto your poor partner in a 45 minute conversation! Remember, the goal is long-term connection. That means the first conversation might be at a higher-level and not super detailed. That's a good thing. Start there and gradually work your way to more in-depth conversations with time.
6) Beware reactionary solutions. Sometimes the spouse will want to take control of the situation by quickly coming up with solutions – marriage counseling, becoming the accountability partner, etc. This is a totally understandable response, but it rarely has much long-term effect. The addict must make the choice himself and decide which course of action will be the best for him.
7) You both will likely need help. Everyone responds differently, but 99% of the time, the betrayed spouse will need help as well. It will look different, and it may be at a different level of intensity, but it is a necessary part of the healing journey in the relationship.
I highly recommend getting some professional advice and guidance before you have the conversation, but do not use that as an excuse to delay this conversation (especially if you are married).
Cheering you on,
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