Gentlemen Speak: 6 Tips for Supporting Your Boyfriend as He Kicks His Porn Habit

It’s not easy to discover that your man struggles with porn, but your support could make all the difference.
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It’s not easy to discover that your man struggles with porn, but your support could make all the difference.

Perhaps you and your man have already had “the talk” about porn. If not, you should. If you're avoiding the subject because you're afraid of what you might hear, that's all the more reason to do it. No, it’s not easy to hear that he struggles with porn addiction and choosing to stay with him as he tries to kick the habit isn’t easy either. 

I know this because my girlfriend and I were in this position not too long ago.

My porn usage wasn't an addiction per se, but it was a habit I had developed when I was 13. Often when I was in my room and felt lonely or bored, my mind would wander. Soon after that my fingers would click on my keyboard where they would search for porn. It wasn’t always conscious, but looking back I see now how my aimless searches on the Internet were an attempt conceal a deep feeling of emptiness with hyper-stimulating images of sex.

Porn use quickly became a regular occurrence, almost in an unconscious way. I was unaware of what I was really doing or how how it was affecting my life. Looking back I can see how it prevented me from ever truly being close to anyone I had dated. In the past, I always felt that there was a part of me that was going through the motions. Porn use made me less available to my previous significant others because I was getting affirmation elsewhere in a sexual and very superficial way. This prevented me from receiving the affirmation I was supposed to get in a relationship, and when I wasn't open to love, it was almost impossible for me to give love.

In the first month after I started dating my current girlfriend, we had an open and loving discussion about porn. The conversation came up when we realized we wanted our relationship to get more serious. She began by asking me if I watched porn. I answered honestly that, yes, I did. Then she said she would like me to stop. She spoke gently but was explicit in explaining why porn couldn't be a part of our relationship. I was able to share my struggle with porn, and we both agreed that it was crucial for me to quickly give up this relationship-damaging habit. 

It was difficult as I struggled to kick this decade-long bad habit, as it is giving up anything you have done hundreds of time. I had to check myself when my reflex was to reach for porn, instead of real intimacy with my girlfriend. I had to create boundaries around my personal time to resist the temptation of a mindless search. Luckily I didn't have as serious an addiction as many do, but my girlfriend stood beside me, and still supports me, and it has made all the difference.

I have committed to ending my use of porn once and for all, and her confidence in me has made avoiding porn, which is always only one click away, much easier.

This experience has taught us both a lot about the helpful (and not-so-helpful) ways that a girlfriend or wife can best support her partner through the difficult journey of ditching porn. Here are six ways you can be his friend while he kicks his bad habit (or addiction) to the curb.

01. Remain compassionate.

It can be easy to assume that if your man really loves you and wants to be truly intimate with you, then abstaining from porn would be easy. This is not the case. Porn is often an addiction. Research shows that the sexual imagery can have an effect on your brain that is comparable to cocaine. It’s likely that he has been exposed to porn since his adolescence, when he began using porn for arousal and comfort.

I turned to porn when I was lonely because it was a way to make myself feel good. It was the most stimulating distraction I have encountered. The images would take over my brain, and I wouldn't have to think or worry about anything else. This quick and easy, yet powerful, comfort fix was why watching porn became such a mindless and regularly occurring thing.

Even though I grew up going to Catholic schools, most of my male classmates watched porn. It's just what guys did, and it wasn't until adulthood that I was even able to realize watching porn was causing me to have psychological issues. 

As the girlfriend of someone struggling to let go of porn, it's crucial that you try to see his perspective. Understanding the addictive nature will help to cultivate compassion for your guy as he quits. He is going to have urges, and he may even have instances of failure. But don’t dismiss his struggles. In fact, the best way to protect yourself and be there for him is to be aware of his efforts. If he is progressing, encourage him in that. If he is not making an effort, it might be best for you to end the relationship. So remember that no matter how much he loves you, he may find that a chemical addiction is working against him.

02. Don’t police him.

My girlfriend has not once checked in with me to see if I am watching porn. As Verily has mentioned, it’s not your job to police him or be his “avoidance partner.” Nevertheless, I did find it helpful when my girlfriend asked me more generally how I was doing. By showing that she cares and giving me the space to either talk about the struggle or not, I feel safer opening up to her. 

Affirming words such as “I am so proud of you! I never doubted you,” will allow him to also feel comfortable telling you when his temptations have been high. Reinforce this by letting him know that you appreciate him having told you, and by not being upset with him for having been tempted. What he does after that is up to his own self-control and motivation, but knowing that you are in his corner will help immensely.

03. Stay informed.

The movement of men who want to give up porn is growing strong. In Time Magazine’s recent feature, “Porn: Why Young Men who Grew up with Internet Porn Are Becoming Advocates for Turning It Off,” we see that men are becoming advocates for quitting porn because they have firsthand experience of the damage that porn does to their brain.

Today, there are also a number of support groups, Reddit pages, and other tools at your partner’s disposal. I was reassured by knowing that they were there, but I did not end up using them. What’s important is that you know what they are, and that you stay informed about porn addiction.

My girlfriend shared with me a funny yet informative clip of the sexually liberated Russell Brand talking about his own struggles with porn. This gave me someone to relate to and showed me that she was thinking about me. 

When I discovered The Great Porn Experiment I was so excited to share it with her. The speaker in this clip has an optimistic take on the future of men and their abilities to rid their lives of porn, as opposed to accepting their demise like others have.

04. Be active with him.

His temptation will be at its highest when he is sitting at home alone, mindlessly searching the Internet, with seemingly nothing better to do. This is similar to leaving an alcoholic alone at a bar. You can’t be with him every moment (nor should you), but if you know there are certain days or times where he’s accustomed to unproductive downtime, plan intentional and purposeful time with one another.

It could be a convenient date night, enjoying a movie on the couch with one another, or even as simple as taking the dog for a walk in the park together.

This way you have more intentional and purposeful time with one another, while he feels less burdened by his loneliness and complacency at home. Again, your time together doesn’t have to be stressful or forced, but the less time he spends unoccupied the better his chances of success.

05. Give up objectifying material yourself.

According to TIME magazine, 16 percent of women between the age of 18 to 39 watch porn. It is well-documented that women view objectifying material differently, but digesting porn will still have adverse effects.

This goes for softer objectifying material as well. If you want him to quit, it would be helpful for you, too, to rid yourself of anything he may see as tempting. A study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, found that women who participated in the study increased their consumption of porn or sexually explicit material after reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I know many women who probably have that sitting on their bookshelves. And how about magazines? Seeing sexually explicit material like, say, Cosmopolitan could trigger him to want to watch porn. Trust me, your guy will notice the similarities between sexuality stimulating media and porn, and it will be hard for him to differentiate between what you are digesting and what he is working to give up. It will be much harder on him to turn off porn if you are keeping it on.

06. Don’t act as a substitute for porn.

Do not alter your own romantic life to act as a substitute for porn. This means a couple of things. Obviously, refrain from following Jennifer Lawrence’s advice by giving him something to look at, so that he is not looking at someone else. Any sexualized picture of yourself is still reinforcing objectification, even if it is better than the hyper stimulating world of Internet porn. Research published in Psychology of Women Quarterly found that more objectification of a female partner's body is linked to more incidents of sexual pressure and coercion in romantic relationships.

Another way you may be tempted to become a substitute for porn is in any physical intimacy you have with your partner. In particular, he may ask you to do something more adventurous, so that he is less tempted to watch porn. The reality is that it would be reinforcing damaging behavior. Instead, set boundaries together and don't wander close to that line, where you're likely to be tempted.

Your man is quitting porn so that he can have and keep a healthy intimate relationship. Showing him the benefits of nonsexual intimacy will be very encouraging to him, as it has been for my girlfriend and me. Just holding someone in my arms or holding hands has never felt so good, and has never been so important. I do not ever want to lose that, and I know that if I watch porn I will.

I have not watched porn since my girlfriend and I had our original discussion. With your support, not dependency, your significant other can do the same. He will do it for your relationship, but it’s important that he will have also done it for himself. He can do it without you, as many guys have done it alone, but your support will make giving up porn much easier and more fulfilling. 

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners