Owning Your Porn Problem

Melvin Tillman, Melvin Tillman, MA

Posted by: Melvin Tillman
Melvin Tillman, MA
267-428-2612


Porn is a sexual tool that many people utilize.  However, while some have a healthy relationship with pornography, others develop obsessive and destructive tendencies with porn.  Some people would argue that they have a problem with pornography, and that they are trying to recover from their porn use. If you recently found yourself recovering from problematic pornography use, how can you convey to your partner that in the past you made a mistake and that you’re trying to make a change?  Essentially, how can you show your partner that you’re taking your recent porn problem seriously? To clarify, this article is for the person who recently discovered their unhealthy relationship with porn, and want to make their partner part of their recovery process.

Words versus Action

Trying to confront an unhealthy relationship is difficult.  After all, the problematic behavior became part of the person’s life.  Therefore, one way to take the unhealthy behavior seriously is to change one’s actions and environment.  Finding healthy behaviors to replace unhealthy behaviors is a sign of being proactive.

All of this applies with porn.  If you are taking your porn problem seriously, your partner would be able to see a shift in your initial behaviors.  Change requires action; therefore, if you truly want to do something about your porn usage, your lifestyle will be different.  This article will now go over some common examples of being proactive; however, do be aware that a person can take their porn problem seriously and not engage in any of these activities.  The healing process, due to each person’s individuality, will always look different. The following examples are simply examples, not a definitive list. If you find yourself not sure about your own recovery process, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional sex therapist for help.  

Give Access to Your Information to Your Partner

Transparency is a common theme in recovery.  Letting people know who you are and what you are doing allows others to support you.  As an added bonus, by being vulnerable (ie transparent) the level of your dedication to the recovery process is more apparent.   By giving your partner access to your passwords, phone, emails, and credit card statements you are allowing your partner into your sacred space, and this level of transparency can help rebuild trust.    It’s obvious to the individual that they aren’t looking at pornography, but how does the partner know? Being open with one’s actions is simply one way to bridge that gap. If a couple is trying to recover from infidelity, for example, being completely transparent of your actions can show that you’re trying to change your behavior.  However, what does this look like? Basically, your partner still needs your consent before looking through your belongings. Even if you live with your partner, they do not have automatic access to your passwords, phone, or computer. Though it may seem normal to share private information in committed relationships, it still requires consent.  Healthy transparency isn’t forced; therefore, when it does occur, it can highlight one’s dedication. Here are some common forms of transparency that can be beneficial to you in your recovery process.

  • Your partner knowing your phone password
  • Being in an environment with no locked doors
  • Giving consensual access to all of your physical belongings (e.g., drawers, closets, etc.)
  • Allowing your partner to use your personal computer
  • Permitting your partner to see your bank statements
  • Having your partner be welcomed and invited at all times
  • Sharing with your partner your history of porn usage.
  • Sharing with your partner the steps that you have taken in the past to hide your porn usage from others
  • Sharing with your partner the ways in which your porn problem harmed you
  • Sharing with your partner how you imagine your porn problem got in the way of being intimate with him or her.

To be clear, even with this level of transparency, you can still possess pornographic fantasies or find some way to access porn without your partner knowing.  However, these candid acts are simply the first steps, and they all  demonstrate effort, which can signify that you’re taking your recently discovered porn problem seriously.   

After disclosing to your partner about your past history with porn abuse and the plan you have put into place to recover, note that your work has just begun. Often when you disclose some information about yourself, you have opened the doors for your partner to ask many more questions. Before talking with them, we thought it might be helpful for you to take some time and ask yourself to answer the following common questions that a partner will often have.  

  • What steps am I taking to make sure I don’t relapse and start using porn again?
  • What made me take the risk to share this information with you now?
  • What are the drawbacks to sharing that I am in recovery with my partner?
  • Who else knows that I am  recovering from porn?
  • Where do I go to when I feel like I am going to ‘cave’?
  • What role do I want them to play for in the recovery process?
  • How might my recovery from porn addiction impact our sex life?
  • By giving up porn, what am I losing?
  • By giving up porn, what am I making space for?
  • Whom do I talk to about my issues with porn?
  • What kind of support would I feel would be helpful for my partner to give me?

Once again, recovering from any unhealthy relationship is challenging.  Trying to do so alone can feel isolating. Sometimes sharing your vulnerabilities can help you achieve a greater level of intimacy.  At what stage of recovery you opt to share, and what details you disclose are on a case by case basis. There are different ramifications for all the different choices.  Knowing what is best for you might require talking to a therapist, or reading some books first to have some better understanding about the implications for your actions.  With that being said, having your partner know a basic level can be useful because they know that you are taking your porn problem seriously and allowing them to participate in your recovery process.

Share Your Clear Support Network

Some organizations see sex from an addiction model, such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).  Within these organizations, it’s common for the person to have a “sponsor.” This person provides reliable support for the person in recovery, and provides guidance in times of need.  If you are serious about your porn problem, you may find having a similar person in your life helpful. Take a risk, attend a meeting and find yourself a sponsor. Additionally, you could call a sex therapist who could give you guidance and support in your recovery process. Working with a therapist offers your full privacy. The only people who know, are the people you tell.  

Restrict Your Internet Use

Though the Internet can bring its own set of problems, the internet also provides some solutions for people recovering from pornography abuse.  To ensure that you don’t visit sexually explicit websites you can use an app / web program to block access to sexually explicit websites. Some of these programs will “report” your behaviors to a designated person.  The point is, being proactive in your recovery process not only will help you go the course, but help you be more vulnerable with those around you. Here are some common apps that restrict Internet use in some way.  Once again, if your partner sees these actions, while it might be difficult for them to acknowledge that you have a porn addiction, it might also help them find new ways to trust you. Recovery is a process.

  • Freedom (restricts Internet usage)
  • Cold Turkey (blocks designated websites)
  • SelfControl (blocks designated websites)
  • STOP P-O-R-N (blocks sexually explicit websites)

Alter Your Physical Environment

An old adage states, “If you hang out at a bar, it’s only a matter of time before you order a drink.”  Even if you are strongly determined to stay dry, constantly being around alcohol is going to lead you to drinking it.  Essentially, one’s physical environment matters greatly for unhealthy relationships, and pornography is no different. One common tip with porn recovery is to place one’s personal computer in a public place.  By only using their computer around others, the individual is less likely to look at sexually explicit material. Inform your partner that you’re only going to use your computer in public areas. This may be difficult for you, but remember your reasoning behind it.  You want to take your porn problem seriously, and you want to assure your partner that you actually are.

What to Do This With This Information

At this point, you have gathered a significant amount of information of how to show your partner that you are taking your porn problem seriously.  However, this information only relates to the initial steps of showcasing your recovery. If you and your partner believe this to be a personal journey, then you can do the previous steps and nothing else.  However, if you want your partner to be more involved, here are some questions that your partner should ask of you or that they should consider in the recovery process.

  • What are your triggers?
  • How can I tell if my sexual feelings, behaviors and thoughts are triggering to you?
  • How does your  porn use affect our sex life?
  • If I agree to not use porn with you what am I giving up? And what feelings do I have around all of this? How are my emotional needs going to be met?
  • What kind of porn are/did you fixate on?
  • What are your masturbation habits?
  • How did my partner showcase shame?
  • How do does my partner tend to hide their shameful actions?
  • How do they act out?
  • I’ve never dated anyone in recovery before, who can I go to if my feelings start to overwhelm me?
  • What resources exist for the partner?

All of this information can help your partner be more involved with your  recovery. By knowing more of the problematic behavior, they will have more tools to deal with it.

One Important Caveat

To be clear, the previously stated actions can be informative of your dedication, but they aren’t definitive.  It’s possible to take one’s porn problem seriously and not engage in any of the mentioned behaviors. Additionally, it can be very difficult to end an unhealthy relationship, especially with pornography.  A person may engage in all these behaviors and still struggle to display change. This is why it can be so important to have external support. Furthermore, this article focuses on the initial steps of proving your dedication to addressing your porn problem.  As time goes on, you will likely have to showcase other forms of dedication.  If you’re still unsure on how to express your commitment to your porn recovery or simply want your partner to have more support, try scheduling a  session at the Center for Growth.