I am sharing my story because I think it is important to offer a realistic picture of the peace and joy that is attainable in a marriage even when a pornography addiction exists. That peace and joy has only come for us as we have committed to do the hard work of therapy, recovery, looking at ourselves, surrendering our weaknesses, being completely honest with each other, and forgiving ourselves and others. Too often, we hear of the outcomes of divorce, separation, and family breakups that come with addiction. While those are true and very painful, there are also stories of hope and happiness.
I met a man over five years ago and soon realized I was in love. I felt differently than I ever had before. We talked so easily about everything. We shared the same interests. Shortly after we met, he disclosed that he had recently begun attending a 12-Step group for pornography addiction. I remember quickly thinking back to what I knew about addiction, what I knew about pornography, and what I even knew about sex, which wasn’t much.
Somehow I didn’t feel the urge to run away. I still loved him. What this did was heavily put the brakes on any decisions I wanted to make regarding our relationship. We lived in separate states. I had looked into moving to where he lived and that didn’t feel right anymore. Neither did talking about marriage. Neither did breaking up though. Through a respected leader, I was introduced to a therapist who specialized in pornography addiction. I called him to get some information. I wanted to know if people could change and how long it could take.
To make a long story short, it soon became clear that we needed to be near each other and begin therapy if we were going to continue dating. So, this man quit his job, left his family and friends, and moved to Utah. I appreciated his honesty with me and his willingness to give up whatever he needed in order to try to make some positive changes. We started therapy that month and were told it was probably wise not to make any major decisions for a year or so. That took off the pressure of even thinking of marriage. We figured we’d both be better for going through this, even if we didn’t stay together or end up getting married. We were one of very few dating couples in the therapy program. Most were married, and most wives found out that their husbands were addicts after they were married, either because he finally disclosed it or because he was caught. I felt like some of these women thought I was nuts for going through this without even the commitment of marriage. But my boyfriend and I had a very strong relationship of trust. I trusted him. I trusted that he would be truthful with me. This didn’t mean that he would be perfect and never have a slip up, but his willingness to be honest was important.
We set similar boundaries as the other couples. If he did have a slip up, he had twenty-four hours to tell me about it. It was hard for him to tell me, but he did each time. Oftentimes, I would get upset and take it personally at first. We were in therapy, first as a couple for six weeks, then me with other women and he with other men weekly for a year and half. I met individually with a therapist once a month and through that whole process realized I had a lot of my own problems to work on, whether my boyfriend was an addict or not. I learned of some family secrets through this process. I believe that through my own therapy and recovery—working on me without worrying about him—I was able to process and work through my own fears.
We were engaged about eight months after we began therapy and married three months later. We continued in weekly therapy our first year of marriage. We both “graduated” from our therapy programs. My husband still attends a weekly 12-Step group and we attend a monthly couples group. Recovery is a regular word in our home, as is addiction. These words no longer bring fear or panic to my mind like they once did. They bring peace and hope.
At first, marriage and sex added an interesting dynamic to our relationship. Our “normal” newlywed struggles were often attributed to addiction rather than just to life, and we have learned to put those into perspective. I believe I am a better person for having gone through this together, and for starting our marriage on a healthy, trusting foundation. That’s my story up until now. We have a great working marriage and continue to learn together. We appreciate and love each other. We definitely have our ups and downs. Some days we feel like we’re back where we started, but we’re not even close to that. We are equals and both feel so lucky to have each other. We both feel that our therapy has given us new tools, not only in our marriage relationship but in parenting, in other relationships, and in meeting life’s joys and challenges.