There’s an ache in me that’s impossible to ignore. It’s strange and frustrating, because the last thing I want to do is make the situation worse, but oh, how it hurts. He looked at porn again. My boyfriend’s mind wandered and he watched porn. I feel simultaneously hurt by him and sad for him because this sin is one that shakes my core and it is one that he fights so hard to shake, but struggles so much with. My boyfriend looks at porn.
I know there are others who are in the same situation as I am, others whose boyfriend looks at porn, and as we ask the question, “So what do I do?” we can feel alone. We aren’t alone, though. I took my question to the foremost world expert in all the things (Google) and it gave me advice on how to accept his porn habit, reasons why it’s okay that my boyfriend looks at porn, and how I could maybe watch porn with him. Mr. Google seems to think that a boyfriend looking at your phone is a bigger issue than when your boyfriend looks at porn.
I walked away from my computer and made a cup of tea to calm my outrage at the world and Google, and came back to think through the steps that I’ve found helpful in the moments of pain after my boyfriend confesses his sin of looking at porn to me. I’m writing them down for you, but also for me. Something to come back to as I continue to seek to walk this frustrating journey in sinful flesh with the guy I love.
Here they are: five questions to ask yourself when your boyfriend looks at porn.
1. Did he tell you, or did you find out some other way?
It’s important that you have open communication about this. Sin loves secrecy, and one of the main ways we combat sin is by bringing it into the light—by confessing it. As much as it hurts to be told, if he’s taken the huge step of confessing to you, then it’s worth taking a second and being thankful for that much before you start reacting.
He’s included you, and now you get to face this thing together. If he didn’t tell you, then I’d encourage you to think seriously about why he didn’t tell you and what that means for your relationship.
2. Is this act a reflection on you, or is it something else?
One of the biggest mistakes we can make is assuming that because someone we love looks at porn, we’re not good enough for them. The reality is that if you’re dating, then you shouldn’t be enough, because God’s good design for sex is within marriage.
For now, as much as we’d like to believe that sexual frustration isn’t real, it’s there, and you probably feel it too, even if it is to a lesser extent than the one you’re dating.
Him looking at porn isn’t about you.
But it hurts you because it feels like you aren’t beautiful or worthy or loveable, but ultimately, it’s something that he probably struggled with long before you showed up, and his brain is wired to go to porn for relief. That’s a tough battle to fight in a culture that says porn is okay.
Take a breath. Remember your worth is not in your boyfriend’s mind, but in God’s eyes, and remember that his actions aren’t a direct reflection on you. It hurts you, so much, but it isn’t about you.
3) What part of yourself are you going to speak from?
It’s hard to do, but we should be speaking grace, not shame. I’m tempted to speak out of the anger that I feel, to make him feel more ashamed, to make him feel the weight of the damage he’s doing to my self-esteem, to be indignant and then end the conversation.
But grace is something different.
Do you remember the story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery? It captured my heart long ago. A woman is caught in the midst of adultery and dragged in front of a crowd. Imagine that shame, imagine the vulnerability.
People are ready to throw stones at her, since the punishment for adultery is death, and someone gets Jesus involved. Jesus’ response to their challenge about the Law is to draw in the sand, and when he eventually stands, he says “whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” And everyone goes. Jesus, then, speaks to the woman with grace… The only one who could cast that first stone, chose to speak grace.
We’re all guilty of something, we all have shame, and the relief I feel when I remember that Jesus speaks to me with grace, not condemnation is impossible to express.
As much as your stomach is twisting with knots of sadness and anger, choose grace in that moment. Choose to remind him of grace, and then speak out of that place. Remind him of forgiveness. Remind him that though he feels filthy, Jesus has made him clean.
Remind him that He is still loved. Once you remind him, and yourself, of these things, talk about the pain you feel yourself, talk about your reactions and how his sin has hurt you. Do not perpetuate shame; perpetuate honesty. Sin loves shame, too.
4. What happens next?
This is a hard one. It’s all up to you here. If you’re not willing to stick around for this, and that isn’t a bad thing at all, then tell him that. Tell him why. Be honest. Encourage him to fight. If you want to stick around, then tell him that you’ll be there, that you want him to beat this, that you’re on his side, and work out what his next steps are.
For me, it’s making sure he has accountability outside of me, and that we set up safeguards to make sure that he can’t access porn easily again.
Moving forward may also mean that you make deliberate decisions about your own physical intimacy and decide scale it back so that you’re not tempting each other. Your relationship is more than your physicality, I assure you.
5. Are you okay?
Make sure that you’re okay, because if you’re not, that’s also okay. It’s alright to be knocked around by what he’s done, but it isn’t alright to shove those emotions down deep and ignore them. That won’t end well.
I have a trusted friend I can go to when I’m hurt. I can speak with her and be prayed for, and I need that to be available for my own mental health. I need a safe space to say how hurt I am, and to be reminded that I am loved.
It isn’t easy, this journey we’re on. Relationships aren’t easy in a porn-saturated world, but we don’t have to accept porn addiction and we don’t have to ignore it. We need to be able to work together with our partner in fighting it.
Redemption is possible—just look at that woman caught in adultery. Jesus will not abandon us. He will not abandon those we love either.
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