Literally nobody likes awkward situations.
In fact, most of us would rather do ANYTHING than deal with an awkward conversation. We all fake laughter at jokes that aren’t funny to avoid awkward silence. We rehearse everything we say to avoid saying something weird. When we do something awkward, like trip or misspeak, our first reaction is to look to see who saw or heard, with the hope that no one did. And we are all guilty of avoiding certain people or certain conversations simply because...they’re just SO awkward.
Even when something we really want is on the line, such as a date or a raise, we often weigh our options simply based on how much of a risk the situation is for being awkward. We’ve all avoided asking someone out simply for the fear of them saying no and it being awkward afterward or have avoided asking our bosses for a much-deserved raise simply because doing so is uncomfortable.
So, yes, we hate awkward situations. Which means the topic I’m about to cover won’t be very popular: if you struggle with porn, then you need to talk about it with your significant other.
Now, I do realize that there probably isn’t a more cringey topic than that. Pornography is an uncomfortable topic to begin with and to address your own weaknesses with it to someone you want to like you...isn’t easy, to say the least.
Heck, we don’t want our significant other to see anything but the best side of us! Admit it, you’ve definitely embellished some aspects of your life to appear more appealing to your significant other. We’ve all ordered salads to try and look healthy, shown up to events super early, worn nicer clothes than usual on dates, and gone out of our way to be extra charming. And, that’s okay. That’s part of dating. You should be trying to be extra nice to and around your date. But you do need to be honest, too. That means if you do struggle with porn, then you do need to have a conversation about it.
But why? And when? And how?
While each relationship and situation is unique, there are some best practices you should keep in mind.
Why You Need to Talk About Pornography
If you struggled with alcoholism or drug abuse, you would definitely tell your significant other about it. Probably not on the first date (hopefully!) but eventually, as your relationship grew. You’d do this because you’d want them to support you in avoiding the things that cause you temptation but to also hold you accountable. You would also want to be honest with them. An addiction to pornography is no different. As you and your date get to know each other and share honestly about your lives, this is something that should come up.
Not only is being transparent in a relationship important (for so many reasons!), by being honest about your own shortcomings, you are allowing your date to support you and help you overcome vices that are holding you back from being the person God meant for you to be.
Even though you aren’t married yet, you and your significant other should be trying to lead each other to Christ, and one way you can do this is by supporting each other in defeating sin and learning to grow in virtue instead!
Think about how you would feel if you were dating someone and they had a secret struggle. Wouldn’t you WANT to know about it in order to help them become the best version of themselves and wouldn’t you want them to feel that they can bring anything, even something embarrassing, to you?
When You Should Talk About Pornography
As I mentioned earlier, this is definitely not a first date conversation. Before you address this topic (or any other similar topic), you should trust your date and have a real relationship with them. There is a big difference between a relationship in the first few dates and one after several dates. You should be able to trust your partner and be vulnerable with them before you have this sort of conversation.
Talking about pornography isn’t something to be taken lightly. Just as you (probably) wouldn’t discuss alcoholism too early on, you shouldn’t talk about this too early either. This is because you don’t want to come across as a person who shares every little detail of your life too easily (TMI!) but also because it shows that you realize this is an important conversation and one that should be addressed thoughtfully and respectfully. This isn’t something you should casually toss out over dinner. It should be something you can talk about privately and without interruptions and distractions. Some good places to have a conversation about pornography (or any other more difficult conversation) are on a walk, in the car, or at home—somewhere you feel comfortable talking candidly and your date can ask you questions.
Also, before having this conversation, you should have some plan in place for overcoming your addiction to pornography. Whether this is by installing accountability software on your computer, only being on your phone in public places, getting a spiritual director, or joining a group that will support you, get something in place.
Father Tad Pacholczyk, from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, has this advice for someone who is struggling to quit pornography,
“For those who are seeking to break free of pornography, it can be helpful to become aware of the “triggers” that typically or habitually lead to viewing. Sometimes it will be related to loneliness or to alcohol use or stressful situations; sometimes it may be web surfing "after hours” when the rest of the family has gone to sleep.”
He also adds that seeking both personal support and spiritual help, from a trusted friend and the saints, can make all the difference as you work to stay on track. He says, “Having a trusted person or persons with whom we regularly discuss these struggles can also be invaluable. In prayer, it will be important to seek God’s strengthening graces, including through the intercession of those saints who have a special association with purity of heart, like St. Joseph, St. Maria Goretti, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Augustine and/or others.”
By getting these helpful measures in place before talking to your date, you will already be on the path to overcoming pornography. And, when your date asks how you plan to deal with this vice, you will have a solid answer already in place!
This shows that you are putting in a real effort to overcome it and aren’t just all talk and no game.
How To Talk About Pornography
While there is no foolproof way to make the conversation free of awkwardness, there are some ways to get it off to the right start. Start by telling your date that you need to talk about something important. Then be honest! Tell them what your struggles are, what you feel, why you want them to know, and then ask what their questions are.
A starting conversation can look something like this:
- What your struggles are: “I’ve struggled with pornography since I was in high school.”
- What you feel: “I know it’s a terrible thing and it’s something I am very ashamed of.”
- Why you want them to know: “I wanted you to know because I care about you a lot and I want to be honest with you.”
- What are their questions: “Do you have any questions you want to ask me about it?”
It can be that simple!
It’s also important to make sure that your date is comfortable. They may react in a number of ways. They may have a lot of questions. They may brush it off. They may want some time alone to think about it. They may get upset. Whatever their reaction is, support them and ask how you can help them work through this with you.
If they want to talk about it, be open to that. They may have struggles of their own that they want to share. Or, they may want to support you as you work to overcome this. Whatever their reaction, remember, this conversation is awkward for them too! Do your best to be patient and understanding.
Hopefully, when you have this conversation, your date will be understanding and look for ways to support you. However, if they react in a way that is unfair, gently remind them that you are working to overcome this and their support would be most welcome!
As we are reminded in John 8:7, Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Remind your date that we are all sinners and by acknowledging your own shortcomings, you are asking for their help, not their judgment. You already know pornography is wrong and you don’t need them to keep reiterating it.
Some Other Things To Keep In Mind…
Regardless of your date’s reaction, remember, you are a child of God and you are loved! The Sacrament of Confession exists for a reason. By making use of it, you are able to reconcile yourself with God.
While it is extremely uncomfortable to talk about your own shortcomings with your significant other, it’s important to remember that each and every one of us are sinners. We all sin. Yet God loves and forgives each of us.
While it is important to get on the same page as your date about your struggle with pornography...it is much more important to get right with God first. Once you set things right with Him, by confessing your sins and resolving to do better, pray for His guidance on how to address it with your date. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your actions and give you the words you need to say what you need to say.
While this conversation won’t necessarily be a fun one, it can be a healthy and productive one!
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