Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

My Boyfriend Struggles with Porn, What Should I Do? navigating your way through a sexually turbulent relationship

If you are a girl in this generation and hope to get married, you will inevitably have the “pornography talk” with your husband, someday. Almost all men have gotten into porn at some point in their lifetime.

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What if you’re dating right now and your guy is looking at porn? What should you do?

It breaks my heart there is so much addiction like this running throughout the world. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising. But sin—especially sexual sin—deeply devastates relationships, and so it still turns my stomach whenever I hear of a couple dealing with it in their dating relationship.

I’ve been one of those addicted to pornography. I am also one who is free, today. Telling my wife-to-be the story of failure was the most difficult thing I’ve done. Yet, it was also really healing.

So, in an effort to help couples navigate their own relational turbulence, especially when it involves sexual sin, here are a few things I suggest you do if your man, the guy you deeply care about, is hooked on porn.

First of all, know that it’s not your fault.

You probably feel a lot of self-condemnation if you know the guy who is supposed to be captivated by you is instead captivated by supermodels online. Self-condemnation is a painful thing to feel.

But know that it’s not your fault.

Your boyfriend is not looking at porn because you aren’t beautiful or because you couldn’t be sexually fulfilling. Porn addiction goes much deeper than a need for sexual enjoyment. Seeing pictures of naked women arouses him. And sexual arousal releases dopamine in his brain.

Have you ever had an adrenaline rush? Maybe a close call while driving down the freeway, or a freefall on a roller-coaster ride? The process of arousal (and having sex) is the ultimate adrenaline rush.

Why do you think guys get hooked on sports? Or successful careers?

They feel adrenaline when they do it, and adrenaline feels really good.

Sexual arousal also feels really good.

The reason your boyfriend is looking at porn is because he has something in his life that adrenaline needs to soothe.

I don’t mean to wipe a blanket statement over men. But I am a man, myself. And I know that there are deep questions in my heart that, when not answered, not satisfied in the place they were created to be satisfied, I seek for answers elsewhere.

What I’m saying is all of us, men and women, are designed to find our self-worth, our purpose and significance in God. But because we live in a broken world, and because the first man and women believed the lie that God doesn’t have their best in mind, we all naturally go looking elsewhere for identity.

But nothing other than God is created to give us identity. Not another person. Not a job. Not an achievement. Those things will only disappoint when we are looking to them as our point of reference.

And when they disappoint, we need something to fill the void, to soothe the pain.

Pornography fills that void pretty well. That’s why he’s looking at porn. It’s not your fault.

You are beautiful because you are made by the Author of beauty. You are sexually fulfilling because you were designed to be sexually fulfilling. But you are not intended to fill your boyfriend’s voids.

So, as much as you are able, rest in God knowing it is not your fault. And move towards a healthier relationship with your man by considering the following questions.

Do you have any desire to continue the relationship?

Perhaps this is really basic. But I find it’s easy, in dating relationships, to lose touch of basics. Simple common-sense answers can give a lot of clarity. If you have no desire to continue in a relationship, then you are free to quit. Dating is not marriage, so don’t bind yourself in a way God never intended for people who aren’t married.

Now, because I can hear a choir of men begging for another side, a bit of grace and a second chance, let me pose a few more questions.

Are there any sins in your life? Any moral sins? Have you been honest about and confessed them to your boyfriend?

What made it healing to talk with Teresa about how I had failed in the past, and what makes it healing to continue being honest with her about my failures, is that she sins as well.

I expected judgment. But she gave grace. I thought she’d want me to get myself straightened out before she gave herself to me. But she asked if we could do it together.

We all have sins on some level and, ironically, women have almost as many moral failures as men do. They just aren’t talked about as much. Dating isn’t about finding the person who can be perfect for you; it’s about seeing if the two of you want to journey redemption together.

Are you consulting people who know you both well? (Mentors, parents, close friends)

Books (and blogs) are great for gleaning perspective, but the best people to speak into your unique circumstance are those who know you both well. Those who love you both enough to say hard things that don’t gain them favor in return.

Have you talked with your parents? Do you have mentors that can speak into your lives? Have you sought out mentors? Do you have close friends who are encouraging, but don’t just tell you what you’d like to hear?

Do you feel safe?

Without any prior knowledge of his struggle, do you feel safe? A man can be on a path to victory and still struggling, and that’s okay. It’s a journey; not an overnight life-change.

But if you’ve never quite felt safe, as though he valued you and protected your body and heart, then I’d call it off. There may be some deeper things that need taken care of before getting too emotionally involved with him.

*I’ll add here that if there has been any sexual involvement between the two of you (whether mutually complying or not), I would put some boundaries in place and seek out professional help right away.

Have you told him how you feel (do you feel safe to express how his struggle makes you struggle)?

Can you be honest with him about any fears you have? Are you able to verbalize the feelings of self-condemnations or shame you may feel? Telling him these things could play a positive role in his journey to freedom. And if you can’t, if you don’t feel safe to tell him, then maybe you should put the relationship on hold.

Are you convinced he’s sincere, or do you just hope he’s sincere?

If he has repented and wants to find freedom, and you want to continue the relationship, do you feel he is truly sincere? Engagement and marriage bind you in ways dating doesn’t. It’s another story if there have been deeper levels of commitment. But if there is a check in your heart about his sincerity while you’re dating, now is the time to express and explore those checks.

I’ve heard of too many people who hoped their partner would change, only to realize years down the road they never did. On the other hand, if he is sincere, even though he may still struggle, he could be on a good journey to freedom.

Don’t just dump him because he looked porn. But don’t stay with him based on your hopes. Have hard conversations. Explore your feelings. Talk with mentors. You’ll sense if he’s sincere or not.

Are you committed to navigating the consequences and temptations of having opened up one’s self to this kind of sin?

Now, if the two of you want to continue the relationship, if you believe he’s sincere (or at least want to run the risk of believing in him), are you committed through everything that will come down the road?

Looking at porn, infiltrating your mind with romance fantasies—these kinds of sins have consequences. You will face temptations later in life, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or aren’t living in victory anymore. But are you committed to navigating through those temptations together? Are you willing to do whatever it takes, as a couple, to find deeper healing and deeper freedom?

There is hope, even in the middle of deep shame and disappointment. In one form or another, we will all discover throughout our lives that we live in a devastatingly broken world.

And if your world has been devastated by finding out your boyfriend struggles with porn, I hope these questions can help you navigate the turbulence it created in your relationship.

Women: how does it make you feel to realize so many men struggle with porn, these days? Men: how would you wish a girlfriend to respond to you if she knew you struggled? Share in the comments below.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Hischild

    This is thought provoking, and relevant. in our world, we need to be given a way through these waters since they are nearly unavoidable.