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This is the second in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma. Please send questions that you have to ho***************@gm***.com. To see the previous post in the series, click here.
Sister Carol Stephens, in a recent Face to Face discussion, advised young women to consider whether or not their prospective spouse has a “good heart.” My son has a good heart. He loves to serve others. He earned his Eagle Scout award and served on the leadership council in high school. He served a successful full-time mission. He continues to serve in his student wards [congregations] and Young Single Adult (YSA) church programs. When he is not in school, he is diligently employed to fund his college education. He has a temple recommend and attends the temple regularly. My son is known and loved by many people, inside and outside of the church. He’s just a good guy. He has a good heart.
But . . .
My son struggles with viewing pornography.
You wouldn’t know about my son’s struggles unless you asked him. My son represents many other young men and women who wish to have a healthy eternal marriage, but know his or her past behaviors could jeopardize their most righteous desires.
There is always hope through Christ; recovery from this sexual sin is possible. Significant research shows that 12-step programs can assist individuals in learning how to reach out and use the power of Christ’s atonement in the process of recovery and repentance from habitual or compulsive behaviors. Those who recognize and continually utilize the powerful love of Christ in their lives will have a Christ-like love in their own hearts. They will have good hearts.
In order to know the heart of my son, I hope his future mate will ask questions and engage in honest and open discussions about sensitive topics. I hope his future mate will not only listen to the content of his answers, but will also watch how he answers. She should note if he is defensive, tries to evade answering the questions, or becomes angry. Such responses are often associated with attempts to hide the truth. There is so much shame associated with pornography that even “good-hearted” individuals may find it difficult to be totally open about their behaviors.
I hope my son’s future companion will be understanding and approach these discussions with prayer and listen to her own good heart so that my son will feel safe to share confidential and very personal information with her.
I hope any future spouse, male or female, will approach their loved one with these types of questions:
When did you last view pornography? This should be a discussion starter and not simply answered with a calendar date. Avoid details about what was viewed, but the time, place, circumstances, and feelings about the incident(s) are important to know. Follow-up questions could include: When you saw the pornography, what did you do? How often do you view pornography?
This discussion could help discern whether the viewing of pornography is intensive, compulsive, or occasional (read“Recovering from the Trap of Pornography” by Elder Oaks for more information). With few exceptions, men masturbate while viewing pornography, so questions about masturbation or self-arousal might be asked. The partner’s willingness to share personal information and become clean in every way of all sexual sin is important.
What are you currently doing to recover from the trap of pornography? If it is apparent that pornography is an issue, there should be a plan in place to combat the problem. Scripture study, prayer, and meeting with Priesthood leaders are starting points. Depending on the level of involvement, participation in 12-step programs through the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program or other organizations should be a serious consideration as well as professional therapy from a qualified therapist with expert knowledge on this matter.
Do you know the difference between lust and love? Most young people will struggle to explain this. With the prevalence of sexual seduction in social media and other sources, couples need to have mutually clear expectations and understandings on this topic. Here is some helpful information from the August 2006 New Era:
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this description of love: “True love elevates, protects, respects, and enriches another. It motivates you to make sacrifices for the [person] you love” (“Making the Right Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).
Lust, on the other hand, is pretty much the exact opposite. Instead of elevating, it lowers. Instead of protecting, it endangers. Instead of enriching, it impoverishes. When you are feeling lust, you are thinking about the other person mainly as a means to satisfy your own physical desires. As Elder Scott taught: “Satan would promote counterfeit love, which is really lust. That is driven by hunger to satisfy personal appetite” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).
What other pre-marital sexual activities have you been involved with? Individuals deeply immersed in the world of pornography sometimes engage in pre-marital sex and other serious sexual behaviors such as voyeurism, reading arousing literature, or obsessive sexual fantasies. This is an opportunity for both parties to be honest about their pasts and begin a relationship based on transparent and open communication.
I pray that any young woman who considers marrying my son will trust her heart and listen to the Spirit. She needs to know that the struggle with pornography is real and marriage does not make it go away. Sister Stephens gave very wise counsel:
“Do you know how the Spirit speaks to you? Because you’re going to need to know. You’re going to have to have the Spirit really close to you, to be able to work together on that, and to be able to discern whether this is going to work or not” (Face to Face for YSA).
There is always hope through Christ and He can be there to help couples work together as they battle the plague of pornography and sexual sin. Before marrying my son, I hope a righteous young woman will have the courage to ask hard questions, listen with understanding, and then follow the Spirit to know the next step to take in the relationship. That is my hope for all young couples.