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Can a relationship recover from a partner's porn addiction? Advice needed...

(9 Posts)
AnnaWakeling Mon 21-Dec-15 22:41:30

I am a new member, looking for some help on the thorny topic of a partner who has recently revealed his porn addiction - and how to move forward. Having looked through the forum, I have seen that many have posted on this issue, and mainly the advice largely seems to be to walk away from the relationship. Are there any members out there who, in contrast, have stuck with a partner who has admitted to and overcome a porn addiction - and if so, how have you managed to do it? I would be so grateful for any support or suggestions from anybody out there who recognises or understands.

The back story in brief ... my partner of four years revealed to me three months ago that he was addicted to porn. Our relationship always had a lot of friendship and affection, but the sexual aspect became more and more disconnected/impersonal on my partner's side once the initial 6 month honeymoon phase wore off, despite all my efforts. My self-esteem slowly crashed through the floor, my partner allowed me to believe that the problem was largely my fault, I became very depressed and despairing, and eventually we reached a point where I gave up trying to understand what was happening, why the relationship and communication had gone so wrong, why I was so unloveable, and after many fruitless conversations where I begged for answers and none were forthcoming, I finally gave up, and told him that as far as I could see the romantic part of our relationship was over, and perhaps we should just accept that we were platonic friends, since that in effect was what we were.

He then admitted to me that he was addicted to porn, that he had been using it for several hours every week throughout our relationship and indeed throughout his life since the age of 11 (he is now in his 40s). It was a huge shock to me, the last thing I ever expected. He had never told anyone about it before - and he says he had never realised fully before what a disasterous impact it was having on all his relationships, on his ability to function as a partner, on his understanding of intimacy. He begged me not to give up on him, and said that now he had finally admitted the truth, he felt that if I could bear to hang in there, he would prove to me that things could change.

Since that day, from what he has told me, he has totally stopped looking at porn, he has been going through recovery websites such as Your Brain On Porn and reading a lot of material on the subject, and he has started seeing a psychotherapist. If I am to believe him - and at the moment I do - he has had a huge wakeup call about the damage he has caused to me, to previous partners and to himself, and he seems to be genuinely committed to change, having acknowledged something he has never opened up about before. He says it is inconceivable to him now, knowing what he now does about the industry, about nature of porn addiction, about the hurt he has caused, that he would ever go back to it.

My question to members is - has anybody been in this situation, and managed to forgive their partner and move forward with a life together - and if so, how did you do it? I am struggling with overwhelming feelings of rage, grief, shame, guilt, jealousy, and pain, and finding it very difficult to see a way through, whilst at the same time my partner is absolutely determined to try and put things right, and prove to me that he can change. It is hard for me to imagine moving forward because the man I thought I knew, and the relationship I thought I had, never really existed - so even though I don't want to give up, I don't know where to start - and I would greatly value any advice that anyone out there could give, especially those who have gone through this experience?

mypetdragon Sat 26-Dec-15 20:52:10

Hi, I didn't want to read and run since you have obviously spent some time writing your post.

It is clear that your partner has committed to changing his behaviour which for a porn addict is a huge step. It sounds to me that he has acknowledged the damage done to your relationship and has set about making changes but from what you say it looks as though this only came about following your decision to make the relationship platonic due to your despair and unhappiness with your situation. From your final paragraph I can see that you are struggling with adjustment and acceptance. You say that it's hard for you to move forward as the man you knew and the relationship you thought you had never existed but if he is a loving man who wants to change then hopefully you can move this forward. Perhaps you would benefit from some form of counselling - individually and as a couple. I'm afraid I am no expert and only write as the partner of a porn addict.

Not wishing to hijack your thread but in answer to your question, I am dating a porn addict. We have been together a little over a year and in contrast to your situation, he has openly admitted to using porn and sees no problem with his addiction. When it was suggested that he sought help, his reaction was 'why should I?'. He is a very highly sexed man and masturbates to porn daily. He is also a very loving and romantic man in every way (including sexually although porn has played a part in his sexual behaviour in as much as his expectations of me revolve around what he perceives to be normal sexual behaviour). However, due to his extreme wanking habit he is unable to ejaculate during intercourse. I don't really want to recount any further details as this is your thread, and I hope that others will reply with helpful advice. I, in turn, may well start a thread of my own!

RedMapleLeaf Sat 26-Dec-15 21:16:01

Why would you tolerate this when you could have a fun and fulfilling sex life with a different partner? And in the meantime a single life free from such a cause of "rage, grief, shame, guilt, jealousy, and pain"?

ElfOnTheBoozeShelf Sat 26-Dec-15 21:33:36

The fact that he allowed you to think the sexual issues in your relationship were entirely your fault is something you need to think on. He was happy for you to deal with all the horrible emotions surrounding that feeling, watching you suffer with that, without allowing you a way out.

You also need to consider, if you stay with him, how his sexual interests may well be affected by what he has been exposed to.

As much as you want to work on this relationship, you need to think about what you will gain from it, if it does. This damage will still be there, and the feelings you are struggling with now - because of what he has done - may not fade.

Toffeelatteplease Sat 26-Dec-15 21:43:04

I think you need to take an honest look at his attitudes to you and sex have in fact altered. Are you having a sex life is it satisfying to you.

There are issues surrounding trust. do you trust that he has in fact stopped or has he got better at hiding it?

I think the answer to your question is that no normally they don't. Even if they do there is no telling if they won't slip at times of stress etc. Can you deal with that?

Are more to the point should you really have to.

Offred Sun 27-Dec-15 07:47:50

It's ok to not be able to get over something like this even though you believe your partner is making an effort to change/has changed.

I think what he has done to you in allowing you to feel unloveable and then claiming he didn't realise it was porn (of course he did he just wasn't prepared to give it up) is pretty unforgivable.

AnnaWakeling Tue 29-Dec-15 18:10:21

Thankyou all so much for responding at such a busy time of year - I forgot about that when I posted!
mypetdragon - I read a post from a former porn addict (male) on a forum which seemed to get a lot of agreement from other guys below his comment - in his opinion it was impossible for a man who was using porn heavily to connect romantically with a real person, because porn use is based on objectification, women are just objects, so he felt it was impossible for a porn addict to truly bond with a woman in real life. He said he only understood this once he finally experienced romantic connection (having kicked his porn habit), and realised how different it was. My experience is that I thought the relationship was romantic but realised after the first few 'honeymoon' months, as his porn use returned to its usual level, that the love was increasingly focused on platonic affection, and that the sexual part had somehow become disconnected from it.

I can see the logic in what other posters are saying - allowing me to feel it was my fault is a very awful thing to do - he says that he was lying to himself about how big his problem was, and that the denial is what led to his being so heartless. I can understand it to some extent rationally when he explains it, but emotionally it is nonetheless difficult to accept that this intelligent person was truly unaware of the effect his porn use was having on our relationship - and was prepared to hurt me so badly just to preserve his secret. I am going to start counselling in the new year and he would like us to try couples counselling as well - it may provide some answers, though I agree ElfOnTheShelf that even if I get answers, the hurt may not fade and I may not be able to live with that.

I suppose the only reason I am hanging on for now (we haven't had sex since the disclosure, I don't want to and he says he's prepared to wait indefinitely until I make my decision) is because it is difficult to give up on a person, and to say that they aren't going to be able to change - basically it is difficult to give up believing in someone, however abominable they have been...

SolidGoldBrass Tue 29-Dec-15 19:51:06

Having a relationship with any kind of addict is very, very hard work. Recovery from addiction is difficult (whether it's alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling or anything else) and a recovering addict shouldn't really engage in relationships as s/he has to concentrate on him/herself (even if the recovery process is being properly managed with 1-1 psychiatric help rather than 12-step bullshit).

I do think your best bet would be to walk away and devote your time, energy and attention to your self. You matter, too, and a relationship that's going to be all about him and his addiction for the foreseeable future is one that's going to drain you.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 29-Dec-15 21:27:56

anna,

re your comment:-
"I suppose the only reason I am hanging on for now (we haven't had sex since the disclosure, I don't want to and he says he's prepared to wait indefinitely until I make my decision) is because it is difficult to give up on a person, and to say that they aren't going to be able to change - basically it is difficult to give up believing in someone, however abominable they have been"

That thinking sounds awfully like the "sunken costs fallacy" (read up on it with regards to relationships) which can simply make people stay in bad relationships far longer than they should. What you forget here is that the damage has already been done.

He was never your project either nor someone for you to rescue and or save.

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