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Your Conversation Blueprint

How do you talk with a friend about their struggle with porn? Should you ask them about it or wait for them to volunteer information? Once it’s brought up, what do you even say? We hope this information helps you open up the conversation in a way that is healthy and productive for both you and the friend you’re discussing this with.

What To Do

Know the facts.

Before you begin the conversation, it’s important to make yourself aware of the science behind how porn impacts individuals, relationships, and society, so that you have a solid, holistic understanding of the issues you’ll be discussing. You can get the facts on the Fight the New Drug website, where we have many videos and articles about the harms of porn. You can also utilize our three-part documentary series Brain, Heart, World.

Gauge your relationship.

Before you begin this conversation, ask yourself whether you have a deep enough relationship with this friend that it would be appropriate for you to discuss this together. How you start this conversation will set the tone for this and any future conversations about porn. This is why we’ll talk more about how to start this conversation once you’ve had a chance to think through your goals for this conversation. What things do you want to learn, or gain understanding about? Would your friend be comfortable opening up to you about this? What open-minded questions will you ask?

Listen.

Once you express yourself, give your friend a chance to respond. They might open up about their current and/or past experiences with porn, or they might need more time before they open up fully. If they’re not ready to talk quite yet, set a date and time when you’ll revisit the subject when you’ve both had more time to think and process. Whether or not they currently struggle with porn, it can be helpful to try to gain a better understanding of their attitude about porn. Try to listen and be understanding as they express how they feel about their experiences, past and/or present.

Show that you care.

This can be difficult conversation for you both, but we’re guessing you’re having it because you care about your friend. If they open up to you, try to thank them for their honesty, even if they say things that are difficult to hear. Help them recognize the good in themselves and their potential. Encouragement can mean the world to someone who is struggling.

See the good.

While research shows that it’s unhealthy to consume porn, research also shows how the brain can heal and recover from porn consumption over time. Remember, your friend is more than their struggle. Do you believe there’s hope for them? If you do, tell them.

Acknowledge the significance of disclosure.

It can help to remember that being accountable is a significant step toward recovery. Disclosure is a big step and can signal to you that your friend is ready to change!

Create a plan.

External motivation can be helpful, but ultimately this has to be a decision your friend makes, if they are truly going to be able to overcome their porn struggle. Educate yourself on the issues surrounding porn, establish boundaries, and then help your friend set goals for recovery.

Utilize recovery resources.

When your friend is ready to make a change, know that there are resources to help. Fortify is a free, online, video-based recovery resource that helps break the cycle of going back to porn. Learn more about Fortify and talk to your friend about trying it today.

Identify healthy ways to help.

Accountability partners can be extremely helpful to those ready to leave porn behind. Know that your friend may prefer their accountability partner not to be you—set them up for success by being open to what they need. If both of you have agreed upon it together, identify healthy ways you can support your friend while also supporting yourself. An honest and open channel of communication can help your friend stay accountable. What they do is ultimately up to their own self-control and motivation, but knowing that you are in their corner can help immensely. Are you willing to ask them directly what they need?

What Not To Do

Try not to force disclosure

There’s a good chance your friend wasn’t anticipating this conversation, and they may not be ready to fully disclose right away. That’s okay. Simply opening the door to having this conversation is a great start. It’s healthy to have an ongoing discussion anyway, so remember that you can always come back to the conversation at any point. If they’re open to it, set a reasonable future date and time to revisit it so you both can prepare as best as possible.

Avoid shaming—it won't help.

It can be easy, when we’re disappointed or disagree with someone, to intentionally or unintentionally shame the person we’re upset with. What does shaming look like, you may be asking? It’s like making someone feel like a “bad” person or unworthy of love because of something they’ve done. It’s important to keep in mind that shaming someone who is struggling with porn usually does not help, and does not push them toward healthy change and motivated recovery. In fact, research shows that shame only makes things worse. Shaming can wound relationships and discourage progress in recovery. Keep in mind that, many times, most porn consumers may not have chosen to see porn the first time. They may have seen it by accident, or been forced. They may have been so young that they didn’t understand, but it sparked a struggle all the same. All in all, avoiding shame will likely lead to a better outcome for all parties.

Don't brush it off.

It may seem easier to brush off this issue. Make sure you’re giving adequate respect to your friend and their perspectives, but don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned about the harms of porn. Try to have an open and honest dialogue in which both of you are respectful of each other’s perspectives.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself.

Try to notice if you’re putting in a lot more work into their recovery than they are. If so, you might be enabling rather than helping, and that’s not great for either of you. Ultimately, it’s up to your friend to kick their own porn habit. While you can support and encourage them, don’t make their struggle your responsibility, as that won’t help either of you. What can you do to set healthy boundaries that will help you and your friend?

Don't blame yourself for setbacks.

Someone with a severe pornography struggle might not be able to quit cold turkey. Relapses don’t mean that your friend is starting from square one or that they aren’t making any progress. Relapsing can happen as a part of recovery, but it should be handled as a step forward instead of a setback. Once again, while you can support and encourage them, it’s your friend’s responsibility to kick their habit for themselves.

Try not to make this a one-time talk.

Check in with your friend periodically in ways that are best for both of you. Ask what that looks like for them—would they prefer you text them every once in a while? Have regular, scheduled conversations? What works for both of you? Try to be supportive in a way that is healthy for both of you and creates a safe environment of honesty and trust. Help them feel that they can confide in you, and stay supportive.

Success Stories

My friend told me I wasn’t alone. He said that I hadn’t messed up more than I could fix, that I was capable of overcoming my addiction. That was something I hadn’t thought was possible before.

N

He didn’t know it then, but him talking to me about his problem was the beginning of my journey to overcoming my own issue with pornography

M, 25
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