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Your Conversation Blueprint

Relationships are complex, and porn can definitely complicate things. So how do you start a general conversation about porn with your partner? Maybe you don’t know what they think about porn generally, or whether or not they consume it. Whatever your exact situation is, it’s important that you address this topic. We hope this information will help you start an ongoing conversation about porn in a way that is healthy and productive for both you and your partner.

If your discussion with your partner leads to different conversations in the future, we can help with those too.

I want to talk about my struggle with porn.
I want to talk about my parter's porn consumption.

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.

Prepare yourself.

Take some time to think through what your partner’s possible responses may be. For example, they may disclose that they’re currently struggling with a porn habit. They might not understand how their habit may be problematic or unhealthy. They might disclose that they’ve struggled with pornography in the past, even though it’s not something that’s been a problem recently. They might completely agree with you and have strong feelings about porn as well. Or maybe they will be completely silent, and need more time to process things before discussing further, or even disagree with you. How would you react in each scenario? No matter their response, try to prepare yourself as best as you can to respond in a way that is both healthy and helpful. Also, no matter what happens during the conversation, know that you’re not alone. No matter your partner’s response, there are resources available to help you through this, should you or your partner need them—counseling, therapy, online recovery platforms like Fortify, and other resources specific to betrayal trauma.

Set the tone.

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? What open-minded questions will you ask?

Express love.

Chances are, you’re having this conversation because you care about your partner. Don’t be afraid to tell them that! Express to your partner why you care for them, and lovingly explain why it’s important to you to have this conversation. They might be scared to open up to you, so being loving, open, and honest will help them feel safe enough to disclose anything they may need to. If they open up to you, try to thank them for their honesty, even if they say things that are difficult for you to hear. If this becomes an ongoing conversation and if you choose to work through this with your partner, expressing how you feel about them can be an important part of working through this together.

Listen.

Once you express yourself and explain why it’s important for you to discuss this issue, give your partner a chance to respond. They might tell you about their current and/or past experiences with porn, or they might need more time to process the discussion. If they’re not ready to talk quite yet, set a time when you’ll revisit the subject when you’ve both had 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 general attitude about porn. Try to listen and be understanding. If your partner does disclose a past or present struggle with porn, check out our tips here. If you, on the other hand, want to tell them about your past or present struggle with porn, then we have tips for you, too!

Make this an ongoing conversation.

Talking about porn in your relationship isn’t just a “one and done” thing, usually. Check in with your partner periodically in ways that are best for both of you if this general conversation brings up specific issues. 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 works for both of you and creates an environment of honesty and trust in your relationship. Confide in your partner when you’re having a difficult time, and help them feel that they can confide in you, too. It goes both ways.

What Not To Do

Try not to force disclosure.

There’s a good chance your partner wasn’t anticipating this conversation, and they may not be ready to fully disclose right away. They may also not have anything to disclose, so it’s important to be sure not to accuse them of something that might not apply to them. Regardless, it’s okay if they need more time to process this. Simply opening up the door to having this conversation is a great start to an ongoing conversation. Remember that you can always come back to talk more about this at any point.

Try not to be assumptive.

You’re starting this discussion with your partner because you want to learn more about their stance and/or experiences regarding porn. Although you’ve made up your mind about where you stand when it comes to porn, there’s a chance they haven’t yet. Throughout your discussion, try to avoid being assumptive or making any unfounded accusations. It’s important to give your partner the opportunity to tell you what they think and how they feel. If your partner disagrees with your stance regarding porn, or discloses something that is difficult to hear, it’s natural, normal, and okay to feel hurt. Even if your partner disagrees with you, in order for them to have the chance to change their mind about porn, they need to have the opportunity to educate themselves on the proven harms. Then, they can make an informed decision. This is why, the more educated you are on the topic, the easier it can be to have this conversation. It’s also important to know that if someone is struggling with porn, and if they truly want to succeed in recovery, they have to make the decision to quit porn themselves. So be honest about your feelings, but try not to be assumptive or accusatory. This will help you and your partner feel safer in discussing your respective feelings.

Don’t brush it off.

Educate yourself, then help your partner understand the harms of porn. Express to them how it might make you feel if they consumed porn while in the relationship. Have an open and honest dialogue that comes from a place of love and understanding.

Don't ignore your needs.

While you’ll want to respect your partner’s boundaries and give them the space they need, don’t be afraid to voice your own feelings and concerns. You are just as much a part of the relationship as they are, and you deserve to be heard. If that means expressing how you feel about porn, and setting a standard for a relationship without porn, know that it’s okay to express that and work with your partner to achieve that. If your partner consumes porn, it’s okay to tell them how that makes you feel.

Avoid shaming—it won't help.

It can be easy, when feelings of hurt or disappointed come up to intentionally or unintentionally shame the person you’re upset with. What does shaming look like, you may be asking? It’s like humiliating someone to make them 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 or who has different views usually does not help, and does not push them toward healthy change or motivated recovery. In fact, research shows that shame only makes things worse. Shaming—whether that be the consumer or the consumer’s partner—can wound relationships and discourage progress in recovery.  All in all, avoiding shame will likely lead to a better outcome for all parties.

Success Stories

You can find more success stories and tips on our site, including this amazing, true story from Elaine Bradley, the drummer for Neon Trees. She tells her story and talks about the importance of having loving, shame-free conversations when talking about the complex issue of pornography in relationships.

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