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Your Conversation Blueprint

How do you tell your partner about your past or present struggle with porn? Should you tell them? What do you say? The truth is, we don’t know how your partner will respond. But we do know that opening up to a partner about your struggle with porn can be one of the first steps toward overcoming it. So we’re here to help you navigate this conversation. Remember, you’re not alone. No matter how you and your partner decide to move forward—we’re fighting for you. We’re here to provide resources and support that can help you feel empowered to fight. You’ve got this!

What To Do

Set the tone.

How you start this conversation will set the tone, which is why we’ll talk more about this once you’ve had a chance to think through your goals for starting this dialogue with your partner. Before we get too far, give yourself a high five for being willing to have this conversation in the first place. Honesty and healthy communication are essential in successful relationships, and no matter what happens, taking this step is a win for your life. Research shows just how harmful porn can be to relationships, so you’re moving forward in this fight for love, and we think that’s awesome. Don’t worry, we’ll help guide you through as much as we can.

Be mentally and emotionally ready.

As much as possible, you want to be mentally and emotionally ready to share. This doesn’t mean you have to have anything sorted out or solved, but being in a place where you can talk about your fight without it causing more pain and/or shame can help you truly start to break the cycle. The stress of daily life can make it difficult to ever feel completely ready to open up to your partner. If you’re exhausted, stressed, overworked, hungry, or sick, consider making some time to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to have this conversation with your partner. There’s never a completely “easy” or “convenient” time to bring this up, but set yourself up as much as possible for a win by being aware of where and how you are in all aspects.

Consider a pre-disclosure, disclosure.

“Disclosure” describes the process of telling the secrets you have been keeping. This is often a really difficult process and commonly happens in stages, as people often have difficulty being totally open with something so deep and secret. If this is your first time talking about your struggles openly, it’s good to start by talking with someone who you know is safe, you trust, and can keep things confidential. If you don’t feel quite ready to talk to your partner yet, consider talking to a therapist or counselor first. Being able to share how you’re feeling and what you’re going through in an unfiltered way can help you decide how best to disclose this to your partner and, on a super practical level, phrase and word things. Remember, opening up to your partner about this can be a lot for your partner to handle, so you want to be as prepared as possible to talk through everything.

Establish healthy boundaries.

Before you start the conversation, consider what level of support you would want from your partner, in an ideal world. It is up to them to decide whether or not they’re able to support you in the ways you need, but it’s important that you clearly communicate what your needs are. Would you be open to going to therapy with them? Would you be open to telling them when you have a setback? While clear expectations are important for both of you, it’s also important to note that the role your partner plays in your recovery may change over time, depending on what each of you is ready for. If that role does evolve, it’s important that you and your partner have an open line of communication and reasonable and flexible expectations.

Allow your partner to react.

Remember, even though you’ve been digesting and preparing for this conversation for a while, your partner is hearing this for the first time. Allow your partner to react, even if their reaction is difficult for you or not what you hoped for or expected. If you’ve been hiding a lot of this from them, it’s not uncommon for partners to feel betrayed, shocked, and devastated. Try to be as understanding as you can be, and let them process this how they need. Maybe they’ll need some space from you, maybe they’ll need to revisit this conversation after the initial shock passes. Whatever it is, try to respect what they need, and understand that this is very difficult for them, too.

Recognize that change is possible.

Porn can change and rewire the brain, but the good news is, neuroplasticity works both ways. If porn pathways aren’t reinforced, they’ll eventually disappear, which means recovery is possible. Porn-wired brains can be rewired. The addictive behaviors can be overcome. Do you believe that? Are you looking to change, for real? Or is it a nice idea you’re considering? Consider the science and research that show how much hope there truly is, and decide if you’re all in to pursuing that change.

Have a plan.

If you and your partner choose to work through this, try to set clear expectations, be understanding of your partner’s feelings, and educate yourself on the issues surrounding porn. Establish boundaries, then work together to set goals for recovery. There are resources to help. If you’re looking to quit porn, we highly recommend using Fortify. Fortify is a free, online, video-based recovery resource that helps break the cycle of going back to porn. You are not alone in this.

What Not To Do

Don’t forget to breathe.

Don’t panic. This fight is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow down, focus, and pace yourself. Prepare the best you can for the conversation and then work through things as they arise. Just take things one step at a time, one day at a time. Take a deep breath. We know you can do this, but do you believe you can?

Don’t assume anything.

You’re sharing a lot of information with your partner, and you can’t control how they are going to react. Try not to assume you know exactly how they’ll respond, or pressure them to respond in any specific way. Your partner may not be ready to give you any support right now, and that’s their choice. They may need time to process everything before continuing the discussion, that’s also okay. On the other hand, they might want to jump right in and be as involved as they can be in your recovery, and if you’re both ready for that, that’s okay, too! Regardless of how they respond, it’s important that you both have a clear understanding of what level of involvement in your recovery works best for both of you moving forward. Do you have an open mind?

Don’t rationalize.

Porn presents the consumer with exaggerated, unrealistic, and dishonest depictions of attractiveness and sex. In fact, research shows that porn consumers are less committed, less intimate, and less satisfied in their relationships—while the partners of porn consumers often feel betrayed, and experience significant drops in their level of self-esteem. Overall, porn can, and is, negatively impacting relationships. It’s a fact. This might make it seem scary to disclose a struggle, and it could be easy to think that not telling your partner might sound like a great idea. But consider how a lack of honesty in a relationship can be just as destructive. So if you’re serious about this relationship, opening up to your partner is the best option. After all, there’s a reason people say “honesty is the best policy.”

Don’t forget your partner.

Chances are, once your partner knows about this, they may feel confused and hurt. Placing too much responsibility on your partner may only worsen their feelings of inadequacy. Express your appreciation for your partner and remind them that they are worthwhile. Listen to their feelings and their concerns. Try to be totally open and honest with one another throughout your recovery journey. It’s absolutely possible to develop a healthy relationship as you both strive to be honest and understanding with each other’s perspective.

Don't shirk responsibility.

It’s important that you decide to kick your porn habit for yourself, first, without external pressure as your primary motivation. Even if your partner is totally and completely willing to help and support you through your recovery journey, recognize that it is up to you to choose to give up porn. Don’t blame your partner or place the responsibility of recovery on their shoulders—that won’t be helpful for either of you. Who are you fighting for, first? Where is your motivation coming from?

Don’t do it alone.

No matter what, you don’t have to fight this alone. There are many resources out there that can help you. Fortify is an online, video-based recovery resource that connects you with a community that is also fighting, as well as allows you to create your own personal “Battle Strategy,” monitors progress, and helps stop the cycle of going back to porn. Over 90% of users reported that Fortify helped move them toward long-term change. It’s free to use, so you can sign up today and start getting the help you need at your own pace. Utilize resources available to you, and know FTND is fighting alongside you. You’re not alone. Do you believe it?

Don’t tear yourself down.

If you don’t hear anything good today, hear this: struggling with consuming porn does not make you a bad person. Take the fight hour by hour. Looking ahead can be daunting, so break it down into bite-sized pieces and celebrate every victory, large and small. Everyone’s battle is unique. Try to keep in mind that setbacks are often a part of the recovery process. Take it step by step, and don’t beat yourself up when you don’t meet your own expectations. Remember that shame isn’t productive and can actually slow your progress. So get back up again, and keep fighting for love! We’re right there with you.

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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