Relationship Rescue for Wives and Girlfriends of Internet Pornography Addicts

Relapse: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I know, I know. You want this living hell over with so you can go back to your normal life. You want him to be cured of this addiction to pornography. You want him to see the light and never use porn again. We want a lot of things that reality just can't give us right away. You see, relapse is a necessary and expected part of the recovery process from porn addiction. This is the take away you should get from reading this article so let's state it again.

Relapse is a necessary and expected part of the recovery process from porn addiction.

First of all, almost all men that have problems with porn do relapse. And if they say they haven't on some level or another they probably aren't telling you the truth. Perhaps they don't want to stir up the pot with you by confiding where they are in their struggle to stay clean. Perhaps they are afraid that you will file for that divorce or break up with them if you find out they reached for the mouse again. But please get this. Relapse is a natural and human response as you are learning new life skills and new behaviors.

Addiction to pornography is a behavioral addiction. When certain stressors pop up, men turn to porn for a short term 'fix' the same way that an alcoholic may head to a bar for a few rounds of drinks. Or when a stress eater turns to a pint an unhealthy form of stress relief. It takes time to unlearn destructive behaviors and to replace them with healthy alternatives.

Many women are woefully familiar with dieting so let's use that as an example. Diets don't work long term because long-lasting weight loss comes after changing life patterns. You keep healthy foods in the house and limit the amount of snacks and tempting goodies. You create a plan to manage urges to overeat when you feel stressed out. You take up new hobbies, sports, and activities that help support your new healthy approach to life. You may find yourself tempted to indulge every now and then. You feel horrible after you have eaten that hot fudge sundae. But if you are serious about making changes in your health, you dig deep and recognize what that trigger was that had you 
reaching for ice cream and breaking promises to yourself. If you are to succeed in your weight loss plan, you will recognize your relapse, analyze it and make a plan for the next time that feeling of wanting to indulge washes over you. That is how you manage behavioral addiction.

It is no different with addiction to pornography.

Wives and girlfriends get riled up when they find out that their significant other is still at his game online. Do you have a right to be upset? Heck yes! But after the initial flurry of anger has subsided, try to talk with him with empathy about what is going on. This is not the time for excuses, rationalizing or minimizing on his side. This is not the time for calling names, blaming, shaming 
and threats from your side. When there is a relapse, the goal is to dissect the learning opportunity from all of the other high level emotions that the both of you are experiencing. 
If you are able to determine what the trigger was right before he slipped and make it a learning opportunity, then you can turn the one step backward into a step forward again.

One of the biggest challenges you will face as a wife or girlfriend of a man with porn problems is supporting him in his healing process. The path is part of the destination. You may not like the fact that 95% of men are not able to white knuckle their way through addiction to pornography. Sorry. These are the facts. What you should be conscious of is not adding to his problems or delaying his recovery through your reactions. He is responsible for his actions, and you are responsible for your reactions.

Let's go back to the hot fudge example. Say you slipped up and ordered that sundae at the fast food drive through on the way back from the gym. You feel horrible about it, throw away the plastic bowl and spoon to hide the incriminating evidence and promise yourself next time to have more resolve. 
You get home and all is good. Until your husband or boyfriend finds the receipt for the sundae on the floorboard of the car the next morning on his way to work. What if he approached you later in the day with this approach. "Hey, I found this receipt on the floorboard of the car. It looks like you broke a promise to yourself. What were you thinking about on the way home? Next time you feel this way, give me a call on your cell phone and talk out your
[fill in the blank with the emotion you were experiencing] rather dealing with it on your own and turning to ice cream." This slip up has now been turned around to be a learning experience, has strengthened communication and sets up a level of trust and support for future growth. Good has been created from bad and you are still on the path to health.

He could have approached you in another way. What if he called you a "fat, lying pig"? What if he said "I knew you couldn't do it! You never keep promises to yourself, or to me. You put on a big show by pretending to go the gym to work out and all you do is lie and cheat. If I find out you ever do this again, this relationship is over! Do you hear me?! I've got the lawyer on speed dial and 
I am taking away everything I can from you!"  This approach is definitely more destructive than constructive: name calling, lack of confidence, misreading the real situation (you really did go to the gym!) ultimatums and threats. Now there are a myriad of relational issues in addition to the slip in your resolve.

PAH is not trying to pin his problems and his relapses onto you. We didn't ask for this problem in our lives. A majority of the women facing this problem with their significant others did not know about it before they got into the relationship. It is a topic almost nonexistent in premarital counseling yet over 50% of divorce cases these days have some element of online infidelity associated with them. But his problems with porn are here. Many wives and girlfriends may have already had some variation of the "fat,lying pig" argument with their husband or boyfriend regarding his relapses. But when you know better, you can do better. Every day he has a choice to do the right thing.

You do too.

What to do next

>> How to Quit Porn Addiction Starting Now