Relationship Rescue for Wives and Girlfriends of Internet Pornography Addicts

Relapse: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

So it is time to get technical. So far, this article has only mentioned the word 'relapse'. This is because it is a term that is used frequently when discussing this topic. Another term is a 'slip up'. A slip up is an isolated occurrence, a relapse is longer in duration - a day, two days, a week, a month.

Everyone will have their own ideas and opinions about the topics of slip ups vs. relapses however, It is PAH's opinion that slip ups from time to time are normal, natural and are to be expected. Slip ups are when the kernels of truth - the AHA moments - come forward to be claimed. It is where true understanding and healing can happen. Let's check out some examples.

Say your husband comes from a family with not so healthy dynamics. When he finishes a phone call with his mother, he feels stressed and anxious. He also feels the urge to surf for porn. Porn use could be his anti-anxiety medication of choice since he was teenager. Making that connection through a slip up and finding a better way to process his emotions through healthy outlets (using you or a sibling as a sounding board, getting some sort of physical exercise right after hanging up) could be the breakthrough he needs to put porn behind him.

Perhaps your boyfriend has a group of friends or co-workers that trade XXX photos or web addresses amongst themselves. This sort of male bonding is unfortunately quite common these days. If he is unable to resist peer pressure in a group, it could come down to a choice of finding new friends or a new place to work. He isn't going to be able to stay clean if he surrounds himself with those that are not on the same path.

Some of the most common slip ups can be conquered by looking at where the computer is placed in the home and when it is used. Addicts by nature will try to hide their behavior and isolate themselves. The computer should be moved to a high traffic room where the screen is visible to anyone walking by. It should have accountability software installed on it. And for many guys staying away from anything electronic - computers, DVD players, phones with Internet capability - after 9 PM can be extremely helpful in the battle to stay clean.

Slip ups are horrible for you. They are ugly and can reopen your wounds. You may feel as if this disgusting addiction can never be conquered. You may think your relationship is just spinning in its tracks. But this isn't just about you and your feelings. (Ouch!) If he is honest and actively working on getting on a healthy path, slip ups are needed from time to time to help identify what he is feeling right before he indulges. Should you ignore the slip up? NO! You will need to restate firm boundaries and encourage him on the successes he has made so far. You will need to let him know how his poor choices continue to injure you and rob you of your safety and security in the relationship. Get ready to grit your teeth as this is part of the successful partner's journey. Oh joy.

Let's be clear. PAH is asking you to consider the bigger picture of recovery and understand that slip ups are to be allowed if earnest effort is in place and progress is being made. PAH is 
not asking you to be so accepting of relapses - days, weeks or months of bad behavior. An addict will have rationalizations and
 excuses down to a science. Always, always, always you as a wife or girlfriend of a man struggling with porn 
will need to have both 
boundaries and actionable consequences in place. Do not accept half-baked explanations or minimized/normalized excuses. Just as you need to react appropriately to keep your relationship healthy and his progress on track, he needs to be dedicated and have a plan in place to help prevent slip ups. He is ultimately responsible for his actions and should not be seeking Get Out Of Jail Free cards. He either needs to be moving forward or you need to be moving on.

A few general slip up guidelines to consider:

* Incidents of porn use should be fewer and
farther apartas he progresses on his journey.
One definition of insanity is doing the same
thing over and over and expecting a different
result. If he keeps slipping up and progress
isn't being made, then he needs to try
something different. A men's purity group,
a counselor. You won't reach your goal as
a healthy family if his efforts are not resulting
in a pattern of successful choices and

* There shouldn't be any pattern to the slip
ups. If there are multiple slips Tuesday after
work at 5:30 when his co-workers head to
a strip club to 'burn off a little steam', this is
a known quantity he can make alternative
plans around and not just go with the flow.

* He should be making continual progress towards health. The following record does not indicate a pattern of effort no matter how he spins it:

October 27: Downloaded 28 movie clips from
November 2: Browsed Craiglist personal ads
November 15: Created an account on 'just out of curiosity'
November 30: Met an 'online friend' for lunch

"My best suggestion is to find another activity to do
in place of looking at the porn. It could be going
for a walk, watching TV, or - if you must stay on the

computer - talking to someone/people
on a messaging service or playing a computer game. The
best approach, however, would be to use your computer
outside of your room. When I bought my desktop a few
years ago, I made the conscious choice NOT to put it
in my room because it would mean that I would be
isolated from everyone in the house.

So it's been almost two weeks since I posted this. It
doesn't seem like that long. I've only been able to stay
away from porn for one or two days in a row, at most.

I looked at porn this morning and after eating lunch spent
over five hours having cyber sex."