A third strategy, and the only one that can actually really help the part­ner of a porn user relieve her pain, is getting outside support. As we noted earlier, the porn user is usually no longer available as a reliable source of support, so women must turn to friends, family, their church, a twelve-step recovery program, or professional providers to get com­fort, reassurance, and advice. Unfortunately, many women are hesitant to talk with others about the porn problem, because they fear it will re­flect badly on themselves as sexual partners, or make others negatively judge their male partners. They may also worry that the porn problem will negatively affect the couple’s status in the eyes of others.

Karen said, “For a long time I didn’t feel I could talk with anyone about what I was going through. I didn’t even want to believe it myself. I thought other people would think horrible things about Johnny, because I was thinking horrible things about him. I was afraid it would affect us for the rest of our lives, and I wanted it to go away and not affect us. But eventually, I spoke with a counselor at my church.”

Sue also had trouble getting help at first. She later sought advice from a sex and relationship therapist. “I felt a lot of shame around Bob’s porn problem. I didn’t know whom to tell, and I didn’t really want to tell my girlfriends because it felt like I would be violating my husband’s privacy and our relationship. I was thinking about his porn use every second of the day and feeling so alone. It would have been easier had he been into alcohol or drugs, because those problems are better understood. This, on the other hand, has to do with sexual behavior and is so private. Who would really understand? It was a big relief when my counselor told me how common porn problems are these days and that I’m not the only woman whose husband is into this.”

When her husband, Ricardo, refused to deal with his porn problem, Hana relied heavily on the support of close friends and family members. “It really helped that I didn’t keep anything secret from my parents and close girlfriends. They were very sympathetic. Ricardo was becoming more isolated, not taking care of himself, and looking real bad. They no­ticed the changes and felt concern for him too. We tried couples therapy, but the therapist said he couldn’t work with Ricardo unless he would take ownership of his problem and get help himself. I ended up going to a therapist on my own. We dealt with my insecurities and fears about the future. I realized that Ricardo’s porn habit isn’t my fault and has noth­ing to do with me. The support of so many strong, caring people meant everything to me. My advice is: Don’t go through this alone"

As painful as it was, Hana made an important discovery. She realized that she couldn’t keep expecting Ricardo to change unless he could ac­knowledge he had a problem and was committed to do something about it. If she wanted her life to improve, she had to get help for herself and start making changes that would allow her to live according to her values and her needs.

W

hether hidden or out in the open, a serious problem with porn will, like dry rot in a house, slowly destroy the most critical foun­dations of a relationship. And when left unattended, the results can be devastating. “It saddens me how porn wiped out our marriage,” Hana told us. “I’d try and talk with Ricardo and he was just not present. He’d isolate himself and get angry. His porn addiction created an alter ego who no longer cared about me. He emotionally left our relationship, our family, and was just living until his next porn fix. He was completely consumed by it, and my love couldn’t reach him.”