The fourth step in healing as a couple is to learn to communicate with each other in ways that help you regain feelings of closeness and inti­macy. Couples who have been successful in rebuilding their relationship while one partner recovers from a porn problem often attribute their progress to having established routines for sharing information and dis­cussing their feelings and needs with each other.

As part of their recovery, Logan and Nancy read books on com­munication and attended couples therapy sessions in which they were frequently coached by their therapist on effective ways to express them­selves. “We needed to learn how to recognize our innermost feelings and communicate them clearly without doing it in a hurtful way,” Nancy said. “In addition to therapy, we developed a habit of spending time to­gether after dinner as a way to check in with each other daily. We go on a walk or sit on the couch and just talk about what we feel, what we’re dealing with, and any needs we want to address. I know what’s going on with Logan every day—we’re no longer living in separate worlds.”

Logan agrees. “We used to avoid conflicts, but now we are actually able to have differences of opinion, get into some pretty good discus­sions, and work through them. Learning how to communicate with each other has given us a closeness and intimacy we didn’t have before, and as a byproduct we both trust each other more.”

Jon and Kay sit down together each Saturday at breakfast and fill each other in on how they are doing and any concerns they are having with recovery. This degree of openness has been a challenge for Jon who learned early in life to keep things inside. “I’m slowly getting a little better at sharing my inner thoughts and feelings,” he said. “Hiding my true feelings has always come easy to me. Our talks are helping me deal with resentments as they come up rather than stew about them. It’s critical to my recovery because holding on to my anger and feeling victimized in the relationship could set me up for a relapse.” The fact that Jon is shar­ing more with Kay has helped her too. “I no longer feel dismissed,” Kay said. “When Jon tells me how he’s doing, I know I matter to him.”

Establishing a regular habit of communicating with each other works best if the focus of each discussion is on better understanding and sup­porting each other—even when you disagree or feel disappointed by what your partner is telling you—and finding solutions to problems that stand in the way of regaining emotional closeness. Good topics for dis­cussion may include:

• Current challenges in your life

• Your feelings and concerns

• New ideas and insights you have had about yourself

• Progress you have made

• Setbacks you have experienced

• The type of support you’d like from your partner

• Praise and appreciation for what your partner has done and is doing

• Positive changes you are making as a couple

Scheduling regular meetings can help both partners learn and prac­tice more positive communication skills that can benefit the relationship overall. “Now I’m able to listen and not withdraw when Debbie shares her feelings,” Roger said. “I can stay calm now even when she’s emo­tional and we disagree about something. I tell her honestly when I’m struggling with thoughts of porn. Having this line of communication open is an immense help in my recovery. We’ve both learned so much about our emotional states and how to communicate our needs.”

And Debbie said, “I’m able to be more direct with issues that con­cern me and what I really want to know. I can tell that Roger is seriously listening to my questions and not evading. He’s even coached me on how I could be more effective in asking questions about his recovery so there is no way that he is tempted to get around it. Roger talks more and makes a lot of eye contact. When we share like this I’m confident that he’s really changed.”

By taking an active interest in what is going on in each other’s lives and communicating in supportive and loving ways, you rebuild bonds that may have been missing in your relationship since porn became a problem. These connections can create a sense of feeling special and known and safe, which in turn enhances affection and a natural desire to become physically and emotionally closer with each other.

T

he four steps for healing a relationship during recovery—restor­ing trust, gaining understanding, resolving anger, and improving communication—all work together to help you make the journey back to each other. For the recovering user, consistent and reliable actions that let your partner know you are committed to quitting porn, committed to her, and committed to healing the damage you have done are vital. For the partner, understanding the reasons behind the porn behavior, letting go of anger, and working together to rebuild communication will help restore what had been lost or damaged because of porn.

Couples who work on these four steps often report many positive changes. “The biggest change for me is just this sense of hope,” Karen said. “For a long time I honestly thought my options were divorce or being miserable the rest my life. To actually be having the kind of mar­riage Johnny and I both wanted from the very beginning is a real gift.” Similarly, after five years of healing, Emma reflected, “My marriage with Drew is better now than it ever was before. We understand each other better and are able to work things out when we have a conflict. I don’t doubt that we’re going to make it as a couple. I’m more in love with Drew than I ever was before. We have a deep respect for each other and a shared sense of purpose.”

And for Debbie and Roger, recovery has brought them a lot closer. “Roger and I are a team now,” Debbie said. “When we deal with porn issues, it’s the two of us against this common enemy, instead of it divid­ing us. Roger used to see me as a threat to his relationship with the porn. Now he sees porn as a threat to his relationship with me.” And, Roger agrees. “After four years of healing we have such a different relationship. It’s so much deeper and healthier now. With all the help we got and the work we’ve done, it’s like we knocked out a faulty foundation in our mar­riage and rebuilt it with something that is so much stronger. I’m deeply grateful that Debbie stayed with me and we’re still together.”