5 Things You Should Do If You Find Out Your Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Has an Issue with Porn

6:00 AM

“My boyfriend just told me that he has an issue with porn. What should I do?” As a professor, I don’t know that I’ve had a more common question from my students. If you’ve had this question, you are not alone. This is an issue that a lot of people either experience or fear. Also, there are many women who are porn users. In this article, however, I am going to speak as if it is the boyfriend with the issue-but the principles apply to men and women. 

So, what should you do? Here are 5 things you should consider before making any serious decisions about the relationship. 

First, take a deep breath and take a step back. Remember that your boyfriend should not be defined by his struggle with pornography. He is so much more than that, and you know that! Don’t act otherwise. You were probably a little bit surprised by his confession precisely because you think he is a likable guy. Don’t forget what you like about him, because this doesn’t change the core of who he is. 

Second, you need to determine how severe his “issue with porn” really is. Here are some of the questions that can help you determine this issue:

*When was the last time you looked at porn?

*How often have you looked at it over the past year?

*How long have you struggled with this?

*Since you first started looking at porn, about how frequently have you looked at it?

If somebody is looking at porn regularly and has done so for several years, that is a much bigger issue than someone who has looked at porn off and on for the same amount of time. Once every few months is different than multiple times a week. The longer it’s been, and the more frequent it is, the more difficult it will be for this person to stop. No matter the duration or the frequency, he can overcome this. It’s just going to take a lot more effort to do so if this has been happening for a long time or is more frequent. 

Third (and perhaps most important): Determine what he is currently doing to address this issue. How deep is he digging to overcome this battle? What has he been willing to give up in order to avoid the temptation of porn? Has he sought outside help from a therapist, support group, parent, or religious leader? What evidence do you have that he is doing everything in his power to fight this? In other words, how does he respond to these questions in word and deed?

For me, this can make or break it. I think it matters less what your boyfriend’s past is if you have clear evidence that he is doing all that he can to fight his demons. On the other hand, I don’t care how great your boyfriend is, if he is not taking significant measures to overcome his struggle with pornography, I don’t know that it is worth the struggle that you will go through in supporting him as a girlfriend or fiancé. He won’t change unless he is willing to put everything on the altar to “fight the new drug.” Is he willing to make the difficult decisions? Telling you about his problem is a great start, but only the start.

With this in mind, I think it matters less what your boyfriend’s past is if you have clear evidence that he is doing all that he can to fight his demons.

Also, be careful not to become his primary support system. It’s fine to help and to be supportive, but you need to know that he is doing a lot of work on his own. You should not be working harder on his issue than he is. It can be easy to fall into the trap that “he needs me” or “he will keep making these mistakes if I don’t support him.” These thoughts are not only false (it’s not your job to keep him clean), they can make it more confusing in determining whether you should stay or go. I would take a step back and see what he is doing on his own to address his issue. Then, determine if you are comfortable with his progress. 

Fourth, I would slow down the pace of the relationship. I would scale back whatever you are doing physically. Sex or even passionate kissing does not fix porn problems. Self-mastery does. Your boyfriend needs to learn to respect you as a human being, not as an object of his entertainment. I am not suggesting that every guy who looks at porn automatically objectifies the women in their lives, but it is going to be a heck of a lot harder to resist that urge if he is using porn. I would only engage in physical touch that is congruent with your values and on your terms. If you are not comfortable with it, don’t do it.

This can be really hard, especially if you guys have had a very physical relationship. But this is an important thing you need to learn: Does your boyfriend like you?  Or does he simply like being physical with you? 

Lastly, evaluate the situation as a whole. Is he a good guy? What is the overall quality of the relationship? How serious is this issue? What is he doing to change? Based on the answers to these questions, is the risk of investing more time in this relationship worth it?

Honestly, I think in many cases it is worth investing at least a little more time in the relationship. People can change, and the process of change can bring out the best in people. However, if your boyfriend is not currently making significant efforts to address his porn issue or has stalled in his progress, you really need to reconsider the direction or pace of the relationship.

Ultimately, this is your decision to make and you shouldn't worry about what other people think of you. You should be thoughtful about your decision and take a little time to think about it. Having an issue with porn is not necessarily a reason to dump somebody, but somebody's unwillingness to change is. That willingness is what you need to figure out.

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  1. Fantastic article! This is definitely something a lot of people have questions about. I know I did! Great words of wisdom.

  2. Great article and insight! I really like the idea that as a supporter you should not be working harder on the problem than the person with the struggle. Great read!


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