So, last I left off, it was technically October of 2016 (if you are detail oriented then you read my note disclaimers to the bottom of each post). Here we are… December of 2018… Ahhh, how 2 years can change so much. But before we get to the present, we must travel back in time to that terrifying and fateful day… The day of the second major Confession. I had just asked my beautiful man if he had started watching porn again, to which his answer was an extremely ashamed, “yes.” But, before we can pick up from there (and to offer a bit more context around the story,) we must backtrack even further to his first major confession…
Cue December of 2015 – 3 years ago. My guy and I just started dating. We had met online, and prior to our first meeting, we exchanged some of the best, quirky and revealing emails to each other. I loved the way he wrote, I loved how his humor would translate into his emails, and I couldn’t wait to meet him. Fast forward a month, and we were doing the horizontal polka like a couple of pubescent rabbits. He was the first guy with whom I ever let myself just fully sexually experiment. We had an absolute blast. On our weekends together, we bought ropes and he tied me up, we did weird sex games, we experimented with all sorts of new positions and places. We couldn’t seem to get enough of each other. I felt safe with him. However, during this time, we also continued to write each other during the work-week, while we were apart. We would dedicate a lot of time to carefully crafting and curating these long dialogues to one another, and I would wait eagerly for his responses.
One response in particular, I will never forget. I was just leaving an early morning gym session. In my car at a stop light, I quickly check my inbox. 1 new email. I was elated! I opened it up as I sat in my car, and began reading, smiling ear to ear. That is, until I got to one paragraph. It went a little something like this…
“I have been doing a lot of research, and I want to come clean to you. I think I am a porn addict…”
What I found out, he wrote, was that he was concerned because his erections weren’t consistently as hard as he was used to. I didn’t know this at the time – I was under the impression that erections could vary in hardness, and seeing how we were at it 2-4 times a day over the weekends, I didn’t think twice. I had taken a 2 year hiatus from my previous long term relationship and was just getting back into the dating game, so all the new sexual experiences over that last month or 2, for me, were pretty new. I hadn’t thought to research males in their 30’s hardness… Afterall, he was never not hard. Sure, a little softer sometimes, but on he went…. He obviously knew his own functionality, and had been looking up possible causes when he stumbled across a body of research where he learned there is a growing number of reports in men of his age (and younger) accrediting this phenomena to pornography addiction.
“Oh my god,” I thought, “Not again.”
See? My last relationship, while the ending can be deemed mostly my fault for forcing us to maintain it for so long, experienced a similiar situation. At the time, he forgot to empty his browsing history, and I found out he was into the porn world. We didn’t have sex that often because I didn’t want to, so I don’t know that I entirely blame the guy, however, I was crushed. I was blindsided. I felt so utterly betrayed. We were churchgoers at this time, and we did the song and dance of seeking help with it, but he was never commited to doing anything serious about it. He would say the right words to me and our counselors, but in reality, he had no serious desire to change at the time. I would consistently come home to a netflix history of movies that featured soft-porn, and although he would give me good lip service, I couldn’t ever see his actions lining up to his claims of change. And uncovering a search on the internet for prostitutes in Dallas had me freaking the fuck out. This would be eventually be our demise. And I remembered vowing to myself after that relationship, that while I may be okay with the guy watching pornography, I definitely never wanted to know about it. And I was going to tell my guy this also. I just hadn’t had the chance before he confessed.
I read his email in the car that day, and my whole world ground to a halt. I was moving in slow motion, the bottom of my soul being ripped right out from under me. “Can I do this again?” I thought. Memories flooded of being lied to over and over, the feeling of me going crazy and having strong urges to check my ex’s phone and computer history, my mind racing with thoughts of my conviction that men just couldn’t fucking control themselves and those tortous feelings of deep insignificance and betrayal swirled my head.
However, he had confessed. And that was huge. HUGE. After I kind of calmed down and finished my drive home, I remember feeling this deep fear, but also incredible gratitude. I was overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration of him, of his honesty, of his character. Of his willingness to be vulnerable. He had confessed. My god, that must have been so tough. How he must feel fear right now awaiting my response. I wanted to cry from hurt, but hold him for his bravery. See, with my last relationship – it was all about being caught. First, after the intial discovery, and then as I would search our netflix history, and again with the final disclosure of him actually cheating. There was no up-front honesty. Which erroded the trust 100% and didn’t give us any foundation to start rebuilding from. However, here my guy was, initiating this conversation… Man, the balls on this one…
“Okay,” I reasoned, “I can try this again…”
We talked about it in depth. I explained how everything went down with my last relationship, and that while I am not against pornography, there is a lot of hurt there. I explained while I understand it’s not necessarily bad, and that there are good, wholesome legitimate porn producers and film stars out there making an honest and ethical wage, I just didn’t think I was cut out for knowing he was watching it. I explained how insignificant I felt from it and how there is a lot of past pain associated with it. He was so kind and completely understood. During the next few weeks, he did more research and had made a vow to himself and me to not watch it again. His erections returned full force (so THIS is what he meant!!!). But, if I am honest, while the erections were now incredible, I, however, now had a shadow in my head while we “played”. Another “guest”, so to speak, in our bed (in my head) that was causing me anxiety and feelings of insignificance. Every new position, I would think, “does he want to try this because he saw it on porn?” or “Am I being enough of a ‘porn star’ for him?”, “Can I compare to what he used to watch?” I would comfort myself by remembering my gratitude for his bravery, and that he was now saving his eyes for me. This helped a little bit… Until he relapsed after about 2 weeks in his cold turkey attempt. I had asked him how things were going, to which he confessed he had been watching a little again. “Hmmm…” I thought. “Why didn’t he tell me? Why did I have to ask him this time?” This of course caused me a lot of hurt and tears. We talked it out, and he continued his on again, off again battle. Over the next 8 months or so, he was never not honest about it – it just required me to take on the burden of asking him – of doing the up-front work.
So back to Thai Restraunt on Sunday of October 2016 after our kayak trip… After 8 months of on again off again cold turkey attempts and talks, a few phases of coldness and disconnection – This was about my third or fourth time of being the one to have to ask. And of course, no wonder he’s being so cold… It’s happening again.
I couldn’t do it, I realized. I just couldn’t do this again. This part was too much. If he really wanted to change, he has to figure out a way to change. I can’t continue to be his mother, or police officer on this anymore. I don’t like this role I am seemingly have to play in our relationship. I don’t like the way this feels. Unbalanced. I don’t want that kind of relationship. If he wants real change, he will have to do it. He has to choose his path of recovery, and his cold turkey attempts clearly aren’t cutting it. And if he doesn’t choose, then, well, as much as I had fallen so madly in love with this guy, I knew I would have to let him go. I so deeply loved him. But I didn’t want to be in a relationship where I always felt less. And I didn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who recognized they had an addicition, but wouldn’t take the steps to recover. That’s just a preview of whats to come down the road.
See? Relationships are strange. They truly do depend on 2 individuals who love each other, but also take personal care of themselves, and know their boundaries. This was one (a boundary) for me. It wasn’t that he had the struggle… I had all the grace in the world for that. It was that he wasn’t putting forth the viable effort to address the addiction. He wasn’t actively seeking help. I was prepared to work with him through anything. But what I wasn’t prepared to do was to coach him through it, lead him through it, or be the “parent” forcing him through it. He was a free individual. And I wanted a partnership. What I needed was the security to know that if he’s dealing with something, I could have the confidence that he will seek the help he needs to address it, and not rely on me, or his will-power. If he wanted healing, I knew I had to take a step back and see if he chooses a new path. And if he didn’t?
Well, we would have to part ways…