Discussing a Loved One’s Addiction

lonely person in storm

You may notice that this article is NOT titled “How to talk to someone who has a loved one struggling with a pornography problem.” That’s because in the end YOU are the only one you can enact change in. Learning discipline and technique in your half of the conversation is far more productive than trying to make it so no one ever says anything hurtful to you.

Although people occasionally say insensitive things, for the most part people have good intentions (at least in face to face conversations, online debates are a different animal). Our emotions and reactions are ours to control, and we should not give that power to another person.

Following are some tips on how to discuss your situation with your friends in a healthy way. You may notice that they are deeply intertwined, making it hard to separate where one begins and another ends.

  1. Make sure your conversation reflects that the problem and the person are separate.
    We need to separate the person and the problem. Having a pornography weakness, at whatever level, does not make someone a bad person. It means they are struggling with something very difficult.What they choose to do with that struggle is a greater indicator of that person’s state than whether or not they possess that weakness. We can love the person, hate the problem, and our conversation needs to reflect that. Speak with your loved one with respect and with care.This one is commonly known, but often executed in isolation of the following two, which often leaves people feeling like they can’t talk about their problems at all without being disrespectful. With a few more guidelines we can see that we can discuss these things in a healthy way.
  2. Talk about your journey, not theirs.
    After my previous article about pornography addiction the biggest question I was asked was variations on this: “How do you have the courage to talk about your husband’s addiction? I’ve never told anyone!”The short answer is: I don’t. I talk about my reaction to my husband’s addiction, not his addiction. That seems like a subtle difference, but it is a whole different conversation. Your struggles are different than theirs and should not be lumped into one whole.We speak of our loved one with respect and care when we recognize the difference, and don’t share things that aren’t ours to share. Instead of focusing on their specific actions, betrayals or hurts, focus your conversations on your reactions to them. Which leads directly to the next one tip.
  3. Focus on lessons learned.
    It is not a productive, healthy, or loving conversation to discuss individual betrayals or actions. That is a conversation for you to have with your ecclesiastical leader and/or therapist. When we discuss these things outside of those settings, it is either to compare notes in a bizarre competition to see who has been hurt the most so we can establish dominance, or to be entertained by another’s misfortunes.I recognize that this is a controversial statement and some of you now have your dander up, but hear me out. Instead of focusing on the things someone has done to hurt you, focus on discussing the lessons you have learned from your struggles.When we focus on what we have learned instead of what we have been through, it allows us and others to see how the Savior has guided us through our difficulties. It changes the conversation from an emotionally charged one to a spirit-guided one. Instead of leaving the conversation feeling down, we have the opportunity to leave the conversation feeling uplifted.

I will again highlight that these guidelines are for conversations with our friends, ward members, even family members. There is a time and a place to speak with complete openness and rawness, and that is to your ecclesiastical leader and/or therapist. Please utilize these needed resources if you have a lot to get off your chest! Click here for more information to help you get started.

When we discuss this sensitive issue in a healthy way, it can turn even insensitive comments into productive conversations and ignorant, but well meaning, people into empathetic supporters.

Having a loved one with a pornography addiction can leave you feeling overwhelming loneliness. That trapped, isolated feeling can be so opressive. So many wish someone else knew what they were going through, but because of fear of judgment or fear of disrespect to their loved one they stay silent.

One of the most amazing things that happens when you learn to discuss pornography in a healthy way is not feeling your burdens lightened, which does happen and is absolutely wonderful, but being able to lighten the burdens of another. When you have the courage to speak up, you give others the courage to acknowledge that they are in the same boat. You can see the emotion in their eyes and feel the relief in their words. You can help them realize that not only are they not alone, but that they have a friend. You can be that friend.

Amy Nelson is a married stay at home mom with two boys. She likes to eat a lot, and so she loves to run a lot and has completed a handful of marathons and a bunch of half marathons, but her favorite distance is the 5k. She is a huge housework procrastinator and finds Pinterest terrifying. She loves to read, mostly fiction books with happy endings, but devours books from gospel scholars as well. She currently teaches early morning seminary and is an accomplished pianist and accompanist.