“Six Truths to Remember If Your Dating Relationship Is Affected by Pornography,” Ensign, October 2019
When you love someone deeply, it might be easy to think that your love can be enough to stop them from viewing pornography. It isn’t. Not because your love is inadequate but because their problem with pornography isn’t about you—it’s about them and many biological, psychological, physiological, and spiritual factors. They must have their own desire to seek help and to change.1
Many falsely believe that getting married and having a spouse will solve a pornography issue. It doesn’t. Those who struggle will still be tempted and influenced by triggers. Heavy pornography use rewires the brain. Matrimony doesn’t heal that. Nor does healthy sexual activity within a marriage. Lasting healing only occurs with help from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, hard work from the user, and, when needed, professional counseling.
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between our emotional attachment to an individual and the promptings from the Holy Ghost (see Galatians 5:22). Or, put differently, our longing for companionship and our attraction to someone can become so powerful that we may ignore, dismiss, or minimize cautions or guidance from the Holy Ghost regarding the relationship. A humble willingness to “study it out in your mind” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8) as well as your heart and to do the Lord’s will—however hard that may be—will better attune you to the Spirit.
The scriptures teach that we must have a broken heart and a contrite spirit to receive the enabling and cleansing power of the Savior’s Atonement and that “unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7). Most people in recovery, after humbling themselves, abandon attempts to overcome pornography on their own and turn to others for help. This includes turning in faith to our Savior for the kind of help available only through Him and His Atonement.
On the other hand, signs that a person lacks a broken heart and a contrite spirit can include:
Denial that pornography is or has ever been a problem.
Defensiveness about their past or present pornography use.
Deflection or blaming others for pornography use.
An inability to build an emotionally intimate relationship.
An indifference toward covenants, the Church, or spiritual matters.
An unwillingness to get help from a bishop or speak with a professional.
It’s critical that you both understand that abstinence is not the same thing as recovery. Although abstaining from pornography is the goal, it’s not the same as true recovery from pornography use. Often, progress is better measured in how a person’s heart is changing rather than how long they have gone without viewing pornography. Recovery involves their taking full responsibility for their actions, constantly seeking to improve themselves, turning to Heavenly Father and the Savior in moments of weakness, and focusing on becoming closer to Them through the journey to recovery. Because of how pornography changes the brain, true recovery requires a change in your heart and your brain. And that journey takes time, consistency, and patience.
Heavenly Father has provided many tools for overcoming pornography. For some people, depending on the severity and length of their pornography use and on their personal characteristics, it might be enough to work with their bishop to both repent and experience a lasting change of heart and mind through sincere prayer, scripture study, church and temple worship, and daily repentance. Others might need the additional help of mental health professionals, support groups, or other support system in order to truly overcome their struggle with pornography.
In addition, the site addressingpornography.ChurchofJesusChrist.org can help. There you’ll find counsel from Church leaders, a link to the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program, videos, testimonials, and other resources that will draw anyone affected by pornography closer to the Savior and His infinite grace.