Dating? You’re Going to Have to Talk About Porn

This week we discuss the gift of chaste love ― What it is, what it isn’t and how we are called, as men and women, to live this virtue in our daily lives.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter, F.S.E.

If the numbers are correct, very few men are unscathed by pornography, and female use is up. With the average age for first exposure to pornography at 11, we are looking at the potential for some long-term use before people get into serious relationships. That’s a long time for brain synapses to be changed and to form a skewed approach to sexuality.

As someone who talks to high school students, young adults, and married couples, I know firsthand how big the porn problem is in our culture.  From countless conversations I’ve had with those caught in the middle of it, I’ve compiled a pretty good list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to dealing with the problem of porn in a relationship.

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DO have a conversation about it with your boyfriend or girlfriend

Yes, it is awkward. It will be easy to avoid the discussion altogether, yet finding out if your girlfriend or boyfriend has a history of watching porn or currently struggles with an addiction is essential for any dating relationship. Tremendous maturity, trust and communication are essential to discuss the wounds and consequences of pornography. It must be done with dignity and respect.  You need to know what they think about it and whether or not it’s going to be an issue for you. Then you can assess how to get help if it’s currently an issue, how to make peace with the past, or whether or not it’s a deal-breaker for the relationship. As for the timing of the conversation, for those who have already lived through a relationship ravaged by pornography, have the conversation as soon as you need to have it. Otherwise, as the relationship becomes more permanent and you begin to set boundaries on your physical relationship, this might be a good time to bring up the topic of pornography.

DO deal with your own wounds

A problem with pornography during the time of dating is that it’s an individual problem, not one with which your boy/girlfriend should be burdened. You are not married, that is, one flesh, yet. If you are not ready to take responsibility for this problem and deal with it, then you don’t sound mature enough to be in a relationship. Like any sin, pornography is an unhealthy way to escape from our real problems. In order to mature, one must take responsibility not only for the negative behaviors, but to look at the deeper issues. It is time to start to heal the wounds.

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DO approach getting help as an adult

Having no control over the use pornography and masturbation is humiliating. When we are falling in love we do not want the beloved to know our dark, ugly sides. Most men and women using pornography are deeply embarrassed, desperately want to be freed from these chains and pray fervently to stop. Alas, it is often a constant battle, with many falls. This reality will demand for very high levels of trust, forgiveness and communication. But more, it will mean sacrifice and self-discipline which might even entail times of abstaining from dating or putting the relationship on hold if there is an addiction to pornography.

DO pray for help, not to make a deal

The viewing of pornography, the acts of masturbation and fornication are gravely immoral, (CCC 2352, 2353, 2354), and we need the sacrament of Reconciliation for forgiveness and healing. The sacraments of Confession and frequent reception of the Eucharist are powerful tools against evil, and help us with the self-control needed to fight this battle. Jesus is the first to remind us that we are incapable becoming holy on our own. We need God!  Pray daily to grow in holiness and for purity. Don’t however, treat prayer like an antibiotic, or play “Let’s Make a Deal” with God.  Let’s be careful not to think that praying will automatically make this problem disappear. If it persists, it does not mean God is angry or ignoring us, and we need to find the best prayer. God’s grace is sufficient for us to fight temptation, but we also need to do our part and apply self-discipline.

DON’T think you can be Jesus

The first rule in dealing with this issue is that you cannot save, fix or cure your loved one. Love does inspire us to change, but we know we still do harmful things in spite of love. Each person is responsible for their actions and needs to find the appropriate support systems to deal with problems. Yes, you might have some role, but “checking up” or being an accountability partner too easily becomes parenting or a parole officer. Not healthy! Admitting there is a problem with pornography and seeking the proper help through counseling, support groups, accountability partners and the Sacrament of Reconciliation allows the individual to take responsibility and deal with the issue in a mature way that frees the relationship from being policed.

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DON’T find a substitute for the problem

The worst thing a couple can do is to become sexually active with each other, with the idea of being the “substitute” for pornography use. That will never happen. No matter what your boyfriend or girlfriend tells you, it will only complicate matters. There needs to be a plan for some good boundaries, support networks and a great deal of prayer.

DO know what sex is for

It might surprise many, but sexual intercourse was created as a sacred act. God Himself is an eternal communion of persons, which is both unitive, that is love-giving, and fruitful, life-giving, particularly in creation. As we are created in God’s image, the complementary union of man and woman is meant to be unitive and procreative. Thus, sexual intercourse is to be an act that recalls the unity and procreative act of God. A married couple is called to witness this image of God in their faithfulness, as the act of sexual intercourse brings them together in one flesh, open to new life. This is why the Catholic Church holds the sexual act to such a sacred level, not to be abused. Pornography violates the gift of sexuality and fills our mind with unrealistic and even abusive images of the human body and sexual acts, contrary to their design and purpose.

DON’T wait

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One thought on “Dating? You’re Going to Have to Talk About Porn

  1. “Do know what sex is for” should be the lead paragraph. Porn involves fantasy — fantasizing an intimate relationship that cannot possibly materialize. (Many other sexual sins involve similar fantasizing.) To remain sane, people must live by what is real. If they don’t, they will easily fall into error and perhaps sin.

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