I want to bring you a question from one of our brothers in the Porn Reboot group today. He asked:
“My girlfriend and I decided that to protect her heart, I don’t share anything about my reboot slip-ups unless she specifically asks exactly what she wants to know. Sometimes when we’re catching up about our days, though, I’ll have acted out that day. Like she’ll ask how my midday nap was but I watched porn instead of taking a nap. I feel horrible lying to her but I want to keep our agreement. How do I handle this?”
This is a fantastic question because it’s something many men in committed relationships deal with during their reboot. Many spouses and partners of men with a porn addiction problem experience extreme betrayal trauma.
When a man first ends his out-of-control behavior with porn, sometimes his spouse wants to know where he is going and what he is doing at all times. She wants to know whether he’s still watching porn, what type of porn, or what the women he’s watching look like. These women feel unbelievably hurt and for good reason.
This brother’s question means he and his girlfriend are in a good position given the situation. She is aware of his out-of-control behavior and he understands how his behavior hurts her. It sounds like she’s allowing him enough space to work on his reboot without her getting too invested or involved.
However, it also sounds like this brother is someone trapped by the idea that he needs to be honest at all costs. I don’t hold to this belief, especially when it comes to the reboot process. I don’t believe you should lie to your partner but I also don’t think you need to tell her about every slip that occurs.
I think you should have a conversation with her upfront instead. Let her know that slips are often part of the reboot process but you don’t want to put her in the middle of things. Explain that you have a coach, a therapist, and accountability partners to work through those slips with. Tell her you understand that she didn’t sign up to be your accountability partner, nor did she sign up to be hurt. Acknowledge the damage you’ve done and help her see how talking with her about any future slips will only do more harm than good.
If you’re honest about the possibility of slips from the beginning, it eliminates the need to feel like you’re lying by omission. You shouldn’t drag your partner through the weeds every time you slip; it’s your responsibility to fix it and keep her from dealing with the repercussions of your behavior.
Find a way to discuss situations like the one our brother outlined above without bringing up the slip. For example, he could tell her that he had a lot on his mind when he laid down so he wasn’t able to go to sleep.
He doesn’t need to bring up watching porn because it’s ultimately irrelevant. He should talk about the emotions that led up to the slip instead. Perhaps he was tired from the gym or stressed about an intense workload. He could bring these things up and talk them through with his girlfriend so he is honest without needing to talk about his slip.
I recommend you do the same in your relationship, brother. It’s not your partner’s burden to bear, it’s yours. You must find a way to work on your behavior without stringing her along through the process. You don’t need to be completely transparent about every slip but you do need to let her in on what’s going on.
Knowing the fine balance of how much to share is something you learn during the reboot process. Over time you won’t deal with slips as frequently, either, so you won’t have to keep skirting around the topic. The Porn Reboot system works, brother, and both you and your partner will benefit from the work you do.