When Porn Is on the Report: 8 Steps for Accountability Partners

Josh and Serena’s marriage had taken a major hit. After years of hiding his behavior online, Josh had developed a deeply engrained habit of looking at porn. Eight years into their marriage, Serena discovered the truth, but the problem only got worse. Restless, Josh began looking outside his marriage for satisfaction, which turned into multiple affairs. Things looked bleak for their family.

However, years later, Josh and Serena are not only reconciled, but thriving in their marriage.

What choices led to the restoration of their marriage? Who came to the rescue?

The Choice to Get Distance

Someone who constantly runs to pornography or cybersex can be difficult to help, but help becomes impossible if that person is unwilling to listen or take responsibility.

Despite repeated appeals from his family, Josh continued down his dark path. He had already moved out of his house, was planning to move in with his mistress, and had made it clear that his life was his own—no one was allowed to tell him what to do.

But on the morning of November 15, 2007, Josh’s conscience caught up with him. Something snapped in Josh’s mind. Still enslaved to his addictions and lust, Josh called Serena and asked if he could come home. He didn’t want to lose her and his children.

From there the journey of restoration began.

They decided their marriage was worth saving. He took a 50% cut in income to move with his family to Colorado—putting distance between himself and his former life. But more importantly, this move brought them closer to a new church community.

And it was at this church he encountered a kind of accountability he had never known before.

The Choice to Cry for Help

During a mountain retreat sponsored by his church, Josh experienced a fellowship of friendship that was invaluable. On Friday night a group of men sat in a circle in their cabin when one of the men pulled out a stack of picture cards and asked the guys to choose one that they believed illustrated their life at that time. Josh picked out a picture of an old, rusty bike—no wheels, no chain, useless.

When asked about his card, Josh hoped he would not have to divulge too much information. But the men pressed him—and at that moment the floodgates opened. He confessed everything to this new band of brothers: the porn, the cheating, the lying. All the details came out.

The men gathered around him, embraced him, prayed for him, and built up his fragile heart. It was the beginning of some great friendships.

The Choice to Be Accountable

After the mountain retreat, a small group of men began meeting weekly to encourage each other. Like Josh, these men had also divulged their dirty and sordid pasts during the retreat. He knew, meeting with them, they were men who had experienced great changes in their lives. They were men who knew the allure of sin, but they also knew how to fight it.

Every man in Josh’s group had Covenant Eyes Accountability on their computers. Each week they would get one another’s reports, which gave them a detailed picture of their activity online. As they met weekly to encourage one another, they weren’t afraid to call Josh out if they saw something questionable in his life—online or offline.

Over time, these friendships molded Josh into a new man. More than just Josh being accountable to them, they felt accountable for him. They were going to help Josh be a man of integrity, even in the messiest seasons of failure.

(Read or listen to more of Josh and Serena’s story.)

8 Steps for Accountability Partners

Josh’s story is sadly common. For many young men today, viewing internet pornography is a weekly occurrence. For young women as well, nearly one in five view porn habitually.

What can an accountability partner, or an ally, do to effectively help someone caught in the trap of a nasty porn habit?

If there has been questionable internet use, it might feel awkward at first to have a conversation about it. But remember, accountability is not about catching your friend red-handed. It is about learning ways to motivate them to develop new habits of thinking, feeling, and acting. You are not a cop; you are a coach.

If you notice repeated problems, here are eight steps to follow with your friend.

1. Set aside time to talk. Don’t try to squeeze the conversation into a busy day. Plan a time to talk face-to-face or over the phone. Josh met with his accountability partners weekly, regardless of what was on the report.

2. Listen first. Don’t feel the need to give advice right away. Be a good sounding board. Let your friend talk about what he or she did, why it happened, and how your friend feels about it? Letting your friend open up is vital.

3. Ask your friend how you can challenge him/her. Don’t feel the pressure to know what to say or do. Ask your friend, “When these things happen, what it the best way for me to encourage you? How can I support you?” Just as Josh learned, the more he met with his accountability partners, the more intuitive they became in knowing how to help him.

4. Praise the small steps. Remember, even being able to open up about something that one is ashamed of is a step in the right direction. Tell your friend you are glad he or she is willing to talk out loud about it. Look for small changes over time and point out that you notice them.

5. Plan preventative steps. Look for patterns in your friend’s life that seem to lead to inappropriate Internet use. Does temptation strike in a certain place, a time of day, when he or she is in a certain mood, or after a certain event? Brainstorm practical ways your friend can put a wall between himself/herself and the temptation. Like Josh’s friendships, make it a goal to fight temptation together.

6. Tap the power of positive motivations. Ask your friend, “What do you have to gain in life by avoiding these temptations? Instead of giving into this temptation, what kind of person do you want to become?” Josh’s friends, in both their words and example, helped Josh have a bigger vision for his life. He began to long to be a better husband, a better father, and a man of consistent faith and courage.

7. Tap the power of negative motivations. Ask your friend, “If you continue doing this over and over, what do you stand to lose in your life?” Don’t be afraid of confrontation. Josh’s friends didn’t shy away from “getting in his face” when it was needed. Be gracious, but tell it to your friend straight.

8. Recognize when others are needed. Sometimes others need to be brought into the accountability relationship: a spouse, parent, mentor, counselor, or spiritual leader. Recognize when you need help or when others need to know.

A Word from Josh’s Wife

Serena loves the role Josh’s allies have played in helping him overcome porn.

This group of men continues to stand alongside Josh as brothers in battle; they aren’t afraid to tell Josh he has messed up or that he needs to fix some things. They love him for all of his successes, and they don’t continually remind him of his failures. He can talk freely to them, but it’s up to him to be honest. They have learned to read through the lies, but they also love him in spite of the hurt.

Having Covenant Eyes has given me security, knowing that the computer is not being used to feed Josh’s addictions. I don’t worry about what he is looking at on the computer, and it is a big relief. Covenant Eyes does not cure the problem, but it definitely helps build trust. And having other people hold Josh accountable is, by far, the best part of it. If he acts inappropriately, I know he will have to answer to his brothers.

Choose to be that kind of friend to someone who is fighting to keep a pure mind and heart–and computer. Women like Serena are dying for potential friends like you to step up.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/-xcott-/

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