7 minute read

When Porn Is on the Report: 8 Steps for Allies

Last Updated: March 9, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

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.)

Related: 3 Surefire Ways to Rebuild Your Wife’s Trust

8 Steps for Allies to Help Friends on the Porn-Free Journey

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 weekly with his allies for accountability, 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 allies for accountability, 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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  • Comments on: When Porn Is on the Report: 8 Steps for Allies
    1. eric bell on

      thanks guys for being the eye on my computer. i confess i still look for the flesh online and am always fighting the fight. my job requires a lot of computer usage so the temptation to look under the covers is always there. i go like others i’m sure, long periods of giving in to temptation then get a grip and stay away….. well iregardless you guys help greatly….you all are on all our computers and iphones
      YHWH bless you greatly!

      Reply
    2. Mike on

      What should a husband do when she refuses to even consider reconciling.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Mike,

        I would first recommend a husband seek counseling for this matter. Go to local church leadership and see what they have to say about this. These sort of difficult decisions should be made surrounded by the best possible guidance and timely wisdom.

        We have tons of information on our site about this topic, written for both men and women. I recommend you visit our “Struggling?” page for wives.

      • Michael R Christensen on

        At a certain time you have exhausted all resources. Resent builds. Love is just not enough once trust is broken and spouse refuses to give up porn. My wife felt betrayed. Porn was more important than her happiness. Total selfishness. Destroys relationships.

    3. Vern Knock on

      It was encouraging to read Josh and Serena’s testimonial. I have been able to have the BLOCKING FILTER for Mac’s installed from Covenant Eyes about a month ago. My accountability partner and I are both encouraged as is my WIFE!

      Saved by the Grace of God from the Black Hole of Porn!

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        So good to hear, Vern. Let me know if you’d ever like to tell more of your story to our readers. I’m sure they would be encouraged to read it.

    4. John on

      Very encouraging. What if the wie doesn’t like sex. She has admitted that she can go for a month or more without sex. I on the other hand prefer atleast weekly… What’s the solution, coz we’ve seen counsellors and talked but nothing seems to change…

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi John. This is not at uncommon, even for those whom porn is not a pastime. Ultimately this will involve change in both of you. She needs to embrace an understanding about what intimacy in marriage is for and how vitally important it is (note: intimacy and sex are not the same thing, but in marriage they are intertwined and inseparable). You, likewise, need to work at understanding the heart of your wife, learning to engage in intimacy with her in sexual and non-sexual ways as she grows in her understanding of sexuality.

        Here are some articles you might benefit from:
        Husband Struggle with Porn? 3 Ways to Rebuild Your Sex Life
        Don’t Ignore Your Marriage After Sexual Addiction is Discovered
        Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy With Your Spouse (Book Review)

        One great book I’ve really benefited from is Sacred Sex.

      • Michael Z on

        I understand where you are coming from as I have a similar experience. My wife of 22 years has never had the interest level I have had, and about 8 years ago her interested dropped to zero. About 15 years ago I turned to porn for “help.”

        I have tried on many occasions to quit, but I have always failed. It was not until I realized that my wife’s interest level had nothing to do with my sin that I truly began winning the battle with porn. We are drawn away of our own lusts (James 1:14-15), are fighting a spiritual not physical battle (Eph. 6:12) and are responsible for our own sin (Rom. 14:12). When I mentally separated her interest from my sin and started to truly seek Him, magical things began to happen. Her zero interest started blossoming!

        My wife knew I was viewing porn though I thought it was a secret. She didn’t know what to do, so she kept quiet. This killed any desire she had. When I praised her beauty, she didn’t believe me because I had to have all my other women. When we did make love, she felt like one of a harem. She didn’t see it as love making; she saw it as servicing me. That stole any joy she might have received.

        Another change I have made is to daily thank God and my wife for her many wonderful attributes. It is easy to focus on that one thing you are missing. I thank God every day for her beauty, kindness, forgiving heart, strength, godly example, strong character, listening ear and wise counsel. I dwell on those things. Make your own list of genuinely wonderful things about your wife, and then thank God for them. Praise her for them. As I am denying myself, my praises no longer fall on deaf ears. She is believing them, and that is increasing her interest.

        We have also begun seeking genuine non-sexual intimacy. Every night we embrace, share burdens and struggles from the day, share concerns for tomorrow, and then pray for each other. Praying together for each other has brought us so much closer together as a couple. We make kid-free time for uninterrupted conversation. We walk and hold hands. We spend time in non-demanding kissing, hugging, nuzzling and snuggling. We both absolutely love the attention we receive from the other. All this goes a long way toward eliminating the rejection feelings I had been experiencing. It gives me the strength to wait until she’s ready, and it has stirred in her a desire for me I didn’t think she had.

        I also did not realize how porn was affecting every area of my life. My wife says I’m more thoughtful, compassionate, caring, loving, giving, patience with her and the kids, selfless and contented. I have made no specific effort to improve in any of these areas. It simply seems to be a by-product of denying myself the instant gratification of porn.

        As I deny myself, seek God and give my wife unconditional love, her interest has steadily risen from zero to a level I did not think possible. She recently said to me, “I feel like I have a new husband.” You may find, as I have, that she is not the problem. I was the problem. I recently joked with her, “If your interest level continues to rise as it has, I won’t be able to keep up with you!”

        I encourage you to take the Covenant Eyes 40-Day Porn Free Challenge. It has been such a blessing and encouragement. Along with God’s grace, my loving wife and wonderful friends, the challenge has given me strength to do right.

    5. Tony on

      Hi John, please try something that has become very soecial to myself and wife? Take time to offer a full body massage to your spouse using oils preferably ! Despite the aching arms and thumbs be persistent work at it? And your dear wife will so look forward to this offer if given in the correct context and this leads to a much more loving and embracing time if you follow me ( not wanting to be to open) yes this is the most enjoyable thing for any lady of or lives it relaxes and removes stress and stress is the biggest turn off for most women? So be patient and work hard the rewards are incredible , remember we are here to serve and please each other leading to delights if our Lord in marriage! Yours in Christ tony

      Reply
      • Sheila on

        I am going to give a woman’s perspective here. Some of you guys have great advice! Women are always thinking of a million things at once. Sometimes, being asked to focus on physical intimacy with our husbands almost feels like more stress. It shouldn’t, but it’s just hard to switch focus from everything that needs to be done down to just one thing.

        I was married once before my current husband. I struggled with feeling comfortable in sex, and didn’t feel pleasure of any kind very often. I always assumed there was something wrong with me, or just that it was normal for women, but now I’m realizing that’s not true. Yes, there were some things I needed to change. I needed to become more confident, and I needed to communicate more. But my current husband is so incredible at focusing on me, and it helps me to in turn focus on him. Compliments during the day, intimacy in other ways, and long massages are all incredible suggestions.

        I know it can be incredibly frustrating to have a spouse who doesn’t help you realize your physical desires, and I’m sorry you’re facing that, but there might be ways you can help change even that.

        Please, men reading this, don’t take this as an accusation or insult in any way. Men and women are very different. Men are easily interested in sex. Pleasure is natural to them. When they focus, they focus much more easily than women. Women need some help in all these ways, but if you are willing to take the extra time to talk to your wife and try new ways of focusing on her, during the day as well as during sex, I can almost guarantee that her sex drive will increase. That’s exactly what happened for me. Once I learned what it can be like and feel like, I desire it. I learned that because my husband is patient and determined to please me. Sex should always be about offering your body to your spouse, pleasing them, for both genders. It is a wonderfully giving act.

        God intended marriage to include sex, and sex is a beautiful, incredible form of intimacy between husband and wife. Wives love to be desired by their husbands. Make sure they know that they are! Desired in more ways than one. And I pray that God restores this gift to you, back to the way that he intended it to be.

    6. Mark on

      Covenant Eyes has been a God send for me. Internet porn was destroying my family and marriage. We heard Paul Speed tell his testimony @ a WIT marriage conference, (It stands for Whatever It Takes) the first time I ever heard a couple speak openly about porn & masturbation and how it destroys relationships. It was the beginning of restoring our marriage and family. My wife and I serve whenever possible w/ witministries to help other couples find freedom & restoration of their marriages. We always recommend Covenant Eyes.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Wow, thanks Mark! This is very encouraging!

    7. Shirley on

      I am an accountability partner for a friend. She will text me wheb she’s facing temptation, and I talk to her to distract her or just pray for her. She will also text me if she messes up. I’m wondering what is the best way to handle those interactions? I usually ask her what triggered it and encourage her for next time, but is there anything else can I do?

      Reply
    8. Cole on

      I’m divorced and have had this on my phone for 3 months now. I’m most of the way through a 10 week Pure Desire Conquer series group. Even with numerous accountability partners the longest I’ve stayed sober is a out 10 days. Do any single males ever have encouraging testimony about overcoming this addiction?

      Reply
      • charles on

        I am single and haven’t watched porn for more than 6 years now

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