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Porn and Your Boyfriend: Advice for Christian Women

Last Updated: June 19, 2018

Kay Bruner

Kay Bruner has been married to her husband Andy for over 25 years. For 20 of those years, she served with him at Wycliffe Bible Translators, working in the Solomon Islands preparing a New Testament translation into the Arosi language. They have four children and two rescue dogs. They live in the Dallas area where Andy works for SIL International, Wycliffe’s sister organization. Kay is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Rapha Christian Counseling. She is the author of As Soon As I Fell: A Memoir. You can read more of her articles at kaybruner.com.

Dear Kay,

My boyfriend has been using porn since adolescence. During college he began to seek help by attending Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings and being very involved with accountability and mentoring through that organization.

We are both Christians in our mid-20s, and he has read many other books over the years and prayed so much. He was open with me about his struggle before we started dating, and explained that he was getting help, but purity would probably always be a struggle in his life.

We are considering a serious relationship now, but my question is: I know he’s serious about gaining victory in the area of sexual purity, and I know it’s going to be difficult, but what should I look for before considering a more serious relationship with him? Complete victory (i.e. not viewing porn and not masturbating) for a specific length of time? Improvement but not complete victory? I believe in God’s power to transform his life, and he does too, but this is still scary.

Most material I find is aimed at wives, and thus encourages them to stay and fight for the marriage, but there seems to be very little material for people considering marriage. What healthy expectations should I have?

Thanks for your help,

Amber

Porn And Your Boyfriend

About a year ago, I wrote a book called As Soon As I Fell. It tells the story of my experiences living overseas, which included the discovery of my husband Andy’s six-year pornography habit (yes, while we were missionaries) and my subsequent nervous breakdown. When I wrote that book, I expected to hear from wives who’d had the same kinds of experiences, and I have.

What I didn’t expect was the number of letters I’ve received from young women, some as young as 14, who are trying to understand how to deal with their boyfriends’ porn issues. Often, I’ll hear from a girl who tells me, “I googled ‘Christian boyfriend, porn, dating’ and I found your blog.” I’ve written one article about this topic here at Covenant Eyes, and somehow young women are finding me. I think it just goes to show how little help is out there for this particular issue.

This is an enormous gap in our helping network, given the statistics on porn use today. According to Covenant Eyes, about 64-68% of young adult men and about 18% of women use porn at least once every week, and another 17% of men and another 30% of women use porn 1-2 times per month.

The story of the statistics is this: almost every young man today has had significant pornography exposure. That means every young woman needs to be prepared for that reality. Every young woman needs to have a toolbox of personal skills and relationship resources ready to use when the time comes.

Related: Myth Busters–“I’ll stop looking at porn when I get married”

After answering numerous letters from young women, I finally decided to write a short e-book that to talk about five personal skills young women need for healthy dating relationships in today’s world:

  • Courage
  • Honesty
  • Understanding
  • Boundaries
  • Self-care

The book also provides self-evaluation questions, some conversation-starters, and a list of resources for further exploration and support.

porn and your boyfriendHere’s what I don’t do in the book: I don’t tell young women what to do. I won’t tell them to break up with their boyfriends if he looks at porn. I don’t tell them to stay with him and support him in his struggle, no matter what.

I don’t think there is a specific right or wrong way to handle this question of porn in dating relationships, only choices that are healthy for individual women in their individual situations.

My highest hope, though, is that young women will go away from reading this book feeling empowered. Empowered to understand and evaluate what’s happening in dating relationships, empowered to know what they want and need in relationships, and empowered to make healthy choices, based in truth and love, for themselves.

This is a book written to and for young women, but it’s also a great resource for parents who want to talk with their daughters about this issue, and don’t know where to start.

Porn and Your Boyfriend is available now at Amazon.com.

  • Comments on: Porn and Your Boyfriend: Advice for Christian Women
    1. Stuart on

      I agree that this is an area in which we, as bloggers and leaders, have failed for lack of a better word. There are so many young people, both male and female with a lot of questions and concerns in reference to dating and possibly preparing to marry a porn addict.

      Thank you so much for the reminder that we must make a very strong effort to reach the younger generations.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        I think with this generation, there is room for nothing except straight-up honesty. We have sheltered our girls, especially in very conservative circles, to the point where they know NOTHING about the realities of porn use. By keeping reality from them, we prepare them to be victims of addiction. I’m in a secret facebook group with a bunch of young women from a big name conservative Christian college whose marriages are all being devastated by this. The story at their college was “don’t date a guy who looks at porn”–so the guys lied, minimized, rationalized, denied. They themselves may have believed that if they just got married and had “real sex” this wouldn’t be a problem any more. It’s a disaster of epic proportions. Absolutely heartbreaking. So, please speak and keep speaking! Blessings, Kay

    2. JeremiahP on

      My advice to my daughters would be to steer clear of a man addicted to sexual sin until he is utterly clean of it, even if that means being separate for a while to prove it and having other men get involved right away to be accountability partners and help this young brother to become clean of it. Then set clear boundaries heading into marriage that it is unacceptable behavior that will be met with Matthew 18 confrontation if it ever rears its head even slightly. It’s either that, or wait 20 years for it to ruin your marriage. Don’t ever think it will go away by itself, young ladies, because it won’t.

      Reply
      • T on

        I hate this plague. I’m about to end a very significant relationship because of this crap. I’ve waited almost 2 years to see at least a significant sobriety (at least 6 months) and he’s not been able to. I’m loosing my best friend and the best man I know because I’m so tired, so burned out from all of this that I can’t wait any longer. How can I look into the future with hope while this shadow keeps lingering in the background? How do I stay while I see all my hopes and dreams being crushed everytime he falls? And now it seems impossible that I’ll find a man who doesn’t have an issue with this. I hate porn with all my heart.

      • Kay Bruner on

        Hey T.

        I really hear your hurt and anger over this, and I think those are healthy, appropriate emotions to have. I’m glad you’re able to make good choices for yourself, even though it’s so painful to do so.

        I would say, when it comes to looking at the future with hope, work hard on your own emotional processing and healing. Find a personal counselor or a group like Celebrate Recovery (google support groups and see what you can find in your area). xxxChurch has online support groups. Heal, heal, heal before you even think about another relationship.

        The stats are disheartening, it’s true, when it comes to porn exposure and use in men these days. BUT, I think there ARE men (even young men) who are working hard to be responsible for themselves in the face of the reality of porn. I’ve written a short little book for girlfriends that includes conversation starters and clues to look for to see if he’s really taking responsibility or not. You might find that helpful. I do think that women today need a whole new skill set to be discerning about this issue, and it’s SO hard to get the conversation started. But, it must be done!

        Blessings on your healing journey, Kay

      • Ani on

        I fully agree with you .

    3. John on

      My hats off to you and Andy for your courage in addressing this difficult topic, which is too often relegated to the ‘too hard’ basket. Reality pleased and proud to see how wonderfully God has blessed your ministry, Kay. I know all SITAGers feel the same. Keep up the good work!

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Thanks, John! There’s a deep satisfaction in seeing God make meaning out of our pain, and to use that to bring healing not just for us but for others. You know! Blessings and prayers, Kay

    4. Lynn on

      You are fortunate you found out while still dating. I recommend a Christian counselor to help you both deal with his addictions and to learn to seek guidance in scripture. I didn’t find out about my husbands addiction until 10 years into our relationship when I was pregnant with our first child 5 yes into our marriage. He body shamed me with gaining weight during pregnancy and not being able yo lose weight quick enough. Spoke to me disrespectful always blaming me for not dressing sexy enough for him and at one point telling me he didn’t list me. I’ve prayed so hard to allow God to work through me to show my husband love and forgiveness for his acting out. Believe I would have left if I found out before kids where involved. Slowly God has been working on my husband. It has been a long and lonely journey at times but if you continue to trust God and pray for your husband and that you both seek the right help there is healing and hope. Nothing in this life is easy!

      Reply
    5. J Kay on

      Is this book available as a downloadable e-book, rather than just as a Kindle on Amazon? Some people (like me) prefer hardcopy ebooks, and some people may not “do” Kindle. Anyway, I’m willing to pay for this as a downloadable e-book. Is that possible? Thank you.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi there, it’s just a Kindle ebook. There’s free software you can quickly download at Amazon which allows you to use any edevice as a Kindle reader: phone, tablet, computer, etc. Hope that helps! Kay

    6. Ani on

      I got married to my husband while he was addicted to porn. His addiction started when he was 15. He thought it would go away once he was married and me being the innocent Christian virgin girl thought so too. 28 years later … I am walking the walk … mending my shattered heart and grieving the lost years. My traumatised heart has come to rest and I have paid a dear price for his addiction. We have worked HARD to get to the place where we are now.m After 40 years my husband is now walking in sobriety. All I can say is: Porn is adultery. Young men STOP before you get married. Get clean. Young unmarried girls DO NOT GET MARRIED TO A YOUNG MAN ADDICTED TO PORN. You will be the secondary person in his life. Porn will be his primary relationship. If he respects himself he will stop. Porn is degrading women and if he finds sexual satisfaction from women being degraded and used and abused… stay away from him. Porn destroys the soul of a marriage.

      Reply
      • Estee on

        Wow Ani thats hectic words .

        I dont know why im still married to t his guy

    7. kim on

      Kay, I’m a little confused. Is it thought best to not get involved with anyone who looks at porn, even if means to remain single. Or is it thought ok to get involved with someone, but only someone who at least acknowledges it’s harms, and to take that journey? Or is it even thought ok to be with someone who is ok with porn and who is not addicted and to just pray and focus on yourself and let them go on their journey at their own time? I am so confused because as you said, the number of men who use is out of control.

      Reply
      • kim on

        I know that answer is addressed in the book, and you said above that it is personal to each girl, as to what they need to feel empowered. I guess what I really want to ask is why isn’t the church taking more direct positions on pornography and doing more to address this? That’s what I really want to ask. Why isn’t there a broader discussion about this in schools? I feel steamrollered into having to accept it and deal with it. Relationships and life are stressful enough without having this too. But I don’t see a visible entity addressing this in society. It’s still such a silent thing even among adults.

      • Kay Bruner on

        I agree with you, Kim, that it would be great if the church would be more open and helpful about the issue of porn. I think that the conservative church was hoping that by saying “Porn is bad. Don’t look at it,” the problem would take care of itself. That shame would keep people from looking. But shame never solves anything! It only sends us into hiding. And that’s what’s happened, now to such an extent that the church doesn’t know what to do with it. It’s a “too big” problem to address, I think. I’ve literally heard of pastors telling women that they can’t leave their husbands, because if all the women left their husbands over porn, 70% of the marriages would break up. I think we are in a MESS in conservative churches over this. And since women aren’t allowed to speak in church, and many pastors have a porn problem too, well, here we all are. This is the situation. And that leaves us as women needing to stand up for ourselves. We have voices. We have free will. We have the capacity to choose good health for ourselves, even when our church cultures do not promote it. Even when others disagree. Even if we feel like nobody else is speaking. We can still speak for ourselves, and we MUST. That is the way that individual relationships will change, anyway. Not by somebody in a pulpit railing on about sin. But by individual men and women taking responsibility before God for their own lives. And that can happen, and it does. Men can and do make healthy choices. Women can and do have healthy boundaries. But those are skill sets that our churches often did not teach us, and it’s a painful learning curve when you didn’t see it coming!

      • Kay Bruner on

        Well, there are lots of different thoughts! Certainly some people would tell you not to be involved with someone who looks at porn. That’s been a popular stance in the conservative church world, where the idea is that if you scold and shame people enough, they won’t look at porn. My personal experience with that kind of culture, however, has been that what happens is a lot of hiding and lying. I’m in a private FB group full of wives who came from a conservative Christian college environment where that stance was preached. The guys all just hid their problems until it came out after marriage. So, as much as I hate addiction, I’m not a fan of that path because I think it leads to dishonesty and into the exact mess you’re trying to avoid.

        What I’d be looking for is a person who TAKE RESPONSBILITY for their own sexual health and well-being. Someone who can be honest about their exposure, their temptations. Someone who knows they don’t want to substitute porn for real intimacy. Someone who has a plan for accountability and who actually works that plan.

        At the same time, I think we need to be women who can take responsibility for ourselves, our own emotions, and our own sexual health as well. The days of “and they lived happily ever after” are gone–if they ever existed. I think we have the chance for real, true, honest, robust relationships around our sexuality. We just can’t pretend the problems don’t exist anymore. We have to deal.

    8. Michael on

      Hello Kay,

      Thank you for the articles and all that you’re doing to battle this extreme attack on mankind.

      I wanted to share my story with you all and maybe it will help or encourage someone. My fiancée and I have been together 2 yrs and 4 months. When we first started dating I did not tell her I had a major issue with porn, anyways here I am today still challenged with the choice. I grew up loving God going in and out of freedom after middle school. I’ve lied several times and I’m not proud of anything I have done to hurt, abuse and emotionally destroy my fiancée’s heart. Last year I put covenant eyes on my phone, started counseling and had a recovery group. I am willing to do whatever it takes. I saw one post on here that really disappointed me. “Don’t date a you man with a porn addiction”. Ok what if men said “Don’t date women who look lustfully at other men”. It’s bullshit to say it’s OK to give up if that man has sacrificed . Sin is sin and we all struggle with different sin. We all need God’s grace and mercy. I recommend the book “Becoming Unbound” Ezra Snyder for any man out there. Remember Jesus died ladies for every single one of to cleanse us with His blood. I’m not saying what your man is doing is RIGHT. It’s not right. He needs you though to pray, believe and really stand by him. Recovery, counseling, and being rooted in Jesus I know I will find true freedom and I will dedicate all my energy to showing my fiancée I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENTHENS ME.

      Kay, could you give me some other tips to help my recovery? Thank you.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Thanks for sharing, Michael. I’m involved with a group of women who attended a major Bible school where the young women were told that they shouldn’t date guys who looked at porn. The end result was that the guys all lied about their porn use. So they dated, got married, and now many of those marriages are in deep, deep trouble. Several have divorced.

        I think the thing I would tell young women is this: don’t date a guy who doesn’t take responsibility for himself. And you can tell if someone takes responsibility for himself in lots of ways: physically (exercising and eating right), financially (having a job, living within his means), emotionally (being able to acknowledge and deal with his own emotions rather than taking them out on himself or others), spiritually (being part of a vulnerable community of people who can be open, honest, and supportive), sexually (defining his own values before God and being responsible for those).

        I don’t think at all that women are required to “stand by your man” if their men aren’t able to be responsible for themselves. If you’ve really hurt, abused and destroyed your fiancee’s heart as you say, then I’d say it’s up to her whether or not she is able to remain in the relationship. She has to be responsible for herself, for her boundaries, and for her healthy choices.

        Whatever she chooses, it’s up to you to be responsible for yourself in recovery. My best tip to you would be this: be honest, be responsible for yourself, and keep getting back up again, no matter how long it takes.

        Blessings, Kay

      • Estee on

        Im married , i discovered my husbands porn us within the marriage. Michael you a man and you have a fiance , do you actually love her, because i honestly question does my husband love me, because you can see the pain you causing yet, you indulge in porn for self pleasure, so ultimately what does that say about your actual feeling. How can you hurt someone so brutally and say ” hey i love you but , satisfy myself is more important. Please dont view my question as sarcastic , its a question that i have when i look at my husband.

        i just need help understanding this :-(

      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Estee,
        I’m afraid that the “explanations” you’ll hear from men who are entrenched in a porn habit just won’t make much sense to the rest of us. That’s because most men know that when they look at porn, they are violating their own personal values and the marriage promises that they made. In order to keep looking at porn, knowing that they’re doing wrong, they have to create rationalizations inside their own minds, defense mechanisms that allow them to go on doing what they know is wrong. When they are discovered in their behaviors, they’ll often verbalize those rationalizations, which really aren’t all that rational to anyone else. I would say, don’t try to understand, because you can’t! Just consider what healthy boundaries will look like for you, given the reality of your situation. Here, here, and here are some articles to help you think about that.

    9. Christel on

      Hi! Is the book no longer available to be downloaded online?

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Christel, Porn and Your Boyfriend is available at Amazon. Here’s a link. Hope it helps! Kay

    10. Estee on

      Me too T…. me to

      Reply

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