I’d like you to watch the video above. Afterwards please continue reading the rest of this post.
Thank you for letting me put a personal touch to this message to men. Perhaps this approach also may take a little edge off your discomfort. No matter how much I’ve tried to set you at ease in our discussions about sex, I’m sure it’s never comfortable when I bring it up. Here we go again, so, gird thy loins…. (Pause to let the ironic biblical reference diffuse tension. You may now admit your Dad is funny.) It’s good to have a little chuckle because the heartbreak of the following story has prompted me to check in once again.
Learning from others’ mistakes
Regularly, I’m privy to intimate details of a marriage in the process of implosion. Sometimes, sadly, I’m involved at a stage far past damage control. In many instances, the problem traces back before the wedding. Pornography has an increasing role.
“A thorn of experience is worth a wilderness of warning.” James Russell Lowell
A man I’ll call Tom (not his real name) entered his marriage addicted to porn. Embarrassment kept him from admitting the problem to his wife or any close friend. Pride kept him from getting help from a pastor or counselor. Today he is divorced. Consider which is worse– suffering the indignity of admitting a problem and getting help or letting the problem kill your marriage? His kids eventually will have an opinion about this choice.
It’s like a brain injury
Tom’s addiction put a barrier between his wife and him. He was not attracted her physically because (as the video explains) his porn use had wired his brain for random and novel rather than familiar and intimate. He was numbed by mindless channel surfing rather than captivated by one plot. I suspect that some men prefer the control and security of porn over the risk and discomfort of vulnerability–especially the vulnerability of owning the problem.
For Tom, shame became part of a self-defeating thought loop. He could have found help and moved past it, but shame kept him isolated. Shame makes people feel safe only in the dark. Shame lies to us that hidden problems cannot hurt us. Porn then becomes a concealed self-abuse, keeping a person stuck in a vicious cycle. The good news is that anyone can break free of this cycle. However, it takes courage to face some bad news first.
Bad News: Unlearning is hard
It is much easier to avoid a bad habit than to break one. Sometimes I forewarn people who want to break free of an unhealthy pattern: “Five miles into the woods, five miles back out.” If you or someone your age gets drawn into porn use, remember how early it is in the game. But the sooner you get out of it the more you can move on and begin to look forward to a bond with the woman God has for you in your future.
As I have illustrated with my friend Tom, being faithful to your wife (no matter how you stumble) should begin before you meet. If you’ve messed that up already, get back on your feet. There’s always another chance to hit the reset button. Today for example. Read Lamentations 3:22-23. This promise does not have a condition or an expiration date. Never doubt the next chance to begin again; but better to learn from other people’s bad experience than your own.
Good News: A clear vision for marriage can motivate you to overcome.
No matter what doubts you may have about the future, you should plan on being married some day if that is your desire. Now is the time to develop a little sense of responsibility to this hope. Listen closely: you likely will have decades of sexual intimacy, putting current frustrations long behind you. What you do leading up to that lifetime ahead will make a huge difference in your marriage.
Some young men think marriage will cure their porn habits. This is a mistake. Self-discipline should not rely on circumstances. However, sometime we must change our circumstances to develop self-discipline. For example, like having a cross-fit trainer, sometimes help and having accountability can get you going in a new pattern. In the long run, you will not regret the effort or potential embarrassment of accountability.
Managing the fire
Passion is like a fire. It wants to burn all over the place. You will need to learn how to contain and also stoke this fire within your home, keeping it burning throughout your life in a way that brings warmth and benefit rather than the scourge of chaos and regret. Think. If you’re married before age 30, your relationship with your wife could last 50-60 years.
Who is speaking into your life about that mammoth opportunity and responsibility ahead of a lifetime commitment? Who is guiding you to prepare? Teachers? Peers? Memes? People selling crap online don’t give a rip about your design and future. People addicted and miserable want company. These two motives drive the toxic internet content.
On the other hand, those who have your best interest in mind cast vision for a lifetime commitment so that you may anticipate. Delaying gratification in light of this greater vision is obvious to everyone in hindsight (sometimes painfully so). Prepare for the strongest bond in marriage by respecting God’s design for the fire he has put into the human frame. Consider how you might prepare yourself for the important bonding and faithful discipline through years ahead of both intimacy and continued temptation.
Check this out: Covenant eyes.
I’ll stop there. For now. 🙂