Dear Aunt Dara,
After my boyfriend and I began talking about marriage, he confessed to me that he has struggled with an addiction to pornography for the past couple of years. I feel very hurt and betrayed. Not only was he involved in this sinful act, but he started a relationship with me while it was a problem and he hid it from me and lied about it to me for this long.
I feel lost and I don't know what to do or how to handle the situation. My boyfriend and I have had our challenges before, and I'm struggling with trying to identify whether God is trying to tell me that this is not the man for me, or if He is ensuring that we are a strong couple and through His work we can make it through anything together. We currently are broken up while he works on his recovery, and I now am faced with the decision (once he's recovered) to forgive him and pick up where we left off or to leave him and move on.
My boyfriend truly wants to become a better man for himself, for God, and for me. He has tried to fix his addiction multiple times before, but they all have failed. He realized that the only way to really overcome his problem is to have lost the one most important thing in his life because of it - that being me - and the only way to gain me back is if his addiction is no longer existent. That all is flattering and I very much appreciate that he is trying so hard to eliminate the issue, but I don't know what's more important - the fact that he is truly committed to changing to become a better man, or the fact that he has been observing sinful material for TWO YEARS and hid it from the woman he plans to marry.
I would very much appreciate any insight and advice you have about this situation. At the least, prayer to allow my (ex) boyfriend to quickly and effectively find healing and recovery and for me to find clarity as to what to do about the situation would mean a lot to me.
Thank you so much,
Loved and Betrayed
Dear Loved and Betrayed,
I strongly suspect that any change that your (ex) boyfriend makes will only be temporary based on his long-term history of this behavior, his multiple failed attempts to change on his own, his apparent lack of remorse for having sinned against God, and his current reasons to want to change. Let me explain.
“Addiction” to pornography is not an illness from which one needs to recover. (I speak as a Christian and a licensed mental health professional.) Your boyfriend has been habitually engaging in a willful, sinful behavior, and he needs to repent. It appears that you may have fallen for his excuse that he has an “addiction” from which he needs to “recover,” and he seems to be offering an excuse for future failure by telling you that he has “tried to fix his addiction multiple times before but they have all failed.” The reason that his past attempts to stop his sinful habit have failed is because he was trying to “fix” it on his own—without God and without the power of the Holy Spirit. True repentance is based on godly sorrow for having sinned against God (2 Corinthians 7:10). Where was the godly sorrow? Where was the confession of sin against God (I John 1:9)? Where was repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22)? Where was the reliance on Christ for strength (Philippians 4:13, John 15:5)? Only by doing these things can he overcome his problem, regardless of his assertion that the only way to overcome his problem is realizing that he has lost the most important thing in his life (you) because of it. Furthermore, the most important thing in anyone’s life should be God!
If he truly believes that the only way to get you back is “if his addiction is no longer existent,” he will lie and tell you what you want to hear. Repentance based on sorrow for having hurt or disappointed another human being will only last as long as the relationship lasts, or until the person is able to resume his sinful behavior in secret. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that he can’t change, or that he can’t be forgiven, or that he can’t live a pure life in the future. What I am saying is that he needs to take personal responsibility for his behavior and acknowledge that it is sin, not an “addiction” or illness from which he needs “recovery.” He needs to genuinely repent for the right reasons and pray to God for forgiveness. Above all, he needs to put God first in his life—not you.