boundaries, dating, healing

Having “The Talk”

Now that I am “dating” again, I have concerns and worries that I will get involved with someone else who is also an addict. It’s a very valid concern considering the breadth and depth of the problem of pornography and sex addiction.  After all, just about every man has been exposed to pornography. My therapist said that it is likely anyone you date will have been exposed, to one degree or another. The question we have to ask ourselves  is, “to what degree?” It could be anything from a one time exposure as a child, or all the way to a full-blown addiction, or anything in between. So how do you know how bad is too bad?  What is acceptable to you?  What is not? How can you keep yourself from getting involved with someone with a problem again? These are all very good questions and they deserve your serious attention BEFORE you get so involved with someone who just causes you more trauma before you have to break it off with them.  I would suggest sitting down and writing up some good boundaries for yourself. Think about what you can and cannot live with and set those boundaries – in advance.  Don’t wait until you fall in love to decide. The time to protect yourself from making the same mistake again is now. If you don’t know how to set boundaries this read this article.

When Do You Ask?

So when do you ask the man you are dating about his porn use?  Gosh!  Why do we even have to ask?  You’re right, we shouldn’t have to ask.  It shouldn’t even be a problem!  But the odds are not good for finding a man who hasn’t had to deal with this issue.  It’s wide-spread and pervasive.  Chances are that any man you date is going to have to come clean to you about his porn use.  Even in the church the statistics are not good!  I have heard as many as 50% of all Melchizedek Priesthood holders have been involved with pornography at sometime in their lives.  The statistics outside of the church are staggering – as many as 90%! It not good ladies! Even if you think the guy you are dating is awesome and he “would never do that,” you still must ask!  Ask for your own peace of mind.  Ask because you have to protect yourselves. Ask! It is doing your due diligence and he isn’t going to volunteer it, not unless he is in serious recovery.  It is foolish for any woman to believe that she should not ask her man about this issue. it just is.  Don’t stick your head in the sand, it won’t help you!

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It is up to you to do the asking, unfortunately.  The guy I was dating actually told me up front, which I thought was fantastic!  It set my mind at ease and made me feel that, at least, he was willing to be honest with me.  But I did not probe further.  I should have.  He told me he had a problem and talked to his Bishop about it, he had chosen to turn his back on it and never do it again.  And that was that.  But the longer our relationship went on, the more I had “that nagging feeling in my gut” that I should know more.

With this experience under my belt I have a suggestion about when to ask and what to ask.  When the relationship progresses to the point that you are discussing more serious issues.  If you are in the ‘define the relationship” status, that is the time to ask, if not before.  In my case, I had been very up front about my PTSD, trauma, and abuse.  He knew from the beginning that I needed certain things from him to feel safe.  So the fact that you are asking your man about his porn use should not be a big surprise to him if he knows anything about you at all.

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Being able to ask, and ask clearly, is all about setting up good boundaries for yourself.  I alway told my Ex that I wasn’t asking him to do something that I would not ask of anyone!  I did not realize how true that was, until now.  Any man who is in a relationship with me is going to have to provide me with copious amounts of connection and safety.  The safety will have to include basic addiction recovery behaviors, probably whether he has or had an addiction or not! You might say, “But that’s not fair!”  No, it’s not fair.  But what happened to me is not fair.  Nothing about betrayal trauma is fair! But any man who would choose to love me knows this, so he would do it anyway, because he loves me and wants me to feel safe and secure in my relationship with him. And he will do it as soon as humanly possible. Expediency is paramount when dealing with trauma.  Women need to see action, not words, not promises. Action. My Ex should have done this, if he had, we would still be married now and our family would still be together.  Choices have consequences.

The Questions

There are 5 questions you need to ask the man you are dating:

  • Has he ever been exposed to pornography or sex online? Any man who is being honest will answer this question in the affirmative.  I would be suspicious of anyone who says they have never been exposed.
  • When was the first time you were exposed? Is this an ongoing problem or something that just began?
  • When was the last time you view pornography and to what degree? You will need to know how he views pornography; is it in chatrooms, with other people participating, texting, does he masturbate while viewing, etc. In otherwords, how pervasive was his use?
  • How often has he viewed or participated since his first exposure to his last? You will also what to know how long he goes without viewing in between.
  • What has he been doing to overcome this problem?  This is the most important question if he has been using porn.  So important that I will cover it in the next section.

Addiction Recovery is outlined in the book “What Do I Do about Him Me?” by Rhyll Crowshaw, Road Map #3

What Is He Doing About It Now?

Having a porn or sex addiction is not the biggest determination for having or restoring trust in a relationship. What he is now doing about it, is!  I heard a therapist at a convention say, that he would trust a man in solid recovery more than a man without an addiction because the man in recovery knows himself!  I agree!  If a man is in solid recovery he has learned to set boundaries for himself, he knows his limits, he is self disciplined, and he is humble enough to be responsible and accountable to himself, to his family, and to God. This is all about personal responsibility and accountability!  It’s about building trust.

So to any man who would want to date me, you should be doing the following, without being asked:

  • Meeting with your Church Leaders regularly.
  • Attending a 12-step program and have an accountability partner or sponsor, maybe for the rest of his life.
  • See a personal counselor who specialized in addiction for 3-5 years.
  • Getting educated about addiction, betrayal trauma, and recovery. In other words, learning needs to be a life long pursuit.

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These should be the minimum.  But, ladies, we want men who are willing to go the second and third mile by also:

  • Becoming involved in helping others recover
  • Attending a recovery program like Men of Moroni
  • Setting up blocks on all your devices
  • He has boundaries, strong ones
  • Is accountable and responsible in his relationships
  • Is humble and willing to do the work
  • Provides emotional, physical, and spiritual safety
  • Does whatever it takes to restore trust

c11ea4c0819b647a2cca9c81e6d57510.jpgI promise you that you will know where a man’s heart is by how willing he is to be accountable and do the hard work of recovery.  And if he won’t do the work, well, he just didn’t want you that badly, now did he? You will survive the truth better than you will survive a lie. This isn’t about being demanding, this is about knowing your own worth.  You are worthy of a man who has control over his own mind and body and respects himself enough to do the hard work of recovery. I have to work my own recovery, probably for the rest of my life because of what happened to me, why would I want to be with anyone who refused to do anything less?

A Word to Bishops and Church Leaders:

Bishops, please – please – please, do your job! Ask the hard questions!  It is not a light thing you are doing when you interview a man who comes to you to confess a pornography problem. Lives hang in the balance!  Families hang in the balance!  You need to ask enough probing questions to get to the bottom of the problem.  Too many families are being broken up over the devastation of porn use and sex addiction by married men.  The wives and children of these men deserve for you to care about them and protect them enough to determine the level of addiction these men are experiencing. These men are experts at deception, often they will not volunteer information unless asked a direct question.  You must be direct! Kind, yes! But direct! If someone comes to you to confess an addiction shouldn’t you at least ask if this problem has been on going, and in some cases, for decades?  If so, then you need to be referring them for professional counseling and 12-steps and then following up with them to make sure they are working on recovery.

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It’s not enough anymore to ask when is the last time you view porn!  You have to look at the habits of these men over time.  Often these men only take it as seriously as you do.  Many will say, ” Well, I talked to my Bishop and he didn’t think I needed to do anything more.” What a disservice you are doing to innocent wives and children! Don’t you know you are being used as an excuse by these men to not get help? I am begging you, as someone who lost the love of my life and my eternal family over this issue – ask the hard questions! Take this seriously! Please.

Be Sweet, Stay Strong!

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dating, PTSD, Trauma Recovery

LDS Dating After Betrayal Trauma (PTSD)

fc3f8fbe75ca231aee3985d44ff3089fIt’s been over six months since I stopped going to Single Adult Activities. I didn’t have very much fun and the whole experience was, quite frankly, depressing. I made a single girl friend who invited me to start going to the activities with her.  I thought it was safe enough to have a “wingman” so I agreed to venture out into the church singles scene for the first time in over 40 years.  She was fun and she knew most people, so it was fun getting to know her friends and being introduced to new people. So far so good.

The problems for me, began when I started have panic attacks and anxiety at the events. What should have been fun, was  instead, overwhelming.  My PTSD would take over and a harmless dance became a war zone, fraught with danger and landmines. Triggers were everywhere.  Just walking into the building was a Trigger. The most prominent one was: I shouldn’t be single!  If my Cheater hadn’t betrayed me I wouldn’t even be here!  Why did this have to happen to me? How did I even get here? Then all the emotions of the trauma of betrayal would wash over me like a flood of emotions – and suddenly I was drowning.

I never shied away from meeting new people or social situations, but this was too much, especially for an empath.  I could walk into any given room of singles and suddenly feel overwhelmed by what I call, the collective “singleness cloud of pain.”  I could sense the collective “singleness cloud of pain” before I even opened the door. It was a thousand feelings of grief over lost love, through either death or divorce, coming from hundreds of people gathered in the same room. It was stifling! Each of them were at the event in the hopes of trying to find someone, anyone, to ease their own cloud of pain.  If in that moment, I added my own pain into the mix, it became unbearable very quickly.  I would barely arrive at the event, with hopes of having some fun, only to be greeted with this innate feeling that I should not be there, I didn’t belong there, how did I end up in this group of people whose common denominator was profound loss?  I would feel the hot tears well up behind my eyes, ready to spill down my freshly primped face.  The urge to run was intense.  Luckily, I usually came with girlfriends, so I had to stay.  I forced myself to stay, and like it. I reminded myself of a child who is forced to take bitter medicine – it tastes horrible, but it’s good for me!  I would choke down the tears and not make my friends feel guilty for having their own fun.  I dutifully danced with the souls brave enough to ask me, I would have pleasant chit-chat with people around me, I made a herculean effort to make my own fun, but all I wanted to do was go home, get in my pajamas and pull the blanket over my head!

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Why was this so painful?

The LDS Singles in the Salt Lake and Utah Counties literally have something going on every night of the week!  It is a veritable gold mine for the lonely and single. There is plenty to do, lots of opportunities to socialize and mingle.  I could go “have fun” every night of the week if I wanted.  But I did not want.  It was too much on my emotions, feelings, and psyche to just manage to attend something once a week.  All summer I tried to force myself to become a bona-fide single woman. I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t wish away, deny, or pretend that I couldn’t feel the common thread of sadness from everyone who was there. Instead of “I see dead people,” for me it was “I feel broken hearts.”  It was too much.  So I stopped going last September.

From what I understand from talking to my therapist and other singles, my reaction isn’t that uncommon.  An overwhelming number of singles, especially Sisters, report; “I just couldn’t do it.”  I don’t blame them.  Neither could I.

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Then an amazing thing happened.  I met someone.  He likes to dance.  I like to dance.  So he came into town and we went to a dance, or two, together.  It’s amazing how having a date insulated me from all the sadness in the room.  I could be there and have fun, real fun!  I could enjoy dancing with a man who loved being there with me.  It was heaven! Now that I am actually dating someone, I am so glad there are so many singles activities in my area.  It gives us a place to go to engage in wholesome and uplifting activities together while we get to know each other better.  And I feel better about bringing my own happiness and positive energy in to a space that needs that boost.  Being there is finally good.

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I had a lot of guilt from people close to me to just “get over it,” or “you will find someone better.”  I played the guilt trip in my head by saying to myself, “what if my person is at the dance tonight and I don’t go?” Even that wasn’t enough to make me go, until I was ready. People close to you mean well, they have your best interests at heart, but they can’t know when you are ready. Only you can know that!

So here is my bottomline, Singles Activities may not be for you, right at this moment.  But give it an honest try.  If it’s not for you right now, I totally get that!  But think about trying again later.  It can be good place to be, when the timing is right.  For the recently traumatized, that timing may take a little while.  Be kind to yourself.  Healing takes time.  Trying on your single suit might take even more time.

When it’s right, you will know.

Here are a couple of places you can look when you are ready:

Timpanogos Singles

Orem Singles

Lehi Singles

Salt Lake Singles

Most of them have an email list you can sign up for to receive a monthly calendar of events.

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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