Fourth in a series
Jessie wrote a list in Young Women years ago of characteristics she wanted in a future husband: Eagle Scout, someone with his Duty to God award, etc. She thought, “I’m never going to marry someone that has had an addiction to pornography.”
Later in her life, she began dating Adam at BYU. She fell in love. She got engaged. Then he told her about his seven-year pornography addiction before his mission.
BYU students’ firsthand accounts reveal how both men and women are affected by pornography addiction in relationships, courtship and marriage.
Adam had not intentionally viewed pornography for years, but Jessie still took the news hard.
“The first inclination when your significant other comes and tells you, ‘I have a pornography addiction,’ or, ‘I’m struggling with this,’ is to feel hurt and to feel like you’re not good enough,” she said. “Finding out about his pornography addiction was really hard on me because I thought, ‘Well, how am I ever going to compare; I’m not that image; I’m never going to look like … whatever the image that’s perpetuated.'”
Jessie said true love and spirituality helped her continue on with the relationship.
“Real love helps you be validated, and I know that in all sincerity Adam thinks I’m beautiful for me; and that’s more than just physically,” she said. “Beauty is something totally different when you’re really in love.”
She realized later just how courageous it was for Adam to be forthcoming and honest.
“Any husband that comes to their wife and says, ‘I have this addiction,’ is coming to you at their very lowest; they’re coming to you the most vulnerable, and they’re literally holding their heart in their hands, like, ‘I’m terrified. I love you. This is why I’m telling you,'” Jessie said.
She said she had to take a car ride alone to pray and think about the situation when Adam first told her.
“It was raining, and I remember parking at Rock Canyon, and the Spirit was really clear to me that he was worthy and that everything would be OK … as long as we stayed close to each other and to God,” Jessie said.
Their marriage has required constant awareness to avoid tempting situations for Adam. “It’s so much safer for him to be overcautious than for us to be casual about it,” Jessie said.
Adam said he still considers himself in recovery even though so many years have passed since he last sought out pornography.
“There have been close calls,” he said. “A couple times a year, out of nowhere, I have this overwhelming feeling to go back to it.”
For that reason, Adam finds strength in being accountable to Jessie.
“I like having Jessie as my sponsor because I’m able to tell her, ‘I just had this crazy urge today out of nowhere,'” he said.
Jessie said exercising caution doesn’t mean they can’t have fun together. They go on dates and still enjoy things; they just closely monitor the media they use.
“Going to a movie, we always have to check resources like Internet Movie Database,” she said. “We don’t want anything to blindside us. Not that we can’t accommodate and work things out when we are blindsided, but why run into the mud when you know it’s going to be there? Why risk it?”
Despite following a different path than she had hoped for as a young woman, Jessie has no regrets about marrying Adam. Jessie and Adam have been married for nearly three years and have a little boy.
Jessie has converted her experience with Adam’s pornography addiction into a source of confidence for the future.
“Life is so beautiful. You really realize that when you see the uglier side of life; it can give you a humility and optimism and appreciation for how beautiful marriage can be, how beautiful life can be,” she said. “We have this beautiful little boy who brings joy every day and just gives you a reason to be so happy and keep trying to be in recovery.”
Adam and Jessie dealt with Adam’s problem long after he had used pornography. Katie (name changed), however, found out her boyfriend was currently struggling with pornography after three months of dating.
She said she felt overwhelmed and lost the day she found out. She wasn’t sure how to react.
“My head was saying, ‘Run’; my heart was saying, ‘Don’t you dare leave him alone in this.'”
She said the thought came to her, ‘You can still love someone, even with this.”
Katie decided to follow her heart and keep dating him. She encouraged her boyfriend to attend addiction recovery meetings and studied all she could about pornography addiction herself.
“I was so naive on this topic,” she said. “Since then it’s been this entire educational pursuit.”
About a month ago, Katie accepted her boyfriend’s marriage proposal.
Katie said the more she learned how pornography addiction works, the more she knew she and her fiancé have a chance of fighting it together.
She attends the women’s version of the addiction recovery program meetings held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so she can offer more support to her fiancé.
“We’ve certainly come closer in working through this,” she said. “I’m not worried about our future.”
She said their experience has made their relationship trusting and transparent.
Katie said she admires men who have the strength to tell the ones they’re dating and encourages women to be educated.
“There is so much more to them than just the addiction,” she said.
Next in the series: Treatment offers hope for recovery.
Other stories in the series: