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She wanted to know, but she couldn't ask Russ in person because she had kicked him out of the house the day after she discovered his stash of porn on the computer. So she asked by way of a text message. He was reluctant--he would rather have had the conversation in person. But Teresa insisted, and his old pattern was to hold things back, so he decided to take the risk and try to convey--also via text--what was going on inside when he went to porn.
Since it reflects what I hear from a lot of men, I got permission from Russ to share it here. It's a long text message, but it's worth reading. I hope it helps men acknowledge why they go to porn and find better ways to handle their emotional struggles. I hope it helps women not take his involvement in porn personally, even though that's a perfectly natural reflex to have.
Here's what Russ wrote:
"It will take a little time to explain how and why I ended up at that point. I hope you allow yourself the time to understand why men get sucked in. You will learn it isn't at all because of what you do or don't do. It isn't about you in any way. I will not make excuses or blame anyone other than myself for acting the way I did and for the choices I foolishly made.
"I think you are the most beautiful women in the world. You are the only girl I have truly desired to be intimate with. I have been attracted to you since the day we met you and you have been more attractive and satisfying to me than I will probably ever be able to convey. But it's not just about how gorgeous you are. Fifty years from now when we're both over the hill, it's your hand I want to still be holding.
"Every man, at some point in his life, is confronted with porn in some way or another. I had been a few times in the past. I didn't fall into it then because spiritually, mentally and emotionally I was in the right place and that is truly the key.
"I didn't search it out, but about two years ago I got a random email link. I saw a few pictures. I don't really remember what I was thinking, but at the time but I looked at them and that was it. A few months later I was pretty depressed. I hadn't deleted the email and I opened it again. This time I clicked on one of the pictures and three or four websites popped up. After that, sporadically (maybe every few months) I got depressed and feeling hopeless and really discouraged with how things were in my life (pretty much everything except you and the family). I felt like I couldn't talk to you about it because I was angry and felt like a failure at work and because I knew I'd caused a lot of my own problems. I was ashamed because I hadn't consulted you on any of my decisions, good or bad, which was a huge mistake. I was having a really hard time getting my confidence and happiness and my desire/drive back because I was not in the right place spiritually. Of course I was only making it worse, but I was desperate to just feel anything other than how I felt. I didn't go to porn all the time, but there were those random low points where I fell into it.
"As a woman, I'm sure it is hard for you to understand how I could do that and why men can so easily get caught up in it. It isn't something I'm very comfortable remembering and acknowledging even now. I'd get into it at those times and then after that it was out of my head--except the guilt. I'd bury it mentally and I would never think about it, ever, because thinking about it just made me angry at myself.
"It is a bad cycle and unless someone actively does what I am doing now, I suspect it would be easy to never get out of it. Unfortunately, many men have or have had an issue at some point in their life with this. Many of them may never confront it and fix it. They live in denial and hide. I have realized in going to the 12-Step groups that I don't face the temptations every day like some members do. I am thankful for that.
"I am also seeing that I have a personality that will naturally try to take the easy road, the path of least resistance. I run from situations I don't like. That's what enabled me to become spiritually undisciplined and out of tune. I'd never really had a problem with self-esteem until then. In that state, I wasn't thinking about the risks. I didn't recognize the hurt I would cause my family, and especially you. I excused myself: 'This won't hurt anyone. This isn't anyone else's concern. I can do this and it helps me feel better and no one has to know.'
"After giving in, I would very quickly try to rationalize or make excuses to myself so I didn't feel bad. I was trying to put everything hard out of my mind, not just my indulgences in porn. I was so depressed and my self-esteem was so low that I basically lied to myself about it so that I wouldn't have to feel the pain. As much as I could, I would avoid thinking about it.
"Then there were those other days, when I would be hard on myself. My perception of myself was horrible, like I couldn't do anything right. I felt like I'd failed at everything. My stress level about being written up at work was so high, and it seemed like I had nowhere to turn. Looking back, I could have and should have turned to you, but I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, and most of all I was sooo afraid I would hurt and disappoint you.
"I was in a really awful state. Of course, it was all my fault because of decisions at work and neglect of my spirituality. I was failing to do the small things related to church that would have helped me. But it was tempting to avoid dwelling on those things because I knew that was one more area I was failing in.
"Instead of doing what I should to get my own life back on track, I tried harder to be there for you and be close to you and help any other way I could so I could feel some sort of contribution to our family. Not that I really thought I was making up for my other failings; but I had to do anything I could to make myself feel any kind of positiveness. I tried to be the husband every woman wants to be married to: putting the kids to bed, helping around the house, giving you time for yourself. But no matter what I tried to do, my conscience wouldn't let me rest.
"It took a miracle to give me the courage and strength to confront this and get myself to a point where I could really, truly fix things. You kept complaining about not feeling connected or close as a couple. I knew it was my fault. I was holding back. But there I was, trying to help you feel better about our relationship without changing the core that was rotten. Finally I'd had enough. I hurt so bad for myself and especially for you and your disappointment. At that point I would have done anything to help you, to somehow make you feel better. I felt like I'd tried everything, and yet it still wasn't getting fixed.
"I realized that the only way the Lord would help is if I allowed Him to. I needed to be honest. If I really cared about you and my marriage, I needed to resolve things with you and with him. I knew it was going to be very hard and take a long time to fix, but if I truly loved you I couldn't live with things being awry between us.
"You know what happened next: I opened up about the pornography and the handful of times I drank alcohol and the year-long period that I was abusing the pills.
"Since then I have had an incredible month. I have never hurt so deeply. At the same time, I am finally at peace--within myself and with God. It's been way too long since I felt that way. I know I still have work to do, but I know I am on the right path. I need to do the little things so that as I get discouraged and depressed I will have the Lord to turn to for help, guidance, and comfort.
"I hope and pray that at some future time we will have a marriage where we are truly there for each other, a relationship in which we feel safe and protected turning to one another for help and understanding. You have been ready for that and begging for it for a long time. Now I'm finally coming around. Sacrificing my pride a opening up to you was just the first step, but it was a hard one. Going through that showed me that I can do it, and it's well worth the sacrifice! It's given me strength to do whatever else it takes. I love you more than I ever have in my life. I am thankful you are who you are and that you are strong enough to do what you are doing now (the separation) because that is allowing me to truly fix me and change things that I so desperately needed to change.
"T, I know we have a long road of recovery ahead, but I have faith that our marriage can be better and closer than it ever has been because we will be closer to the Lord and we can learn to be there for each other in ways we haven't before. Deep down we still have that bond and connection we've always had. I know it's still there. There have been a lot of things clouding it and we've unintentionally neglected it for a long time. I am so sorry for that. I was so worried about my situation and the challenges I was facing that I was only doing the surface stuff for you, and not really seeing how you were feeling.
"Once I realized how much you'd been hurting, I tried harder in the surface ways, but then it seemed like things only got worse, which was hard to accept. Especially when you started talking to others and it appeared that you were making a connection with them. The fact that they were filling those emotional and spiritual needs made me feel very insecure and jealous. Then I recognized that even if they weren't there, I was still spiritually out of line and the Lord wouldn't allow me to be there or connect or make you feel safe unless I was clean and I was honest with you and with Him.
"So that's what I had to do, no matter how hard it was or how bad it looked on me. I didn't care, I just wanted to fix it and move on with life and be able to be happy and have the Spirit with me so that I could have the family and marriage I really want.
"I know it would be impossible for you to not be hurt by all this. I don't expect you to forget about your feelings because they are very real and very justified. All I ask is that you take the time to understand how vulnerable men are to being tempted by visual stimulation. If we're not in the right place spiritually, it's so easy to turn to that when in crisis. The "drug" we take is sexual, obviously, but we take it mostly when there's an emotional void or hurt, not a sexual need.
"It is not acceptable and I will do everything I can to avoid it for the rest of my life and be open with you if and when I fall back. I don't ever again want to feel the way I did. I know it's going to take work. I will have to confront my personality weaknesses, which may be even harder for me to work on than my inappropriate sexual behavior. But the price for not doing it would be losing you, and that's way too high. And I care way too much about my salvation to not keep going and improving and being honest with myself, with the Lord, and with you.
"I hope this gives you some peace in some way if that is possible. I never did anything to intentionally hurt you and I hope that, deep down, you know I never would. Now I know more than ever that I need to keep myself clean and worthy, not only for myself but so that I don't unintentionally injure you and the kids and erode what we can have as a family. I am so sorry for where I was and the way I let it lead to that course of actions.
"I feel the reality of the atonement and I have a much greater appreciation and love for my Savior. There are points in the Gospel that I conveniently put aside and didn't truly understand and that has led me to a lot of heartache and pain. I know it brought pain upon you as well. I don't know why we've had such limited Gospel discussions throughout our marriage. I guess it is because I felt very inadequate and I worried that you'd think it was a weird topic for us to launch into. I felt awkward about it. Regardless of the reason, it is sad and I vow to change that in the future. I hope our understanding, acceptance, and reliance on the atonement will continue to grow and be a big part of our marriage so that we can heal, accept each other, and help each other instead of living in fear, contention, or separateness.
"I love you with all my heart and wold go to the end of the earth for you and to heal our relationship. I am an open book. If you have questions or feel like you want to talk more about it, I am here to do that. You can ask me whatever you want whenever you feel a need to. I will put checks in place that will give you peace of mind. I hope that eventually we can rebuild the trust we've had so that eventually you can have confidence that I am clean."
Thank you Russ, for putting into words how you got caught up in porn and the true, deeper desires of your heart. And thanks for letting me share your experience with others. Women, what's it like to read what he's gone through? Men, how does your experience compare to his?