Two months ago Nell found out about Dave's involvement in pornography. She was upset for sure. They'd raised three children together and now had seven grandchildren. He'd served in their church and in their community as a scout leader. He was a great guy, but she'd always been bothered by an emotional distance in their relationship. And their sex lives hadn't been good for a long time. Now that his pornography struggle was out in the open, she was hopeful that they could work on it together AND draw closer in other ways as well. She wanted him to rely on her for support when he was struggling.
She encouraged him to open up to her about ups and downs of any kind, not just sexual temptation. Yesterday was the kind of day where he might have looked at porn in the past. Things weren't going according to plan with a building project. The customer was so demanding the project was consuming a ton of his time, and it was just in the beginning stages and wasn't even one of the company's more lucrative contracts. In the middle of trying to deal with the city building inspector and the bank and subcontractors about detail after detail, he kept getting calls and emails about other little fires he had to put out.
When he got home, Nell asked, "How was your day." Before Dave had always tried to be perfect in Nell's eyes, to show no cracks in his armor. "I tried to be self-sufficient and in control. Even my work at church was all about performing. I didn't think God was interested in someone who didn't measure up. But all of that pressure sometimes left me feeling like I was being crushed by life and all the demands."
Previously whenever Nell asked Dave how his day was, he always tried to be strong and put the best face on it. Yesterday when she asked, he simply admitted: It was lousy. "It feels so good to open up to her and just talk about how things are really going and how I'm really feeling. It's so liberating!" To Dave, getting rid of the wall he'd built up over the years felt "better than the Berlin wall coming down!"
Nell had already been up to speed on Dave's stress because he had texted her a couple of times during the day. In the afternoon he'd texted her, "Feels like I'm getting smothered under an endless pile of details to take care of." She'd responded with a 😞. These were times when he would have previously started playing games on his phone for a break from work. They were his escape. "But eventually I'd get wound up so tight that even playing games wouldn't bring relief. That was when I felt like I would eventually need a pornography fix."
Fortunately Dave was developing the habit of reaching out for support amidst the stress. "It's not the same, it's not a quick fix. And sometimes it doesn't seem to help at all--the tension stays high. But I know it's better for me. And usually, fortunately, it is a relief. Connecting with Nell is like getting a shot of life back in me instead of keeping that darkness in. And instead of letting that web of control--the addiction--get stronger, reaching out loosens the bands somehow. Something inside me that has been getting tight and dark, and by reaching out you get a breath of air and it lightens and loosens."
Without knowing it, by staying disconnected from Nell, Dave had been starving himself of emotional oxygen for years. Emotionally he'd been breathing through a coffee straw. It was so good to see him being more real with her, reaching out for understanding and support, and enjoying all the benefits of that connection.
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