If there were a list of top-ten most frequently asked questions from girls who deal with pornography, this would be one of them. Through e-mail or in face-to-face meeting, many young women have shared their love for a certain Prince Charming, and then asked, “When am I supposed to tell him?”
The message from the culture around us is confusing. Some suggest discussing physical and sexual boundaries on the first or second date. Others suggest waiting until you are engaged or married to discuss anything sexual. Then, there are still others who suggest never telling him at all… ever.
So let’s look at each of these options, because really these seem to be the only ones:
- Tell him right away
- Tell him when you are engaged/married
- Never tell him at all
Tell him right away?
I could not tell you the exact source, but I believe I heard it while I was in college taking a class on Biblical womanhood. Wherever the context, I distinctly remember the content.
A woman, now married, shared about her first date with her now-husband. During their first date, he said to her, “I am saving myself for marriage and looking for a girl who is doing the same.” This led to a candid discussion about their sexual history (or lack thereof). Mind you, this was their first date. The take home lesson according to the speaker was to get that kind of stuff out of the way first.
To some extent, that makes sense, especially if we are talking about expectations.
Sexual expectations and boundaries definitely need to be discussed early in a relationship. Sexual history, on the other hand, does not.
Sexual expectations and boundaries have to do with how you are going to interact with each other. Are you both waiting for marriage or does he expect to be in bed with you by date #3? This is important to know and cannot simply be assumed. Are you ok with PDA but he is not? Again, important to know. Your past with pornography, or sex, or masturbation (and for that matter, his past with the same) do not need to be tackled right away.
Now, perhaps I’m not the best person to be writing about this, because for me, my past has to come up at the beginning. It usually goes something like this:
“Hi, I’m Guy!” (Said with a heavy French accent, obviously)
“Hello, Guy, I’m Jessica.”
“Jessica, what do you do for a living?”
“Well, I work full-time, go to school, and write.”
“A writer?! Really, what do you write about?” (Poor unsuspecting soul)
And such is the beginning of the end.
In mere seconds, I morph from potential Proverbs 31 material to the Proverbs 5 harlot and the young men flee. So, I completely understand the fear that comes with this confession. I understand trying to walk the tightrope of “I want him to get to know me first” and “I want to be honest with him.”
We can tend to view ourselves as damaged goods and feel the need to give full disclosure. It’s important to remember, though, you are not a used car for sale in a lot.
Think of any of the friendships you have. Part of the process of building that relationship is getting to know the other person, and it’s not like a job interview. We don’t walk around with social portfolios and window stickers listing all of our strengths, weakness, daddy issues, and sexual mileage.
Beyond that, sex is intensely intimate. It is one thing to say, “I’m waiting until marriage.” It is a completely different conversation to discuss my past sexual failings. If we are supposed to be guarding our hearts, sharing the most intimate hurts of our hearts right away is not the wisest choice.
Bottom line: Do not torment yourself thinking that you have to tell him over coffee. Let him get to know you first. You are not “a porn addict.” You have a name. You are a person. Let him get to know the person.
Wait until you’re married?
Two words for this: bad idea. In fact, if I were to have to pick between telling Prince Charming right away and waiting until after we say “I do,” I would tell him right away. I have seen it so many times in e-mails sent to me from wives who watch porn.
The story line always seems to go:
She did not want to tell him right away, so she decided she would wait until they were married. They go through premarital counseling and she mentions nothing of it.
They say “I do” and
live happily ever after get to their honeymoon and she realizes that she’s in trouble. Her own mind and heart are wreaking havoc. She is struggling to be turned on by her husband. She thought marriage and sex would make it better, but it hasn’t and now she’s frustrated, and he’s frustrated, and she’s terrified to tell him because she’s afraid he might leave. So now it’s a big ugly secret, and she sneaks into the guest bedroom to watch some porn to turn her on so she can at least fake it with her husband. She is afraid he’ll leave if he finds out, so the intimacy is shot on all levels- physically and emotionally. The thing she kept secret because she was so afraid would ruin their relationship has now done exactly that because she kept it a secret.
I admit it, I’ve never been married, but unless you’re planning a surprise anniversary trip, it seems safe to assume that secrets are bad. In this case, very bad.
If there is one thing you need to understand it is that porn addictions thrive in fear, dishonesty, and mistrust.
Which is why option 3 is also a terrible idea.
I have ministry partners who will argue this, but I say you definitely need to tell him, and not because he needs to know but because you need to know he knows. Until you tell him you are always going to wonder what will happen when he finds out. Confession is not about accurate advertising. It is about honesty in a relationship. You need to tell him so you don’t end up like that wife who is terrified he will find out. He does not need to know, but you do need to tell.
If not then, when?
So if, it’s not first date conversation and should be taken care of before the wedding, when?
There is no hard and fast rule that says, “On date number 5, you need to discuss your porn addiction with him.” Sorry.
Instead, let me give you some thoughts. Tell him:
1. When you know he can be trusted.
If you have been great friends for 10 years, then you might talk with him about it sooner than someone who met her Mr. Maybe online and is still carrying mace to every date. This is a very vulnerable issue, so make sure that you can trust him. Trusting him does not mean you are positive he will stay with you. Trusting him means that you are positive he won’t use this against you.
2. Before you say “I do.”
Telling him before you say “I do” is definitely hard. I’ve walked with many friends through that moment and it’s been one of the hardest in their relationship. They describe it as a moment when you just hold your breath and wonder if your relationship will survive the bomb you just set off.
Some have had this conversation before they got engaged, others have discussed it during the appropriate time in premarital counseling. One is not necessarily better than the other.
3. When there is plenty of time to talk
Here’s what we like to do, ladies. We like to drop bombs on people when we do not have enough time to stick around to watch the fall out. We will strategically schedule potentially uncomfortable conversations so that we have an excuse to leave early. We even do this with first dates.
Guilty as charged. I actually recommend to my friends to have their first date on Thursday night (or Monday-Wednesday), so that, if all else fails, they can use work in the morning as an excuse.
We turn down dates via text.
So, I can see the wheels turning in some of you. You are trying to figure out how to tell him in the way that is safest and most convenient for you. Maybe you can text him. Maybe a letter? Maybe just dump him and save yourself the trouble.
Whenever you decide to have this conversation, let it be whatever conversation it needs to be. I’ve had it be a simple, “Meh whatever” five minute conversation and I’ve had it be a deep back-and-forth conversation that has gone on for a couple hours. Give yourself that time. And if you’re not ready to give that kind of time, then you are not ready to tell him. You either don’t trust him or the relationship is not far enough to merit this kind of investment.
This is a tough conversation. It is an intimate conversation and it needs to happen, but there is no rush. Wait until the time is right, and then trust, not only him, but your Redeemer. The man may be confused, hurt, or even frustrated. However, if he’s a man after God’s heart, eventually, you will be met with grace, and your relationship will be deeper, stronger, and more secure because of it.