Michelle and Alexi had been best friends for years. It seemed natural that they would be roommates in college. So, off to college they went together- home away from home.
But Alexi was harboring a secret. She was struggling with porn.
After months of silence, Alexi finally gathered the courage to confess to Michelle.
And then everything changed.
When Alexi e-mailed me, Michelle was distant. Alexi felt she was being treated differently and she was disappointed in her friend for not being there for her. This was the time she needed her the most. Now what was she supposed to do?
It is a situation many of us dread: we confess and someone just walks away. What do we do?
Is the risk worth it?
Before you can answer that question, you need to understand the reasons people, even your friends, might shy away.
- They just don’t know how to help.
- They have the same problem and do not know how to tell you.
- They do not want the friendship to change.
- They cannot bear the burden you are placing on them.
- They do not know how to interact with you anymore.
We can fall into this trap of expecting our friends to fix things for us.
Quite often, I will get an e-mail from a young woman frustrated because she told her best friend and now her best friend ‘doesn’t talk to her anymore.’ Or, her best friend does not bring it up every time they are together. It all goes back to what your expectations were in telling her.
Did you expect her to have answers?
Did you expect her to ask questions?
Did you expect her to understand?
Did you expect her to keep you accountable?
Did you expect her to help?
What did you expect her to do?
It is also a possibility that they actually have not gone anywhere or changed anything. Instead, it might be you pulling away from them now that you know they know.
When Alexi wrote me, she said that she felt Michelle had every right to be hurt. After all, Alexi had betrayed and hurt her best friend. That is not the truth.
Alexi’s struggles with porn had absolutely nothing to do with Michelle and were not an offense against Michelle. Michelle had no right to be hurt (offended). I went on to explain to Alexi that the ‘change in relationship’ was likely on Alexi’s end, not Michelle’s. Alexi was struggling with shame that Michelle had not placed on her.
I have heard it said that fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So many women are afraid other women will not understand. When she confesses, even if the other woman identifies and has the same struggle, that fear will lie to her and tell her that her struggle is different. The other woman could not possibly understand.
Confession is good
Honesty in any relationship in our lives is good. That confession is a murdering of your pride. It is good to be honest about who you are and what your struggles are. The church needs more honest people. Our families need more honest people. Our friendships need more honest people.
Does that mean you introduce yourself as “the girl who struggles with porn”? No. Does it mean you set up a website and share your story with the world? Maybe. But, perhaps, to start, it just means telling the people closest to you.
The best approach to this situation is honesty- with yourself. Ask yourself these questions to help avoid frustration and ‘shame.’
- Why am I telling her? – Why her as opposed to someone else?
- How much does she need to know? – Honestly, graphic details are probably not necessary.
- How do I think she will handle it? – How would you handle it?
- What am I asking her to do? – She is not a mind reader. Do you want her to help or do you just want her to know?
- Am I willing to do the same for her? – Plot twist: she struggles with porn too. Now what?
- What does tomorrow look like? – Do you expect this to be THE (only) topic of conversation for the next ten years?
In my life, I have many close friendships. All of my closest friends know of my struggle (hard for them not to when I write about it all the time), but I do not discuss it with all of them. There are two I go to with any current temptations in my life, but for the rest, it is simply a part of my story. Most of our conversations are spent talking about current life events like ‘normal’ people do. I do not expect them to bring this up… ever. I did not tell them because I needed them to do something. I told them because it is part of my life.
Was it easy? Not necessarily. Were there moments when I thought, “How could you ever talk to me again after I tell you this?” Yes. But the thing about grace is, you have to embrace it.
What if she does walk away?
But what if. What if your confession truly does cost you a friendship? You opened up to a friend and she, for whatever reason, walks away. She does not respond to your e-mails, texts, or phone calls. What then?
Obviously, every circumstance is different. You know your friend, so try to think like her. Put yourself in her shoes and extend the same grace you want her to show you.
- Give her time. This might be a lot for her to process and nagging her about it all the time may overwhelm her.
- Apologize and empathize. You did not do anything wrong. Instead, apologize if you overwhelmed her. “I’m sorry if what I said made you uncomfortable. I know it is not something people are used to talking about. I
- Change the topic. Ask her about her life, her family, her upcoming exams… anything to let her know that you still care about her as a friend, not your therapist.
Yes, this is a difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable topic for many women to discuss.
I want you to be encouraged, though. For the past five years, I have been advising women to tell someone. In 95% of those instances, that confession was met with grace. Is it worth the risk? Yes.2