How to Talk to The Daughter Whose Boyfriend Looks at Pornography

I was a young woman when my then-boyfriend now-husband shared he struggled with pornography. It wasn't the first time a young man I dated had told me that, but this time was different: I was deeply in love. I received all kinds of advice from those close to me, and I ended up making the decision to continue the relationship as it was. I hoped for the best and chose to assume my boyfriend's honesty indicated I was safe.


I couldn't have been more wrong. 

My decision led to years of suffering for me and our family. The words of a very wise and lone voice during my dating years haunted me. 

"Leave this relationship and never look back."

In those early married years, I felt that I had "made my bed and needed to sleep in it."  I kept telling myself that I should have known better, that I was now stuck in this painful cycle of betrayal.

Today, I look at my six daughters and wonder when the topic of pornography will crop up in their own relationships. I am committed to making sure I know how to support them and walk with them as they make their own relationship decisions. Here are the steps I believe will bring about the best outcome for a mother/daughter relationship where the daughter reveals pornography is a problem in her relationship:

  1. Express Gratefulness - She chose to tell you this information, and that is worth celebrating! She trusted you enough to reveal a heavy burden in her life, and you are now in a position to bless her through that open door of trust. One of the best ways to grow that trust is Step #2. 
  2. Confirm Confidentiality - Let her know her secret stays between the two of you. If you want to share with your spouse, ask her permission. Make sure, as she is suffering a breech of trust in her relationship with her boyfriend, that she doesn't have to worry about a breech of trust with you. That way, you can play a part in her support through Step #3. 
  3. Emphasize Your Support -  She is under a great deal of pressure from within herself and from anyone else with whom she has consulted on pornography in relationships. The last thing she needs to is make a decision based on a parent's feelings, and we want to make it possible for her to reach out for our support at anytime in this process, present or future. Give her the freedom to make her own choices as you move into Step #4.
  4. Validate ALL of Her Feelings - An admission of pornography use in a relationship brings up a multitude of emotions, all of which are equally valid. Let her know that conflicting responses to his disclosure are normal, and her job is to allow herself to be curious about each and every reaction she has.  This is a great segue into Step #5.
  5. Offer Qualified Resources - Finding an APSATS coach or clinician is one of the best ways to help your daughter both understand her situation and move forward toward making wise and healthy decisions. She can book a session with me here or visit my resources page for more options. This step is where many people stop, but make sure you move on to the last and most impactful step: Step #6.
  6. Get Help for Yourself - Educating yourself on your daughter's situation and the potential issues she will face is a gift that keeps on giving. You can become a powerful ally for her whatever she decides about the future of her relationship. You will also gain an understanding of a world in which many of your fellow wives live every day, sometimes in silence. Visit my resources page and book a Family Members or Friends Consultation to get information on how to best support your child.