Apr 24, 2009

Pictures of Pornography: Part II interview with Jodi Hildebrandt

NSG: The other piece I wanted to talk to you about is, the spouses and people who struggle with those who have gotten into pornography deeply, or maybe even not so deeply. Maybe their spouse or boyfriend messes up while they're dating or while they're married, and maybe feels bad enough to go talk to them and tell them what happened. I actually was married to a pornography addict, and we divorced and now I'm married to someone different. It was a pretty public thing, like it was in the news, and on the television. In the aftermath of that, because my story was so public, people kept coming to me for advice, and all I could tell them was, go see a therapist, it's not your fault. You know, that's all I could say to them. But so many different women come to me with their friends' stories, or their fiance's stories, and some of them say, you know, my boyfriend looked at pornography, and I don't know if I should marry him. I guess that's one of the things I want to ask you about is, do you think it's important for... what would you say in that situation? Would you tell somebody like that, just leave him? Or would you tell them it's probably something you're going to be able to work out, or you should try and work it out? What sort of advice would you give somebody in that situation?

JH: The question is, somebody comes to you--you find out, that your fiancee is... has just looked at pornography, what kind of advice would I give them. I would need to know a lot more information. I am not one to say, you know... leave'em. Because I believe in these people. Actually, really thing, that addicts are... can be, amazing people if they would just be able to start healing the shame that drives them. There's a couple things. I'd want to know: how often he's been looking. Is this the first time, how quickly he came to you and told you, and is he willing to go get help? because if you're looking at pornography, in my estimation, more than one time, you are developing the possibility of having an addiction. If you looked at it more than five times, you have a problem. It means you're going back to it for some reason. And if you can't stop... I mean, the histories I hear of people are, I started at 9, or I started at 11, or I started at 13, and I got over it for awhile, and I picked back up off my mission, and here they are forty sevens in my office and they've had these stints. It doesn't ever stop, they always go back to it. I mean, someone might keep it in check for a year or something, but they always go back to it. Which tells me that, this shame is constantly in their system. Who knows how else they're acting out? They might be acting out with... maybe they're masturbating or maybe they're addictively spending money, or maybe they're having a beer, or maybe they're using some other way to act out in an addictive cycle, you have to satisfy that shame because, Shame is: I want to get away from it. I want to feel different. When I go spend money, I shift my mood. And I can do it in an addictive pattern, I could go gamble that way. I could go run that way. I could go eat that way. So, when people keep going back to it, those are the little seeds of addictive behavior. and so somebody will say, I just masturbate! It's not that big of a deal! It's not what you're doing. You masturbating vs somebody going to go pick up a prostitute in my mind is exactly the same.

NSG: Depends why the behavior is there.

JH: To them though, Oh no! That's much worse!I'm not judging the behavior. I'm just saying what drives it.If you keep doing this, just like this other person keeps doing this, it's all driven by one thing, which is the shame. And that's what has to be healed. So I would tell them: How much have they been looking, how quickly did they tell you, what was their behavior when they told you, were they really remorseful? Did they keep going back to it? Are they willing to get help? Are they willing to humble themselves?

NSG: Right.

JH: If they're willing to do those things, I say, hang in there. I wouldn't say, go get married right now, I'd probably say, give it a year, really see if he's willing to do the things that are necessary. Um, but yeah! He can be healed.

NSG: What about someone who has never really gotten to the point where they've looked at it five times in a row, but they, they looked at it once when they were twelve, for instance? And, a couple years later they encountered it again, and instead of turning away they looked at a couple more, when they encountered it. And then, maybe several years later, it hits again, they do it another time. What would you tell somebody with something like that?

JH: It's still addictive behavior. Because you keep going back to it. I've got a client right now, he has an addiction, and he only acts out one time a year. And he does it and--I mean, he literally only acts out one time a year. And the rest of the time he is in what's called, the preoccupation stage. All during the year. SO he goes to Europe every year, he's been doing it for fifteen year, and when he goes there, he picks up a male prostitute, and he acts out with him. But the whole 364 days before that time, he is thinking about it, he is planning it, he is making phone calls, he's preoccupied. And he's in a ritualistic state, OK. So it doesn't matter how often you do it, it's that I keep going back to it. Keep going back to it.

NSG: And if--so then, I guess the other question would be, what about somebody who has just looked at it once? And then confesses that to their spouse, or their girlfriend, something-- one thing I have noticed is, I think a lot of women just feel a great deal of shock and outrage when a spouse or a boyfriend confesses to something like this. And I think, you know... they should, because the person needs to feel that but what about somebody who just messes up once. Does that still, something that...

JH: No, but in my head I'm kinda skeptical about that. If I heard that. You know looking at pornography to me is not a mess up, if it's one time, when they're not looking for it. If they come across it and go, "whoa!" And if they really are conscious, they will go and say, oh honey, you know, I just looked up, and I had no idea, that's--in my mind, he was assaulted. They are assaulted. But if, I go-- say it happens to me and i go and let somebody know, I don't confess it, I just tell somebody, whoa! I was on the Internet, and this--- I mean, it's happened to me. I was on the Internet, and I was just like, Whoa! I need to get out of this, I need to X this! But I start finding myself thinking about it, or fantasizing about it, how do I get back, where do I go to get this... and THEN I don't tell, that's when I'm creating this addictive behavior. Addiction isn't just about the acting out, it's about all the behavior that goes with it. It's about the lying and the deceit and the manipulation, the aggressive trying to keep people away from it... those are all addictive behaviors.

NSG: Well that makes sense. Um, Julie Beck just gave a talk in a recent CES fireside where she advised women to stay far away from men whom they even suspect might have a pornography habit, and what do you think of that.

JH: Whoa. She did?

NSG: She said stay far away. Yeah. If they even suspect.

JH: Wow.

NSG: Would you agree with a statement like that, or... or would you qualify it, or what...

JH: No. I would not agree with a statement like that. And I'm hesitating, because... she is the sister of my best friend.

NSG: I like her, I like her a lot, I love her talks, but that just made me stop and say, wow... you know.

JH: There's too many of them we'd have to say away from!

NSG: I know. Yeah.

JH: I would qualify it by saying, the things that I've already said. If a man has, looked at pornography, there's a way back. You know, he is not flawed and defective. Now, is it my responsibility as a woman to pull him back? No! But if I'm with a man and I find out that he has a pornography problem, whether I am dating him, or engaged to him, or married with ten kids, I say immediately, I will not stay with you unless you're willing to do the things to get you well.


JH: And these are the things. And this is why I appreciate you coming in and interviewing me because I'd like to get this information out. People are not educated, they don't know what help looks like. We think help looks like, "Well, OK honey, I'll do whatever you need!" And then I have just become their enabler. So I hold a firm boundary and I say, "You go to your twelve steps. You get a sponsor and you get into therapy. You go into lifestar. You do these things, and I will watch you over a period of time, I'll give you six months.

NSG: Right.

JH: And if you really are serious about changing, you will do those things and you won't complain and you won't blame me and you'll show up like a man. Now if they don't, then I would say... run away. That's when I would say it.

NSG: And it's interesting. When I was talking with the Bishop last night, he was saying that, as he was counseling couples who were getting ready to get married, and they had a pornography issue in the relationship, he found that the ones that were able to make it work were the ones where the partner was willing to do the monitoring, who asked questions like, "how have you been doing, you know, have you looked at it..." Be frank and ask, rather than skirting it and say, "that's not my domain, I shouldn't be intruding." Because if they're in a relationship with a person who has pornography as an issue, it is their business.

JH: Yes it is. But let me say just one thing. The concept I believe is true, about monitoring. But I do not think it's the spouse's responsibility.

NSG: Not their responsibility, yeah.

JH: That's why we send them to the twelve step program together, because the twelve step program has sponsors. The wife needs to be the wife, and the mother, and the lover, and all of that. Not the babysitter. But they do need to be monitored. So, and it's not even about monitored, I don't like that word, it's about being accountable; they need to be accountable to somebody.

NSG: Right.

JH: So that's why the twelve step program works as well as it does, is that... you know, back in the thirties when Bill W. created AA, he knew that. He actually felt like he was divinely inspired to create that program. And he created sponsorship so that the alcoholic or the addict could go outside the relationship and be held accountable, and then be able to come back into the relationship and not make the woman the police.

NSG: Right. That... that makes a lot of sense. What about a woman who feels that she needs to know and needs to ask those questions... what advice would you give her?

JH: Mmm hmm. I'd say... that you're codependent. That's what codependency is.

NSG: Ah! OK.

JH: So when a woman is trying to control a spouse, or whatever the addict is, the spouse is trying to control being dependent on them. See? Codependency is about, I'm not OK unless you're OK. So, if you're not OK and you've acted out, then I'm not all right. I can't have peace. The truth is, in a healthy relationship, if you're going to act out, that's your deal. I'm not going to hang around, but I don't have to control you... women get into the cycle of, if I'm more beautiful, or if I was thinner, or if I were more supportive, or made more money or had the kids... you know, whatever... then he would love me. NO.

NSG: Or not have a problem.

JH: Or not have a problem, it has nothing... NOTHING, ZERO, to do with that. Nothing.

NSG: It's an inner struggle.

JH: That's right. It is their own shame. But because we... if you have a coin and it's called shame, you have addiction on one side of this coin, and codependency on the other. So the codependent has shame, just like the addict has shame. And you see it play out, when the spouse wants to be in control. Because if they're in control, it moderates the shame. It tells them, I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm OK. So, you've got to pull them apart from each other. In therapy, you would try to separate them emotionally and say, "you deal with your stuff. Leave him alone. Don't check his phone bills, don't go through his cell stuff, don't look at his bank statements."

NSG: Right. But what if a situation, for instance, if, instead of having a spouse come and confess to a pornography problem, the wife discovers it accidentally. I'm sure... there've got to be trust issues after that. How do you deal with that. Is that same as codependency, or is that a different situation?

JH: Um, no, it's a whole different issue. When there's addiction going on, there's always a lack of trust. Whether the woman or the man even knows, it a lack of trust going on. So, oftentimes when a spouse finds their husband or wife acting out, they feel betrayed, they are furious, and it doesn't matter what they say, I don't believe you because this has been going on for years, or months, and you didn't tell me about it. So that's healthy. But if then I find out-- I ran into it-- but from that point on, I think I can control it after that, that's the codependency.

NSG: Right. OK, so is it possible, to entirely regain trust? After it's been violated in that way?

JH: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's not a um, wake up one day and I've got trust. It's an ongoing process of consistent--and I really enforce that word, consistent--honesty on the addict's part. So if, every time they open their mouth it's honesty. Because if they give ten answers and they lie about something, then all the track record goes out the window.

NSG: Right, because you would never know what they might be lying about.

JH: Yeah. Right. I mean, you could tell a hundred honest statements and then lie to me again.

NSG: And you wouldn't know which one it was.

JH: Right.

NSG: Right. OK, well... this is kind of an obvious question, but I just kind of wanted to ask it for the record... have you seen marriages fail, because of pornography habits and addictions.

JH: Yes.

NSG: Would you say, a large percentage of marriages fail? You know, are you able to mitigate a lot of marriages and help.

JH: Well, you know, by the time they get to me....

NSG: It's already, downhill.

JH: Yeah. It's in the toilet. And so... but, they have suffered for years and years, most times, before they get to somebody for help. Because they're trying to do it on their own, but what they don't understand is that this is a cycle and it will never change. I don't say that to be, you know, be desperate, it's just the truth. It doesn't change. And so, when they get to me, one or the other has had it. And so, I'll say, "Can you stay with him?"--it's usually the man--"can you stay with him? Can you stay with them if they're in recovery?" And I'll explain what recovery looks like. And they, often times they say yes. Because they wouldn't come to me if they didn't have some hope. They're looking for hope. I hope, that I give them some of that. Because you very much can, recover from this. They won't be recovered, but you can be in recovery. Just last night, I had my lifestar group, and I have this couple that's 3 years post their addictive behaviors, it was the man, and he'd been disfellowshipped from the church twice and excommunicated once, and had 30 plus years of acting out, and his wife finally got to the point where she said, "I'm done," and that's what snapped it. And then she thinks, gosh... it took thirty years.

NSG: To say that.

JH: Yes. Why didn't I say that before we had any children, because she thought that she could... she was in that codependent cycle.

NSG: She thought she could help.

JH: And she finally realized, it's not about me. It's not about me helping. And they're very happily married and I use them to talk to my other couples and show them that they can change.

--This concludes the material I have gathered so far for this series. I plan on having Skywalker post his article about computer safety and internet filtering, sometime in the near future.

I have put a link to the lifestar program in the title of this post. It's a great program, from all I've heard.

Please let me know if there's any other question or topic in this arena you feel needs to be addressed... or a topic discussed. I will do my best to address any questions asked, too. But if you really need help, a therapist is the place to go, in conjunction with your ecclesiastical leaders, and of course... your Heavenly Father. You may think He doesn't want to hear about this, but He does. He wants you to knock. His Beloved Son has already bourn all your pain and suffering, and you can find peace in your situation. I want to emphasize that I know this from experience, I have a burning testimony of this: Heavenly Father, through his Son's atonement, can turn any challenge or experience you have, into good. Into growth, into strength, into better happiness. That is the majesty and beauty of the atonement.

*OK, off my soapbox*


A Girl Called Dallan said...

This is a very interesting interview, with much food for thought. You have truly turned your tragedy into a blessing for others. Thank you.

Putz said...

note to california girls{which has nothing at all to do with your pic's of pornography} of course i have always thought calif girls were unusually weird, different, etc....so it doesn't surprise me that you haven't visited utah vacations in nine years...

Amyjo said...

intresting article. Its just a shame the pornography is so rampant. People just think its all innocent and no harm will happen by engaging in it.. Ive seen at least 3 temple marriages fall apart becasue of it. So sad...

Fred said...

We had a local pastor step down recently due to pornography addiction. He left the material on the copy machine at his church. Seems no one is immune.

Lucy Stern said...

It looks like Satan knows how to use addictions to destroy human beings..It is so sad. Very interesting post.. Thanks, NSG