Helping others avoid and overcome pornography: tips for leaders, spouses and parents

By G. Sheldon Martin

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 12 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Cover of G. Sheldon Martin's talk on CD.

Covenant Communications

Many times, people who have engaged in viewing pornography feel like they are lost and without hope. Pornography is addictive, but pornography can also be overcome, and having a good support system is essential. Below are tips for parents, church leaders and spouses of loved ones who are seeking help with their pornography addictions.

Teach and understand sacred sexuality.

Too often, individuals approach sexual relations with the attitude, “sex is dirty, nasty and inappropriate — and save it for the one you love.” Parents and church leaders need to teach that sexual intimacy between husband and wife is the highest form of expression of bonding and love between two human beings. It’s important to teach that when a married couple is completely unified, sealed in the temple, their bond is stronger than any on earth.

Parents, teach your children about the true doctrine about sexual intimacy. Do not teach them it is evil because everything inside of them is telling them differently. An attraction to someone is a testimony that we desire to be with someone forever, and we can only have those blessings if we foster the relationship in the way that Heavenly Father has designed it to be.

Encourage and discuss the problem — and avoid shaming.

Pornography pushes someone into a very depressed cycle. A person needs to feel godly sorrow, but do not “kick them while they are down.” For an individual to overcome pornography, they will need encouraging people around them. When someone wants help with their pornography addiction, it shows that they already feel bad about it.

Parents, develop a relationship with your child so that they feel comfortable coming to you with their challenges. Also, spouses who struggle with pornography need to not shut out their spouse because they are ashamed of what they are doing; if they do this, they are shutting out their biggest support system.

Help those who are struggling learn to do good and serve God (not just try to stop doing evil).

It is very common for people who are trying to give up pornography to just try and stop. This leaves them with a lot of time, more time to think, and they may not be sure what to do with this extra time. Being bored and idle could potentially lead someone back to pornography. Supportive parents and spouses can help their loved ones who are struggling by helping them find opportunities to serve. People need not overschedule themselves, but they can find things to do with increased spare time.

Remove sources of pornography.

Unwelcome thoughts will come into our minds, but we need not entertain the thoughts. Here are some ways to help control what comes into our minds and homes:

1. Put filters on the computers.

2. Have passwords on our computers and wireless Internet.

3. Have the computer in an open area in the house (not in a bedroom or secluded area).

4. Be careful with movie channels and cable.

5. Learn how to search the Internet history and make it a family rule not to clear the history on the computer.

6. Beware of how much media we have in the bedroom.

Realize that pornography is not a “boy problem.”

Anything that arouses someone outside the bonds of marriage is wrong. Online chat rooms and reading materials with sexual content can be just as damaging as viewing pornography.

I have quite a few young ladies who have come in for counseling — and their pornography addiction began with texting and sending inappropriate pictures on their phones. Parents, be aware of what your daughters (and sons) are texting. Be aware of what they are posting on chat rooms and Facebook. Know the passwords to their Facebook pages.

Leaders, don’t assume that young women don’t have challenges with pornographic materials. Reiterate the contents in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet to them.

Develop healthy relationships.

Parents and leaders need to encourage healthy dating situations and human relationships. Forming healthy and appropriate relationships will actually decrease the risk of pornography. Why? Because the human interaction is real, pornography is not.

Parents, review the guidelines in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet with your teens. Encourage group dating for your children after they turn 16.

Spouses, go on dates, watch movies together, hold hands. Rekindle that human connection. Look at photos of your wedding, your children’s births and other good family times to help reconnect.

Reinforce over and over to your child or spouse that they can be forgiven.

People can change. I do not believe one can fully overcome this addiction without the atonement of Jesus Christ. Parents, leaders and spouses can greatly help those who want to overcome the addiction.

G. Sheldon Martin is a seminary teacher and a licensed professional counselor and is currently serving as bishop of his ward. His new audio CD, "Helping Others Avoid and Overcome Pornography," is available at Deseret Book and Seagull Book stores.

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