Episode 147: Overcoming Pornography is Possible-True StoryJun 26, 2022
Hey, everybody, and welcome to another beautiful mastery Monday here on The Self Mastery Podcast.
I am going to share with you an interview that I did with my friend, Jonathan Leighton, last September. This, to me, is… This is why I do this. This interview is a real conversation with a real client who has succeeded because of the work that he and I did together and the work that he did through my program. And I want you to hear this interview. I want to share this interview with you again this month… this week, because I really—one, I’m grateful for Jonathan and his willingness to come on and have this conversation. To remind you of what is possible. To remind you of the success that’s available and to give you just a simple idea of what it looks like to be successful in this process of going from someone who struggles with pornography and coming to a place where no longer do you struggle with pornography and you’re part of maybe a bishop group, like Jonathan was, or whatever is going on for you, whatever it is that you like to achieve in your life, pornography does not have to hold you back. And that’s what Jonathan is—he’s a great client, he’s a good friend and I love this conversation with him. I love this man as a human and I hope that he will inspire you to take action.
So, if right now, you’re thinking, “What action should I take?” The action you should take is to go and set up a consult. Meet with me. Go to zachspafford.com/workwithme. You can scroll all the way to the bottom, and right there, you’ll be able to set up a meeting between you and me. You can do it right after you listen to this podcast or you can do it right now, but do it! Do something! Because if you’re stuck… if you’re feeling like, “What’s my next step? What do I do?” I want you to see what’s possible by listening to Jonathan and then I want you to take action. That’s all I want you to do, then you and I will talk about it and we’ll get you to where you want to go.
I love you guys and I will talk to you next week!
Zach: Hey, everybody, and welcome to another beautiful Mastery Monday here on The Self Mastery Podcast. I’m your host, Zach Spafford, and today, I have a very special guest who’s not Darcy. Usually, when I say that, everybody’s like, “Oh, it’s Darcy!” But today, I have a very special guest, a friend of mine, Jonathan Leighton, who I worked with as a coach for… it feels like it’s been over a year, right? Pre-COVID, I guess, we started working together.
It has been a real pleasure and a joy to work with Jonathan, not just because I think of the success that Jonathan’s has had, but he and I have clicked, I think, on a personal level. We get each other in a way that I think is different than… you don’t always click that way with every client. So, I’ve appreciated my conversations with Jonathan and I’ve asked him to be on the podcast today because I want him to tell his story in a way that allows those of you who have been listening to the podcast to know that there’s actually someone out there who’s succeeding. And I think that’s very, very important.
A lot of times, you’re in these 12-step meetings, especially if you’re a member of the church. I think the first thing that people do is they send you the 12 steps. And then you’re the only one in there with the [a month] of not looking at porn.
Jonathan, I’d love to hear from you how you are doing and what’s different now?
Jonathan: Sure, yeah, and it’s interesting that you bring that up because I think that’s one of the first… when you finally let your heart be broken or let your heart open up, I think it’s quickly followed by the idea of, “I’m a failure! I’m the bottom.” In some ways, that can’t be any further from the truth. If anything I did, I look at my weaknesses completely differently now than I used to. I look at them more as an opportunity to be brought to my knees for prayer and [say], “I’m ready to change. I’m ready to be better. I’m ready to grow.” Rather than, “Oh, gosh! Look at how horrible this despair that I’m in!”
Zach: So, what’s different for you now versus… because when you first came to me, I don’t know if you remember this, you told me you had been, as you termed it, you had been “sober”. “I’ve been sober for a year.” You spent an entire year not looking at porn or masturbating, or anything, and after that year was up, you started back into it. I want to know what’s different from that year to this year.
Jonathan: [5:42] It’s funny because preceding that year was some real, heavy, life challenges, which didn’t exactly let me go down the rabbit hole. But my father passed away; a few months later, I was working for this company. All of a sudden, I had to run this company; moved; a few months later, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and we had a brand new baby. That was the tsunami of stuff that I couldn’t control. It was like all this extra pressure and the one thing I knew from that year in that time was, “I’m not going to be able to handle this if I become selfish, potentially.”
In my mind, the role of pornography I knew is that there’s some selfishness in there, like, “I deserve this. It’s been hard for me.” So, there was that year, and longer, but there was this portion where I just grunt, white-knuckled through it, like, “I’m going to get through this!” But I always felt tired. I always felt like I was fighting; the compulsion was still there but I had to beat it. I had to overcome it or else I was going to fall. To me, the disaster was the thing that’s keeping me from not doing it. So then, when you remove all those difficult challenges in life, and obviously, there was some collateral damage. My dad was gone and my wife had a bilateral vasectomy. Those are tough things but then, it wasn’t top of mind anymore. Kind of that, well, if you want to put it that way, to just white-knuckle through it, was gone.
The chaos and the tsunami kind of subsided. It was more calm. I could relax now. I could take some time for myself. I started to see the same patterns that were so familiar and that’s when I was like, “Oh, gosh! I need help now.” I thought it was done. [7:52]
Zach: “I had this figured out, one whole year!”
Jonathan: Yeah! So, I think the difference there was certainly a mindset shift, which, I’ve listened to your podcast, you’ve talked quite a bit on. We could go on that, but it was a mindset shift and then it was like looking at it in a new direction, less like, “This is the thing that defines me.” You know, “Everything’s great! I’m a great guy.” I want to tell people, “Hi, I’m Jonathan Leighton. I’m an all-around nice guy.” I feel like that’s the most true statement about me, but it’s like, “There’s this little thing that if you knew, you wouldn’t want to be my friend.” So I just decided that this isn’t the thing that’s going to define me anymore. I’m not going to let it take so much precedence in my mind or in my life because if I don’t want it, why let it be the thing that rules? You know what I mean? [8:56]
Zach: Yeah, and I love that. It’s interesting because you described essentially being in a place of total fear. Like, “I have to put up the walls and I have to fight and manage through, and if I don’t do this, I’m losing everything.” That’s where you are in that first year and then you come through this process, like, “Wait a minute! That’s just not who I want to be anymore.” It’s not so much like, “I’ve got to fight this off.” It’s just that, “Oh, wait! That’s just not me.”
I wonder if you can describe the difference between the way that you deal with urges now or if you even have urges anymore or as frequently versus that time when you were just, you know, as the addicts would talk about it, “white-knuckling through it.” [9:52]
Jonathan: Yeah, I think… Do I still have urges? Absolutely! I also like diet coke. When I sit there with a bowl of chips, my tongue’s already like, “Where’s that diet coke?” So, in some ways, I’m like, “Okay, I know what that feeling is, when there’s an urge or a thought or like, “It’s been a while”, they bubble up. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get to a point where it’s totally gone, but I’m in a mortal state. I’m a natural man. I’m not going to let myself be less of myself because I feel tempted.
I think the different shift was when I’m coming from a point of fear or of being overwhelmed, it’s going to happen. “It’s been a while. It’s been a long time. I know it’s going to happen. I know it’s around the corner. I’m going to get tempted. Oh, my gosh! I’m going to be alone on my computer this week because no one’s going to be home.”
Now, it’s like, “Yeah, I can look at pornography. Yeah, I can, if I wanted to. I just don’t want to. I don’t want to do that because then it’s not who I want to be.” That takes away from how I’m trying to live and that just seems like really self-sabotage. I sometimes imagine like, “Yeah, I could do that but I might as well stab myself.” It’s the same kind of logic like, “I’m trying to lose some weight. Let’s just stab myself in the leg and see how I do running this afternoon.” It’s the same thing. [11:41]
Zach: Oh, wow! Yeah, that’s interesting. Why did you come to coaching? Let me first ask you. What did you try first? What have you tried in all of your life?
Jonathan: All my life was like, “Yeah, I have a problem with pornography. Go into mission.” In my mind, that was just like that’s the repentance process. I didn’t have deviations where I was not being faithful, but pornography and masturbation were more like the sore that festered on my side. So, I felt like it’s a revolving door. It’s like me on speed dial, like, “Hey, I’m coming back in.” And I think I had done some business coaching, obviously because of this drastic detour having to run the company. I have an MBA. I have experience in business but my life was falling apart, my business was in a tough spot. I got to figure out how to make this work. And I saw real success from two things: one was accountability. I wanted somebody that has an emotional side, like my wife or a sibling, or even the bishop… the bishop that sees me every Sunday.
I love serving the church and the worst is I can only do service activities on Saturday and then I got to go see him on Sunday. It’s just so deflating and I’m feeling ashamed for trying my best. Even though I’m failing, I still feel shame for trying my best. That’s a horrible way to feel. And so, I don’t have an accountability to somebody, like, “Hey, I kind of need you to take this from me because if I sit in the fence and let this build inside me, I’m just going to go back to it.” It’s the only thing that’s making me not feel this way. [13:39]
Zach: So, you worked with bishops. Have you worked with counselors?
Jonathan: I have worked with counselors a long time ago, but post-mission, I think it was new for me, partially new for my family, kind of like, “Oh, this might help you.” I enjoyed it but it was more on the side of… I think the idea at that time was “do a 12-step program, go see a counselor, and you’re done”.
Zach: So, did you go through the 12 steps?
Jonathan: Oh, I’ve done the 12 steps. The deal package was to do the 12-step program, go see a counselor, see your bishop, and it’s done. I’m sitting there and I’m like, “It’s not done. I’m still having problems. Am I broken? Am I still in pieces? What’s wrong?”
Zach: [14:25] Really, “I’m broken”. That’s what the 12 steps tell you. Like, “They didn’t do the steps well enough. They didn’t succeed and that’s on them.” That’s kind of the way that they couch it. And I think that it’s really interesting because I take nothing from bishops because they’re essentially thrust into this role where they have very little to no training and their judging is real. It’s not like they’re automatically called as a bishop and you know exactly how to teach someone not to look at porn or not be unfaithful, any of that stuff. And I think your experience is so similar to so many people. What’s different about coaching versus the things you’ve tried before coaching?
Jonathan: The first was definitely the accountability to someone that I wasn’t… and I’m not trying to say having an emotional connection is a bad thing, but it’s the fact that I didn’t have accountability with somebody who wasn’t bringing some type of emotion behind it. In many ways, it actually is like a small example of how I imagine our interaction with the Savior is going to be. What I mean is, I imagine now going to the Savior and telling him what’s going on with my life and it’s no longer just like, “You really screwed up”, and more in a way that’s like with the adulteress, “Yeah, I don’t condemn you. I love you. Not only do I love you so much, I love you so much that no matter what you tell me, I’m going to be okay with it.” [16:10]
Zach: It’s really interesting. I think you made an extraordinarily good point there. It’s really interesting to me that the Savior doesn’t talk about what the woman brought on adultery did. He’s just like, “Okay, I’m not going to condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He doesn’t make it into a thing. And of all the people on the planet who could have made it into a thing. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from bishops, but we’ve all sat in front of someone, whether it’s a bishop or a counselor or whatever and they were like, “Dude, get your act together! You’ve got to figure this out.” That sort of thing. Again, I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience with bishops. I’ve had great bishops and I’ve had less than great bishops, and again, I take nothing from them. But again, I just kind of think about the example of the Savior there and I think he wasn’t flexed about it. He wasn’t frustrated. He knew what the cost was. The only person on the planet that knows the actual cost of what you’re doing. It’s like, “Listen, I’m not going to condemn you. Go and sin no more.” And it’s like, “Okay, it’s behind us now. Let’s move on. Let’s figure out how not to be that person anymore.” [17:31]
Jonathan: Yeah, and not that what we just did has no consequences. But from my business coaching, it’s like, “Let’s talk about what your goals are, let’s talk about what we want to accomplish.” If you don’t make money, like if you don’t follow-through with your goals, you don’t make money, then that’s okay. It’s what happened. I never had my business coaching feel like, “Oh, my gosh!” Like, they were not so invested that they care… it’s like, “What do you want to accomplish? Let’s chart it out.” And it kind of feels the same thing, “I acknowledge you. I acknowledge these consequences to my choices, but I’m not going to make the choice to focus on that conversation.”
Zach: I think that’s a really good point. When you sit down with someone, especially a coach, who I think is invested in who you are but isn’t going to… I played sports. I was not a good kid. I was that kid who’s always screwing things up. And you know, you’d have these coaches and they would just say, “Dude, that’s not what we’re doing.” And that was it and you move on and everybody gets back in the line and we’d get better. And I think sometimes that’s just as valuable. In fact, I think that’s way more valuable than anybody who’d stand and they’re going, “Come on, I can’t believe you sucked so bad.” I mean, that’s not what they’re saying actually but that’s really the way that it feels. [19:10]
So, when you think about the way that things have changed for you, what would you have done differently had you known this stuff 10 years ago?
Jonathan: This leads to the success in coaching. I said there’s two things, so this leads right to it. The second point is the difference between accountability and internal accountability. Even in the 12-step program, we talk about being accountable. But as I said, the process was like: do the 12 steps (accomplish all the 12 steps), see a counselor, see a bishop… it’s not like a tick box because we don’t go to church and like, “Oh, we’re not ticking off boxes.” But we kind of do. You’re 19, go on a mission. You’re 25, are you dating anybody?
Zach: “Oh, you’re 26. Do you have any children?”
Jonathan: Yeah, exactly. So, there was always external accountability that was a focus. Even though in my mind, “Okay, I want to be good because not only do I want to be worthy but because I love the gospel. I love Jesus Christ. I want other people to feel Jesus Christ through me so I got to be clean.” Like all that was still there, but the accountable nature was like to my wife, to my bishop. Which step am I on? How do I finish that step?
The future to shift forward is like, “I’m accountable to me and me only.” It’s turned into being my internal accountability and really recognizing that I am only accountable to myself. I have a role and responsibility to my wife, my bishop, my Savior. But at the end of everything, it’s all me. It’s accountable to me. It’s my choice. And so, instead of just focusing on the porn problem, I make a goal and plan for my day. If my choices don’t align with that goal and that plan, then I reflect, “Is the goal and plan wrong or do my choices need to be different?” And sometimes it’s a little blurred. I mean, I have lazy days. Let’s be honest, we’re all human. But yeah, now it’s just me. I have to bear the brunt of responsibility. I totally put my faith in the Lord helping me through it, but it’s kind of what the advice that [?] had from his dad on the mission: “Get on your knees and pray like it’s up to the Lord and then get up and work like it’s up to you.” That’s kind of what I try to make my motto now. [21:54]
Zach: Yeah, and it’s interesting, right? I often hear people ask me… people come to me and they’re like, “What’s the best filter? What’s the best way to have an accountability partner?” And only one accountability partner and only one filter that actually works—it’s the machine between your ears, and that’s it. There’s no other system that’s going to actually solve this problem for you. And once you start to recognize that and then take on that responsibility… and I think a lot of times we say, “Well, I’m responsible for this,” but we still say things like, “I’m an addict,” which in and of itself is like offloading responsibility. It’s like, “Oh, I’m broken and therefore I don’t have the capacity to change and so, that’s what’s happening to me, not for me.”
Jonathan: [22:42] Well, that speaks to the first point I had. Taking responsibility for it when you’re in that emotional spot where you’re like, “Oh, I’m the worst! God, crush me with the mountains! I don’t even want to see you.” That actually feels like Satan’s way of taking responsibility because we know responsibility is being like, “Hey, these are the choices I made. I need help. You have to take these from me. I am really screwing this up, but I’m going to live and die with the choices I’m making. I’m not going to let myself get into that stage that’s just emotionally driven.” I am an emotional person. But emotionally driven accountability and responsibility, I don’t think has lasting power. It’s like the warm fuzzies: when you have a nice, testimony meeting or spiritual experience or you’re in some service. You feel the warm fuzzies, but they leave, they don’t last. You have to shift into a spot where you’re like, “I’m going to own this. I want to own this.”
[23:49] I think one of the biggest problems with pornography… in my case, pornography and masturbation, is that you don’t feel comfortable with yourself. Like you said, I feel broken. I don’t want to spend time with myself. I don’t want to do it myself because if anyone else knew, they wouldn’t want to spend time with me either. All of a sudden, I want to spend time with myself. “Hey, Jon. I see where you’re at. I see where you want to be. They’re not aligning. Let’s sit down. I want to make these small changes over time that will get us to there.” It’s toughening to want to sit with yourself, take the emotion out. You can’t be, “Oh, you’re the worst! Oh, I can’t!” Just say, “What are we really doing today?”
Zach: Yeah, and I think you’re exactly right when you are capable of being with yourself, which, by the way, is not always a pleasant thing for many people because they’re not even capable of doing it. Not only are they not comfortable, but very few people are really good at just being alone with themselves. And the idea of “I’m working on the relationship with me. Who do I want to be? How can I learn to be alone with myself? How can I learn to be the person that I’m proud of being?” There’s so much value in that. There’s so much change I think that happens once you start down that path. I love that. I love that you’ve experienced that process because it makes a huge difference I think for everybody who goes through that process. It makes a huge difference to get them to where they really, really want to be, which is living according to the values that they have.
I sometimes talk about pornography viewers like vegetarians who sneak vegan. It’s like, “No, no, no. The person I really am on the outside is a vegetarian, but if you look in my freezer right now, it’s full of vegan.” That’s so incongruous that if our vegetarian friends knew about us, they’d be like, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you have all this meat in your fridge?” And that’s really what’s happening for us, especially members of the church, when it comes to pornography. They’re like, “I want to live this life of holiness and discipleship and I have this thing that I keep in the freezer that nobody knows about, but every once in a while, I pull myself a package and fry it up and then we’ll feel like horrible humans.” [26:34]
So, let me ask you. How have things changed in your relationship with your spouse based on… you know, you have that year of sobriety and then you started back into pornography for a little while and then it’s been quite a bit of time now. How have things changed between you and your spouse overall in the last couple of years?
Jonathan: [27:00] Yeah, one major part is trust. Now I don’t… [?] about platitudes. Everyone does, especially in the church or like in Christian groups. Trust is earned, well, I agree with that. Trust is easy to lose. But trust didn’t come about because we were focused on trust. It came about because behavior and even the sequence of which choices were made. Priorities changed and then it was a natural growth and improvement. So I do want to say trust but I don’t want it to be like, “Well, you’ve got to trust me” or “How do I trust you?” That had to go away first in order to build any kind of trust. And what I mean in that way is that I think my wife saw that I was aligning better with being who I professed to be—aligning with my values—and she knew that I was working on it independent of her.
So, the external accountability was coming to her and like, “Oh, I’m having a hard day” or “You got to help me out” or whatever. It was…
Zach: I don’t think anybody should ever use that phrase, “You got to help me out”.
Jonathan: No, no. But “you got to monitor the Internet” or “you got to take the passwords” or whatever. She puts on her phone. Now, it’s like, I was independently working on it. She saw me doing that, and so, now it’s just at the point where like… we’ve all worked from home for a long time. It was never like, “What do you do in your room?” “Where have you been at work?” Also, I wanted to, now, because there’s not the shame and guilt, if I’m feeling the urge… not urge, but temptation, it’s just like, “I’m just feeling off today. I’m just kind of feeling those old feelings.” “Oh, tell me about what they are. Tell me about what you’re feeling about.” “I feel this way.” It’s not like an emotionally charged conversation. [29:16]
Zach: Wow! How has her reaction changed to you? Because I think most wives, when we start on this path… or many wives, they are like, “Are you looking at porn?” And I don’t know if your wife has stopped asking you that question or if she ever did ask you that question. But how has the way that she has reacted to you when you come to her different?
Jonathan: I think the number one change is that she knows… there used to be a phrase… so, my wife’s amazing. I’m going to talk about it. She’s way better than me at everything. And so, she already has that really well-built personal accountability. She developed that through youth, you know, I’m figuring out…
Zach: Catching up.
Jonathan: Yeah, catching up. She never was really like, “You’re looking at porn!” She was like, “It’s up to you.” When she would say that in the past, I think it was protective nature. It was truth and it was protective. “It’s up to you. If you’re going to do that, I’m going to get [?] with or without you.” When she said that, I was mad. I was like, “No, it says we go as a family.” I’m a major component of this family. And then as I’ve grown and thought about it, she’s 100% right. She’s going to get herself to the [?] and I’ve got to do the same. I mean, we’re in a marriage to make it easier and happier together, but individually, we’ve got to get to [?].
So, the biggest change in reaction was I thought of that phrase, “It’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do.” It doesn’t hurt, it’s up to me. It’s actually an encouraging thought like, “You’re right. It is up to me.” And so, I come to her and it’s just like, “You know, I’m feeling off” or “Hey, I’ve seen more patterns”, it’s a lot easier to say, “and this is what’s happening.” Not “I had a hard day”, “Don’t ask me too much but I just want you to know that I’m trying to be good.” Now, it’s like, “This is what I’m feeling. Do you have time right now?” “I don’t have time right now.” “Can we set later?” “Oh, I have time right now. I would like to tell you this stuff. I want to tell you what’s going on and what I’m feeling.” Because in the end, it’s up to me. [31:55]
Zach: Yeah, so it sounds like you’re able to actually discuss your feelings in an open and honest way.
Jonathan: Yeah, I don’t feel like I’m discussing them to be forgiven, which I think is a pattern in the past.
Zach: Right. So you’re not coming to her and saying, “Hey, honey, I’m going to tell you what’s happened so you can tell me I’m okay.”
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s not a confession. Like, “This is what I do and that.” So, that’s the first thing. And then I’m able to talk about… not like these are the facts alone, I don’t mean it like that. But I’m present in what I’m talking about. Not like, “Oh, if I don’t talk about this, then this is going to happen” or “I haven’t talked about it a long time, so now I have this bunch of crap that I needed to unload [?] today and a week before and a week before that.” It’s like, “I’m present. I recognize that today is not working out with what I want to be and so I want to tell you because I want to. I want to be better. Talking to you is making me better.”
And in some cases, there’s been times when I have, that hasn’t been my wife. I also want to say that sometimes I know and it’s not talking about pornography but I know that it’s my business partner that I want to talk to or it is my bishop or it’s my kids. Not every conversation where I’m falling short of is my wife’s conversation, and that’s okay, because I’m not confessing, right? It’s who I know that I need to talk to. [33:30]
Zach: What’s that Scripture? “Working it out with the Lord”. I think sometimes we work it out with people who aren’t the Lord because the Lord’s put them there for us to work it out with, but not because they’re going to solve the problem, right? And that’s so, so valuable, especially when it comes to your spouse. [33:53]
Let me ask you. Did you ever have some point in the past… have you ever felt like she owed you? There was like, “I’m the man in the relationship and I do the ‘man’ things and then you, you’re the wife in this relationship and you do the ‘wife’ things and you owe me some of those wife things because I owe you some of the man things.”
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s like, “I scratch you back, you scratch mine” kind of thing. “Yeah, and it’s a real easy cycle to get stuck in.
Zach: And has that changed? Has that changed dramatically for you and how do you guys relate differently now?
Jonathan: I think in some areas, I wouldn’t… change is a thing like a total opposite—a shift. There are some things in our marriage that are like, “I’m taking care of stuff. You got to take care of some stuff.” “You’ll have the laundry; the dishes; the kids” whatever it is. But in our intimate life, there’s no longer this, “I’ve been doing all the stuff. You owe me. This is how our family works.” It’s more like, “I’ve been focusing my time to try and develop” “We have time together, let’s connect. Let’s be together.” And that is such a nicer feeling than the anxiety and kind of obsession of, “This is going to happen”. And it’s a continual development as well.
Zach: Can I ask you about sex?
Jonathan: Yeah, sure.
Zach: So, duty sex, was that a thing in the past for you? You know what I mean when I say “duty sex”?
Jonathan: Yeah, you remind me if I [?] again… we don’t talk about sex. We’re behind closed doors.
Zach: Duty sex, right, where she says, “Well, I’ll just give it to you now so that I can help you not need it later” versus “I want to be intimate with you.” Is that different? Has that changed? Because we talked a little bit about there were times where you wanted to have sex and she’s like, “I’m not into it but I’ll just give it to you.”
Jonathan: Yeah, I mean, I, obviously, didn’t want to feel like a dog who begged for his dinner, right? So, I think it has happened, it does happen. I think it’s obviously a common thing if people already call it “duty sex”. It’s not something wrong. It’s like “Whoo! Sex drive!” That’s not a reality. But at the same time, there is much better intimacy. Sex can still sometimes be like, “Hey, can we just spend some time…” It’s funny because I haven’t talked to my wife about it. But there’s much healthier conversations, much healthier connection because the goal isn’t always like, “We got to have sex” and if we don’t have sex then like, “Ugh!”
It’s been a natural, healthier development, and it’s not just like the longer I wait for the sex, it’s like the more refined I’m becoming as a person. The more that I’m living in the present in my stage. The more my wife recognizes that I’m doing that and I’m hitting the goals that I mentioned or I’m accomplishing things that I want to. There’s a much more fulfilling way to have intimacy. And then when sex does happen, it’s because I want to do that. “I want to do that with you.” [37:55]
Zach: Yeah, and I love that because I think that’s so important. I think you named it, like, “I don’t want to be a dog who’s begging for scraps from the table. I want to be your partner.” I think there’s a lot of psychological struggle for a lot of men who are like, “No, I feel like I want more sex but I’m not getting more sex and I don’t know how to get something that I don’t ask for.” And I think you named it. You’re like, “No, no, no. I’m creating myself. I’m creating this person that she wants to be with so I don’t have to ask. I just have to have conversations with her where she’s like, ‘I’m into this. You’re into this. Let’s do this’.” It’s a totally different equation than I think the one that we were taught, unfortunately. [38:45]
Jonathan: Yeah. My wife said something really true one time. She said, “Even if you got all the sex you wanted, it wouldn’t be enough.” And that’s the funny thing about sex. I’m sure I’ve experienced this and guys experienced this. They go on a binge of pornography and then like, “I feel bad.” But then you can go on another one the next day, you know. It’s the sex portion of that isn’t ever, ever going to be fulfilled. Like just sex: it lasts and then it’s done.
So, in fact, I start to realize that I needed to see intimacy beyond just sex.
Zach: I love it.
Jonathan: And not intimacy for the goal of sex, but…
Zach: Intimacy for its own sake.
Jonathan: Yeah, for its own sake. Being present for its own sake. And it’s okay to ask. I mean, I think we had marriage counseling. They talked about requests and honoring requests and talking about requests… he said, “Requests are healthy. It’s a person saying, ‘This is what I’m feeling’.” It’s just being able to open and in the proper position to listen to those requests and also hoping to be told ‘no’ or ‘yes’. It’s okay.
So, I don’t want to get away from… but now it’s just pure spontaneous whenever we have a moment together. But it is much healthier and also much more satisfying.
Zach: That’s awesome. Do you guys talk to your kids about pornography or sex or anything?
Jonathan: [40:25] Oh, yeah, I do. Two of my kids were like, “Oh, dad!” I’ve been in the youth program basically since I’ve been married. And now I’m in the bishop [rec?] so, you know, I’m still in the youth program. So, I’m aware of that and its role in life and yeah, I worry for my kids. But not worried because they’re like, “Oh, my gosh! They’re going to be a couple of me!” It’s just so much exposure.
Zach: How do you talk about this differently knowing what you know now than you would…? Because you’ve been in the youth program for a long enough time that you’ve probably talked about pornography about once a year for a number of years. How do you talk about it differently now than you did in past years?
Jonathan: [41:15] I think the biggest change that I’ve seen through the youth program but even in how I want to talk about my kids is that I don’t laser-focus on it as in like, “This is a bad thing.” Do you know that “chewed gum” analogy like if you have sex before your marriage?
Zach: Oh, I like that analogy.
Jonathan: Then you have a chewed piece of gum. I actually use one that’s more… not use it. I think more like $20 is $20, whether I found it on the road and dirty or I have it rolled out of the bank machine, it’s still $20 bucks.
So I kind of try to relate with my kids, just like “You’re awesome. You sing songs, ‘I’m a child of God’. You know that the Savior died for you. You’re awesome. You’re inherently awesome. These things will stop that awesomeness from progressing. It doesn’t allow you to move forward. In this life, it is to grow. That is your sole purpose for being here and that is going to harm or reduce your capacity to grow.” So, it’s more like, “That is a distraction. That’s an issue that you need to be aware of. If you have that issue, come talk to mom and dad because I’ve dealt with it.” My kids know I’ve dealt with pornography and masturbation. I’m quite open to chat with them. This is something that I recognize has stopped me for a long time. [42:58]
Zach: Wow. Yeah. And I think the openness changes the entire culture around this and I love that you’re willing to do that. How’s your relationship with your self different? [43:11]
Jonathan: I’m grateful to not always be feeling like, “Oh, I shouldn’t be doing this.” Not just with ‘shoulds’ of pornography but like, “I should be reading.” “I should be exercising more.” “I should do this.” “I should…” All the other ‘should’, life sucks. It’s the worst. I hate it. And I look back on living that way, I’m like, “Who, in their right mind, think that they’ll be excited to wake up if before they even wake up, their minds are already saying, ‘You should do this. You should do this. You should do this.’?” If I have crummy days now, I say, “I have a crummy day because I chose to have a crummy day. It was the best crummy day I ever had.” And that’s okay. The ‘shout’, out the window. As soon as they come in, I try my best to say, “Why am I feeling this?” “Okay, that’s what I’ve got.” Sometimes it’s like a business thing, “Can I delegate this because I’m overwhelmed?” or somebody to talk to.
I look back and when one of those creeps up, I’m like, “I’m going to go deal with that right now.” [44:18]
Zach: Yeah. And I want to just clarify. There’s a difference between what you’re talking about and what I call “toxic positivity”, which is like, “Everything’s great no matter what’s happening! My legs are literally on fire but I’m fine!” That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about “I will stop beating myself up for what isn’t happening yet” and “I’m just facing that head on.” [44:40]
Jonathan: Yeah. No. I made a quote once on that, I mean, because I gave a presentation and I thought it was cool. It says, “All the water in the world will never fail a leaky pocket.” There’s this concept of pushing in positivity. If you have negativity, just dump in more positivity. “Live your best life”, all that stuff. But if you have a leaky pocket, it’s going to be empty. So, it’s just choosing to see and face hard times. [45:13]
Zach: I think you’re exactly right. I think just facing it is so valuable and I love that idea. I’ve got one last question for you.
Zach: What advice would you give somebody sitting in the seat that they’re in right now? They’re listening to this podcast. They may be there where you were a year ago or maybe they’re in the middle of that year where they’re not looking at porn but they’re just fighting through. What’s the advice that you would give them wherever they are? [45:49]
Jonathan: [45:49] My biggest advice would probably be a question: “What is the first step of forgiveness?” Because it’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I would be keeping the relationship with Jesus Christ even if you’re still into pornography. Even if you’ve just went off to binge. I have felt moments in my life when I felt his arms around me and I’m really screwing up. Like, “I am not where I want to be” and the answer is like, “I’ll take it.” The answer is like, “Give me and the guilt is gone.” The answer is “I know and it’s still going to be hard but I love you.” And the fact that there’s someone who loves us amongst all the issues, amongst all the shortcomings and the failures, that will inspire you more than any quote you read or podcast… you know, I don’t want to shoot this all down, but any of that will fall away in comparison the closer you get to your Savior.
Those things are all important and they’re all still really good but without that key piece of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and developing that relationship, it just gets muddy and [?] and I find that I can see my pulling away, it’s like [whenever I’m] pulling away, it’s like “Oh, I’m doing pornography”. It’s like, “Oh, I’m not as cool as I want to be.” And then you come back and those things are initiative, like they’re not the focus anymore. It’s “I want to strengthen this relationship. I want to be closer with my Savior”. So, that for me is the biggest thing.
Every time I meet people, because you know I’ve tried to mentor people now, in my conversations with them, I don’t want to talk about pornography. I want to talk about what they’re trying to do and what they want to be because that’s the same thing the Savior wants them to be. You’ve got a God as your biggest best friend, biggest fan on already what you want to accomplish. So, let’s stop looking at what you’re not accomplishing and deal with it; we’re struggling with it but let’s not make that the focus. Let’s make your biggest support team your focus. [48:19]
Zach: [48:19] I love that and I think that’s one of the most… really, the key component we often forget, which is looking where you’re going rather than looking behind you and being the land of ‘should’. Right? And I talked about, if you’ve ever been running and you spent any time looking over your shoulder, looking backwards, you don’t run as well; you don’t run fast or as fast, as capable. I got to play football in high school. I got to run in the back. I never spent time looking behind me. I was always looking ahead, to the right and to the left, making sure I was focused on the target. I was never looking behind me. And that’s what you’re saying here, which is, “Let’s focus on where you want to be. Let’s go there. Let’s make that happen and let’s not spend any time looking at how terrible you might feel about what you did that’s paid for.” That’s the relationship we need to recognize with our Savior. It’s that he paid for it.
By no means am I saying—and I don’t think you’re saying this at all—”eat, drink, and be merry” and just do whatever. That’s not what any of these means. What we’re saying is, if we can focus on going forward and building ourselves into a better person, some of this stuff will fade in the background all by itself because we won’t have time for it. But all of it was paid for, regardless. And, we might have to work for it a little bit. We might have to recognize and take some additional time out of our day to be like, “Okay, I actually need to address this thing more carefully, but it’s not the focus of my life.” I love that advice. [50:00]
Jonathan: It’s paid for behind you. It’s paid for in front of you. And that’s the thing: it’s still going to be hard but “I’m here. I’m going to be with you.” And like you said, as you deepen your relationship, you’re not going to think eat, drink, and be merry because your big standards there, you love him and he loves you and you’re like, “I don’t want to do that stuff.” I could, I totally could, but not anymore. [50:26]
Zach: Yes, and that is so much the truth. When I think of God, I think of Him in His omniscient, omnipotent capacity. There’s nothing He thinks, “Oh, I can’t do that!” or “I shouldn’t do that!” or “I should do this.” He doesn’t think any of those things. He thinks, “I can and I’m going to choose not to. That’s who I am, I just choose whatever it is that I want.” And I think that is so powerful to think of. Awesome.
Well, you, my friend, are awesome. Is there anything else you want to share with anybody before we cut out?
Jonathan: Just be awesome, everybody. I mean, you are here having a growing experience. Life is great. Life [?] eternal, that can be crummy sometimes. But the internal you, you’re pretty damn great.
Zach: Yeah, I love it. Thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for sharing your story with this audience because I know that it will change someone’s life. I greatly appreciate you. I appreciate the time that I got to spend with you regularly and I’m so grateful to see the change that has come for you.
Jonathan: Thanks. My pleasure, Zach.
Zach: Alright, man, I’ll talk to you soon.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.