Episode 213 - The Challenge of Pornography in MarriageOct 02, 2023
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The Challenge of Pornography in Marriage
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Hi.
Darcy Spafford: Our favorite person has arrived.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: How are you?
Zach Spafford: You're my favorite person. I don't know about Jennifer.
Darcy Spafford: Oh, I'm your favorite?
Zach Spafford: Yeah, you're my favorite.
Darcy Spafford: Okay.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's awesome.
Darcy Spafford: I paid you to say that.
Zach Spafford: Yeah.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: You got that worked out before, right?
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, like, make sure you say that I'm your favorite.
Zach Spafford: That's true. We just got back from a cruise, so we're happy.
We're happy with each other most of the day.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, the re entry can be tough.
Darcy Spafford: It was, for me.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I want to hear about it. Okay.
Darcy Spafford: It was amazing. I pushed myself to do things that are very scary to me, which was flying through the treetops connected by a rope.
It was really scary
Zach Spafford: We went ziplining. We did snorkeling. We've never been on a cruise. So
Darcy Spafford: I didn't do dishes or laundry for eight days.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Great.
Darcy Spafford: That's unheard of.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Where was you don't mind saying where was the cruise? What?
Darcy Spafford: We went to Cabo Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. And the funniest part is we turn the corner. And we ran into our neighbor that lives across the street, and we had no idea. We're like, what are you doing here? I thought this was our romantic getaway, and now our neighbors are here.
It was awesome.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I grew up watching the love boat, and that's where they always went to was like Puerta Vallarta . And all their problems were solved at the end of the, of the trip. And it was amazing.
Darcy Spafford: I felt like all my problems were solved, honestly and then I came home and then I'm like, oh, reality.
Zach Spafford: Yeah. One of our neighbors said that you can go on a cruise for three straight years.
Darcy Spafford: For 36, 000. A person. I'm like, that's cheaper than having a house. I'm
doing it. I mean, it's not cheaper than having our house because that's 360, 000, but. Yes. It costs us less. To run a house. Yeah, it costs us less than 360, 000.
In a three year time frame. Oh, it's a year. Yeah. Okay. It took a minute. Got it. Well, it's ten people.
Well, I'm talking about just you and me. I'm not bringing it. Oh, yeah. It's
Zach Spafford: on the cruise. It's way easier. Okay. I think we're there. I we're
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: All right, so welcome everybody to the Facebook live. I just want to make sure I'm on the good microphone before I keep going.
Do I sound like I am Christy? You are. Oh, I am. Okay. Good. Yeah, so welcome and we are just doing a little bit differently tonight. We're going to talk to Spafford, who are a couple that had their own. Crisis and challenges around pornography towards the beginning of their marriage and they tried some of the traditional approaches that were offered to them, but felt like they couldn't get unstuck and we're I would say, you guys can say better than me, but I think increasingly frustrated and feeling like.
You weren't moving into a different way of being with each other and in the marriage and then they found their way through it and into a better place and it was meaningful enough for them that they have started their own coaching program and a podcast called Thrive Beyond Pornography that they use to help inspire couples and to talk through some of these issues.
We get a lot of questions coming into the Facebook group about pornography. In fact, we have even a pornography thread because it can be such a challenging topic. It can be an upsetting topic. Our Facebook group was deteriorating and a lot of these fights around how to think about pornography.
I just wanted to approach tonight's call a little differently just by having Zach and Darcy tell their story a little bit and I'll be asking questions. I don't, I haven't ever had a conversation with them about it, but I would love to know from them and for listeners to listen in on what their early experience was, what they think wasn't working about it.
And then what shifted and I'll be interrupting at times and asking questions, but why don't you just start with that? Zach and Darcy, just tell us a little bit about, how you were stuck and what it looked like in your marriage.
Zach Spafford: Yeah I think that we were. You know, I was doing all the right things.
I went to the bishop. I went to the 12 steps. We had therapist after therapist after therapist, and some of them were better than others. In fact, probably the one that was the best of all of them is the one that Darcy got mad at and walked out on because that therapist was. Trying to help Darcy move into a more empowered position of ownership.
And that Darcy was not having it. She was not willing to do that. I always tell the story that it came to a head one night when I got home and I had been at work at all, all day, I was climbing the corporate ladder at a large multinational company and we were in Southern California.
And I had. Had a whole long day at work. I went to the Bishop after that to say I wasn't getting any further in my life. And then after that, I went to a 12 step meeting out in Simi Valley, California. And I got home and Darcy was like drowning in our six kids, seven and under. We had just had twins.
And she was like, I don't care if you ever solved this porn problem. I just need you to. Change diapers and put people to bed and stop making me drown and all of these children and that was this moment where I shifted from the Somebody else has the answer model to I better figure this out because it's no longer It's no longer working for me to go to all these people who don't seem to have any better Answers than I have and I started to work on The experiments and the, and trying to understand like what's going on inside my head.
Why am I doing what I'm doing? And I started to work through that stuff and really start to get a grip on things and for Darcy, and I'll let her tell her story, but I think for Darcy, she started to see that and she was like, Oh, maybe I can also start doing that and start getting a grip on myself.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So. Say, say a little bit more about that, and Darcy, certainly you can come in and say your part too, but can you just say a little bit more about why it wasn't working?
Do you have a sense of that? You're talking about a shift in responsibility, which I think is very important. It's also fits with my experience of working with people, but say a little more about how you think that locus of control was maybe outside of you in the way you were approaching things.
Zach Spafford: Really, I felt like, well, the addiction language is essentially they're out of control and that didn't work for me because I didn't feel like I was a victim in any way. And I wasn't finding the language of the 12 step meetings valuable. I didn't find the idea that I was always going to have this problem to be a valuable idea.
It, that, that was a really hopeless position to be in. You're always going to be in it. Once an addict, always an addict. You're powerless against your addiction. All of that kind of language really, it felt desperately hopeless. And I feel like
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Steve, I don't know if we don't have noise, so I want her.
Sorry. I'm just going to interrupt 1 2nd. Christie, is that something you can can you mute that person or? Yeah. Yep. I'm sorry.
Darcy Spafford: I'm on it. I'm she's working on it. There's a lot to mute.
Zach Spafford: Okay. Okay. Apparently this is a, an exciting evening. There's a lot of people here to
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: make a porn fest. Yeah.
Zach Spafford: Right, well,
Darcy Spafford: it's our favorite subject, so don't take us out to dinner. We'll talk about pornography.
Zach Spafford: Yeah, that's literally like, Hey, we like to talk. We talk about porn on the internet for a living. So clearly it's the most exciting thing in our lives. Yeah, I just felt like I, I was out. I wasn't able. I felt like the message I was getting was that I'm not able to control this.
And that was so disempowering that I felt like I never was going to resolve this. And sometimes I just, I honestly, I just was like, how am I going to figure this out? Cause I just want to give up. I feel like I, there's no way for me to solve this. So why should I even try? And that was so desperately sad.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I imagine, if you are have an addiction to something you can dispense with entirely, like alcohol, it's not a bad approach because it's saying I'm not going to trust my regressive mind. That's going to try and convince me that I can have a moderate relationship with alcohol and my life is going to be fine.
If I never touch it again. But it's very different. If you're trying to regulate something like food or sex. Or spending, because these are things in which you can't just cut it out of your life entirely. And so the I see them as a kind of self regulation challenge not something that's acting upon you.
I think that's what you're pointing towards Zach.
Zach Spafford: Yeah, that's exactly what it was. I mean, at the end of the day, what it came down to was, I was not managing myself emotionally and mentally.
Darcy Spafford: Spending a lot of time managing
Zach Spafford: me. Yeah, I was managing her a lot and trying to make sure that she felt safe and all of the things that I think we've been told we're supposed to be working on and that aren't actually super helpful.
And more than that, when I was managing her, I didn't have any space for me and it made it so that. I was more miserable and less likely to want to even participate in our relationship. And, especially as a Latter day Saint, we have that meaning frame that she's the one who's supposed to give me sex.
And so a lot of why I stayed at some points was because that was validation. Not because I really wanted to be there, not because I was really into this relationship. It was like she's pissed at me. I don't really have any... Recourse, but I don't have anywhere to go.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So, let me just make sure I'm following that.
So say a little more about the managing Darcy. I don't know, Darcy, if you want to speak to that.
Darcy Spafford: I can speak to that really well.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. So how was that? How did that, give me some examples of that.
Darcy Spafford: Okay.
Just start from the beginning, right? I went basically straight from my parents house where I was very well taken care of to now being married.
As a 20 year old barely, 20 and it kind of transferred from like my dad taking care of me to now sack taking care of me. And then it went straight into, having babies after babies, after babies every year, basically. Cause we had six kids in seven years.
I really thought it was Zach's job to make me happy. Very much so. It was his job to, to provide a comfortable living for us. And, really that fairy tale, which is I really embarrassing to admit. But I'm sure I'm not the only one that kind of went into marriage with those expectations.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: So that was for me. And then it was like, I had a miscarriage, a really bad one. And then three days later, I opened my computer screen and, or his computer screen and there's pornography in my face. So that was how I found out about it. And that was, we got married in 2003 and this was 2008.
So about five years into marriage. And that just shattered my entire world, like literally. And then it was like, okay, this person that's supposed to make my life amazing is now causing so much pain and heartache and it was, you know, that weird kind of balance between trying to figure life out and what it's going to look like.
And then it was even more. I felt like now he really owes me the world.
has been doing that porn behind my back, so now he really, basically needs to eat everything out of my hands and take care of me and rub my feet every morning and do all the things.
Zach Spafford: She's not joking when she says that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, yeah.
Darcy Spafford: I really used it as a way To get everything I wanted, which is also embarrassing to admit.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah I think you're articulating what I think is a very common collusion in marriage. When we get married young, like most of us do, there's a kind of, your sense of self kind of walks around on the other person.
And I think, Zach, what you were pointing to is I was managing how Darcy felt about me, so that. I'm managing how she felt so that she would feel good about me and I'm using that I Darcy. I'm using that to extract what I want. It's also what you're saying shattered because. Yeah, a lot of times when people marry in and especially when they marry young, it's like, look, I'm giving up my career.
I'm giving up my education and I'm going to, I've sometimes said it this way. I'm going to hook my cart to your horse. And so you better make my life good because I'm turning it all over to you now. Sometimes people do that more out of faith than out of desire, but it's also a way of not having to fully take responsibility for your life to say, hey, you be the strong, good one and give me a life.
And because, in the masculine position, it feels good to feel needed and to feel strong and the 1 who's depending on you. So it sounds like that. You're masking some of your own vulnerability. Maybe managing some of it through porn and then it blows up like it does for many marriages That the illusion of it all blows up and then Darcy you said okay Then I'm gonna double down on the position and extract more as a way of trying to Restore some sense of control or self in this which is not unusual at all in the work in the couples I've worked
with and to be honest like I didn't necessarily know that I was doing all this in the moment, like it wasn't like I was like, I got to plot this evil scheme against my husband, right?
Zach Spafford: So you wives who are hearing this, you're probably not doing this either on purpose.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Zach Spafford: Which is important to recognize.
Darcy Spafford: But, looking back now, and as I feel like our relationship has grown and matured and we've matured. I can see those patterns in myself.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Zach Spafford: And I think, especially as we work with Couples on this problem.
Oftentimes, the wife will come and she'll say, all I really want is honesty or all I really want is him to stop looking at porn. And what they find is that once they get the honesty and once he stops looking at porn, they find that they have a lot of growing up to do on their side of the street. And it's tough.
It's not as simple as just saying, "Oh, well, now everything's okay." Once he's starting to do. Move into a position of greater differentiation and no longer playing that game where he's managing her. Cause I know this happened for me. I stopped doing what she wanted just because she wanted it. And that made life on her more difficult.
Not because I was not being nice to her, but because she had to actually do what it is that she wanted to grow up with me, right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I mean, I think what you're talking about is a kind of shift that the pornography crisis kind of pressured, but a shift from a role based marriage. Towards a more intimate marriage and a more intimate marriage.
I mean, a lot of people say, "well, yeah, that's exactly what it was an intimate marriage." but in reality, an intimate marriage asks a lot more of us. Like, it means knowing the other person caring about them, not extracting something from them and intimate marriages just push us to grow up. And so it sounds like that's what you're suggesting.
I don't know the end of the story yet, but that's the direction that you started to move.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, I think one of the hugest shifts for me is that I, when I first found out about his pornography use, I went on the internet and I joined, well, this is a while ago, I joined Yahoo groups I'm like, I don't even, like, I couldn't get a Yahoo group if I had to now, but
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: yes, I think you're
Darcy Spafford: right, but I joined this group and, It was a lot of older women, they, a lot of them were very what I would consider very angry, very bitter very much like in a victim stance and there was me and one other young, younger girl.
And after probably about a year of being in this group, we both we messaged back and forth and we decided, this really is not a very uplifting, encouraging hopeful place to be and so we both left it and then we started just messing messaging each other privately and talking about things because I guess for me, I just felt so hopeless in this, even when I was going to the 12 step meetings, I, well, one, I felt, oh, well, my life isn't that bad.
Cause my husband just looks up porn. Once a month or whatever people's experiences. Yes. Yes. Yes. So, it gave me like some confidence because I could compare to other people, but on the other side, I didn't really see a lot of progress being made and that felt really discouraging. And after years of doing that, it just was not for me anymore.
Especially lugging, babies with me and all that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Sure. I think, when someone is going through a crisis like this, it can be, let's say on the wife's side. Okay. The stereotypical position that you were in. It can be so disorienting and so disorganizing that especially at 1st, finding a group of people that can understand what you're going through can be extremely helpful.
Yeah, I imagine though, and I don't. Pretend to be the expert on all groups, because people are having different experiences if they are in a group like this, but I think 1 of the vulnerabilities is that the intimacy is created with the group not about how do I get my feet underneath me? And go deal with my marriage, right?
And so I think what is a vulnerability is you can find validation. It feels good to have people say, yeah, that sucks. That's terrible. But a good friend, or a good support group, then pushes you back towards your problem for you to go and address. Rather than triangulating with the group, and what that means is you go and can sort of diffuse your energy into a group experience so that you can avoid actually dealing with your life and taking responsibility for yourself in your marriage.
And so that's 1 of the vulnerabilities is this helping me to address my marriage and to create a better marriage? Or is this is giving me a place to get a kind of covert sense of superiority. Or, shared victimhood, but not really helping me move forward with more responsibility.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, like I always say, I could tell my story and I could get everyone to agree with my side.
Every person in the room would agree. Yes, except for that 1 therapist that literally, on the ball, her name's Marianne. I don't remember her last name, but she said to
Zach Spafford: me, Thousand Oaks, California, if
Darcy Spafford: you is there any. Is there any way you could respond to Zach when he tells you about his pornography struggle besides angry?
And I was like, no, I'm angry. I'm so angry. I'm so angry. And I walked out of her house and I walked home like two miles by myself, which if you knew me back then, that was so angry.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, good. Yeah, and it is angering. I, that is to say I think it's fair that you were in the struggle that you were in because you thought you had one thing and what you thought you had was falling apart, and you didn't yet know what was possible. So it's just deeply disorienting. It's deeply distressing.
And when someone's trying to help you reach a lifeline and you don't. Want to, or you're afraid to, or you're not sure you're ready for it. It, a lot of times before we take a developmental step we take everybody down with us first because it is scary and sounds like that's about where you were at that point.
Darcy Spafford: and I should probably clarify, this is like four and a half, five years into this, by the way.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Uhhuh. . Mm-hmm. .
Darcy Spafford: So this is like, okay. Years right years of
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: wasn't like on month 3 or something.
Darcy Spafford: No, no, no, no, no. It was like, it was. It was
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: right you were building a life in that place and she was trying to help you.
Darcy Spafford: Which is why I was so ready to move on.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah
Darcy Spafford: I was so ready to. Figure out how at first I just said, I, you're just going to look at porn I don't care. Just look at porn and help me take care of these kids. I kind of resigned to the fact that this was just going to be our life and we'll fake it.
Cause on the outside, we look like we had a great life. Right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: But when Zach started making progress and changing, like you would say, like changing the dance steps. I was either left to fall behind or I had to grow up and right and look at it and address it in a way that was actually helpful.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Good. So before I change. Yes, it is. So say a little bit, like, how Zach and Darcy, would you define? What the problem was, I mean, what's the problem as you understood it and what does the solution look like? So, for example, is it just not looking at porn? Is it something different than that? So, how do you think about what the problem is, was and what the solution?
Zach Spafford: So the way that I, the way that we think about what the problem was is very different than the way that we think about what the problem is. And, meaning, at the time, the only problem was that I looked at porn. And if that was solved, then, I can remember. I can remember driving from Buffalo Grove to Waukegan, which is where my house was.
And so you'll know those places at least by name. So nearly an hour, 40 or so minutes praying because that's where the stake center was the singles ward was there. And I remember praying from one end of that journey to the other and saying to my heavenly father, please just take this one problem away from me.
Yeah. Just fix this one thing and I'll be a better. Version of me. I'll be the right kind of person and I thought that was and for many many years all the way up Until that moment really where I was standing at the front door of our little bungalow in Thousand Oaks, California My wife was like, I don't really care if you look at porn come change diapers put these babies to bed help me survive
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Oh, wait. I think I just lost you, Zach. I can't hear you all of a sudden. I think you guys are muted somehow. Sorry. Oh, there we
Zach Spafford: go. There we go. Ah, yeah, got it. Because we're getting a lot of people coming in, so she's probably muting everybody. But that's the way that we thought of the problem. The problem was, just stop looking at porn.
That was the problem.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: That's what we thought.
Zach Spafford: Yeah. Yeah.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly.
Zach Spafford: And I think that, that drove us in the direction that we went for a long time because every program out there was designed around just stop this one bad behavior and everything will be fine. Yeah. But instead of doing that, what I found for myself was that I had to deal with why I was unhappy.
I had to deal with what, why I couldn't manage myself when I was stressed. I had to learn how. To re address some of these underlying things that I had been avoiding emotionally and mentally by choosing pornography in order to start moving towards the person that I wanted to be. And that's a little bit more complicated because first of all you have to figure out why am I unhappy?
What is wrong with me? What, and I say what is wrong with me, but I don't mean to pathologize just normal stress. At a very high power job or the reality of having to pay bills. Those are all normal things. There's nothing wrong with those, but if the way that we deal with them is to avoid them. Then we're gonna consistently be behind the eight ball.
And that was where I was, and that's how I felt. So I would look at the, I, the problem I, the way that I see it now is very, very different than the problem of the way that it was before. And yeah.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Mm-hmm.
Zach Spafford: So, Mike just popped in. Porn isn't a problem. In fact, porn is not the problem. I always say porn is not the problem.
That's the name of my book. So nobody steal it. . .
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Zach Spafford: It can be a problem, and it can be problematic, but it's not the problem. The problem is usually what underlies that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right. Exactly. I think that's right, that it's pointing to what is it trying to solve, and seldom does it solve it. But it's very often in my experience, the way we do a lot of things, like when we're under stress, The demands of life, our anxiety, our sense of insufficiency, our challenge of calming ourselves that we're often looking for ways.
To calm down, or to feel more sense of control and there's more functional ways of doing that and less functional ways, but the less functional ones tend to make us feel even worse afterwards. They feel great at 1st. Right? It feels great to go eat the food or to go spend the money or whatever it is initially, but then you reemerge and you have.
More of a sense of disbelief in yourself or more of a sense of insufficiency that you're not really meeting the demands of life, but it's an understandable solution. I think sometimes I react a bit when people are over pathologizing. I think porn scares us much more than someone having food compulsivity or video game compulsivity, right?
It's just we're really, really anxious about sex. And there's some legitimacy to that because. Sex used badly can be very destructive, but sometimes I think we pathologize it so much that it's very difficult to look at what it's trying to be a solution for. And therefore we're trying to put a bandaid on something, like I've said, like, the whole Internet shut down and you could never access porn again.
You still would struggle within your sense of self. You'd struggle with intimacy in your marriage. It's exposing something more than it's creating something. And a lot of times our language is that porn is creating the untrustworthy person or, and I'm not saying it has no effect on a person, but I think it's important to look at as you're talking about what's going on that I keep going here to manage my feelings.
Zach Spafford: I think part of the reason is we asked the wrong questions, so I did a fireside this morning for...
Darcy Spafford: Which is why he's dressed in the uniform.
Zach Spafford: ...because I did a fireside this morning and I haven't had a chance to do anything but work.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, you look good, Zach. I'm glad you put some Facebook live seriously.
Zach Spafford: Right? And one of the questions that they asked was, why is porn bad? And my answer to that was, that's not really the right question. I think there are people out there who would argue that porn is bad, and I think that there are just as many people out there that would argue that porn is good, and if you got those people into a room and they all shouted at each other for 16 days, no solutions would be made.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right. That's the Facebook group sometimes.
Zach Spafford: No one would come to it. Right. Right. Yeah. But when we acknowledge the reality, "porn is," then we get to ask what the actual question is, which is, "how do I want to interact with this?"
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: And whether it's to choose it or not to choose it, that's entirely up to you.
That's agency. That's the part of the process that we all came here for. There's no question about that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: Now, there are a lot of people who would tell you, well, you're, you just shouldn't, or you can't, or you're not supposed to. Okay, that's fine. That's really not the issue. The issue is how do I...
Want to deal with it, not how do you think I should, or how does my bishop think I should, or how does even Darcy think I should? It's how do I want to interact with this, and why do I want to interact with this in the way that I am interacting with it? And if that takes me towards my values and the person that I want to be, then great.
But if it doesn't, then what can I do to resolve that?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes!
Zach Spafford: That's really the issue.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So you're pointing to then the solution. So I don't know if you can put it in a sentence or 2 or 3, how would you articulate when somebody has gotten to a stronger position around this? How would you define that?
Zach Spafford: Oh, I'm not sure if I'm understanding your question.
Yeah, I mean, again. Well, I think what you're saying, let me tell you what I think you're just saying. I was just going to sort of underscore it, but I think what you're speaking to just in the last few sentences where you were talking about this is that what you're helping people towards or where you found peace in your life is being more aligned with your actual values and having a deeper sense of responsibility around your choices related to pornography. So that you weren't in this kind of split, , where I say, I don't want to be doing this, but I'm doing this.
Darcy Spafford: In the beginning for him, it was a position of I can and I might, right?
Like I can and I will, right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly.
Zach Spafford: I remember a very distinct moment when we were actually in the house next door. We used to own that house and then we bought this house, but that's a longer story. And I was standing in the bathroom and my brain was like, Hey, you're all alone. You should look at porn.
And I said, I was in that space between Where I had been, which was the struggle and a lot of the addiction model and all of that stuff where it's constantly fighting back the ideas that your brain offers you. And I was just sick of that. And I literally said to myself, yep, I can watch all the porn I want.
Right now, right here, in this bathroom, I'm all alone, no one will get me. And if I want to, maybe I will later, but right now I'm just going to go about my day and that acknowledgement of my capacity to say yes to porn, very freeing.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Zach Spafford: So I talk about agency as three things. Knowing what's right and wrong, the consequences for your choices and being able to say both yes and no to something.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: And really in our high demand, high purity culture, religion, you're not allowed to say, "yes" to porn.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: It's just not allowed
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Not and get the validation of the group.
Right. It's like not, it's not offered as an option. Yes, that's right. Again, like it's the Why is porn a problem that's suggesting
Zach Spafford: Yes.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: We already assume that it is and like, why do you love scripture study? Okay, well, if you don't love it, there's no room to raise your hand.
Zach Spafford: Why are you talking about Darcy right now?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So we have these, leading questions that point to what the group will accept and I understand groups always do this. This isn't weird that groups are going to pressure in a direction that sustain the values of the group. But what it can mean is I can't choose it. It's not a real option for me.
And yet it always is like, I. Had a client. I was like, "well, I can't look at porn." I'm like, obviously you can because you keep looking at it.
Zach Spafford: I say that so many times!
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Every day for hours. Right? So it's time to just start owning that that's what you're choosing. And that actually helps people. I had a client who was constantly trying to stop going to these meetings, in the theory of sexual thoughts or Satan trying to infiltrate your soul.
And so he, he was kind of getting progressively obsessed in my experience of him with all of it. But I remember just saying to him and his wife, I think, wife, you should plan on the fact that your husband is going to look at porn. I mean, he's told you for years. He's going to stop. It never does stop.
And maybe it's time to just accept that if you're married to him, you're married to a man that will look at porn every day. Now, he didn't like me saying that, even though it was, I wasn't trying to even vote against him. I'm just naming this is the statistical reality. And maybe start dealing with that rather than this wishful thinking about how things could be, should be.
And he said that that really disliked that I said that but it started to shift things for him because it was a similar moment where he was thinking my wife already thinks I'm looking at it. She already assumes it because that's what has now been established and it was kind of like. Do I really want to look at it? Like, couldn't I do better things with my day?
So it was taking some of this. What I talk about this compliance defiance framing that we can really get stuck in because the locus of control is outside of us. I can either comply with what everybody thinks I should do, or I can defy and do what I want. I'm sort of grabbing something for myself, but in either position, you never really are claiming your life.
You're living other people's lives or rebelling against the life that people want you to live, but you're not actually claiming your life. And I think that's what you're pointing to Zach is an important pivot point for people that I've seen get a lot more integrity in their choices.
Darcy Spafford: And that it increased his integrity of how he interacted with me too, because he stopped just saying; "yes" to me, whatever I wanted, because part of that was him trying to manage me and then feeling like crap and then looking at porn. Not that it was my fault at all, or his choices are because of me. But I was playing a part in our dance and ...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Darcy Spafford: He stopped just pleasing me and giving me whatever I wanted as a way to take back his ownership of his life.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly. And rather than Darcy is my judge, and she's the one I have to keep happy with me. Which, okay, yes, I want you to be happy with me, but then I'll resent that you have all this control over my sense of self. And so it creates a dynamic that's often hard to break. And so, yeah, that. That Zach was taking it back on to himself
Zach Spafford: I think that had a downstream effect That was really pretty awesome because once I stopped managing her and I started to manage myself I also stopped letting her try to manage me. Meaning around sex, duty sex any of that sort of thing where it was like I knew she was trying to engage with me only because she wanted me not to do something.
Instead of because she wanted to be there, to wanted to be in our love life, wanted to be intimate. It was more, "okay, I'm going to have sex with Zach so that he won't look at porn." So, as, as I ...
Darcy Spafford: it never worked though.
Zach Spafford: It never
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, he still would look at it.
Zach Spafford: In case you're wondering, It never works.
Darcy Spafford: I always tell the wife, like
Zach Spafford: Anybody who's got this on their list of things to do,
Take it off.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, you, I'm, it's like, I always say the wife, you can have sex like three times a day. Like it's not going to work. Like it's because it's not about
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: It's not the problem. Exactly.
Zach Spafford: Yeah. And I think that freed me up to say, I don't want to be sexual with you. If you don't really want to be sexual with me for me.
And that changed the dynamic in our sex life. Enormously.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Zach Spafford: It went from, it really went from light socket sex to super fun.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes .
So, say more about that Darcy. So what's your view of that experience? So you were in this, using sex for a kind of control. And so, when Zach started saying no to that, I'm assuming is how it went that he started.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, which
is really weird. Yeah. I
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: thought you had me really weird.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah. Yeah. Like, you just rubbed my back. It should end differently. Right?
Like. Just ...sorry if that was too
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: no.
Darcy Spafford: But it really forced me in a way to say, okay, now, what do I want because I never wanted to just, you know, meet his needs or manage him.
If that makes sense.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Darcy Spafford: but I also in a way felt like it was my job. The night before my wedding, my Mormon mom said to me, "don't ever say no to your husband, because if you do, he'll look at porn." Okay.
So, you know,
Zach Spafford: Mormon mom is the woman that you're, that you dated her son when you joined the church.
That's what a Mormon mom is for anybody who doesn't know.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah.
And so I had that in the back of my head. That was the frame that I went into marriage with and it wasn't a very fun one.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. Yeah, right. It's already putting sex as a form of control over your husband and not about desire.
Not about passion. It's a, it's a. It's a need fulfillment.
Darcy Spafford: Not about real intimacy.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right. It's a role based marriage. Need fulfillment to control the husband. And look, husbands participate in this too. Every time they say, I have needs, they're basically saying, I don't want an intimate marriage. I want the sense of control that I can pressure you into taking care of my needs.
But a lot of people are set up to do marriage in that way. And sex becomes such a source of pain and difficulty in that model. But yeah, so what you're saying, then Darcy is that as Zach started saying no to that, it was not only throwing off the model that you'd been given. But what I would imagine and you tell me if this is right. Is that you couldn't hide behind it anymore either. Do you know what I mean? Like if you're just doing a job, you don't have to actually show up desire, let your sexuality really be there. You can just service where if he's saying, I don't want that kind of sex, say a little more about what that pressured in you.
Darcy Spafford: It required me in a lot of ways. To become a sexual being to embrace my sexuality to learn how to create Desire in me versus just showing up to the bed and get it over with attitude. And not like it, it wasn't horrible all the time, obviously, but, it became a place.
Zach Spafford: We had a good sex life.
Darcy Spafford: Yes.
Zach Spafford: It wasn't horrible.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah.
Zach Spafford: But that's not like,
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: yeah, yeah.
Darcy Spafford: I mean, there was still fun had right. But there was also a lot of managing. Being had also,
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: and so Darcy,
Darcy Spafford: where now it's just so fun.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So it just moved out of it's not that it was just so miserable. Pre shift, I've been trying to get going into more of it, but you're saying, "I had to figure out if I was going to really choose."
This is the language I would use. You tell me if it's right. Yeah, but if I'm going to really choose Zach and choose this marriage and take more responsibility for my sexuality and my desire and show up here, that that's
Darcy Spafford: also a risk getting hurt, right? There was also that risk of, well, he can still choose porn, right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: yeah,
Darcy Spafford: there was. There was risk involved in it.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Darcy Spafford: Also,
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: well, and even if porn is not an issue, there's risk in that move, I think, because you're not in the kind of control position of validation extraction. You're sticking your neck out and saying, here I am. I think that's scary in and of itself and probably you had in your mind, you know, he could still find me wanting, right?
He could still say, I can do, I could have better than this right on a screen or whatever in my private experience. So, there's no guarantees. You're letting go of a kind of control that I think the earlier version of marriage was, it was a tempting idea, right? That I could get control over Zach and here,
Darcy Spafford: yeah, I can't get anything out of him now, right? Like, I can't be like, hey. You get the house clean, you know, or whatever. Yeah, it's not transactional anymore. Like, there's. The only benefit
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: downsides. Yeah,
Darcy Spafford: it's the amazing moments that are created.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah,
Darcy Spafford: but it's it's not about Me getting what I want or even just him getting what he wants.
Zach Spafford: It's a collaborative activity. I think I want to just note for me on my side of... as we were going through this process of no longer in engaging in duty sex. I still had to deal with feeling rejected
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: Because even though I wanted her, I was not willing to step into taking anymore.
And so I still had to endure the problem of, I feel like she doesn't want me. Even though I was giving her that space to do that, I still felt rejected. And
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: You were letting go...
Zach Spafford: As I worked.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. The control too. Yeah.
Zach Spafford: Oh yeah. So, so I think it's important, especially for men who are listening to this to recognize there's a lot of growing that happens on your side.
This is not like, Oh, send it over to Darcy to solve. This is really right. This is really, you're going to have to like grow up and get mature about when your wife doesn't want to have sex with you and recognize that it's not about you.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. And, and that she really gets to have choices. I mean, that's why we like the earlier version so much more of roles and dependency and control is because then we're less exposed and we can pressure the other person to accommodate us in whatever way makes us feel less vulnerable, but the shift you're talking about requires more self regulation, more ability to handle yourself and the risk of actually choosing or desiring and letting your partner have a real choice.
And, we say we want that we want to be chosen, but we really seldom want to give people the room to have a real choice because we risk the rejection and that can be. Very challenging to regulate ourselves around. I think one of the draws of porn is you can be sexual without risk, without exposure, without really letting another real person show up and have an opinion about you, uh, in this intimate way.
And so it's often shifting into truly a more intimate marriage. It means getting better at handling your sense of self and potential and real invalidation. That's a part of a real relationship.
Zach Spafford: And the more you can actually handle that, the more desirable you become. I was having this conversation today with a couple that I work with.
And the very thing that makes him undesirable is the thing that if he can handle himself there, he automatically becomes that much more desirable. And I know that shifted for me because Darcy was like. She had to figure out what do I want? Do I actually want to step in? Do I want to do more? And we've gone from a place where I was constantly in pursuit.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes.
Zach Spafford: You know, I was always trying to, as I
Darcy Spafford: It gets really hard when you lose that also.
Zach Spafford: Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. I analogize it to starting a jet engine. You like got to flip a whole lot of switches to make this thing go. And then I just let that go. And now. She'll tell me, she'll be like, Hey, game on tonight. And that doesn't shift the, that doesn't shift the, what's it called?
Spontaneous desire versus responsive desire, right? That doesn't shift that necessarily. What it does is it says, "Hey, I want you to turn me on" instead of me constantly trying to turn her on and figuring out when that's going to happen.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Zach Spafford: So there's, it's not like all of a sudden she attacks me in the kitchen, like you see in the movies. It's much more, it's still subtle, but it's still that process of okay, I have to turn.
The jet engine on, but now she wants me to do it without me pursuing it.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: It's collaborative is what you're talking about. It's that you can work together towards something, but you're not trying to get somebody to want something or get them to step in and do their part. They're doing them their part, and you're working together to create something shared is, I think what you're describing.
Darcy Spafford: Yeah.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: So let me just see what, let's see what some people have said here.
sorry, I'm just going to look at what some people. "How can the partner change the message about what it means about them when their partner seeks sexual images?" I see. So, the question is, if, Zach in this example is looking at sexual images and Darcy's saying, "this is an invalidation of me," I think that's a very typical feeling that you're only going there because I am insufficient.
I don't look like those people. and so you find me not sexy. I don't know. Darcy, what are your thoughts about that?
Darcy Spafford: For me, it was really hard at first, because I did, I made it mean so much about me.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Darcy Spafford: But the more that I was actually willing to hear. What was going on for him in those moments when he did turn to porn.
Then I began to see that what he was saying was exactly how I felt with online shopping, like filling my cart up and getting excited to buy the stuff in my cart. Or
that's, it's a true story or just like some of my struggles with eating with food and the ideas that I had around and struggles with food.
Like I started to see Zach's problem is not he's choosing porn because these women are hot. But more as he's trying to manage himself the same ways that I'm trying to manage myself just in different ways.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Darcy Spafford: And so once I started to see that, it became less about me.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: And more about. What was going on prior to pornography?
I don't know if that answers.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, absolutely. And what I would say is, somebody that's chronically going to a kind of objectified and if that's quite the right word, but non relational forms of sex is someone that on some level struggles with intimacy struggles with really showing up and it's not that that's so much better.
I mean, it maybe feels safer. But there's nothing better than being chosen and loved by a loving, viable woman, right? As a man. There just isn't anything better than that. But I think because it's scary to be open and knowable and vulnerable to a partner, especially if you've grown up thinking you must be on top of everything.
A lot of men who struggle with porn grew up in families where there wasn't a lot of This isn't always the case, but it's not certainly a typical presentation is there's not a lot of room to talk about your vulnerable feelings and because we also culturally expect men to be on top of it sexually and on top of it in many ways the vulnerability has no room to be processed. And so it can be a really easy way to go and feel a sense of comfort relief, the ability to be sexual without the potential of rejection or judgment, but it's not because it's so great. And so much better. It's just kind of an easy place to be.
I think the more we can understand what we're trying to solve, the more we can actually grow in our ability to show up to something that's much richer and much better. I mean, there's nothing better than being loved and chosen by someone you love and respect. How do we develop our own capacity to create that kind of marriage?
This is cheap by comparison.
Zach Spafford: Well, I look at, I think about pornography in the way that. We talk about validation and porn's highly validating. The person on the screen always wants you and they always want to give you what you want. You've never gone to Google and said show me boobs and it said, aw, honey, I don't feel like it tonight, right? It never does that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I would but you didn't clean up the kitchen...
Zach Spafford: So, you know pornography For those who use it in order to manage themselves is extremely validating. It's so validating in part because I never have to work for it, but that's also the weakness in it, in that I never have to grow and be the person that I want to be and show up and be desirable. Cause...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly!
Zach Spafford: For me, it was very much a growth from why don't you want me to, I'm going to be someone that I would respect and love. And if you are cool with that, rock on. And if not, that's your problem.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah.
Zach Spafford: And that's a different space.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's your choice. Exactly.
Zach Spafford: Yeah. And I think this person's question, how do I move from this space where what my partner's doing is about me to a place where I'm okay being the person that I want to be?
That's a tough move around sexuality.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: It is.
Zach Spafford: It's a really tough move.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And I, how do I validate myself? Right.
Zach Spafford: I just want to acknowledge the difficulty there. Yeah.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, and as Darcy was saying, sometimes just being curious, we're terrified to be curious because maybe it really is about me. And that's what I'm going to find out. But the way we find freedom is to get more honesty on the table.
Is it about me? Right? Is it that I'm not enough in your eyes? If it's not about me, what is it about? And, going into more information allows you to tease apart. Who are you? And who am I in this? And yes, Zach, I fully agree this shift from I need you to feel good about me for me to feel good about me to shift away from that to "what do I need to address in my life to genuinely feel good about me and what I'm offering to this marriage and let my spouse have a real choice around it."
There was something else. Darcy and what you said, let me think. Oh, I think what I was, it wasn't necessarily what Darcy said, but, I think AI a lot of people have talked about AI, sex robots and sexual experiences are going to become so lifelike that they could basically replace a real partner.
Well, I'm like, well, then you haven't had a real partner because are they going to program the AI robot to be like, dude, no, I'm so mad at you. I don't want to have sex. The AI robot is going to be very different than a real partner because it only validates you. It only gives you what you want. And of course, the big challenge in that, as you're pointing to Zach, is that it doesn't push to grow up and become someone capable of real intimacy.
With a real person, I mean, again, that's where the gold is, but it requires our development to be capable of it and to not get hijacked around these validations of control or these sort of immediate self gratifications that we can get, but that don't help us get stronger and closer to the ability to be free within ourselves.
Darcy Spafford: I like to do this little thought experiment with clients sometimes and say, "what if your spouse was looking at 500 pound women porn?"
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes,
Darcy Spafford: How might that be different for you?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yes!
Darcy Spafford: Because I find that often what we're doing is just it's all of our self body image issues that...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Is all getting projected on to it.
Darcy Spafford: ... since birth basically.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: So, there's not even room to get curious about your partner and what's going on for them.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right.
Darcy Spafford: You're so in your head about your own body, your own...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: how you're supposed to look.
Darcy Spafford: ...insufficiencies, all those things that...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: yes,
Darcy Spafford: ...getting curious doesn't come. But when I say that, they're always like, I would be like, "why did you choose that?"
Like, what about that is, is interesting to you, right? Like, you could totally yes, which is weird, but it really does open up a space.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely.
Darcy Spafford: For more information around pornography.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, and in women's defense around that, women grow up learning so much that their value is in being beautiful is, being the ideal as in, being attractive.
So, it's not hard to imagine why this hits at such a nerve for so many women...
Darcy Spafford: Absolutely.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: ...like, that person has it. I don't. How can this not be about me? Yes, it's very, and I think the truth is that we're all drawn to these feminine ideals, right? Meaning even women are they we can sort of...
Darcy Spafford: Yeah, they're hot!
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: ...yeah, exactly.
Darcy Spafford: We're super hot.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right! I think we're biologically wired on some level to be drawn to that feminine body, that feminine ideal because it's beautiful and it's compelling and it's the source of life and so I think...
Zach Spafford: I like to say that nobody ever goes on the internet looking for the internal contents of a port a potty.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right!
Zach Spafford: Right. Like, no, we're not drawn to that. There's a reason why we're drawn to these things, but...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: That's right. No, that's right. So we're biologically wired to be drawn to it. I often say there's nothing wrong with the fact that you're drawn to graphic images, to sexuality, and that's just being human. And men in particular are drawn. The research shows men are very visually drawn.
Women will be more drawn to ideas and character and so on. So, that women are also drawn visually. That's also true. We're wired up to be drawn to it. That's not the problem. Sexuality is not the problem. Graphic images are not the problem how we're in relationship to it. And what it's creating in our life is the question.
And what is it keeping us from? What is it fostering? What is it precluding? Those are the questions to think about to forge a life that is healthy and brings us happiness. And I also say, I think we deserve some compassion around this because with the dawn of the Internet, I mean, this is like, trying to learn to eat healthy while living in a candy store at all times.
You're in an environment that makes it very, very easy to go indulge that part of you, that's wired up to be drawn to sexual images. Okay. So we're drawn to them and then we're in an environment where you can privately get them readily, easily. And so while we can be compassionate towards ourselves that that's an easy place to go if we really want to be happy and free it's figuring out how to forge a healthy relationship to your sexuality and to your sense of self in an environment that can pull for your more limbic self.
Look over at the questions, both of you, and to see, is there any others that you'd like to ask?
Zach Spafford: So there's a couple in here that I think are interesting.
One is, " can we speak to the reality that one can mature, act with integrity, be honest, and still choose to interact with porn, especially if we define porn as, Material designed to arouse, within these discussions, it's heavily implied that the only correct way to mature is eventually reject porn. What if maturing is embracing sexuality, including erotic content and honesty with our spouse?"
This, this is interesting to me. This is an interesting question. When I was a kid, we lived in Germany for about two years, right after the Berlin wall came down and our next door neighbor who owned the house that we lived also had a shop, a garage under their house.
And in that shop, There was a calendar. I think it was a calendar. This was 30 years ago now, but it was, of a naked woman and as a...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: My neighbor had the same calendar.
Zach Spafford: ...Young,
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: it was A good one.
Zach Spafford: Right? And, this was a commercial concern. Right? So this was not like. The way that we do it here in America, you know, you have a shop down on Main Street. This was in their basement, but it was a real shop. It was a fully functioning business and it was strange to me. That that guy could have that poster in there.
It was strange to me till I was probably 35. Because what I think he was doing and what I'm just going to project onto him, even if it wasn't really what he was doing is he was owning a position that this naked female form is beautiful and I'm going to hang it in my shop and I don't really care what you think.
And my wife can come down here and she can see it and she can just deal with it because I'm not really worried about it. Now, that may not be a position that I would take, but I think it is a position of maturity in that he's willing to say, this is what I like. And I'm not really willing to bend for you because I like this.
Now that said, I also think that it's important to recognize that when you bring a third entity into your sexuality, right? So if Darcy and I were watching porn together, let's say, cause that's another question I'm just going to answer right here. We don't watch porn together, right? If we were bringing that into our relationship, what is the natural recourse in that?
Well, one is that Darcy's going to compare herself to what I'm watching. I'm going to compare myself to what she's seeing. And. I think that is a petri dish for creating and eventually engaging in a lot of dissatisfaction in a relationship. Because at the end of the day, if I can play with her and she can play with me and we can enjoy each other, that third entity is generally going to be a problem at some level at some point I think. That's my opinion. So that,
Darcy Spafford: how would you answer that?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Well, very curious. Yeah. Let me think about that. So, so a third. Okay. Entity as in another person, is always going to disrupt a diad. Now, I don't mean to say that. Okay. I'm just gonna leave it at that. Okay. But I do think one can see, because I think where we sometimes draw the line around this is that any graphic imagery is a problem and I'm not so clear on that. Now. I'm also not somebody that looks at porn. I don't, my husband and I don't. Make porn a part of our lives.
Darcy Spafford: I don't know how there's time for it. Like Like I'm like, I'm so into him.
He's so into me. I'm like, I can't imagine being like wait, hold it This is a good part. We got to stop.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, like right right.
Darcy Spafford: I don't have time for that
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, well also, I mean, I think what I would say is that But that's different than the idea that no graphic imagery could ever be arousing, helpful. I mean, it's a little, how do I say that?
We never look at porn. We've never Googled, you know, topless girls. Let's let's go for it. Let's see what's here. I mean, but that's different than saying...
Zach Spafford: But you've been to Italy..
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly. And that's different than saying that there's never any how to say it, erotica or graphic imagery that we use to kind of cultivate something like one being pictures of us or of me, that is technically pornographic.
Right? So I'm not saying that's the only way one can do it, but one can find, I think, Could potentially out of integrity say, I want to utilize this as a resource. That is something that brings our eroticism to the fore and is good for us and doesn't undermine our connection. I mean, I think it's not my general recommendation, but I do think it's possible that somebody can come to a place of real integrity in a couple where people could really agree and they could have some relationship to erotica in some form that cultivates it.
I remember reading an article by somebody who was in the porn industry, and she said she never looks at it. And Esther Perel said something similar to this, because it actually kind of creates less creativity and demands sort of more novelty. And that they prefer creating the creativity and the novelty in the couple.
But I think couples are always looking for some kind of novelty or some kind of erotic ideas. And how can they create that space to keep the relationship feeling alive while not undermining the couple, not undermining the relationship.
I don't know what that is for everybody and I get a little nervous in two directions. I get a little nervous when people say, "porn is the problem." You can't ever have an image of any kind, that evoke sexual feelings and have it be a good thing. I just don't think that's true. I mean, I think there's many beautiful, tasteful, sensual images. That evoke those feelings in me, and I don't think that undermines anything in me.
Right? On the other hand, I get a little nervous when people are saying, well, this is a good part of our lives and we have to have it because it can also be that only one person feels that way. And the other one's going along with it. Or it's too dependent, and it's sort of not really looking at one's relationship to it. But I'm really genuinely saying, I think it's true that couples can figure out what is truly making their marriage better and cultivates something good and solid for both of them.
And I don't think it has to preclude any form of eroticism outside of the immediate couple.
Zach Spafford: Yeah, I really like that answer it to me. And this is, I think, something that we all have to grow up into, which is let's take a principle and live that. And what that looks like might be a little bit different for you.
And it might be a little bit different for me and at the end of the day. We all have to work it out ourselves.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, what's it actually creating in my life and between us?
Zach Spafford: I love that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. So I think we're at time. There's probably four million questions still.
Zach Spafford: We're here as long as you guys want to be here. We don't have anything else.
Jennifer does have a life and she's an hour later than us. I think you're
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: I think I'm 2 hours later.
Zach Spafford: Are you are you on that? Oh, wow. Currently. Oh, but, um,
it's time to go to bed.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah, exactly. Yes, what is the data for porn together? I don't actually know. It's a good question. Actually. What about romantic movies and erotic shows?
Yeah, exactly. So I don't know what the data is on porn use. I think Gottman had some that showed some negative correlations of porn use and happiness in a couple. Certainly. It is when 1 person's viewing it. What I don't know about is, if couples are viewing it, what the data shows on that. But I think it's going back to this point, a lot of people are looking for way, again, where it can be really afraid of eroticism, but eroticism is pretty important. That is to say, a lot of good couples are thinking about ideas that turn them on, right? They're thinking about a movie that they watched and that was a romantic scene or something sexual. And they're evoking that to move from the day to day of life towards the sexual.
And so, again, this is an issue of a spectrum and what is it that I. Want to draw upon in my, file of ideas to help me move into that space people that I've worked with who feel like they can't do that. Or that's unrighteous because "as a man thinketh so is he." I say, well, first of all, it's as a woman thinketh is no problem.
It's just as if you don't feel the freedom to cultivate your erotic thought. I think it can be very, very difficult to have a thriving sexual relationship, because sex is kind of a place you go psychologically. And so what draws you there? What helps you cultivate it? What helps you get there? And what helps you get there in a way that doesn't disrupt something in the couple or disrupt something in you, but gives you some space to cultivate this weird, wonderful part of being human.
Darcy Spafford: Amen. My favorite. I'll just throw this out there for me personally, because. We don't use porn, but I love to think about the last time and what I loved about it and how amazing it was and how my body felt like. That is a very useful tool for me.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Right?
Darcy Spafford: So, if I can't think about it, then I'm not getting very far.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Yeah. Well, yeah, you know, some people say you shouldn't think about sex, but personally, I think about it all the time because I'm often thinking about the experiences that we've had and and they are like a source of. Of happiness for me, and they're a source of keeping that pilot light going. I'm not even doing because I think I need to keep the pilot light going.
It's because I think thinking about sex is a wonderful part of living a good life. So, again, it's just what is it creating? Is it creating more of a sense of connection in the marriage or of a sense of peace and happiness? Or is it a way of escaping life? Is it a way of living life? Or is it a way of escaping life?
Is it a way of being in your relationship? Or is it a way of getting away from your relationship? I think those are the questions. To answer much more than the sexuality itself. So similar to your "porn is" it's like "sex is," right? So, how are we relating to it? And what is it cultivating in our life?
Zach Spafford: And the more that we can be in relation to it without getting just kind of lost.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: And that's right.
Zach Spafford: Anxiety about it. The more likely it is that I think we're going to be able to enjoy those experiences.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, and somebody says, what about do it yourself porn? I mean, that, I think that's an amazing experience.
Darcy Spafford: Amazing.
Zach Spafford: I euphemistically call those fancy pictures.
Darcy Spafford: I'll be honest. It was like, cause this, this was like out of my comfort zone the first time.
But it's empowering and
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Absolutely it is.
Darcy Spafford: Be like, gosh, I am freaking hot, like, you know, even though I have a children, I'm not perfect. Right. But like, it's empowering to be like, wow, wow.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly. Right. I've worked with women who've gone and got an iPhone photos and so on, or even just with a selfie stick or whatever, but having getting dressed up and then seeing themselves as they're seen. Seeing how beautiful and erotic and sexual they can be is like, at least as much as a turn on for them as it is for their partner for their spouse.
And yeah, very, very, powerful. And again, there's something about this, I think, feminine beauty and there's like, almost a spirituality in it. Right? I think that gaze that sexual gaze is powerful. Wonderful stuff. Is there a way to cultivate that? That creates something deep, rich and transcendent in us.
I think absolutely being smart about it, of course, but that's absolutely there. I think when we, you know, if you grow up in Italy. Like, the beauty of the human form is all over the place and it is beautiful. It's remarkable. I have to tell a funny story here in a minute, but, but, it just is more normal.
I think in, say, Utah, there's more of this feeling like anything that's about nudity or the body is sexual and evil. Yes, it's just it's more anxiety evoking. And so it becomes like anything becomes sexual. And so it creates this kind of false divide that doesn't allow us to embrace the beauty of our bodies and the beauty of sexuality.
The epicurean philosophy was one that the sensual can cultivate beauty and spiritual sustenance in us and we're a theology of the body. And so how do we relate to our sexuality and the body in a way that cultivates that spiritual transcendence? We go and do couple's tours in Europe. And we went and saw the David, you know, the, when we've been in Florence and, and it's just phenomenal. I mean, it's
Zach Spafford: just a giant 18 foot statue of a naked man.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Exactly.
And it's just exactly for anyone doesn't know, but it's just an incredible, like, talk about how the human body is a, is a art form.
But I had a friend who, they were telling me the story that they. That the mom in this family just loves art and art history and finally got to Florence with their family and got to see the David and their 5 year old was just kind of shocked that mom was so into the David, like mom's talking about it, taking pictures and the 5 year old who kind of grown up in Utah's thinking like, why is mom like this naked guy so much?
So anyway, so the next day they're in Florence and and they lost the mom just in the crowds of people. They couldn't find her and so they're trying to figure out where she was. And so the 5 year old's like, dad, dad, dad, I bet she went back to look at that naked guy,
Zach Spafford: Yes, yes she did.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: But if you see the David, you, you would be back there too. It's pretty amazing.
Zach Spafford: Hey, there's a question in here and I don't know if you're, if you're willing to stick around. We are, but yes, I'll give it
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: just 3 more minutes or so. And then I'll go, but go ahead Zach..
Zach Spafford: Yeah. One of the questions said, Can you speak to the issue when a spouse is trying to understand and have an honest conversation around the porn use?
There's so much shame around porn that even when the spouse is curious, the user often is defensive just from the question. They deflect their shame by blaming their spouse. this can make it challenging for the spouse. That tries to be curious to get to the root of the motivation to use porn. So I'll, I'll take a stab at it and then I'd love to hear your thoughts as, as someone who was the person in this space, right?
That's a tough question because I don't know what's going to happen. And I think it would be worthwhile for the person who really is curious to say, okay, what's the, what's the way that I have reacted or, or how have I chosen to deal with this in the past and start to show up as often as you can. And as meaningfully as you can from a, from that position of curiosity, showing your spouse, Hey, I really can't handle this.
I realized that you're viewing pornography. I really do understand that it's not about me. What I want is to know you more than I am Concerned about you viewing pornography because in knowing you I can actually help you and be with you and choose you If you can show up in that way, I think you'll find that your spouse is gonna become more willing to open up It's not gonna happen on day four It might happen on day 44, but if you're willing to do that, then I think that's
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: yeah I think similarly I mean they're mapping whether or not Can you really tolerate this conversation and, or are you just saying the right words?
You know, did you just hear someone said, you need to act curious, but really you're completely overwhelmed and ready to judge and even if the person is perfectly willing to hear. Am I ready and willing to talk about and expose who I actually am even to myself? And I think that can be very hard for people, because that's developmentally stepping into a different place.
If I want to lie to myself about it, or mask it, or just say, I'm going to, I'm going to change. It's going to be different. It was an accident. I don't know exactly. Tomorrow's a new day. You know, it's, you have to be ready to actually say, okay, look. This is the truth about me that that takes something within the person themselves.
And sometimes that takes some time. But one way to break the collusion in the pretending something's going to change that isn't or, of not actually dealing more directly and honestly with the marriage and the two people in it is. You as one of those partners can show up more honestly, can show up more curiously because that does really have a meaningful impact.
On the marriage and on the other person, so you can always look at your part in being in a collusive or dishonest marriage and change your part in it. I mean, that's what pressures the growth.
So, Zach and Darcy, tell us a little bit about where people can find your resources if they want more support, want to listen to your podcast.
Tell us about that.
Darcy Spafford: Our podcast is called Thrive Beyond Pornography.
Zach Spafford: Because that's where you're going. That's what we're trying to get you to, to thriving, not just like quitting a bad behavior or overcoming a bad behavior. Really thriving in a way that you love your life and you love your spouse and you love the life that you've created together.
Darcy Spafford: We're on social media, but I, I am in charge of our social media and I have eight children, so we don't post very much on it. I, we really need to hire someone. Our
Zach Spafford: Instagram is Thrive Beyond Pornography, but... The N is an X because you can't use that word on the internet.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Oh yeah. That's awesome. Yeah.
Zach Spafford: Find us there. And you can also find us at our website, zachspafford.Com.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Great. Wonderful.
Darcy Spafford: And I think everyone should go to the Art of Loving Retreat.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Thank you. That's right. So I, I just, I'm reading. Okay, good.
Darcy Spafford: I really want to, I really want to go. I'll be honest. I'm like, can I get an invite?
Zach Spafford: It's here is town.
And if you come to it, we can all go out
to lunch. You have to pass on. Oh, so
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: Zach, are you going to be there? Are you coming to it, Zach?
Zach Spafford: haven't signed up yet.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: You haven't signed up yet. Okay. Okay, well, listen, so the art of loving is a retreat that it's so first of all, the art of loving is my men's course, and it's a popular course.
My husband was just saying this to me tonight looking at, that, so the course is really about helping men look at their relationship to their sexuality and their sense of self and how these two go together and how to grow out of immature behaviors In their relationship to sexuality and their partner and how to grow into more integrity and more ability to love through sexuality.
Um, we're doing a live version of the course in Saint George. And that's November 6 to the 8th, and we have other couples retreats in the fall. Those are all sold out, but there's still some tickets left for the art of loving retreat. And we are giving for the next 48 hours, 150 dollars off the retreat ticket for anybody that's here on the call.
So. I think Christy will be posting that in the chat. Anybody that in the next 48 hours is a link to that. You can get 150 off and then there's something else we're offering. What is it? Is there something else? And also we had some tickets open up for the S. Y. R. retreat. So there, we do have some tickets available for that.
If someone's interested. Okay, good. And S. Y. R. Is strengthening your relationship. So that's in October. What are the dates on that Christy? October 16th through 18th. Okay. 16th to the 18th. Also in Saint George. What's the name of that retreat center? Homestead Ranch Resort. Homestead Ranch Resort. So, so strength.
It's so cute. Yeah, it's a great place. We've presented there before. And so strengthening your relationship is a 3 day, uh, immersive, um. You know, relationship course to help you really look at the dynamics in your marriage, the dynamics in how you relate to yourself and how it shapes how you're in the marriage and how to grow your marriage up.
So, so we have a couple of spots there. Was there something else I was supposed to say? Christy? I can't think of anything.
Yes, the recording will be available at some point.
Yes, it will be. Yes, I don't think we were going to talk about anything specifically unless you wanted to mention the Adam Miller event you have coming up.
Oh, sure. So is that just for people in so room for 2 is my paid podcast where I'm working with real couples around. Sex and intimacy, we just finished, or we're just finishing a series, Zach and Kelly, not this sack. But Zach and Kelly, where he had a porn, issue. Talked about it in the marriage really, shook up the marriage and so I've been working with them on the coaching podcast, but, we're doing a live episode on Friday at 530 central.
That right? At 430 central, okay, got it. So, 330 mountain time, 530 Eastern time, um, and where I'm going to be talking to Adam Miller, who is a Mormon philosopher and talking a lot about, um, understanding what love is in a marriage, how to understand the spirituality of sex. He's just an excellent thinker. I love talking to him.
And so we're doing a podcast together on Friday. And so that's open to. People who are subscribers to room for 2.
Darcy Spafford: If you're not already go do it. Now. I tell everybody about it. It's amazing. I just wish it was like an everyday release. Not just once a week or once every other week. I'm like, come on. I know.
There's lots of people that need Jennifer's
help. We could
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: awesome.
Yeah, that just puts me into a panic attack. Christy's the 1 who comes up with the catchy titles and gets the things written up and everything. So, yeah, can't imagine Christy's life would life quality would go down if we were releasing 1 every day. That's for sure. It is worth subscribing and I'll be posting about that event tomorrow.
So you don't need to remember all the details, but I'll post about it and it's going to be a great conversation to spend all week with us. Yeah, okay, good. Thank you. Everybody for being here and , we'll see you next month at the next Facebook live. Thanks so much and I was going to say, Zach and Kelly, Zach in Darcy.
I am not Kelly here sharing your story and for the good you're doing in the world and what you're offering to people to help them think about their challenges around this in a, in a, in a more hopeful way. So that's really wonderful. I respect it. Okay, all right, thanks so much everybody and we'll talk to you soon.
Bye. Bye. Bye.
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