Episode 218 - Marriage Summit - Connection Through Hurt

Nov 06, 2023

 Episode 218 - Connection Through Hurt

Connection Through Hurt - Zach and Darcy

Watch on YouTube, click HERE

Hey everybody. And welcome to thrive beyond pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. Today we are. I'm sharing a. Video. And if you want to watch the video, you can go to the YouTube channel. I'll put a link to it in the description. But today I'm sharing a video that we did with our friend, Brett, Nikula.

He put on an intimacy course that you could participate in.

If you want to get access to that, I'll put a link to that in the description as well. But I wanted to share this with you as a presentation that we did on communication. And we, I want you to each of you to have a moment, an opportunity to listen to this, because I think we did a really great job of giving some really key components in the process of communicating through the pornography struggle for both the husband and the wife.

Darcy gives her perspective and I think it's a very genuine and valuable perspective. So if you are sitting there and you're listening to this and maybe your spouse needs to hear it, it would be a great thing to share with them. It'd be a great thing to share with people that, you know, might be struggling. I would love it if you share it with them because of this is to me, one of the key components that helped Darcy and I move forward in our lives.

And you'll hear a lot about our story in this.

I hope that you find this valuable and I hope you have a great week and we'll talk to you next week.

So, you guys are coming on here today. Obviously, I followed your guys's work and I wonder how I came across you guys. I'd have to think back, Obviously, I, as soon as I saw your work, I was very intrigued. I kind of have a personal story, which we talked about on, on my podcast, Zach. But I also have, have listened to your guys podcast and I know that, there are many, many, many relationships struggling with pornography use.

Brett Nikula: And those skills that you guys talk about on that podcast, they go beyond just pornography use. I listened to them and I'm applying them to all kinds of different situations with my clients, with, within my own life that, they're not necessarily just specifically to, to porn, but they relate to, you know, these different struggles that relationships face.

Brett Nikula: With, with like breach of trust and going outside the boundaries of relationships, which sometimes is like financially and, um, and, uh, there's, there's more there that aren't coming to me, but there's all these like little ways that we experience hurt from each other within relationships and I was like, okay, we need Zach and Darcy.

Brett Nikula: Thanks for coming on and joining us to come on. And we can talk about, just ways to maneuver through that. So you guys, like you guys did can stay connected and, and thrive and have the relationship that we would have hoped for and wanted, even before we knew of the hurt and experienced the hurt and the effect that whatever it was that we dealt with in the relationship had on

Zach Spafford: us.

Zach Spafford: So. Yeah, it's interesting. I, I like to say porn is not the problem. It can be a problem and it can be problematic, but it's usually not the problem. It's usually an indicator. Of something else that's going on in the relationship and we're going to talk a little bit about that today because I think this is going to, this is really a good place to start if you are struggling with just kind of figuring out how do I, how do I communicate with my spouse when I'm deeply injured, mentally, emotionally.

Darcy Spafford: And I think it goes along with just like when we thought our marriage would be one way, but it's different. Yeah. Like in any area, you know, like I think. Um, going into marriage, we all have an idea of what our marriage is going to be like and what we dream of. And, you know, it's all picture perfect, right?

Darcy Spafford: And then like, you get married and you're like, "What the heck!"

Zach Spafford: Yeah,

Zach Spafford: this is not what I thought it was. and

Brett Nikula: so, okay. So maybe what I'll do is I will. I will just, uh, kind of fade into the background here and I'll let you guys take over. I'll be here if, uh, if you want to bring me in at any point, but I'll let you guys introduce who you are, what you are all about and what your plan is here for today.

Zach Spafford: All right. All right.

Zach Spafford: All right. We'll let you go. Well, uh, good afternoon to you guys all, well, most everybody except for California.

Zach Spafford: If you're here from California, it's good morning, but everybody else it's good afternoon. So, uh, I'm Zach and this is Darcy and today we're going to talk about reconnecting through hurt in a relationship. And I think that this is going to be just an awesome way to just start that conversation within your relationship because every single one of us.

Zach Spafford: Has been in a relationship where we've been hurt. That's the reality of it. So I think it's important to start with understanding that relationships are key. To understanding yourself growing up and creating a fulfilling life. There's a guy named Dr. David Schnarich. He talks about, marriage is a crucible.

Zach Spafford: It is. And if you know what a crucible is, it's a, it's a place where you, melt and forge, , And the place where you've melt and forge metal, turn it into something better or more valuable is, uh, I think a really good analogy. And the truth in the reality of every single meaningful relationship in your life is that disagreement and discomfort are inherent in them.

Zach Spafford: And I just want to. Help everybody here understand that I don't know of a perfect relationship. I love to say this, there's no such thing as a perfect relationship, but there are deeply connected, meaningful and intimate relationships. And one of the biggest shifts that each of us has to make is to understand that getting through this disagreement and working in this disagreement to create the relationship that you want is crucial to creating a thriving life and a thriving marriage, which is what we love to focus on.

Zach Spafford: So why would you listen to us? That's all of us with, that's our family, all eight of our children. And we made them just her and me, nobody, nobody else. So we're, we're quite proud of them. We, we love them. So. Um, why would

Darcy Spafford: you listen to us? So we have personally done this work and I've gone through these experiences ourselves, like we, we, you know, we didn't just go to school for psychology or whatever, but we have lived this experience and we've come out stronger, more connected and, and just overall way happier than we ever imagined we could, could be.

Darcy Spafford: and really, we've done this work on both sides. In the early years for me, I wanted to put all the blame on Zach. He was the problem. He needs to fix everything in our relationship. And, and that, that didn't work out very well. And so. You know, part of our journey was me also taking responsibility for the things that I do have control over and the ways in which that I could grow and, strengthen our relationship.

Zach Spafford: Yeah. And one of the things that we struggled with was my pornography struggle. And in fact, the work that we do is we help men quit porn, women heal the hurt that they feel and help couples create thriving. Relationships beyond the pornography for themselves individually and for their relationship and I think that's a really important component of understanding and resolving hurt in a relationship is that you have work to do for yourself.

Zach Spafford: There are a lot of components that are just your side of the street that you have a lot more control over than you probably think you do or that you're willing to take on. Let's be honest. Some of you are like Darcy was in the beginning of our struggle. Well, this is Zach's problem. My, my spouse is not doing X.

Zach Spafford: And once they resolve that, then we can have a good relationship. And so it's important to recognize that the work that you do on your side of the street is much, much more valuable than the work that you are expecting your spouse to do. And. The way that we came to this conversation was I was really struggling with porn.

Zach Spafford: I struggled for many years I viewed porn for the first time when I was eight years old and I did not have the tools I did not have the skills. I did not have the processes that would assist me in putting porn behind me and This 10 year journey that we went on together that Darcy and I went on together that helped me create those for myself so that I could Quit porn, but really more than that.

Zach Spafford: So that we could create a relationship that I could help, could help create the relationship that I want. Darcy, you know, she struggled with how my pornography struggle made her feel. It was. You know, her holding feelings against me, like what was going on for her was she was making what I was doing about her instead of choosing to know me, instead of choosing to know where I was, instead of trying to understand, it was very much a, you're the problem fix this sort of dynamic.

Zach Spafford: So that's the work that we do, but I want to start this conversation by understanding what. Intimacy is intimacy is a really interesting idea. I think we all think we want intimacy. And the truth is the reality is none of us really like intimacy because it's a very difficult concept, not just to understand, but to engage with mentally, emotionally, physically intimacy is tough.

Zach Spafford: So my favorite definition of intimacy is knowing. The other person in your relationship, knowing who they are to the best of your ability and, and being able to choose them in spite of all their. Very flawed realities. I mean, you know, I love to talk about movies. Movies are a fun thing for me. One of my favorite characters in the movies is Severus Snape.

Zach Spafford: If you don't know who Severus Snape is, he's a Harry Potter character.

Darcy Spafford: Don't feel bad because I don't

Zach Spafford: know who he is. She's never watched the movies or read the books. Right. But Severus Snape is a very deeply flawed man. He's a difficult man to know. He's a difficult man to like. He's a difficult man. In general, and yet by the end of the story, the, the Harry Potter films, he is one of many people's favorite characters because we finally get to know who he is at the end of the story.

Zach Spafford: We finally get to understand him, what motivated him and what is going on for him. And interestingly, those things that were motivating him were the things that he hid from the world the most. And this is what intimacy looks like. It's knowing someone to the best. Of your ability, even when the things that you learn about them are things that you don't like.

Zach Spafford: Now, Severus Snape's, the intimacy that we gain with that character is that, he actually has real and meaningful feelings for Harry Potter's mother, but sometimes it's not quite so romantic. Like, for instance, the things that Darcy knows about me that she doesn't like. I, for instance, I have post nasal drip, I don't want to gross anybody out, but that's something Darcy doesn't like about me, but she knows it about me.

Zach Spafford: She knows who I am. Those are things that she sees in me and also still chooses closeness with me. One of the most difficult things that people struggle with in their relationships is knowing their spouse. And why don't we want to know our spouse?

Darcy Spafford: And I know for me, when we were newly married, I wanted to really hold on to that picture perfect idea of what I thought our marriage would be.

Darcy Spafford: And so, even when I had feelings of like, maybe something's off, or maybe something's not right, I would often, oftentimes push those away and push those down because I wanted to have in my mind and create in my mind what I thought marriage should be. And being able to... Bring those things to light and actually look those straight in the eye and face them and deal with those truthes are hard and, and then it changes the way you, you feel about your spouse and the way you look at your spouse, the way you think about your spouse. And that was, a really big struggle for me personally. Yeah.

Zach Spafford: And I think that that indicates a couple of things about us.

Zach Spafford: One is that we want our lives to look great and amazing and be awesome, but also that sometimes we are not willing to face the difficulties that make life kind of stink. So, for instance, I would come home from work on occasion and just kind of complain about my day and say, I'm frustrated with this or this didn't go well or whatever it was.

Zach Spafford: And Darcy, what was your favorite thing to ask me?

Darcy Spafford: "Are you going to get fired?"

Zach Spafford: I can't tell you how many times she would ask me that question. And it was difficult because this created for me a meaning frame created in my mind, an idea that made. Talking to her about my reality, very difficult. It made me feel as though she couldn't handle what was going on for me.

Zach Spafford: It made me feel like she wasn't willing or capable of dealing with what was going on with me because what was really behind. Are you going to get fired?

Darcy Spafford: Anxiety.

Zach Spafford: Anxiety. About what?

Darcy Spafford: About you being the breadwinner.

Zach Spafford: Yeah. About me taking care of her. Everything's going to be okay. Is she going to be okay.

Zach Spafford: All of that. And I think that that's a really good place to, you know, get a, get a grip on yourself and start to understand, is what I'm asking for about me or is what I'm asking for about knowing my spouse and being with my spouse and being close to them? The reality is that I was never a knight in shining armor.

Zach Spafford: I was never good at that, but I did try to be real with her and that was difficult at times. And we learned to grow up a little bit. And one of the main concepts, one of the most important things that we learned as we started to become more intimate was to differentiate and differentiation is probably one of my most favorite ideas.

Zach Spafford: It's probably one of the most difficult ones to explain, but it is. really the main concept of creating a more stable intimate relationship. So the way that I like to define differentiation is to become more solid in yourself. So your sense of self becomes as solid as possible. I'm being the person I expect myself to be.

Zach Spafford: I'm being as good as I can, while not expecting yourself to be perfect, making choices that That, that I can defend openly and honestly, not, uh, you know, if you make a mistake and you defend that as, no, it's not a mistake. That's not, that's not being solid in yourself. It's about saying, even if I make a mistake or make a choice that my partner doesn't like, it's about being able to say, I did my best.

Zach Spafford: I think this was the right move at the time and honestly, I did as much as I could knowing what I knew that's a solid position, whereas I think a lot of what we do when we argue or disagree in in relationships is we take a position and we entrench in that position, even if we don't honestly believe it's a A right or good or solid position.

Zach Spafford: So differentiation is becoming solid in yourself while still choosing closeness with your, with the other person. And I think that's part of the, the way that we can be solid is to recognize. If I want to be with this person, if I love this person, if I find this relationship meaningful, I can't just take a position.

Zach Spafford: I have to acknowledge how that position impacts my partner. Acknowledge how what I'm choosing and thinking about and trying and doing is going to impact the relationship. And sometimes those impacts will be minor. Sometimes those impacts will be large. For instance, we have a dog. I don't want a dog. So that has been a difficult.

Zach Spafford: She's a giant dog. She, she's supposed to be, she's supposed to be, Oh, I think she's in front of the camera anyhow. Right. So this is a component where we are working through, like, we're not perfect. We haven't figured it all out all the time, but this is a component where we're working through, like, I have a position about dogs and Darcy has a position about dogs and the impacts of those things.

Zach Spafford: But. In the process of not agreeing about this dog, we still choose each other, sometimes begrudgingly. Sometimes, uh, it's not as cut and dry and clean as we'd like it to be. But we try to work together to be close and choose each other. And then the last part of this is to do all of that without getting lost in the other person's anxiety.

Zach Spafford: And that's probably the most difficult part. When it comes to pornography, which is... Which is the struggle that we really went through together. Um, when I really started to pull out of using pornography as a way to manage myself. Darcy's question to me was almost always have you looked at porn? And that question was about her anxiety.

Zach Spafford: It was about her trying to figure out whether or not she was okay in our relationship. As a result, I had to let go of dealing with that question. I would tell her the answer, I would say no, and then what would you ask after that? Are you lying to me? Are you lying to me? Right? And I, there's no answer for that.

Zach Spafford: I can't prove it to you one way or the other. So what I would say is, you're going to have to figure that out. Like, I don't have an answer for you. I've told you my answer already. I've told you what I'm, what I can tell you. You have to figure that out. So I stopped getting lost in her anxiety. I stopped trying to manage her around my struggles.

Zach Spafford: And that's where I started to become more and more differentiated. And she started to see that. And what did you do? I had to

Zach Spafford: change. I, I started to grow up. I started to, instead of asking him what I needed to know so that I could feel okay, you know, in my mind, I started trying to really get to know him and get to really understand him and listen to what was going on for him.

Zach Spafford: So instead of like, you know, have you done X? It became, how are you like, what's going on for you? How are you feeling emotionally? In what ways are you, are you, um, dealing with these hard, hard things that come up in your life, right? Because I knew that in the past that pornography was something that he went to when he was struggling.

Zach Spafford: And so instead of focusing on the pornography, it became focusing on what was actually going on for him. Yeah. And that made a big

Zach Spafford: difference. Huge difference. So we've talked about what is intimacy. We've talked about what is differentiation. Let's talk about why we struggle. So after Because Well, I was just going to say, because each of the, each of the two previous concepts are hindered by this set of understanding, right?

Zach Spafford: So the better you understand this, the more you're going to be able to deal with the previous two concepts, intimacy and differentiation.

Zach Spafford: Yes. So. Gosh, how many, it was probably about four, five years ago. Zach and I were doing really well. Um, we had kind of, I would say like overcome the porn struggle or whatever, but we were still having some, some.

Zach Spafford: Communication struggles and, and we had started to identify some patterns in our relationship where things would get hard and we would talk and we would, it felt like we were just constantly like triggering each other and it would just explode. And I went to my therapist and we actually went together and I was like, okay, like, can you help us work through this, this one aspect of, of, of what we keep seeing over and over again.

Zach Spafford: And one of the things that he pointed out to us was the idea of basically that everything comes back down to these four negative core beliefs that we hold about ourselves, um, that we're unlovable, incapable, not enough, and then body image issues. And as we started to communicate about the things that were triggering us, we started to see that we had this pattern where Zach would say something, and then I would feel unloved, and then I would spout back something to him.

Zach Spafford: And then that would trigger his I'm not enough, right, because we all have different ideas that we struggle with deep inside and and mine is always. That, um, I'm not enough and I'm unlovable, right? Like those, and those came from childhood and just, you know, past, past issues. And so, and for Zach, it was always, he wasn't enough.

Zach Spafford: And so once we started to see that what was going on for us was we were essentially triggering these negative core beliefs in ourselves, then we were able to see it for what it was, you know, calm ourselves down and have those conversations and realizing, okay, this is why it's happening.

Zach Spafford: Well, let me, let me give you an example of my, I'm not enough.

Zach Spafford: We were driving South out of Salt Lake City and I'm doing my best dealing with traffic. You know, it's city traffic and we don't live in the city anymore. I grew up in Chicagoland, so I know how to drive in traffic. I've driven in traffic my whole life. That's where I learned to drive is in traffic. Darcy says, slow down because he's weaving in and out of traffic, moving in and out of the cars.

Zach Spafford: I'm going at my speed. I'm moving in and out of the cars. And she says, slow down. And I'm like, I'm doing my best. And I get mad. I'm so frustrated because I don't understand why she has to tell me how to drive. I hate it when she tells me how to drive. It's to me, it's like. I'm 43 years old. I've been driving since I was probably 10.

Zach Spafford: Uh, no, I'll tell you the first time I drove a car, I was 10. So I've been driving for a long time and I just, I get so frustrated and angry. And as we, We are working to get to a place where we, we understand each other better. One of the things that I learned and one of the things that this therapist helped us by pointing out was he said, all of that anger and frustration boils down to the, the sense that you don't feel like you're enough, like you've done your best, you've done everything that you can, and you're not enough for your wife.

Zach Spafford: She doesn't trust you. She doesn't value the work that you do. That's that's what you believe now. Is that true? No. No. No. I don't think that was true, but what I do think was going on for me in that moment is that I had not dealt with my sense of not being enough. I had not dealt with understanding that I am enough, and as I was able to take a step back from that, the next thing that was available to me was to understand what was going on for Darcy in that moment.

Zach Spafford: So what was going on for you in that moment? I felt unloved.

Zach Spafford: Why? Cause if he truly loved me, this is how our brains talk to us, right? Then he would be driving more carefully. He would be driving in a way that made me feel safe and cared for and loved.

Zach Spafford: Right. And I had no idea. I didn't know that that's what she was saying.

Zach Spafford: She wasn't saying that out loud, but what she was saying was, I want you to make me feel more safe. But she didn't say that out loud. What she said was slow down. You're driving too fast. I don't like, I don't like when you do this. Right. And I took that to mean, well, you're not enough, you're not doing it well.

Zach Spafford: And once we were able to stop, take a step back, understand our own core negative beliefs, and then start talking about those, everything shifted. This is while we're, you know, barreling down the I 15. It's

Darcy Spafford: a four and a half hour drive about, you know, so we had some time to really work on it and talk

Zach Spafford: about it.

Zach Spafford: Plenty of time to self coach. And it was a great, it was a great experience for each of us because it helped us see what Was underlying the issue. And again, this is, this goes back to the comment I made earlier to Brett. It said, porn is not the problem. Me feeling incapable or not enough is not the problem.

Zach Spafford: It's problematic and it can be a problem. But the problem is when we don't take the time to step back and address these things to the best of our ability, we will find that we will fight. And I don't know anybody who goes into their marriage and thinks, yeah, I want to knock down drag out fight every, every time I talk to my spouse, because that just feels terrible.

Zach Spafford: So let's talk about, uh, we're going to give you maybe like, oh, I don't know, 20 different tools that you can use. To talk to each other, we're going to start with acknowledge and validate feelings. This is a really, I think, fundamental component because once we know, okay, what do, what do I want? I do want intimacy and I also want to be solid in myself.

Zach Spafford: So I don't want to get lost in anxiety. I don't want to get upset every time my wife is not happy with me. I don't want to be. Rude or mean to her then and I understand my own core beliefs Then I can start to look externally and go hey, I see right so that let's take the the driving example I can see how this makes you feel unloved even if I don't agree with it And I I think that's valid because you know, it's not because it's not that my driving is bad It's that that's how you feel and how you feel is real how we feel is real I know that seems a little bit strange to say but you're like I can't argue her out of her feelings.

Zach Spafford: I can't say your feelings aren't valid and it be of value to either of us. So, we just start by understanding and acknowledging feelings are real.

Zach Spafford: Create a safe space.

Zach Spafford: Let's be careful here. What I'm not saying is that you have to always be toothless. In your conversations and being safe is different than being coddled, if that makes sense. So hard things, things that are important to talk about, they're not necessarily going to make you feel good all the time.

Zach Spafford: That's not necessarily a lack of safety. That might be a reality that you need to face. So being Being able to create that quiet, comfortable place where you can talk without interruptions or distractions is more about creating an environment where you can address real and meaningful issues than it is about making sure your spouse never has to confront the realities of their life.

Zach Spafford: That's essential to recognize that we're talking about two different things when we talk about safe space many times. I think in popular culture right now, we're saying, well, let's create a safe space where no one ever feels offended. It's really tough to talk about important things without offending someone.

Zach Spafford: So, what we're not saying is, don't ever offend your spouse. Don't ever say something that's important. What we are saying is, create a space where you can address those things directly, but lovingly, meaningfully, and together. Part of that, I think, is going to be an understanding of practicing active listening.

Zach Spafford: So giving your full attention to your partner, giving your full attention to your spouse and voiding, interrupting them or formulating your responses while they're speaking, there is nothing wrong with taking a beat after your spouse has stopped talking to formulate what it is that you want to say that is meaningful and valuable.

Zach Spafford: So if you want to really understand your spouse, listening quietly, contemplatively, and And ensuring that you hear their full conversation, the full conversation. And a good way that you know, that you've been actively listening is to restate what it is that they are saying from their perspective, not from your perspective.

Zach Spafford: Right? So if what I hear you, if what I hear you saying is, and then restate their argument for them better than they may have stated it, that's tough. But that means that, you know, you've been listening. Uh, I statements are a good way to. Avoid hurt. I mean, we've all heard this. This is how I feel, et cetera, et cetera.

Zach Spafford: But I would, you know, the more you actively listen, the more you restate your partner's argument from their position, the more likely it is that they're going to be able to, to trust that you are in this discussion for the right reasons.

Darcy Spafford: And for this next one, avoid blaming accusations. I feel like when we feel deeply hurt by our partner, It's so hard not to just blame our spouse and accuse them and, and, and oftentimes, right?

Darcy Spafford: Like we're like, I have all the evidence of all the evidence of how you are to blame and you are at fault. Um,

Zach Spafford: Yeah. Porn is a really good

Darcy Spafford: example of that. It really is. Or anything really. I mean, lots of different things, but

Zach Spafford: there's so many different ways. It's like when even the driving, go back to the driving, like I'm clearly to blame because I'm the one driving.

Zach Spafford: You have no control over that. Right? Yes. Exactly.

Zach Spafford: But, but that's exactly it. In focusing in on what was going on for you, there was no blame. It was like, I don't feel safe because I don't really like moving through traffic, the way that you're moving through traffic, not because the way that you're moving through traffic is wrong, but because it doesn't help me feel comfortable and, you know, recognizing that she has high anxiety on these sorts of things is.

Zach Spafford: A huge component of that. And it hasn't really got anything to do with me because I could be driving with somebody else and they'd be like, Hey, go faster.

Darcy Spafford: Right. And the next one, emphasize, empathize and show compassion. This, this one, I think is so valuable because I know for me, when Zach was struggling with porn and Just really like anything that he struggles with.

Darcy Spafford: Right. It's if I can put myself in his shoes and see what's going on for him. Like I knew he didn't want to be hurting me. I knew he didn't want to be actively looking at porn or even choosing it. I knew, but in that moment, like it's really hard to put yourself in, in his shoes and what's going on for him.

Darcy Spafford: And so for me, as I was able to do that, I was able to see like, wow, he's hurting too. This isn't who he wants to be. This isn't about me right and and being able to work through that hurt and and understand and I and I think on for him on his side to he was able to start to start to see like, okay, well, what's it like to be in my wife's shoes?

Darcy Spafford: How might this make my wife feel? And, and why might it make her feel that way? You know, if, if you go back to the negative core beliefs, right? A lot of women have body image issues and when something like porn's, uh, brought up in the marriage right, that, that obviously can trigger that, that core negative belief that we have about ourselves.

Darcy Spafford: And, and so like, for, for him being able to see that and see, oh. I can see, I can see why this is bringing this up for you, and I can see how my actions are affecting you.

Zach Spafford: Well, and I think it's important to recognize that no matter how beautiful you are, porn's very rarely, if ever, about you. And we've worked with a lot of couples who are in that same environment.

Zach Spafford: So being able to show empathy and compassion, you know, from my perspective to how is this hurting you and from your perspective to how is, why is he choosing this, that starts to create an openness that is essential if you really want to communicate through the difficulties.

Zach Spafford: I

Darcy Spafford: love vulnerability. Right?

Darcy Spafford: Being able to be vulnerable and being able to really express how it is that you're fear feeling your fears, your insecurities, like really truly sharing what's going on for you. That's hard. It is really, really, really hard. And And it's scary because it's like, I can, I can share what's really going on for me and I can share my feelings and my hurts and my worries and my anxieties and all of that.

Darcy Spafford: And then my partner could hurt me again, and that will hurt even more. Right. And it, and it becomes like this, this scary cycle of. Of, of hurting, but it, but it also, to me, I felt like it's freedom because being able to communicate what is going on for me, being able to still choose my marriage, still work hard at my marriage and still know that I could get hurt again.

Darcy Spafford: You know, like a lot of times when I'm working with women, they're like, how do I guarantee that this never happens again or that I never get hurt again? And, and there's just no guarantees in life. You know, I always say like your husband could literally get run over by a truck tomorrow. Like that would hurt really bad.

Darcy Spafford: Like you, you just, you don't have control over what someone else does. You only have control over what you do.

Zach Spafford: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think that's a two way street, like, I don't have control over you. And I think one of the reasons why we fail to communicate openly and fail to choose our spouse and fail to choose intimacy is that we want control.

Zach Spafford: We want to control how we feel. We want to control what they do. We want to control how they

Darcy Spafford: feel. We want to control how they perceive us. Yes.

Zach Spafford: So the more you can let go of control. And focus of control of things you don't have control over and focus on the things that you do have control over, like, for instance, taking responsibility for your part, that is an opportunity to create much more value in your relationship.

Zach Spafford: And I think it's important, like taking responsibility for your part. One of the key components there is being willing to choose the best parts of your spouse's argument. and deal with those directly. We've all been in an argument with someone. And at some point, you grab on to some part of their argument that has nothing to do with anything, but they were wrong about it.

Zach Spafford: And so you beat that part of the argument to death. Instead of looking at the parts of the argument or parts of the discussion that are Meaningful and do have important components that you do need to address. And this is really key. If you want to fight fair in your relationship, if you want to have a good, meaningful discussion with your spouse, when you listen to their discussion, the thing that they are pointing out to you, take the part of their dis their argument that is the most correct and deal with that, then you'll start to actually create, uh, an open, honest dialogue with your spouse.

Zach Spafford: And one of the ways to do that is to avoid defensiveness,

Darcy Spafford: which I think is kind of what you just talked about, right? It's like when your spouse is telling you what's going on and you're, you know, in a disagreement and you're dealing with her in pain, it's like avoiding the need to just defend ourselves.

Darcy Spafford: And that's tricky. It's really hard to do. Cause right. Like that's the number one thing we want to do. We want to protect, protect ourselves. And the best way to protect ourselves is to go on defense.

Zach Spafford: Yeah. Or offense. Right? Yeah. Offense is a, is a form of defensiveness, which is essentially to say, if I, if I can attack them and I can push them back into the box, when I, if I can put them back into behaving and back into the way that we usually do the dance, then.

Zach Spafford: We can get back to the status quo, which may not be pleasant, but it's at least the way that we know how to deal with each other and creating, taking a step back and saying, okay, how do I not get defensive? How do I choose my spouse? How do I openly understand what's going on for them? Part of that means, uh, really taking your, your spouse's position and not making it mean anything about you.

Zach Spafford: When I was viewing porn, Darcy was saying "This is about me" when Darcy does certain things. I have said "well, this is about me when she criticizes my driving She's like this is about me." I'm like, "this is about me" It's not so the the more you can make your spouse's point or position about Them and about what's going on for them the less likely it is that you'll need to be defensive now that kind of stinks Because I'll tell you, sometimes I say, well, I think Darcy, this is, this is something that you need to deal with.

Zach Spafford: And how does Darcy feel about that sometimes? She gets so mad. Sometimes she gets mad at me because she's like, why is it always my problem? Sometimes it's not mine. And, and again, you have to be willing to talk through that and work through that openly and honestly. Seek mutual solutions. This is one of my favorites.

Zach Spafford: And one of the reasons it's one of my favorites is that you don't always have to agree. You don't. I think too. How many, how many people do we talk to you think that are think, Oh, we have to be on the same page about everything.

Darcy Spafford: Pretty much most of them.

Zach Spafford: Mentally raise your hand. If you think that you have to be on the same page as your spouse.

Zach Spafford: I think sometimes we do think that we have to be on the same page. For instance. Uh, I bought a four wheeler a few years ago now, it wasn't a very expensive one. It was only like 1, 400.

Darcy Spafford: It's as old as I am.

Zach Spafford: It's as old as Darcy is. Let's just say that. It's not a new or, but I grew up with four wheelers in Alaska.

Zach Spafford: I love four wheeling. It's one of my favorite things to do. It's a great way to just get out. And guess how much Darcy wanted me to have a four wheeler? Exactly zero.

Zach Spafford: Now this solution or this idea that I have to agree with her on that. That would be too difficult. If I want something that's important to me, and it's not necessarily going to impact the relationship poorly, it may be an opportunity to not seek a solution that we agree on, but to agree not to agree on that.

Zach Spafford: And that sometimes is the mutual solution that we, that we come to. You can also brainstorm together about how to move forward and heal and find compromises that work for both of you. But what I would, I would absolutely caution against is making promises that you're not willing or able to actually uphold.

Zach Spafford: And that's difficult because sometimes we're in that moment, I know for me, I've been in those moments, especially around pornography, where I wanted to tell Darcy, I'll never look at porn again.

Zach Spafford: I'll never do that again. I'll never drive fast again, whatever it is. And the, the thing that you have to be able to recognize is what you can deliver versus what your spouse wants you to deliver. And being able to say. Here's a solution that I can offer you that it may not be exactly what you want, but it is what I'm willing to try to do or what I believe I have the skills to do.

Zach Spafford: So many of the people that we work with, they don't have the skills. So how can you promise something to do That thing, if you don't have a skill set to help you do it, like it'd be like saying, okay, I'm going to build a rocket ship promising someone you're going to build a rocket ship without knowing anything about thermodynamics and rocket boosters or whatever.

Zach Spafford: I don't really know anything about rocket ships, but exactly.

Zach Spafford: Next is established boundaries. This is tough.

Darcy Spafford: Boundaries is one of the hardest things and it's when Zach's cousin is a psychiatrist. So you know, MD trained psychiatrist. He also trained, in psychology because he's in the air Force and he did a program where they do both the medication and the, the therapy.

Darcy Spafford: And we went on a cruise with them and we were talking about, boundaries and, and I was like, let me just pick your brain about this. Cause this is a topic that comes up a lot in our, in our field of work and we're laying on the top of the ship at night watching the, the super blue moon. Was it? Yeah.

Darcy Spafford: Right. And he was trying to explain it and it was like, no, that doesn't make sense. And His wife was like, okay, you know, Daniel, that's, you're not doing it right either. And you know, anyway, so we get home from this cruise, he ends up sending this article to us from psychology today. I think there was, there's something on boundaries and, and it wasn't very clear either.

Darcy Spafford: And. So boundaries is tricky.

Zach Spafford: Well, one of the, one of the key components of that article was that boundaries are tricky and they're not so cut and dry as to be like this. Then that. And this is the difficulty, one of the things that you have to recognize with boundaries is a boundary is something that I can do for myself, but I cannot enforce on anyone else.

Zach Spafford: And that means that it

Darcy Spafford: also can't be about controlling someone else's behavior and like all sorts of things.

Zach Spafford: And, and this is a difficult concept really partly because there is no cut and dry in every scenario with this particular issue. So. This is a fluid, when I, when we say boundaries, which we think are solid, I think the reality is, is that they're much more fluid and that you have to be willing to engage in this conversation on a regular basis in a, in such a way as to help yourself, figure out where those actual lines are and what it is that you're willing to do about them.

Darcy Spafford: And I

Darcy Spafford: think it makes it different too, when you're in a close, intimate marriage connection versus like, you know, it's really easy to like create some boundary of like, if my neighbor says, does this, then I'm going to do this. It's like super easy if you don't have like... a deeply emotional connecting environment.

Zach Spafford: And this is really the difficulty of boundaries is you have a couple of things are important, right? One is. You have to be willing to do what it is that you say you will on the, on the flip side, if you do this, then I'll do that. So if, if somebody comes up to you and punches you on the street for no reason, that's a clearly defined boundary within society.

Zach Spafford: It's pretty easy. If someone comes up and punches me on the street for no reason, I'm probably going to call the cops. It's pretty simple. So I'm not going to make that person do anything. I'm going to call the police and that's going to be dealt with. Whereas in a relationship, if I don't put my socks away in the laundry, Darcy might say, if you don't put your socks away in the laundry, I'm not going to do the laundry.

Zach Spafford: Right? So maybe, maybe that's a boundary that works. Maybe it's a boundary that doesn't work. But at some point she might be like, Well, I have to get the laundry done because it has to be done. For whatever reason, that might be her anxiety, it might be anything. So if she's not willing to follow through on that boundary, she needs to reevaluate the boundary and say, If he's, maybe, if he doesn't put his socks away in the laundry, then I'm going to, um, ask him to do it before bed every single time.

Zach Spafford: Right. Maybe that's the boundary she can actually uphold. So you have to be willing to be fluid and work with these so that you can communicate so that, and, and don't be afraid to say. I think I messed up my boundary. Let let's talk about this in a way that we can both collaborate to ensure that this can be doable.

Zach Spafford: One other thing that I love is using timeouts wisely. This is, uh, this is really good because sometimes you shouldn't talk to your spouse. I know we're talking about talking, but sometimes you should stop talking.

Darcy Spafford: Sometimes you should go to bed, versus fight until 3 in the morning.

Zach Spafford: Sometimes. Just be aware of that, be clear that it may not be valuable to keep hammering away at this until each of you had an opportunity to take a step back, re-evaluate and reposition. And figure out, well, what is actually important to me? And that's tough to do, honestly.

Zach Spafford: Next one is practice forgiveness.

Zach Spafford: This is a really good one for taking timeouts because practicing forgiveness, it doesn't mean that you're saying, hey, what you're doing is okay. It does, however, offer a space for healing, allowing each of you to kind of step beyond that moment. Because the truth is most of the most horrible things that have happened to us in our lives can never be repaid.

Zach Spafford: So forgiveness is like, oftentimes I think we want justice, but forgiveness is the thing that frees us up to create the life that we want. And justice will never achieve that for us. So allowing, allowing for that space to forgive and create space to move forward, I think is essential. And I think that's similar to giving each other the space that we need.

Zach Spafford: I also want to talk about non verbal communication. It's really difficult, I'm sure you've all heard this, it's really difficult to fight naked.

Zach Spafford: It is, I think, much, much valued to be able to touch and be close to each other sometimes. You don't want to touch each other, sometimes you're mad, that's okay, it's, it's very helpful though to maintain eye contact, it's very helpful to maintain the touching, we, a lot of our best conversations happen in the shower, for 20 years, we have showered together, for our 20 year marriage we have showered together, pretty, I mean, Pretty much every time.

Zach Spafford: It's, it's actually rarer that we don't shower together than we do. Shower alone. We, then we, yeah, it's rarer that we shower alone than when we shower together. Um, this is a, this is I think a really good, helpful way for us to stay close, to keep that connection. And, you know, it's hard to not run into each other when you're in the shower, even if you're mad.

Darcy Spafford: And it's a great place for talking and communicating.

Zach Spafford: Yes. If you have eight children, it's a really great place to talk.

Darcy Spafford: You know, it's very rare that the kids are like coming in to talk to you while you're showering. And so for us, it's been a great place to, to communicate what's going on.

Zach Spafford: It's a refuge, Yeah. You want to talk about showing affection after resolving conflicts?

Darcy Spafford: I think it's important after you have a disagreement after you're experiencing hurt to reconnect, have time together, even if it's just a hug or a gentle kiss or, holding hands, going for a walk and reconnecting and saying, you know, "I love you, even if it sucks sometimes I love you, even if it hurts sometimes.

Darcy Spafford: And I, I choose to be with you, even though it's not perfect. "

Zach Spafford: I love this one. This is something that Darcy does very well. Once we've had a really difficult conversation or there's been strife and struggle in our relationship. One of the things that Darcy invariably does, I mean, every single time. It'll be some point during the day and she'll come to me and she'll just say, I need a hug.

Zach Spafford: And she will hold me and. I love it. It's, it's extraordinary to me.

Zach Spafford: Hopefully those, points will be helpful to you. I, I highly recommend that you, you take some time and you practice them. Even practice them without your spouse, practice them in the mirror. I am certain that practice makes perfect.

Zach Spafford: And the more you're able to practice these things, the more likely it is that you're going to enjoy each other and thrive in your marriage, in your relationship. Because why else are you here? What do you, what else do you want out of life? I think having Darcy as a partner has been the most meaningful thing in my entire life.

Zach Spafford: We've been together now almost longer than we've been, than we were apart.

Darcy Spafford: I have.

Zach Spafford: Yeah, that's true. That's true.

Darcy Spafford: We got married when I was 20 and 12 days old. And we've been married for 20 years.

Zach Spafford: Yeah. So it's, yeah. So for her, it's been, we've been together longer than, longer than she was alone. And I think that that's a really. important factor in our lives that has helped us become grownups.

Zach Spafford: We're very different people than we were when we were kids. And so I'm grateful for her and for this opportunity to help you guys talk about how to talk to each other.

Zach Spafford: If you want to get ahold of us, you can find us at Thrive Beyond Pornography. If you scan that fancy QR code, then you can find us easily on, Instagram, or you can go to And we can sit, sit down and talk for 30 or so minutes. See what's going on for you. Anything like that. We did get a question.

Zach Spafford: What did the porn do for you? Why did you turn to that? Okay. So the short version is, most of us dislike discomfort and discomfort is problematic to us.

Zach Spafford: We, we, our lower brain does three things. It seeks pleasure, avoids pain and conserves energy. In a normal individuals life, one

Zach Spafford: of the things that you will find is that if you look at your life, you are at some level, especially with things you really, really don't want to deal with, like stress, loneliness, frustration, boredom, you will seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy.

Zach Spafford: And. When it comes to pornography. So I worked at a corporation. Well, I mean, all my life, this is just kind of what I would do. I would avoid doing my schoolwork. I would avoid discomfort on, on all levels, right? A lot of people do this with food. A lot of people do video games. Some people do with drugs.

Darcy Spafford: Some people do it with online, online shopping, even if you just like put it in your shopping cart, but you don't actually buy it, even that.

Zach Spafford: Right.

Zach Spafford: So porn gave me a sense that I was okay and that. And, and it's a fantasy sense, right? So it's pretend because what you're doing is you're going into a forum where everybody loves you and they desire you regardless of whether or not you're actually being desirable.

Zach Spafford: And in that space, you feel loved, you feel comforted, you feel safe.

Darcy Spafford: You feel aroused. And when you feel arousal, you don't feel any other emotions.

Zach Spafford: Exactly. So it, it gave me a way to manage my anxiety. It's the very short version. It gave me a way to manage my anxiety.

Darcy Spafford: And for a lot of people who start out, you know, with pornography when they're younger, you know, oftentimes it's curiosity.

Darcy Spafford: . You know, lack of sex education. So we're like, "Oh, what does a woman's body look like here?" We can look here, you know? So for a lot of people, it just starts as curiosity and then they oftentimes go, "wow, this, this feels amazing. like this feels awesome." And so then it just becomes.

Darcy Spafford: It's something that they can turn to, to feel good in a brief moment, even though oftentimes it feels worse afterwards.

Zach Spafford: So you can take that, like, here's how I feel, whether it's bored or lonely or, uh, frustrated or stressed, whatever it is.

Darcy Spafford: Or even just overly excited and happy, you know, we don't necessarily like feeling super high emotions either for a lot of people.

Zach Spafford: And if you look at that and you go, how well am I dealing with that particular issue? And is my brain offering me an escape from that particular issue in the moment? Then, you'll start to figure out, okay, what do I actually need to be dealing with? And learn how to deal with that directly. So that's what porn did for me, is it made it so I didn't have to deal with my actual issue directly.

Zach Spafford: It gave me an escape. And, for good or for bad, It was an important component in my life and it helped me get through a lot of difficult, times in my life. That said, it wasn't who I wanted to be in the end. It wasn't the person, I wasn't behaving according to my values. So I didn't live up to those. And that's why eventually we got to this place where it was like, let's solve this.

Zach Spafford: And I really wanted to solve it. I'd wanted to solve it my whole life. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I'd prayed, Heavenly Father, please just take this thing away from me. Once you do, I'll be such an amazing human. But that's not really how it works because I don't think that's, you know, I think God gives us free will.

Zach Spafford: So I don't think that he would take it from me, even if he could. And I guess he can, but I don't think he would because he wants me to grow and you can't grow if you don't strive. If you don't go through the crucible, you don't grow. That was probably more of an answer than you wanted. Brett, any thoughts, anything you want to share with us?

Brett Nikula: That was, that was amazing. It was engaging, fun to listen to. It was so fun. This one for me, probably just because it, it. It hits on so many things that, um, happen even in my own life. You know, I think, uh, hurts happen in so many different ways, uh, in our relationships.

Brett Nikula: And, I felt like I just had a lot of questions. I do want to let the participants ask any questions that they might have. . So if you have any questions for Zach and Darcy, put them in the Q and a box. , you can raise your hand, come on either way.

Brett Nikula: Otherwise I was really glad that you guys made the time and took the energy to put together what you did. I thought there was a lot of very, very, practical tips. Those 20, , tips, those 20 takeaways, I think, are applicable to every one of today's calls, and how to manage different things, like when we're going through, hard, difficult, grief, trauma type situations, when we're trying to figure out how to manage, kids and, and raise children, and when we're going through the hurts and difficulties that, show up in relationships and, uh, The question that I had for you as I was sitting here watching you two interact was, could you imagine, 10, 15 years ago, when you're kind of in the, the real heat of this struggle or difficulty sitting together and talking about it, like you guys are now.

Zach Spafford: Oh no. I mean, if you'd have told me five years ago that what I was going to do for a living is be a porn coach and help people. Do this kind of thing and talk about, Hey, let's learn how to grow up and be. And I say grow up, like it's a pejorative, but that's not true. Growing up is really like everybody's goal.

Zach Spafford: And when you're 50, you're still growing up. Uh, it may be different than when you're 15, but it certainly is still growing up. If you'd have told me that this is what I was going to do, I'd have said you were insane, uh, you know, bottom line. So, you know, this is, fortunately for us, we. We found a place and a calling that has been able to make a difference in people's lives.

Zach Spafford: That's, you know, not everybody gets to do that kind of work. So we're grateful for it. I certainly am. But I can't imagine 15 years ago, man, being able to have this conversation.

Darcy Spafford: I think for me, I've always been a really open person. So when we were going through it, like I would talk about it with friends and I, I wasn't quiet about it.

Darcy Spafford: You know, like I know a lot of people are right there. Like we are never going to talk about this in front of people. Right. Like nobody can know about this. And so...

Zach Spafford: How many times have you heard a wife say, well, I can't. Really like my husband would be so upset if he knew I was talking about this.

Darcy Spafford: So it's not like super far, far fetched for me to think like, Oh, I would be talking about this on the internet on a, on a daily basis, but.

Brett Nikula: Yeah. Yeah. And I think

Darcy Spafford: it's just inspiring. When we were in the middle of it, I couldn't have imagined that we would have gotten to where we are now. Yeah. You know, because it, during the middle of it, it felt so hopeless and it felt like this is never going to end. You know, the hurt's never going to end.

Darcy Spafford: We're never going to heal from this. And so.

Brett Nikula: Yeah. And, and one other question, what if, like, what if Zach never overcame this situation? Never figured out how to manage your porn use. You continue to fall and you continue to struggle. Because there's, there's those people out there who are kind of in that position, right?

Brett Nikula: They feel like, I don't know that he'll ever figure this out, or she'll ever stop spending, or she'll ever do this, or he'll ever do that. What would you say to those folks?

Darcy Spafford: Yeah. So, you know, I think it's important. You know, we oftentimes like we want to look at the goal of it never happens again, right?

Darcy Spafford: Like it never happens again. Like for Zach, it's been years and years since he's looked at porn, but like he could decide to look at porn, you know, next week, right? Like he could make that choice. And for me, like the way I, I deal with that is like, I, I can handle it. Like, I can, I can handle it. I've done the work on my side that I feel like, you know, outside of what he chooses, I can still be okay.

Darcy Spafford: And I can still choose to love him. I, you know, we work with a lot of couples and, I think in my mind growing up, I thought like only like scumbags look at porn, like just like scum of the earth. And, and the more that I've, we've worked with couples and like, our friends have come out like, "Oh, we've struggled with porn," like really, really awesome good men struggle with porn. Just like, I mean, now I think like the statistics, like 67 percent of women have looked at porn in the last 30 days. Like, this isn't just a man problem. Um, but you know, like, I guess I would say, you know, to that person is like, can you still choose to love this person? Even in spite of this weakness that they, that they might struggle with forever, you know, and how can we celebrate the little wins?

Darcy Spafford: if it's he looks at porn every day and now it's like he looks at porn once a week like WIN! We're winning right like focus on the positives instead of always focusing on, "Oh, you did it again," I like to always say, people who feel good do good, right? Like the more we feel good about ourselves, the more we You know, just happy and just going better like we typically choose to make better choices.

Zach Spafford: Well, I think, I think a huge component of this has to be that being honest about the realities of it. Are the, it's the only way to get through it, to deal with it. So for some people, it might be a position of, and this isn't about giving up. It's about saying, I'm still probably going to look at porn once a month or twice a month, or when I have this kind of a stressful reality, those are all data points in a process of becoming a better version of yourself. So in the beginning of the conversation or at some point during the conversation, if you feel like, "Hey, this isn't getting better," like Darcy, at one point she came to me, she's like, "this isn't getting better. I don't really need you to go to all these meetings.

Zach Spafford: What I need you to do is show up at the house after work and change diapers." 'cause we had six kids, seven and under. Mm-Hmm. . So for her, it, at one point it was like, I'm not as worried about you looking at porn as I am about trying not to drown. Sure. And being able to say, you know, that was kind of a, a po a point of freedom for me because it was no longer about what she wanted.

Zach Spafford: It was about what I was. Willing to do for myself totally. And it freed me up to stop managing her. It freed me up to be like, oh, I gotta make sure that I'm doing all the right things and saying all the right things. And I was able to take a step back, look at what was going on, and start to use the data points to resolve the problem.

Zach Spafford: I think that anybody who truly doesn't want this in their lives has the capacity to remove it from their lives. Mm-Hmm. . That said, it may not be in a week. It may not be in six months. It may not even be in six years. But if you're willing to do the work and use the data points to resolve the conflict that's going on internally, then you'll start to solve the problem.

Zach Spafford: But that also may mean that you have to be willing to accept the reality that is, even if you don't like it.

Brett Nikula: Yeah. I think when you were talking about intimacy, one of the thoughts that I had there that I bring up a lot in my work with couples is sometimes we want. to keep our spouse happy more than we want to tell them the truth, right?

Brett Nikula: And that prevents intimacy, especially like things like this, right? We get caught in this like, well, I need to say the right things and do the right things and show up in the right way to keep them happy, but I can't tell the truth. And that's actually preventing you from getting the help that you need.

Brett Nikula: Um, and And to be able to see that even from the spouse's standpoint, do you want them to say things to make you happy? Or do you want them to show up in a way that allows for them to get the support that they need? I think so powerful.

Brett Nikula: I want to just give you one last opportunity to share anything that you want to before we go. Otherwise. I always direct people to if anything here resonated and you want to reach out and get help. Uh, I know you guys are in the business of helping, so go find it.

Zach Spafford: You can always reach us at Thrive Beyond Pornography. Use an X for the N because you can't use the word pornography on Instagram apparently. Uh, so if you do Thrive Beyond Pornography with an X instead of an N for pornography, then you'll find us there. You can also email use, [email protected] or [email protected]. We would love to work with you and chat with you. The, the thing that I hope you, anyone sees is that you can stop porn in your life. You can heal and you can actually create a thriving, extraordinary marriage beyond the one that you have right now. But you have to be willing to give up the one that you have right now.

Zach Spafford: And that's tough sometimes.

Brett Nikula: Love it. Thank you guys so much for coming on and taking the time here today. Appreciate it so much and we'll be in touch, uh, in a little bit here. See ya. All right. Bye bye.

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