Episode 242 - Breaking Taboos: A Candid Conversation on Pornography in Mixed Faith and Modern Families

Apr 22, 2024


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Episode 242

[00:00:00] Zach Spafford: Hey, everybody, welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford. A few months ago, our friend Chris Rich asked us to join her for a crucial discussion aimed at her audience of mixed faith marriages who often grapple with the challenges of pornography, both those who stay in a faith and those who leave a faith, or those who were never in a faith. We explored the issue from multiple perspectives discussing its impact and how to address it from a way that is not about following a shared religious structure.

[00:00:27] We personally do not choose pornography in our relationship, and we recognize the importance of addressing this topic to support couples striving to overcome their struggles within their marriages. This is particularly relevant in mixed faith contexts where views on such matters can significantly diverge.

[00:00:45] We hope you enjoy this podcast and we hope that it helps you as you work through and discuss this within your own relationship in a more concrete and objective way. And if this is helpful to you, please go to your podcast player and rate this podcast.

[00:00:58] Zach Spafford: With that, have a great week, and we'll talk to you next week.

[00:01:02] Chris Rich: Episode 111, Navigating Pornography with Zach and Darcy Spafford. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Mixed Faith Relationship Podcast. I am so happy that you're here. Today we are going to be talking about a topic that comes up a lot with my mixed faith relationship clients, and I have a lot of people that get coached on pornography.

[00:01:31] And it's interesting because this shows up in a lot of different areas. I've got active believing members of the church whose spouses are involved in pornography. I also have active believing members of the church that they are involved with pornography. So it shows up in a lot of different places in mixed faith relationships, and I'm going to guess in a lot of different places.

[00:01:55] All the relationships, or at least, I shouldn't say all, with, with many relationships.

[00:02:01] Darcy Spafford: Probably about 90%.

[00:02:03] Chris Rich: 90%. Wow. I'm so excited to have Zach and Darcy Spafford. I am so excited to have them here with me today on the podcast.

[00:02:14] They have an amazing story and I'm going to let them tell their story. So I'm just Zach and Darcy. Welcome. I'm so happy to have you guys here with me today.

[00:02:24] Zach Spafford: Well thanks for having us.

[00:02:25] Darcy Spafford: We're excited to be here.

[00:02:27] Zach Spafford: Yeah, we love talking about porn on the internet for a living.

[00:02:31] Darcy Spafford: It's literally our favorite subject.

[00:02:34] Chris Rich: Well, I think it's so, so, so important to have this conversation.

[00:02:38] Also, I'm super excited to have two guests. I've never done this before.

[00:02:41] I am going to have you guys go ahead and introduce yourselves, just like, you know, kind of the, the basic things about you.

[00:02:48] And then I would love for you to tell a little bit of your story. How did this even How did why are you guys coaching people? Well, I'm even I'm telling some of your story right here I'll just let you guys do it.

[00:03:01] We've been married for about almost 21 years.

[00:03:04] Darcy Spafford: We've got eight kids, they keep us very busy and The reason why we do what we do is because Zach struggled with porn from the time He was like eight until he was like twelve I don't know, 35 around there. We had to work through a lot of those dynamics in our relationship. And we love being able to help people.

[00:03:23] I don't know. What else do you want to add about us?

[00:03:25] Zach Spafford: I think most people listening, they're going to have had an experience that is somewhat similar to the one that we had, which was we were trying to do our best to create and connect and be, loving parents and loving spouses.

[00:03:39] And when pornography was a part of that dynamic, it created a lot of friction that we weren't able to resolve. I felt like a lot of times we were on the brink of divorce. In fact, a lot of times I felt like that was like the very next step and that Darcy was going to leave me and she was deeply, deeply distraught by my behavior because at least in part, I had been telling her this is who I am.

[00:04:02] I'm someone who doesn't choose porn. I'm someone who doesn't view this. I don't engage in this activity. And she, she took it at face value and then coming to find out that I wasn't being honest. I wasn't being the person I had said to her that I would be.

[00:04:15] And that devastated her and it made her wonder, well, , why should we do this? Why do we keep doing this? And. You know, a lot of the difficulty came in, one, not being able to understand why I was doing it, and two, not having the skill set to actually resolve the struggle. And I think there was some additional difficulty in terms of our relationship dynamic, where we had a meeting frame that was really not helpful to actually solving the problem.

[00:04:42] It, it perpetuated the cycle probably more often than not. And that process of getting out of that was what really solved this struggle for us.

[00:04:51] Chris Rich: And tell me, I'm not familiar with that word, the, what did you say, the meeting frame?

[00:04:55] Zach Spafford: The meeting frame. So the, just the ways that we interact with each other. So, in your home, there's probably a way that you interact with your husband around date night, right?

[00:05:05] And it has a dynamic that is well worn and that each of you understand and he'll say something and you'll say something back to that. And that meeting frame is a, is the framework. of your relationship that you operate in on this particular issue, right? So, in a mixed faith marriage, there's a meaning frame that you guys operate under and I don't know what that is.

[00:05:25] Darcy Spafford: And when it started out one way and one spouse, you know, leaves the church, that changes the dynamic. It changes the meaning frame that the relationship is now operating under versus like, you know, when both partners are active in their faith and believing the same things, it's a lot easier than when there's some.

[00:05:45] Zach Spafford: Yeah, I think especially in a mixed faith relationship and we've seen this with a lot of people around us where you have at least one partner leaving the church and There's this struggle of like, well, what do we believe now? Yeah, there's a shift in the meaning frames under which we operate right?

[00:06:04] Previously, it was like, we kind of all know what, how to live our lives and do exactly what we're supposed to do. And then when one of the spouses steps out or when another, when spouse is not part of our church relationship, then there's a different meaning frame. There's a different way that we have to operate to, to choose each other or not to choose each other.

[00:06:23] Chris Rich: Yeah, so kind of like the dance that we do, the interactions that we have. That is the dance. Back and forth. Okay. Thank you for, I've never heard that word before.

[00:06:32] Zach Spafford: I could have probably just said the dance.

[00:06:35] Chris Rich: But then I would have been like, does he mean the same thing I do? Thank you for, thank you for sharing that.

[00:06:40] You learn something new every day, right?

[00:06:42] Zach Spafford: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:06:43] Chris Rich: I think it's so interesting too, and Darcy, you were just saying When I started the podcast, tell me more about the 90%.

[00:06:52] Darcy Spafford: The statistics of people who view pornography are super, super high.

[00:06:56] Oftentimes when We look at it, in the church, we think, "oh, well, not in the church. The statistics aren't that high in the church." But, any therapist or coach who works with members of the church, this is a very, very common topic. It is not the minority of people that are dealing with pornography.

[00:07:13] I would say it's the majority of people who are dealing with pornography in their marriage.

[00:07:17] Zach Spafford: Yeah, and I would say level,

[00:07:18] Darcy Spafford: or with their children. it's a lot more common than we think it is.

[00:07:23] Zach Spafford: And that commonness, I think can be a frustration for people because they think, well, I'm the only one.

[00:07:29] And when they find out that there are more, we wonder why we don't talk about it more. We wonder why we don't really open up about it to each other. And that can be a frustrating reality to come across. If you look at the, if you look at the individual statistics, something on the order of 80 or so percent of men have viewed pornography in the last Month something on the order of about 60 or 65 percent of women have viewed pornography in the last month. So, you know if you can simply extrapolate that recognizing that not every man in a relationship and not every woman in a relationship is Watching porn at the same rate that their spouse is it's gonna be somewhere higher than that 80 percent number of relationships where porn is present and viewed

[00:08:13] Darcy Spafford: If I'm remembering correctly, BYU did a study years ago and it was like, I think it was like 83 percent of.

[00:08:20] The men had looked at porn in the last, it was like 30 days and it was like 67 percent of the women.

[00:08:27] Zach Spafford: And of course these are self reported numbers. There's always that factor of people who aren't saying, yeah, I'm doing this. Yeah.

[00:08:35] Chris Rich: And okay. So that, pardon?

[00:08:37] Zach Spafford: I was just going to say, there was this funny meme where a guy went on the BYU campus and he asked kids, would you rather, let's see, would you rather die or watch a pornographic movie? And the kids on the BYU campus on this Tik Tok were like, Oh, I'd rather die.

[00:08:50] Chris Rich: Yeah. I think I've seen that. I think my kids shared that with me, but they thought they were, Yeah, I've seen that.

[00:08:57] Zach Spafford: Um,

[00:08:58] Chris Rich: but

[00:08:58] Zach Spafford: I want to, but I highlight that as, as an understanding of how stigmatized this is.

[00:09:04] Chris Rich: Yeah.

[00:09:04] Zach Spafford: Culture.

[00:09:06] Chris Rich: And that's my, that was going to be my next question. Why does pornography feel like such a big deal, especially in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints?


[00:09:16] Darcy Spafford: I didn't grow up LDS. I joined the church when I was 16. From my birth to 16, my life experience was very different from when I was 16 to now. Once I started going to church, I started to hear messages about pornography, I started to, hear things like, you want to marry a worthy man who can take you to the temple, and, if someone's struggling with porn, run the other way. I started hearing a lot of really negative messages around pornography and around sexuality and around bodies. For me, that was a really big shift. And, a lot of my challenges with Zach looking at porn came from a lot of the messaging that I received at church.

[00:09:53] And, it made it difficult to actually address the problem because I was so focused on, Fighting with him about how horrible he is that he looks at porn. It became this constant battle. I always like to say, it was like porn was in the middle of us and we were constantly fighting with porn and we were on, opposite ends of each other.

[00:10:12] And it wasn't until we started, coming on the same side of each other and putting porn as what it was that we were working up against instead of being the thing that kept us divided.

[00:10:22] Chris Rich: Yeah.

[00:10:22] Zach Spafford: The data is really clear. Religious people are more prone to say that they're an addict and when we say we're an addict we tend to believe things about ourselves that make it difficult to empower ourselves to make good choices. And that's a problematic framework that a lot of people operate under. Just like Darcy was saying there's this message within a lot of the language that we use in our conversations about this topic that make it feel as though it is absolutely unacceptable and that, its catastrophic in its nature.

[00:10:55] That's really a troubling idea that this is going to destroy you. Is essentially the message that we get. It's going to destroy you. It's going to destroy your marriage. It's going to destroy. There was this video a couple of years ago in the pornography lesson that the church put out where

[00:11:07] Darcy Spafford: I went to our state president and cried over, by the way,

[00:11:11] Zach Spafford: we, we went to him and we said, we could, we could address this differently.

[00:11:13] And, and his narrative, the narrative that he had in his mind was that his sister

[00:11:21] their marriage was destroyed because of pornography. And I think that's a very narrow telling of the story, but it is a framework wherein she is absolved of any responsibility, irrespective of how she operated in the marriage.

[00:11:33] And that's, important to understand, is that in that narrative, the wife becomes a victim, and the husband becomes a perpetrator. And that's a problem, not because, This doesn't impact both parties. It's a problem, not simply because, the wife shouldn't be able to ask her spouse to do what she I think is a reasonable thing to say, Hey, let's not bring a third party into our relationship.

[00:11:56] The problem is that when porn has so much power, we lose power. And I always joke with people. I'm like, so when was the last time porn came to your house, tied you up to a chair and said, we're going to have sex and you're going to watch. It's never happened to anybody I've ever asked that of.

[00:12:12] I do that as an illustration of how little power porn does have. Mm-Hmm. . And how much we have the opportunity to reclaim that power, reengage our agency, our capacity to choose, and then put ourselves in a position to create different choices based on our values, rather than this narrative of I'm a victim of something I don't have control over, and she's a victim of me.

[00:12:33] And that's a problematic narrative in law.

[00:12:34] Chris Rich: I think too just like with in mixed faith marriages, it's so easy to look at the spouse that I know I'm just going to be vulnerable and honest when my husband left the church, I was like, you did this to me, I didn't ask for this. This is, I am the victim, you are the villain, and The, just that it's really hard to be married to a villain.

[00:12:55] It's hard to want to work together, to parent together, to be intimate together. And then, this is adding another layer of villain here. Going back to the, why does it seem so scary? You were saying some of the messaging. I remember, it's the black plague too.

[00:13:14] And by the way, I am not saying to go view porn. I'm totally not, not

[00:13:19] Darcy Spafford: saying that, but we agree. And we do too. Like, sometimes people hear us and they're like, wait, are you saying porn's good and okay? And like, we don't watch porn. We don't, Want porn in our marriage. We literally help people stop watching porn if they want to.

[00:13:33] Yes. Yeah. So that's not what we're saying at all, but we're, we are more saying like, let's address this in a way that's helpful instead of one that just perpetuates the problem.

[00:13:44] Chris Rich: And I think the fear when you're thinking and so, sorry, I'm kind of bouncing back and forth.

[00:13:49] Zach Spafford: No, I love it.

[00:13:50] Chris Rich: But the, so there's so much fear around it. And when we're operating out of fear, we don't show up as our best selves. And I think of how many times, times in the scriptures, did Christ say fear not? And, I think you had a good reason because we really don't show up when we're operating out of fear. And I think one of the big things with that is this idea that if you view pornography that you're going to be addicted.

[00:14:19] Can you speak to that? Let's define what addiction is and what that

[00:14:24] Zach Spafford: Yes, let's do that. And I want to talk about that fear aspect as well, because I think, and I'll talk about that. And then I'll talk about addiction, because I think this is a really important component of the way that we talk about this.

[00:14:34] Now imagine sitting in a classroom with a bunch of youth, and you're saying, never view this. And if you do view this, it's going to destroy your life. And the messaging that we have behind it.

[00:14:45] Darcy Spafford: You're gonna be hurting your wife one day...

[00:14:47] Zach Spafford: the video where all of the sudden your family's broken up instead of hunky dory and happy, right? That video. think about every single one of those young men and young women and understand that each and every single one of them has been exposed to pornography at some level within their lives. Right. So if you're over the age of 12, there's a near zero chance that you haven't seen something that is pornographic.

[00:15:08] Darcy Spafford: Or that you as a 12 year old would think was, pornography. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:14] Zach Spafford: So recognizing that the way that we talk about it can actually hinder the conversation because now one, I'm afraid because you've just told me this is going to destroy my whole life. And two, when I come to you as the bishop or other church leadership. If I'm made to to feel worse because of my choice. And I recognize that, for instance, a bishop might say, well, to young men or young women, don't take the sacrament. And, that bishop might see that as a way to help that person move through the repentance process. But I want to be really clear that I have yet to find a single instance within The canonical scripture where Christ said to somebody, "okay, now to repent, I'm going to ask you not to participate in normal daily church activities, and people are going to notice that, by the way, and they're going to ask you questions, and you're going to be humiliated by that," right?

[00:16:10] Every single instance that I know of in the scriptures where Christ says to anyone anything about their sins, it falls somewhere along the lines of I forgive you, be healed, and go and sin no more.. Those are the messages that I think that our bishops need to be offering to the young men and the young women who are in this moment, and give them the space to change.

[00:16:31] Chris Rich: Yeah.

[00:16:32] Zach Spafford: And grow. And one of the ways that we can do that is simply by speaking normally about this, right? you're going to see pornography, and you're probably going to see it as something that is interesting. The question you have to ask yourself is, do I want to use this as a way to manage my life, or do I want to look for something that's more real and more connective with another human being?

[00:16:52] In that framework, I think we can get away from fear and move towards love, and that's important. Now, your question about addiction, I think, is a really good one, and I've told this story probably a million times, so if you've heard it, you can tell me to stop. But when I was a young missionary, I served in Rome, Italy.

[00:17:07] I got on the train in Naples, and my companion and I, we went and sat down. A woman came on the train behind us, and we made eye contact, and she sat down in the stairwell of the train. And she knew I was there, she knew I was watching her. She decided to shoot heroin in that moment . She did not care what I saw.

[00:17:26] She wanted her fix. And that is very different than every single person I've ever spoken to about this. If I said to you, or if I said to anyone who is dealing with a pornography struggle, I've yet to hear a different answer than this, but if I said to you, "Hey, if I walked in or your spouse walked in or your boss walked in on you viewing pornography, what would you do?"

[00:17:48] And they all say, I would stop immediately. I would hide it and I would pretend that I wasn't doing it. So that gives me a pretty good indicator that you're not addicted to this. You don't have a lack of control. You don't have no choice in this. You are more likely ashamed of your behavior. But you probably don't know how to resolve it.

[00:18:09] So that's how I look at it in terms of addiction. I don't think that addiction is a valuable meaning frame, partly because it turns us into victims and it distances us from our choices instead of letting us look at them clearly, openly, and without ego and start to find out, "well, what's the data here that I need to resolve?"

[00:18:26] Chris Rich: I love that. And I think just the clients that I've talked with before, just that thought when you're thinking, I am an addict. That is, creates so much shame and, and guilt and so much hurt that it's really not going to be beneficial at all in ever.

[00:18:47] Darcy Spafford: I just think about how powerful our minds are and how much our brains want to be right.

[00:18:53] So if I'm constantly telling myself I'm addicted to Brownies, let's say, "I can't control myself around brownies." When I go to eat a brownie, my brain is going to be like, "let's prove that story right that you can't just have one."

[00:19:06] Chris Rich: Yeah.

[00:19:06] Darcy Spafford: You got to eat them all. And so what is it that I want to be telling myself about what it is that I'm dealing with?

[00:19:12] And is it going to be helpful to me? If you look at this, like, sex addiction, pornography addiction, there's two very different sides. There's a lot of science that says not addicted. And then there's like the people that are like, Oh, this is an addiction.

[00:19:25] Right? They fight against each other. Essentially

[00:19:27] Zach Spafford: a lot of rancor in that space.

[00:19:29] Darcy Spafford: Yeah.

[00:19:29] And I just like, whether it's addicted or not, what value does it give you believing it? Yeah. If it is something that like believing this gives you so much power and you're like, "it motivates me to get so much better and I show up better in life and I make positive changes because that's what I believe." Then by all means think you're addicted to porn.

[00:19:48] But if believing that you're addicted to porn creates shame and hopelessness and powerlessness and a label that you're just so ashamed by, then why even entertain it? That's where I go with it.

[00:20:00] Zach Spafford: I love that.

[00:20:01] Chris Rich: And I think just that idea, one of my favorite questions is the way I am thinking about this.

[00:20:06] Is it serving me? Is this helpful? Is it helping me to show up as the disciple of Jesus Christ I'm trying to be or not? And Yeah, I think that's so important to look into that. Zach, you hit on this just a second ago a little bit, but I would love to explore. So why do people generally view porn?

[00:20:25] Zach Spafford: This is a really great question. I think the answer lies in a simple system of understanding. We all tell ourselves stories. We all have stories that create an enormous amount of emotion in our lives. Men generally, we have been taught that we're only allowed to have three emotions; hungry, angry and horny.

[00:20:42] And so those are the ones we pay attention to most.

[00:20:46] Chris Rich: And never heard that, but

[00:20:48] Zach Spafford: well, but it rings true, doesn't it? For the majority of people that I work with, there is a disconnect between what they're feeling. And that story that they're being told and this cycle of choosing porn. So I call it the detour cycle.

[00:21:04] There's a narrative onset, there's an emotion and that most people ignore. Most of us have a really good way of just saying, that's not there. And then there's what I call the escape offer. And the escape offer is when your brain says, Hey, you deserve a break. And that escape offer is different than. It's time to just go be entertained in a regular way.

[00:21:26] And it is the beginning of where most people see ourselves as being triggered. Most of the programs out there that you're looking at, they're saying, "well, watch out for your triggers and be hyper vigilant." The problem is that the triggers aren't the problem. And if we see the trigger as the problem, we ignore the underlying issue.

[00:21:44] So you have that narrative onset. The emotional catalyst, then you have this escape offer. Hey, you deserve a break. Then there's rationalized bargaining as I'm scrolling along, doom scrolling, right? All of a sudden I'll see something and that's going to start to take me down this path to a point where I get to the values breach.

[00:22:03] And that five step process is essentially the thing that is happening to every single person along the way. The difference is, if I can stop at the escape offer and start asking questions, And start getting clear about my emotions. If my emotion is overwhelmed, why am I feeling overwhelmed?

[00:22:20] Why do I want to escape this feeling of overwhelm? And how do I get to a place where I can get good at dealing with overwhelm? So you start to have to understand your emotions. As a man, if you don't understand your emotions as data, you might think this is mushy gushy and all of a sudden we're a bunch of hippies and we're going to get into a kumbaya circle.

[00:22:40] That's not really what it is. Your emotions are just like the check engine light on your truck. When it goes on, you ask questions and that's what you need to be doing. And by the way, the nice thing about emotions is they generally only last about 90 seconds. So, if you're capable of feeling terrible for 90 seconds so that you can get curious and start asking, what's that story?

[00:22:59] Then you're going to be starting to create a really successful pathway towards leaving porn behind because your brain doesn't need to circumvent the problem. It's going to stop offering you porn. So, what's my overwhelm about? And I just ask that question. What is the answer? it might be, "well, I'm failing a business."

[00:23:16] And we start to dig into that story and we start to understand that story and we start to figure out, why do I believe that? What's true or not true about that ? That's one level of that story. And then there's a second level, which is what's my underlying negative thought? What do I believe about myself that I am?

[00:23:32] Am I unworthy? Am I unlovable? That sort of thing. And these two things in concert, they make us believe what it is that our brain's offering us in the moment. But the truth is, if we can dig into that narrative, Ask questions and start to really focus on solving the problem that our brain is presenting to us as though it is a solvable puzzle. That curiosity is going to drive us towards finding new, better, more effective truths.

[00:23:57] This is the difference between saying, "Oh, I just want to believe something else. And I'm just going to shove that thought in there and try and try and try and believe that and make it so.

[00:24:06] That's what I call toxic positivity. You know, those mantras, they just don't work. This is finding something that's more true that automatically feels and resonates as honest and true with you. So you don't have to convince yourself of it. And that's a process that I don't think very many people have been able to accomplish, whether consciously or subconsciously to look at their struggle.

[00:24:28] Chris Rich: And I think it's interesting. So just for my listeners there, they've heard me talk about the model. I, you use different terminology. So you had the, that, so you went with the circumstance.

[00:24:41] Zach Spafford: Yeah. So if I take the model, and I plug the detour cycle into it, the circumstance could be that I have a, an enormous workload.

[00:24:50] Something's happened at work and I've got this enormous caseload that I have to resolve.

[00:24:56] Chris Rich: That's a thought. That's right. That's true. I

[00:24:58] Zach Spafford: have a caseload. I have, I have data. I have work

[00:25:01] Darcy Spafford: to do. Yeah,

[00:25:02] Zach Spafford: that's right. I have work to do. And then the thought is this thought that I've felt or believed that I'm, Failing, the feeling, overwhelm.

[00:25:11] And then, uh, the CTFA actions. So the actions I start to take are moving away from my values. I start to scroll. I start to rationalize. I start to do all of the things that maybe aren't necessarily in line with what I really want to be doing. And the result is that I breach my values.

[00:25:32] Chris Rich: Yeah, I think that and you'd said and you have more work to do because you didn't do and I still have more work Yeah, yeah,

[00:25:38] Zach Spafford: definitely compounded the problem.

[00:25:41] Chris Rich: I just I wanted to throw that out there for that I think you had said you're I can't remember what word you were speaking the same language just with different terms So I just wanted to let my listeners be aware of that so Okay, so kind of shifting gears a little bit. What do we What do we do?

[00:26:00] So in a mixed faith relationship, whether that's in a marriage or with your child or however that looks, how do we navigate? Does this look any different when we're in a mixed faith relationship than it would if we weren't?

[00:26:16] Zach Spafford: Well, I can, I can tell you that I work with people who aren't religious. So I have a client right now he grew up Latter day Saint. He does not attend church any longer, and he married a woman who is Chinese. So she grew up without religion at all. And this struggle is still a struggle in their relationship. it's important, I think, to recognize that when we think about the way that we're interacting with pornography, oftentimes we're making it mean something about ourselves, so the wife is often making it mean something about herself, irrespective of the framework, the groundwork. Whether it's religious or not religious, moral or amoral, and understanding that is so much more valuable, I think, than saying, "Hey, there's this rule and you have to follow it."

[00:26:57] It's "what do we want? How do we want to interact?" And then Being able to honestly integrate that within your relationship, so meaning if I, as someone who is, maybe not a member of the church, I'm choosing to view porn and my wife is staying with the church and she's saying this is amoral.

[00:27:15] This is against what it was that we once believed and what you once believed and I still believe that it's not okay. That framework is probably not gonna work for the person who's not religious. But a framework that might work, which is differentiation. So that's being solid in your sense of self, being able to choose your spouse and not letting their anxiety run you.

[00:27:36] Then in that space, I can say, okay, this is what I believe in. This is what I want. And this is what I believe is good for me. And I want not simply to tell you this is what I'm doing, but I want to integrate your opinion without making it mean I have to do it. So then we get to negotiate, we get to understand each other.

[00:27:56] We get to choose each other. And sometimes what that looks like is, so for this client, it's. I'm going to watch movies where nudity exists. I don't see puritanical values as the way that I'm going to live my life. But, I can commit to not exiting our marriage in terms of seeking to put pornography as part of my daily habit of managing your emotions. And then also understanding most people are using pornography, not as a sexual outlet per se, but especially if it goes against their values. But even this client, he's not using it as a sexual outlet. He's using it as a way to manage how he feels. Taking it out of this framework of porn is about sex and putting it into a framework of most often people are choosing porn when it goes against their values or the values of the relationship, even if it's not a religious relationship, or a relationship where they are in the same religious context.

[00:28:49] When we take it out of that, this is about sex and we put it into, this is about someone probably trying to understand and manage their own emotions. And they probably don't have the tool set to do that, then it's a different conversation. And I think it's an importantly different conversation, even within a religious framework.

[00:29:08] Because even within a religious framework where you're saying, hey, this is right, when we take away agency by saying there is no yes answer to this, there's only a no answer to this, we minimize people's empowerment in the face of a problem. And that's problematic .

[00:29:25] Chris Rich: And I was just thinking, Darcy, we hear so many women say like, oh, it's, you know, they think, oh, it's my fault.

[00:29:32] Maybe we weren't intimate enough or, you know, like we, we try to understand all this. Darcy, do you have any thoughts on that with your experience or the clients that you work with?

[00:29:44] Darcy Spafford: It's so complex. I think oftentimes when we talk about pornography, we try to Make it seem so simple, but it's way more complex.

[00:29:52] I always like to say, it's not about sex, right? It really, it's not about sex. If my partner chooses to view porn, it's not about sex. But then I could also caveat that as okay, if my partner hasn't had sex with me for a year, I might look at porn and masturbate. Like, you know what I mean?

[00:30:07] And so it's there's always nuance to everything. So I don't necessarily like to talk in absolutes. I know for me personally, I took it very personal. I took it as a personal attack that he was choosing to do something that hurt me, and why would he choose to do that? If he loved me enough, he would stop.

[00:30:26] And for me, one of the big changes was when I started struggling with my weight. And I know some people get mad about comparing pornography with weight because I was just talking to a client who said, "I hated when you guys did that, but now I'm like, I see it. I totally see it. And I understand it."

[00:30:42] "If you just take the morality part out of it, it's very similar." and then we talked about how you could even bring the morality into it. If you brought in the word of wisdom and your body's a temple, treat your body like a temple, right?

[00:30:53] Zach Spafford: All of that.

[00:30:54] Darcy Spafford: Anyways, that was kind of a tangent.

[00:30:55] Zach Spafford: I love that tangent. And

[00:30:56] Darcy Spafford: now I lost it.

[00:30:57] Chris Rich: Tangents are great.

[00:30:58] Zach Spafford: I love it. I think you were talking about how you felt about when I was viewing.

[00:31:01] Darcy Spafford: Oh, yeah. Okay So when I started struggling with my weight and I started getting to a place where I could have more open and honest Conversations with Zach around pornography without literally losing my mind and getting really angry and defensive and in yelling I started to see that what he was saying was very similar to the things that I was experiencing with trying to get healthier and make healthier food choices, and exercise, and live more in line with who it is that I want to be.

[00:31:28] That was a turning point for us where we started to be able to, , talk about it openly and honestly. Now, if you put it into a mixed faith marriage, see a lot of times online, in a lot of the sexuality groups we're in where one partner leaves and they decide pornography is not wrong anymore.

[00:31:44] They don't believe that. And I think When you grew up in such like a, like purity culture and like a lot of shame. And sometimes you go to the opposite where you're like, I'm going so far opposite of that and now everything's okay. And I think everything's okay. And I'm going to just do what I want because I'm done with people telling me how to live my life.

[00:32:04] In that space, it's hard because you want to control your partner, right? You're like, I want you to stop. I don't want you looking at porn and yet you're still doing it and you maybe don't even think it's wrong anymore. And so part of it is like for the spouse who is not the one struggling with pornography, it's like, okay, realizing that I don't have control over this.

[00:32:27] And I don't like that I don't have control over this. We like to have control. And we also like to tell ourselves stories like, "well, if my partner believed what I believed, then they wouldn't do it," which is not true either, right? Because chances are when they were believers, they also looked at porn and struggled with it.

[00:32:43] The fantasy of " if it was some other way It would be better." And it's just a fantasy. Everyone struggles and we've worked with people all the way up to a stake president level that struggles with pornography. So I could imagine the stories, if my partner just believed the way that I did, they wouldn't struggle with this, or we could get on the same page this struggle wouldn't be there.

[00:33:05] But that's not true either.

[00:33:07] So how do I want to deal with what is true? And can I choose my partner? Do I love my partner, despite the fact that they do something that I don't like and that I don't want them to be doing. And that's more true and real than anything else.

[00:33:22] Zach Spafford: I think there's a lot more power in recognizing that porn is not THE problem.

[00:33:27] It can be a problem and it can be problematic. But it's probably not THE problem. So, if you're the wife and you're looking at this and you're saying, porn is THE problem, then you might want to ask yourself, why is it the problem for me? What am I making it mean? What is it doing to me? And is what I feel is happening honest and fair and grown up?

[00:33:50] When Darcy started to see it, More as this is not about porn is sexually deviant behavior and Zach is a sexual deviant and he's bad because he's choosing this and started to see it as sometimes Zach gets really frustrated or sad or stressed and when he does that, porn allows him to escape that so that he can do the things that make him a successful business person. So that he can come home and make sure that I'm feeling safe.

[00:34:17] Then she started to allow herself to recognize a couple of things. One, I think, was I was doing a lot of managing her and she didn't like that. So she had to grow up in that. And that wasn't fair, it wasn't fun, but it was the best kindness that we could give each other, was to be more honest and say, "Listen, I'm going to stop managing you on my side, and I'm going to be more honest with you, but you're going to have to grow up in the way that you're dealing with the honesty that you're receiving. And you're going to have to become trustworthy with my truth."

[00:34:45] That's a two way street, by the way. Because, she also, Became much more honest with me in that she would tell me what was really on her mind instead of trying to placate me.

[00:34:57] Darcy Spafford: Or trying to manage you through sex, right? That was one of the things that I did.

[00:35:02] One of our

[00:35:02] Zach Spafford: podcast episodes is, my wife used to control me through sex and I wanted her to.

[00:35:07] Darcy Spafford: Right. Because I had that idea. If I was just like, Sexier or had more sex with him, then that would make it go away. And then obviously that doesn't work because there's still life.

[00:35:17] He's still stressed and,

[00:35:19] Zach Spafford: and sex wasn't the resolution because it wasn't the problem.

[00:35:22] Chris Rich: Yeah,

[00:35:23] Zach Spafford: It was my underlying inability to manage myself emotionally. That was the problem. And so I had to go back and I had to work on that.

[00:35:29] Chris Rich: I think one of the. I think the big thing for my listeners to understand here, we've talked, you've heard me talk before about how we avoid, we react, we resist our emotions.

[00:35:40] So pornography is a way that people avoid their emotions. And I think, like Darcy was saying, just recognizing that we all have things that we do to avoid our emotions. And, When we can look at it that way, that can help us under, it doesn't mean you need to, that you're going to like it anymore, but just recognizing, yeah, this is, we're, They're just trying to feel better and we're all that's all what everyone is wanting to feel better in this and whatever we're doing

[00:36:10] Darcy Spafford: and I think for some of the spouses who leave the church and they're maybe choosing to look at porn and don't think it's bad.

[00:36:16] I think there's probably some level of trying to heal around all the shame and hiding that they've experienced their whole life. There's a lot of shame there.

[00:36:26] Chris Rich: Yeah. That kind of leads me to another different twist on that. How do we, teach our kids?

[00:36:33] So we may be, in a mixed faith relationship. What is, how do we help our kids to navigate pornography in a, and I don't know that it looks any different in a mixed faith relationship than we would, but what, if you had some tips for my listeners to help when they're, when this is an issue with their kids or how to talk to our kids about it.

[00:36:55] Zach Spafford: I think inside the church there are some pretty important overarching principles. Agency and repentance are key in this process, which is recognizing that we have to be able to say to our kids, listen, you can choose to do whatever you want. Let me teach you how I feel about this and why I feel that way about it.

[00:37:13] I'm not going to tell you what you have to do, but if you want to live in a way that is in line with your values, you may want to understand why it is that you're choosing pornography . And, and then unfortunately we have to let go of the reins. That's the truth. You mean you're going to have to do that at some point, no matter what.

[00:37:32] Allowing your children to see that you can handle them choosing is so powerful in this process. Because then they start to see, not only can my parents handle me choosing, but I can talk to them about whatever it is that I need to talk to them about.

[00:37:46] Darcy Spafford: Okay, so this is what I do with my

[00:37:48] Zach Spafford: kids.

[00:37:50] Darcy Spafford: So I'm the one that mostly talks about this stuff with our kids.

[00:37:53] Zach Spafford: Is that true?

[00:37:54] Darcy Spafford: Mostly.

[00:37:54] Zach Spafford: My kids come down and they do like, do a tour of our house and our kids are like, and that's the office where my Papi does porn. That's what kids call me, Papi.

[00:38:04] So I talk about porn all day, but she talks to her children.

[00:38:08] Darcy Spafford: Just being open and honest with them. You know, like you're probably going to see pornography at some point and your body might respond in ways that you've never felt before. And it might feel good and exciting or you might see it and be grossed out by it.

[00:38:23] Like just being more open and honest about it. Because if we're always like, it's bad, it's bad, it's bad. And then they see it and they're like, this is amazing. I feel so good when I see this. This brings up all the good feels, you know, because that's oftentimes what happens when you're a sexual being.

[00:38:38] There's so much cognitive dissonance between, "okay, mom and dad are saying this is bad and I'm seeing this and this seems really good. And then I'm getting messages at church that are it's bad" and you know what I mean? And so it's confusing. So I just like to try and be open and honest with it and like really push myself to get comfortable with my own sexuality and just talking about these things because sometimes it's uncomfortable and the more we can get comfortable talking about Pornography, healthy sexuality, consent all of the things

[00:39:09] Chris Rich: Yeah,

[00:39:09] Darcy Spafford: the more our kids are going to be equipped to make the choices that they feel is best for them. And then obviously, the reality is that your kids are going to see pornography no matter what you do.

[00:39:21] I think it's 0 percent of people have not seen pornography by the age of 18. So addressing it head on. Like, how is it that you want to show up with pornography? Is it something that you want to choose or not choose? Or, mom and dad have different beliefs on this.

[00:39:36] We, I just was thinking about this earlier, Zach and I have very different beliefs on what is acceptable for our kids to do. Like he thinks it's totally acceptable for our four little kids to hike up Shadow Mountain by themselves. And me personally, I'm like, Heck no! Like, no, they're too little. Like, they can't do that.

[00:39:55] And so they see that mom and dad

[00:39:56] Zach Spafford: By Shadow mountain, she means the bluff on Bluff Street.

[00:40:00] Darcy Spafford: Yeah, which is right by our house.

[00:40:02] Zach Spafford: You know, it's 20 minutes up and down from our house.

[00:40:06] Darcy Spafford: But still, right? And so it's like, they know that mom and dad feel differently about this. And,, I'm sure it would be nice if mom and dad were always on the same page about everything, but that's just not the reality of life.

[00:40:17] Like, even if you are You know, both in the same faith tradition does not mean that you believe exactly the same, that you operate exactly the same. There's always differences. The kids know, if dad's in charge, we're probably allowed to go hiking up shadow mountain if mom's gone.

[00:40:35] And if mom's here, mom's probably going to tell us no, and that you can't, and I'm sure that's confusing to them and they don't love it, but they figure it out.

[00:40:43] Chris Rich: And I think too, just like one of the big. Things that, in a mixed faith relationship, this is what I believe, this is what dad believes, and , having that be a normal part of the conversation.

[00:40:56] The other thing I wanted to go back, I think with, it's so important with our kids, and not just kids, but I mean I'm coaching adults on this, that it is normal. We, as human beings, as children of God, we, our bodies Respond sexually. That is a normal thing, that it doesn't mean something is wrong with you, that you're bad.

[00:41:16] I think it's so important that we let, congratulation, your body works the way it's supposed to. I think it's Enjoy that. So, and like, as you were saying, Zach, just like, okay, and figuring out as the person I want to be and with my values, how do I want to let those feelings are there and they're normal?

[00:41:37] And who do I want to be? How do I want to show up in these different situations?

[00:41:43] Zach Spafford: This very discussion highlights one of the things that all of the adults, the couples that we work with, they have to work through is this getting good at being able to not always have to agree and be on the same page with your spouse.

[00:41:56] One of the things that I think too many of us believe is that when the fairy tale starts, at marriage, we're going to agree about everything. And if we're not on the same page, we have to be on the same page. And that kind of framework that doesn't create an honesty between you.

[00:42:11] One of you will have to hide if that's the framework you have to live in. That's not going to create an environment where you can resolve conflicts , in a honest way. Where you can, show your children what it looks like to not always be in agreement. If you have to hide who you are, your children are going to see that, and they're going to wonder, "well, why don't you just?"

[00:42:32] And, they, you think you can hide from your kids, you can't. If you can become more mature, grow up a bit, and I say that, and I don't mean it as a pejorative, we're all growing up, I'm 43, and I'm still growing up. I mean it as, if I can look at the honest truth of what I see in front of me and assimilate that and meaningfully bring that into our environment and not make her have to believe the same way I do while still liking her and choosing her.

[00:42:59] That's a grownup position. That's honesty.

[00:43:01] Chris Rich: Yeah. I love that. Um, okay. I think we could talk for hours and hours, but I'm guessing that we probably shouldn't. Um, is there any, do you guys have any, any other last thoughts that you want to share that you think would benefit my, my listeners?

[00:43:21] Darcy Spafford: So right before this interview, I was on a call with one of the wives and she was talking about telling her husband how to behave, essentially, around pornography and what you should or shouldn't do.

[00:43:32] And, you know, and I, I just asked her this question, now reverse that, how would that go? And she was like, Oh no, like that would not go over well. Right. If I look at my behavior and the way I'm showing up with my spouse or towards my spouse, if that was reversed and he was doing the same exact behavior that I'm doing, would I be okay with that?

[00:43:55] I often get asked the question, "well, how should I show up? How should I support my husband when he's struggling with this?" And it's like, well, let me ask you this. How do you want your spouse to support you when you're struggling with something?

[00:44:07] Chris Rich: Yeah.

[00:44:08] Darcy Spafford: You know, whether. You agree with it or not, or whether he agrees with it or not.

[00:44:13] how do I want to show up and how do I want other people to show up for me around a struggle? Or even just around a different belief, you know? Yeah. It's like, if you believe something differently than somebody else, how do you want them to treat you? You want them to respect what it is that you believe, right?

[00:44:32] And you want to be able to share what it is that you believe with them. And have it be received and not combative. So I think that around pornography, it's like having an open conversation about it where both people can feel heard and seen and address it head on.

[00:44:49] Chris Rich: So important and the golden rule. We learned that in kindergarten. Then we got to remember it when we're, when we're adults.

[00:44:57] Darcy Spafford: Which is not easy to do because when emotions are high and you're very dysregulated, you oftentimes don't show up as your best self. And so sometimes you need to say, I need to take a break here.

[00:45:08] I need to have a breather. Let's, let's come back and let's address this, you know, at this time.

[00:45:16] Chris Rich: Great advice. Anything else for you, Zach?

[00:45:21] Zach Spafford: I would say for the men, if what you're struggling with is porn. You need to get clear about what's going on in that cycle, in that detour cycle. And if you feel like, I don't really want porn in my life, but I don't know how to get rid of it, the answer lies somewhere between that narrative onset and the emotion.

[00:45:40] If you need help walking through that process, talk to somebody. And when I say talk to somebody, I mean, talk to somebody who has solved this problem, not somebody who has a map. That they have never been to the top of the mountain. Someone who has walked through this process, done the work, and knows, all the kinds of pitfalls and things that aren't showing up on that map .

[00:46:03] Because when you want to get where you're going, where you want to go, getting there is so much easier when someone helps you. That's the truth.

[00:46:11] Chris Rich: And,

[00:46:11] Zach Spafford: and I know it can be tough to talk about these things. I wish there had been a me 20 years ago to help me through this process, and if there had been, I probably wouldn't be talking to you today, I'd be doing something else.

[00:46:27] But if you're going to solve this problem, you're going to have to do something dramatically different and that's going to involve probably learning something from somebody who's already mastered it.

[00:46:38] Chris Rich: Well, and that's a great segue. How can people find, how can, if people want to learn more about what you guys do, how can they, how can they, where can they find you?

[00:46:50] Zach Spafford: Yeah, you can, you can set up a conversation with us directly. We'd love to talk to you. You can go to and set up. We

[00:47:01] Darcy Spafford: have a podcast that has hundreds of episodes called Thrive Beyond Pornography, which is also a really great place to start.

[00:47:10] Zach Spafford: Yeah, if you're not ready to have a conversation with us, go to the podcast.

[00:47:13] Lots and lots and lots of free resources there. Tons of information. If you listen very carefully, you could probably get everything you need out of it. Sometimes it takes somebody pointing things out to you though, so don't be surprised. And then if you want to find us on Instagram, you can go to @thrivebeyondpornography,

[00:47:31] so it's @thrivebeyondpornography, where the N in pornography is an X.

[00:47:36] Because you can't use that word on the internet apparently, not on Instagram.

[00:47:40] Chris Rich: There you go. Well, I, you guys, this has been so helpful. I so appreciate you guys joining me today to have this conversation, such an important conversation. I just, I really appreciate you guys being here. So thank you. And that's everything I've got for you guys today.

[00:48:00] Make a great week.

[00:48:02] Zach Spafford: Thank you.

[00:48:03] Darcy Spafford: Bye.

[00:48:04] Zach Spafford: Bye.


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