After a porn addiction, when will I be ready to date again?

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After a porn addiction, when will I be ready to date again?

Jun 23, 2003 |J. Budziszewski
Question

I'm a college sophomore. Like others who have written to you, I suffered from a porn addiction for a long time. With prayer and help from some good accountability buddies I've broken free. It's not like I never have temptation anymore, but ever since I started in the group I've stood strong, and it's getting progressively easier for me. Now comes the problem. I'm worried that my old habits are going to make it difficult to have a normal romantic relationship now. Just recently, in a very awkward conversation, a good friend of mine announced that she was romantically interested in me. I was shocked, flattered and turned on my head, but had to admit that I didn't feel the same way. We prayed together for guidance, then parted. Later we agreed to remain "just" friends.

That got me thinking. When I had that conversation I felt not only unready for a romantic relationship with her, but unready for any romantic relationship at all. I still feel like I'm rebuilding from my past struggles, getting back on track.

I've got a lot of female friends, so it's not like I have big problems with women in general. I'm just really wondering when it's been long enough for me to start dating. How much transition time is enough? I feel like I've come out of a big valley, but I don't feel ready to climb any mountains yet.

Answer

Your main question is how long you should wait after escaping from your pornography compulsion before beginning to date again. I don't know enough to give you a complete answer, because you haven't told me in what way the old compulsion may have compromised your previous friendships with girls. It would also be good to know just what you're afraid might happen if you go back to dating too soon. So you may want to write again.

In the meantime, since right now you feel neither the desire nor the readiness to date, why force it? Romance isn't a prerequisite for normal life. Every single goes through periods when he has no romantic interest; some singles are even called by God to remain single for life. So there is no need whatsoever to force a romantic interest that isn't there. If at some time in the future your desire for romance returns, but you still don't feel ready, then you will have to decide whether the feeling of unreadiness is reasonable or groundless. But there is no need to worry about a decision that you aren't yet called upon to make.

But here's something else to consider. You say that you have lots of good female friends. If you spend time with them, then it seems to me that you are dating. For example, suppose you and a female friend see a movie or have a meal together. I call that a date. There doesn't have to be romantic attraction for it to be a date; it still won't be like seeing a movie or having a meal with a guy! Besides, romantic attraction might pop out of the corner and surprise you. I speak from experience. Once upon a time I spent many months "not dating" the young woman who later became my wife, before discovering that I was crazy about her.

People are so reluctant to call dates "dates" these days. One reason is probably to escape from pressure for sex; in a deranged society like ours, as soon as you admit that you're having a date, the other party may expect you to begin foreplay. But it ought to be possible to date chastely.

One more point. You mention that when the young woman friend expressed romantic interest which you couldn't return, the two of you prayed about it together. Big mistake. It was wise to pray about it, but you should have done so when you were by yourself, and without mentioning it to her. Centuries of experience show that praying with a person of the opposite sex can itself arouse strong romantic feelings. This makes it difficult to tell the difference between the still, small voice of God, and the gurgle and swoosh of the endocrine system — and even if the experience didn't have that effect on you, it may still have had that it on her. A married man and woman can pray by themselves together safely, but when unmarried male and female friends pray together, they are wiser to do so in groups.

Grace and peace,
PROFESSOR THEOPHILUS

Copyright 2003 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.

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