The Importance of Having "The Talk!"

What is “The Talk?” -- “The Talk” is when a guy actually tells his girlfriend that he has an addiction, no matter where he is in recovery.

So how important is “The Talk?” --  My wife and I attend an Addiction Recovery couples group. In that group there is a distinct difference between the couples where the wife found out before they got married and the couples where the wife found out after they got married.

The wives who entered into marriage already knowing about the addiction, had their eyes wide open. They already knew about their husband’s past and potential problems. The wives who found out after marriage were totally blindsided and felt betrayed by their husbands.

To give you some perspective on this topic, I asked three guys, who I greatly admire, to share their experience with having “The Talk."

I asked them to answer three questions:
  1. What led up to your having "The Talk?"
  2. How did "The Talk" go over?
  3. How important has this been to your relationship?
Here are their responses:



Jameson had “The Talk” before his mission and before marriage.

What led up to our having "The Talk?"

I met my wife working at a campus job at BYU and we maintained our friendship for a few years before we expressed any romantic affection for each other. When I left school after freshman year and went home I intended to go right on a mission, but I continued to struggle with my addiction to pornography which postponed my mission for years.

Eventually I figured that she probably knew what my "problem" was, but when we started talking about wanting to have a future together, I let her know that I was by no means a safe choice as a husband because I had spent so many years struggling with addiction. It wasn't easy, but i needed her to know.

How did "The Talk go over?" and How important has this been to your relationship?

She kindly responded that she still wanted to move forward and wanted the best for me. We were candid with each other and of course we would need to be married in the Temple but that was all that she wanted. I was much more concerned about falling back into addiction after being married and so I had her read through the ARP manual and He Restoreth My Soul by Dr. Hilton so that she would know what she was getting into.

She was sobered by reading those things, but she still wanted to move forward as long as I was progressing toward recovery. She didn't think that anyone was perfect, so she wasn't worried about me having a perfect past, and she was very confident in the power of the atonement to fundamentally change individuals, and more specifically, to change me.

The harder "talk" to have was when I was struggling with my addiction on my mission. I let her know in a letter that I had been struggling for a little while, and she was very angry that I had kept that secret from her. I had justified it by telling myself that we weren't engaged or committed to each other and she was continuing to date while I was away. She saw it more as a betrayal.

But I think that if that had been the first time I had told her about my addiction after spending time dating each other and confiding in each other all those years, that might have been the end of our relationship. It was a bit of a shocking revelation to me how important it was to her that I always let her know what my status was. It was way worse to her to not know than it was for me to relapse. She could work with relapses and addiction but she could not work with secrets.


Kastle had “The Talk” after his mission and before marriage.

What led up to our having "The Talk?"

Having the talk was motivated by the fact that I wanted my marriage to be founded upon honesty and transparency.  Also I knew that this addiction could be a part of me for the rest of my life.  It would be unfair of me to bring anyone into a relationship without them knowing what they were getting into.  Also I knew that this would be a way of truly finding out who was a potential to marry me.

If someone knew about this issue I faced and still was willing to try to have a relationship with me then I knew they were someone worth dating.  If they said they couldn't handle it then at least I would be able to move on.  More importantly I had "the talk" with my future eternal companion while we were dating because I had been praying for when to do so and Heavenly Father made it clear for the timing.

How did "The Talk" go over?

I'm so grateful I went according to the Lord's time table and that I have an eternal companion that I can always be honest with and never feel shame from. She loves me for all of me, not just the good polished side, but with all my demons, insecurities, and imperfections.  That is true love.

How important has this been to your relationship?

The talk has enabled our relationship to always be founded on honesty and sincerity.  If either one of us has an issue that is difficult to talk about we already know that the other will not judge and that we have someone who will always support us.  It has created a foundation on Christ where we are able to give our weaknesses up to him without secrecy, shame, or deception.

Due to having the talk we both have an increased love and appreciation for the atonement of Jesus Christ and the Love of our Father in Heaven.  We can support and love one another whether it's raining or sunny, we love each other entirely. Good and bad.


Cody had the talk after his mission and is still dating this young woman.

What led up to our having "The Talk?"

What led me to have the talk with my girlfriend? It's funny that the owner of this blog credits me so much for having an open dialogue with my significant other about my addiction issues. The reason being, she asked me one night while we were just having a chat, "Have you ever... ya know. Trifled with pornography or any of that stuff?"

I had been thinking about talking to her about it, but I wasn't sure when would be the right time. Good thing she decided for us! Even if she hadn't asked, I recognize the critical nature of having this discussion.

How did "The Talk" go over?

The talk went really well. I replied to her question with, "well I'm glad you asked." I did my best to remain calm, not be defensive and to be completely transparent. Over the course of my recovery I've been blessed with a testimony of honesty and integrity. So I spilled my guts. Everything. Everything I could think of that would be relevant.

I refrained from mentioning graphic details about the practice of my addiction as is counseled in the initial instructions of the 12 Step meetings that I attend. I followed the spirit and my own intuition in
deciding what would be important for her to know. Having dialogue was key. Having the correct attitude, and not being defensive were my best tools in this.

How important has this been to your relationship?

Having a continuous relationship of complete transparency has been absolutely vital to our relationship. So has setting clear expectations of what she knows, when she knows it, and how she knows it. For instance, do I disclose every time I think something inappropriate? Do I only share what I share with my bishop? When do I share these things? A day after? The same day? All of these things had to be discussed and we made agreements for all of these.

Conclusion

If you are dating, before you get too serious you need to have "The Talk."  The young woman deserves to know what she is getting into so she can make an educated and inspired decision as to whether she wants to continue with the relationship.

What you don't want to do is get engaged, or worse still, get married without the young woman knowing anything about your struggles.


If you are single, check out this other post: Choosing a Marriage Partner.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! My husband told me about his addiction even before we were officially dating (we were very good friends and talked a lot, which helped). Knowing that he was willing to be totally honest with me, and that he was actively fighting his addiction really made an impression on me. Honesty is key in working together. Is it easy? No! But it is totally worth it.