Artwork for podcast Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast)
Overcoming pornography with a Military Perspective
Episode 258th March 2020 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:42:43

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Episode 25

Zach Spafford: You are listening to the Self-Mastery Podcast, where we break through barriers holding you back from becoming who you wanna be, whether you're struggling with pornography, overeating, social media addiction, or just wanna get better at succeeding at life. This podcast is for you. Now your host, Zach Spafford.

Hey everybody. Welcome to another Beautiful Mastery Monday. Today I have Jesse Elerton with me. We are doing a combined podcast. She has a podcast called Simply Resilient. Where she focuses on military wives and how they can have a better experience while their husbands are away and deployed, which really fits nicely in with what I do, which is working with men and women who are buffering with things, whether it's pornography or video games or food or, everything under the sun, really.

Jesse, welcome. 

Jesse Ellertson: Thank you so much, Zach. I'm thrilled to be here. Excited for this 

Zach Spafford: discussion. This is gonna be awesome. Really. I think what we wanted to talk about today was buffering and loneliness and how the individual is really pretty significantly impacted when they are away from their spouse and why that is and how you can work through some of that difficulty.

And you're really the first person I've had on my podcast, other than my wife, which is fun, huh? Yeah. Why don't you tell us a little bit about 

Jesse Ellertson: you. Okay, great. Yeah. My name's Jesse. I am a coach for military wives and I am a military wife myself. My husband's in the Utah National Guard. Basically.

I've had experiences both ways now where I've done a deployment without any of these mind management tools. And then just recently I did a deployment after. Learning all of this and not even becoming a life coach yet, but just having a life coach and learning how to manage my mind and doing a deployment, a year long deployment with and without those skills was just such a night and day difference for me.

It made. It was like the, in the first one in 2013 when he was deployed, it was like we just hunkered down and went into survival mode and like almost like we lost a year, like we paused our lives while he was gone and we just like got through by the skin of our teeth. So it wasn't like, I hope we make it, but it was like, once this is over, 


Jesse Ellertson: we can live again.

And then on this most recent one, when he left in 2018, having all these tools available to me, I was able to take a look at the experience that I had ahead of me and decide what I wanted to make of it. And it was just such an empowering place to come from and I was able to create a year, not only just continue living rather than going to that survival mode, I was able to really create a year because I was willing to feel the ups and the downs of.

Everything that came with him being away for a year, particularly like in Iraq in a war zone, and just everything that came with that. Solo parenting, all of those challenges. And we had a very challenging year, but one of the most fantastic of my life. I mean, like I really had an amazing experience while he was gone and I didn't even know that was possible.

And so once I was able to have those two really stark contrasting experiences, I was able to see that this is something that I can help other women who, who have this desire. Create for themselves to other military spouses. And I know that some people really like the way that they already are handling when their husband's away, and that's great and they should just keep right on with that.

But I know there's a lot of military spouses out there who are really dissatisfied and really stressed out and really. Suffering when their husband's away and when we're in the military, they have to be away pretty frequently. And so I'm just, that's kind of my quest is finding women who want it to go better and then helping them have the tools that I now have that's making it go so 

Zach Spafford: much better for me.

So along those lines, what's the biggest issue that you think that you deal with when your husband is gone? Because while a deployment is, it's a particularly difficult set of circumstances where your husband is gone for a, an extended period of time, but it's also one, especially in the military, where that person might also be in danger.

It's not the same as when your husband goes on a business trip for a month. Yeah, let's have some similarities. So what are the biggest issues that you see your clients dealing with when their spouse is gone? 

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah, one of the, one of the hardest parts is the pretty obvious one, the solo parenting where a family and a marriage is often on two sets of shoulders and the responsibilities are divided.

Whether, I mean, whether he's at work. Throughout the week and you're still kind of carrying most of the load with the kids, but he still shares in that responsibility. So I think that's what weighs on me the most, or at least used to weigh on me so much more, was just that it felt like it was 100% on my shoulders.

And to sustain that for a year just feels really heavy. And even if I didn't want to, I would end up kind of like resenting him for being gone and for making me feel this way and for having all of this happen. Another thing that I see, And myself and in my clients is just a little bit of what I already said, kind of living in survival mode.

And I think we're meant to visit survival mode to get through like the hardest parts of life, but we're never really meant to stay there. And I think we accidentally stay there sometimes and just live this very, very small life. Which the way we make it small honestly is buffering because then that really smooths out all the bumps and then we can handle all that better.

And when you're in a real emergency, you need to smooth out those bumps cuz you can only handle so much. But a year is such an interesting or however long the deployment is, whether it's six months or a year. It's an interesting amount of time because it's long enough that you have to really change your lifestyle.

It's still a temporary situation. Like, you know, they're coming back, you know, your life will go back to the way it was. It's not a permanent change. So it's temporary solo parenting and it's temporary, you know, survival mode and.

Zach Spafford: It's the sense of limbo, I think that you Yeah. Live in. So my, my dad worked for the Department of Defense.

He was the deputy director of mortuary affairs for the Navy for a long time. Oh, wow. And when we lived in Germany, he was, so this was during the first Gulf War. He went to England to set up a mass casualty mortuary, which I think we never needed because that was such a short conflict. Yeah. But, It was interesting.

You know how the dynamic in the house changes Now, this is me coming from being a child, but the dynamic in the house changes when one of those spouses is gone for an extended period of time. The question that I have to follow up on, the first question is, what do you think are the biggest challenges that the person who's away deals with?


Jesse Ellertson: that's a great question. Like you and I had already talked about a little bit both sides of the equation, the husband and the wife are dealing with a lot of loneliness, and that comes with that. He's doing his own thing o obviously there's male and female soldiers and male and female military spouses.

I'm a female, so I mostly say like the wife at home and the husband away. So everyone listening, just forgive that Please, I love you all whether you're, whichever side equation you're on. But when he's away and doing his own thing and having his whole own experience, that can be really challenging. It can be a real struggle to create connection because.

You are having your whole on separate experiences and unlike normal life, even if like, say your husband traveled a lot or something, you might share what the other person's doing, but like he doesn't really wanna talk about his day and for a lot of it, he can't tell me. So then I feel disconnected to him because I don't.

Totally know what he's doing and then I kind of do wanna talk about my day, but it doesn't go that great when I do because then it adds stress to his plate that he can do nothing about. Like it might relieve me a little bit to maybe vent to him or just I try, I keep him in the loop, but when I vent to him, his like stress and anxiety goes up and there's not one thing he can do to help me except just say, I love you.

Yeah. So you kind of find this balance of. We barely tell each other about our day, just enough to keep each other in the loop, and we have to find other ways to make sure we're creating that connection. And so there's just, yeah, there's a lot of loneliness and a lot of unwanted disconnect because you're not really sure how to create it when you can't be with each other in each other's presence physically.

You can't have date night. You can't talk so much about what's going on with your day. There's a lot of that going on. It's 

Zach Spafford: interesting because that ability to just. physically touch each other even if briefly is Yeah. So powerful within a relationship. And yet it's completely denied in that scenario where you know the spouse is gone and you're definitely not expecting them to show up for dinner.

Yeah. For a lot of months. And that's, that can't be easy. 

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah. So one thing that I work with my clients on quite a bit actually is , showing them the power of creating that connection in their mind with their thoughts. So I help them gain awareness over the thoughts they are thinking. Like it feels so hard to be connected when he's away, or I wonder if he's thinking about me and instead just give those a gentle nudge to like, I'm so lucky that he's always thinking about me, or I know he's always thinking about me, or I know how to create connection even when we can't be together.

Just some of these more confidence building thoughts that are gonna actually create that connected feeling for you. And then when you show up to him in your, FaceTime or whatever, not with just this like gaping need of like we are not feeling connected. Instead you're like, I'm, I've already done my half.

I've created a ton of connection over here. And then you show up just ready to like, love and support him. Whether he's created it in his own mind or not. Cuz that's another thing we talk about is often the spouse doesn't wanna really talk about, you never know it's different in every marriage, but often the spouse doesn't always wanna talk about what maybe some of this mind management stuff that maybe my clients have gotten really excited about.

And I said, it's okay. You, you show up with your half of the connection created and that already is just gonna take. Your relationship, from here to here, like to just really increase that, that's been a 

Zach Spafford: powerful tool. I think that there is definitely, and when we talk about military spouses we're often talking about, as you said, men, as the soldiers or the sailors or the airmen and the women as at home, the spouse.

Yeah. And so I think there's a great deal of ethos within the culture of the military where men don't. talk about what they're doing. They don't talk about what's happened. They mm-hmm. , they don't really have that conversation. My dad was a helicopter pilot for Vietnam, and that's where he met my mom, and that's how they got together and got married.

But I know very, very little about my dad's Vietnam experience. Yeah. And my brother was both a sailor and a soldier. He was a corpsman in the Navy and a medic in the army. And I know very little about what he. Did, and I know that the deployments that he had were a huge strain on his marriage. He spent a year alone in Korea, which if you stay in the military long enough, you're gonna spend a year alone somewhere in the world.

Yeah. I think we have to be willing to recognize as the home spouse and as the away spouse, that opportunity to connect arts between our ears, really, it's all about what you're thinking and how you're putting that together in terms of how am I gonna show up for my spouse and is that the way that I want to show up?

Jesse Ellertson: Exactly, and it's such good news because if you can only feel connected to your spouse, if you're physically in their presence, then we are have a big problem here, right? Like if we, if that's the only way, but if we know and believe in the fact that we create a huge part of it just within our own minds, that's so, so empowering for both people.

The way. Spouse and the at-home 

Zach Spafford: spouse. From my perspective, and I, I deal with people who feel lonely and they buffer and, I specifically work with people who are dealing with pornography, but the issue here is how do I manage the thing that I'm feeling so that I can be the best person that I want to be.

right? Yeah. Showing up and being the person that, if you're away, you don't have a different set of values and different set of behaviors. A lot of businessmen deal with a lot of people who are using buffering behaviors to get through their work week. In fact, I had a conversation yesterday with a client who he said, I would literally, I would go in the bathroom to get a bump so that I could.

Finish out the day, I would have a, yeah, a project or whatever that I knew I needed to complete and so I'm gonna, I went into the bathroom at, two o'clock in the afternoon to get a bump. That's not who I want to be, so I need to learn how to deal with that. When you are working with spouses, do you ever work with the deployed persons?

Jesse Ellertson: Yeah, sometimes I do, but mostly not. . I mostly just work with the at-home spouse, which is usually the wife like we mentioned. But I think the traction that the at-home spouse makes by even understanding a little better what's going on just in brains in general, while they gain that awareness over their brain, helps them make what their husband's doing just mean less about them.

Like one, one thought I'll offer my clients when they're. Feeling some things about, the way they've inter like a recent interaction with their spouse who's deployed and they're not feeling very connected, I'll help them realize like, You know, what it feels like to be in your lower brain.

And that's where he is right now. And say he, overreacted about something that was going on at home or if he just, their interaction didn't go very well. That's a very comforting thought to me. And I'll offer it to my clients of, it's okay that they're just in their lower brain right now and I know what that feels like.

And that brings up a lot of like compassion cuz we all spend time in our lower brain. And like you were saying, if the client you mentioned, . That's not a, that's not who he wants to be anymore. But that was him and his lower brain thinking like, I need this to get through this next part. That's another thing I think about when I think about buffering and then I'll teach my clients this of the, kinda the spectrum of buffering as far as there's pretty mild buffering that doesn't have a very big net negative effect.

And then there's, way more intense buffering that has or way more, like. Has a gr a bigger effect, like a bigger net negative effect of the result it's creating for in your life. And like the client you mentioned, he was like, like the result this is creating for me is I can't get through my day without this and I don't want that result anymore.

And I talked to my clients about that. That's the reason we're changing the buffering. Not because the fact that we Buffer makes us a bad person or something. Everybody has that urge to buffer. Yeah. But when we realize that we don't like the result it's creating for us, that's when we can say this is just something I'm ready to change cuz I don't like this result.

Not because like it means anything about me. 

Zach Spafford: Yeah, and I talk about it from a perspective of self-confidence, self-confidence and I did an episode on this, I think episode 17, where I talked about how regardless of the behavior, What you're really doing is you're, me missing out on the ability that you have to be the person that you choose to be and that cognitive dissonance that you get when what happens is, I'm a member of the church of Jesus Christ and I choose this behavior.

My behavior is supposed to be that I'm not looking at pornography and yet, in that moment, you're feeling lonely or you're feeling sad and you decide, you know what? I just, I'm gonna buffer through pornography. That cognitive dissonance erodes the self-confidence that you wanna bring to your life.

And this happens, whether the. , whether the particular buffer is a big one or it's a small one, right? Yeah. Whether it has that large net negative or that small net negative, but one way or the other when you say, this is what I'm gonna do and you don't do it, that's really a self-confidence game.

Takes that hit him, that you're at your willingness and ability to be the person you want to be long run, regardless of what the main effect of it is. Yeah, 

Jesse Ellertson: that's such a good point. Yeah, and I've noticed that the opinion that we have of ourselves, like if our self-confidence is taking a hit, when it's decreasing that opinion we have of ourselves, the higher our opinion is of ourselves, like the higher we're having success with, like our goals and what we're working to achieve.

Where when we take that hit and our self-confidence, that also decreases our ability to find that success in what we're trying to accomplish. Those two things seem very linked as I've been observing 

Zach Spafford: them. I think it has an impact also on how you deal with the other spouse, right? When you are feeling as though you are not meeting your obligations.

People are really good at projecting onto others that they aren't meeting their obligations either. That's a source of conflict I can imagine within a marriage, especially when your spouse is deployed and you're, you're doing your level best. I mean, let's be honest. Yeah. About it. There's not a, there's not a military spouse out there, there's not a military wife out there whose spouse deploys and all of a sudden they're like, well, I'm gonna half-ass it today.

Yeah. I'm over it. , . Right. That's not the thought that anybody brings to it. Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, they're doing their level best. And yet, when we don't do what we say we're gonna do, when we choose to buffer with food or with video games, or just sitting on the couch and watching TV all day, just because we can't.

Deal with the feelings that we are encountering. We begin to feel as though not only are we not meeting our obligations, but everyone around us is not meeting their obligations as well. That become 

Jesse Ellertson: a toxic situation. Yeah. Another thing that I've really benefited from understanding is like, just going back to that concept of.

Like the survival mode that we go...