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Intimacy Requires Risk - The Secret to Intimacy Series: Chapter 4 of 5
Episode 12920th February 2022 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:37:38

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We live in a world that is really good at presenting itself to us in ways that are designed to get our appr   oving likes, hearts, shares, and follows.  

In talking about the ways that we use other-validated intimacy last week, we began to understand what it is and how we might be working to get it from others.  

We didn’t really talk about why that might be a problem.  

Relationships built on other-validation create cycle of self-presentation for validation, which eventually breaks down when one or more of the people involved don’t want to play the game any more.  

There have been a number of scandals over the years of influencers doing work that wasn’t quite real or genuine in an effort to gain more social media currency.  They are putting forward a picture of themselves that is not real in an effort to be seen as more than what they really are.  

They fake houses, cars, vacations, and other status symbols so that those who follow them believe in the person’s success regardless of its truth in the real world.  They present a picture of themselves as something they are not when they are alone with themselves.  

As a pornography user, this is exactly what I did to my wife and what she did to me. 

I would present to her a reality that wasn’t a reflection of who I was when I was alone with my inner thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  

I was presenting myself to my partner by not telling her how I felt.  I was not real with what was going on for me.  I was actively trying to manage her impressions of me, how she felt about me, and her anxiety around the difficult subjects in our life. 

I would do this by not sharing difficult situations at work.  I would do this by not showing her that I was stressed, I would say I was tired or something else instead.  I would find ways to avoid her when I had looked at pornography.  I would lie about my pornography use.  I would tell myself that she couldn’t handle it.  I would tell myself that I was only hurting myself and that she didn’t need to know.  

I was presenting a picture of who I was to Darcy in order to keep her “happy” or “Safe” or to get her to like me.  When the reality was, I wasn’t the person I was saying I was.  

D - Sometimes I would have sex when I really didn’t want to. I would be more sexual to try and compete with the porn that you were using.  I would act like everything was fine when they weren’t.  

This, in turn, created a great deal of anxiety for me.  It made me constantly nervous and anxious about our future and my ability to care for Darcy. It left me lonely and alone in very real ways.  

Which, incidentally, were my biggest emotions that I was trying to escape.  And were some of the main reasons I would turn to pornography. 

So, in self-presenting to Darcy, curating the image she had of me, especially the false parts of it, I created a lack of intimacy.  I removed intimacy from our lives.  I made it so she was not able to track honesty and openness in me.  Which was the very thing she would tell you that she wanted.  

She wanted to know me, but she was also scared of who I actually was in meaningful ways.  

What was that like for you?

D – I wanted to know you as far as it made me feel ok.  but when it came to you, when it made me not feel ok, I didn’t like it.  So, in a very real sense I was helping create an environment that encouraged Zach to self-present.  Which is not the same as making him do it.  He was still very much responsible for his own actions.  It’s important to understand that this is not an excuse for us to lie.  It is simply an acknowledgement of my part in the environment.  

Z- We all do this in some small ways and most of us do this in some significant ways. 

The reality is, that being able to present a picture of who we are to others is a valuable tool that helps us advance our interests. As far as I can tell, It also seems to allow us to keep things that aren’t really good to share with everyone to ourselves.  

D – we all know that couple who we might even look up to and we think they are doing so good.  Then the next thing you know they are getting divorced.  And we wonder what happened.  Really, they were just super good at presenting a certain image, while underneath something else was happening.  

Z - This is the time and place issue that we run into with a lot of things that are important to us, but that wouldn’t be really appropriate to share with everyone, at all times.  

Here is where we move into the ambiguity of being the person we want to be. 

If we only told the truth, what was absolutely real for us at all times to everyone, in every situation, there is a good chance we would alienate ourselves from those around us. 

Imagine going in and telling your personal business to everyone at work, regardless of the details, in an effort to be entirely transparent and honest and open. 

Doesn’t seem like a good idea. 

But, there is someone that it may be in our long term best interest to share who we are with.

Let’s just take a moment and talk about what I mean by the idea of who we are.  

We present a picture of who we are to those around us. Our work has a picture, that we choose to show them, of who we are.  Church has a picture of who we are, based on what we choose to show them. Our Children have a presented view of who we are, based on things we share with them.  Thiers is a more intimate and real view, but it isn’t the most real view.  

Then there is our spouse.  He or she will know who we are the most of anyone, usually. 

Once we peel the layers away and stop showing people what we want them to know about us, we are left with just who we are when we are alone with ourselves.  


This is your personality at its core.  This is who you are at your core.  This is the place where there are things that you know about yourself, that maybe no other person knows.  It is the place where we put the things that are the most true about us.  (this isn’t to say those things can’t change, it’s just where that reality is). 

This is who we are.  

D – In an ideal world, The person that we can share this stuff with is our partner, our spouse.  It really boils down to how intimate we want to be.  Some of us really don’t want intimacy in our lives.  What we really want is a relationship where you tell me I’m awesome and I tell you that you’re awesome. We don’t really want our partner to tell us what is really going on because it is scary.   

We talked about this last week on other-validation.  

Z - To create the greatest intimacy in our lives, we need to be willing to stop self-presenting to them and start self-disclosing. 

To create the intimacy that is the most fulfilling, we must be willing to take a risk.  The risk of being rejected by others. 

A good way to explain this is to take us all back to high school.

If you are like me, you might have been interested in certain things in high school that would have labeled you.  

You might have been labeled a nerd if you liked star wars or star trek.  You might have been a popular kid that worried that if others knew how much you liked band you’d lose credibility.  All the things that you liked that you worried that your friends might make fun of you for any reason and you wouldn’t share because it was too much of a risk.  That is what I’m talking about. 

Often we think there are only two outcomes.

People could reject you, judge you, and never talk to you again.  Or they would be just like you. They would love it too.  And it would deepen your friendship.  

This all sounds so shallow. But it was real I think for most people.  

Now think of the things that you keep from your wife or husband that you think would make them reject you.  

The things that you feel like you are keeping from them to “protect” them from you. From the real person that you are when you are alone with yourself.  

Self-disclosure is a really scary thing when it comes to pornography use.  Overcoming pornography, is a struggle in and of itself, but telling others about it can be debilitating.  It is fraught with a deep and real fear of being rejected.  

Here’s the thing.  If you want to be successful at overcoming pornography, you need to have the skill of being real with your partner.  Being the person that you really are with them. 

One of the reasons that I believe that men and women turn to pornography is that they are afraid of rejection and pornography never tells them no.  It never says that your ideas are unacceptable.  It never rejects what you want. 

One of the reasons that we are often afraid of intimacy and self-disclosure is because our partner and others around us are not only capable of telling us no, they do it regularly.

One of the reasons that we are not able to eliminate pornography is that this thing we do, even if we talk about it after we have done it, is just ours.  It belongs to no one else when we are doing it. And it never rejects us. 

To be capable of overcoming pornography and entering into a deeper intimacy with our partner, we have to be willing to brave that rejection, sometimes endure it’s intense feelings, evaluate whether it is worth it, and still choose our partner.  

The Self Mastery Podcast is dedicated to helping Latter-day Saints overcome pornography. Men and women struggle with overcoming pornography.

This podcast draws on the real-life experiences of the hosts, Zach and Darcy in their struggle to overcome pornography, strengthen their marriage, and grow personally.

If you want to know what real success looks like in overcoming pornography from real people who have been where you are, then this podcast is for you. The interviews with real clients who have succeeded, the amazing skills, techniques, and systems that are shared, and the real-world experiences of the hosts make this the number one podcast for Latter-day Saints looking to overcome pornography.

If you are ready to take your knowledge and understanding to the next level, join the Self Mastery Membership at