Artwork for podcast Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast)
The Story of Zach and Darcy - Interview with Natalie Clay
Episode 1820th January 2020 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
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Episode 18

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 Mastery Monday. This is your host, Zach Spafford on the Self Mastery Podcast. So this week we're doing something a little bit different. Darcy and I got together with a friend of ours, Natalie Clay, and she interviewed us for her podcast Couples Coaching with Natalie Clay.

So go ahead and check her out. She, you can also see her at her website, natalie Natalie is a, an amazing life coach and she works primarily with couples who are deciding whether or not they want to stay together. So for some of you who are listening to this podcast, that may be something that you want to discuss with your spouse and listen to Natalie's podcast.

Natalie interviewed Darcy and I and . It's funny cuz Darcy and I, we tried to do this on our own and as we sat across the desk from each other, I. And tried to interview each other. We found a lot of weird, awkward silences. So one of our very first episodes was supposed to be, hi, this is me. I'm Zach, and this is Darcy and this is who we are, and this is how we got to where we are.

It didn't work and you've never heard it because , we never published it. But thanks to Natalie for both. Recording this and interviewing us, and also thanks to her for publishing it on her podcast and giving us quite a bit of exposure from her audience as well. All right. Without further ado, here's this week's podcast with Natalie Clay, interviewing Zach and Darcy.

Hello and welcome to Couples Coaching. I'm Natalie Clay. I'm mixing it up a bit this week with a couple's interview. Today we'll hear my discussion with Zach and Darcy Stafford. Zach is a coach who has struggled with overcoming pornography use in the past, and he now specializes in helping other men do the same.

You're also going to hear from his wife Darcy, and her experience as his wife during this process. Okay. Hello. I'm so excited today I have a very special guest. It is a couple named Zach and Darcy Spafford. Thanks for being here guys. Thanks for having us. Yeah, thanks for having us today. They are going to talk about their experience with pornography.

Now to say that pornography comes up a lot in my couple's coaching is, A gross understatement. This is such a prevalent issue that people deal with, and I'm so grateful for the two of you for coming on the podcast today and to talk to us a little bit about the experience that you've had so that we can all learn from your amazing insights.

Before we jump into that, tell us a little bit about the two of you. So we met at the Buffalo Grove Steak Center singles ward in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. Uhhuh nurse had come home from b BYU Idaho to hang out with her family for Thanksgiving. And so she was walking into the church building as I was walking out of the church building.

Yes. And I promptly turned around and went back inside in an effort to be the first person to to ask Darcy out. Okay. So Zach, for you it was love at first sight. Darcy, what about for you? Not so much , if I'm brutally honest. I was like, oh my gosh, this guy is a nerd. So not my type. And yeah, it was not love at first sight for me.

Then by December, I'd totally fallen for him in, we got married in July of 2003. I love it. Okay, so where do you guys live now? How many kids do you have? Tell us about you. . So we currently just moved from St. George, Utah to a suburb of Milwaukee. Yeah, it's been a big change. We, and we're enjoying the weather, all the snow.

It's just beautiful. . What brought you to Milwaukee? So, all my family lives here and we wanted to be closer to family. Great. So we made the leap and here we are. Yeah. We have eight kids, or as I like to say, we only have eight. Yeah, only eight. And the oldest is, is almost 15, and the baby is two. And we're, we're done.

We're officially done. Eight's the final count. Eight. I love it. And you have a set of twins in there, you said? Yep. Seven year old twins and are lots of fun. Okay. Love it, love it, love it. Okay, so Zach, you. Told me a little bit about your background, but can you share it with all our listeners? So I'd love to know how the pornography habit started for you.

So for me, this was just kind of happenstance. It started when I was playing on a playground in a little nowhere, bill Town called Dugway, Utah. It's okay. You go to the edge of nowhere and it's right there. Uhhuh. and I was on the playground in one of those giant truck tires. Mm-hmm. have on playgrounds that always smell like cat pee

Yes. Inside there was a, uh, pornographic magazine and I picked it up. Okay. And that's really where it started. And then for the next. , I'd say 25 years. It was this on off relationship where it was, you know, just coming across it anywhere that I could. And then as I got older, you know, computers became available and Sure.

And the internet became available and it was just one thing led to another until it was a, it was a full fledged part of my life. Okay. Can I ask the first time you saw it, what was your reaction? Like, had you been told about pornography before? Did you, what was that experience like for you? Uh, I don't know that I could tell you exactly what my response was.

Okay. I mean, it was so long ago, but I can tell you that I, I can tell you that I never had anybody talk to me about pornography. Okay. It just wasn't, it just wasn't a, a topic of discussion. Sure. In my household. Um, yeah, I think it was much less prevalent back then. So it wasn't as often discussed than, well, I think you, I think you literally had to go somewhere to get it right.

Like it wasn't pick up your iPhone and it was immediately at your fingertips. And do you remember anything about what you were feeling during that time? Uh, you know, it was exciting. I mean, I somehow, I intuitively knew that I shouldn't be looking at this, but I also wasn't necessarily gonna bring it up with my family.

Okay. Uh, And, and it wasn't something that, again, it wasn't something that we talked about, so, You know, I never really understood why I felt that way, but I Sure I, I knew intuitively that I wasn't supposed to be looking at this. Sure. So then you said it continued and there became computers and it just became more of a regular habit in your life.

Tell me about that. Do you feel like a lot of times people have this question of is, I think as soon as you hear or find out that maybe your husband or someone in your life is looking at pornography instantly, people like to say, oh, they have a pornography addiction. Love to hear your thoughts on that.

Do you feel like this was an addiction at any point? If so, at what point? . Yeah. So that's a really interesting, I think, uh, and especially this is born out in, in literature that I've read, is that religious people tend to label bad behaviors as addictive. Okay. More readily than non-religious people. And I'll be honest with you, I don't think I ever had an addiction in, in the true sense of the word.

And the way that I defined addiction is it is a compulsion that you have absolutely no control over. And we've all seen that when it comes to drug addicts and, and things like that, but, For the most part, I would, I would call what most men are dealing with and anybody who's using pornography is an addictive behavior, which means that it simply has some components that drive you back to it on a regular basis.

Mm-hmm. , but it's not as though you're so compulsively using it that you literally in the middle of like a, a work meeting cannot stop looking at it while you're Right. Discussing flow charts or what have you. Yeah. No, I don't think most men are dealing with an addiction per se. No. Yeah, I, I would totally agree with that.

And I, I like that perspective just because I feel like as soon as we label it in addiction, that feels so disempowering. If you're trying to decide that you wanna stop looking at this, or if you're married to somebody who's looking at it, addiction just kind of takes a lot of the power away from us. I mean, to me, when I went to 12 step meetings, I think one of the first things that you say in each of those meetings is, hi, my name is Zach and I'm an addict.

Mm. And I think, unfortunately, that perpetuates this idea that. One, I have a serious difficulty that I am not in control of. Yes. Which part of the 12 Steps talks about how you're powerless to overcome your addiction. Mm-hmm. , and the the reality is, is that I don't think most people are powerless, and I don't think most people are addicts.

Hmm. Interesting. Okay. I wanna get back to what did work for you. But first, Darcy, I'd love to hear a little bit about your background. When did you first discover this? Was it something that Zach disclosed to you before you got married? Let's hear all about your experience. So before we got married, I think I briefly understood that he had looked at pornography before, and so I had an understanding of that, but.

Being so young and when we got married, it really wasn't talked about like it is now. I really was under the impression that it will go away once we can have sex. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, I, I really, I truly kind of thought that, so I found out, like when we were our first year marriage, he looked at like some bikini pictures that I saw, Uhhuh,

And I was like really upset about that. And then it wasn't until, oh, so our fourth child was born in 2009. . So I think it was 2008. I just had a miscarriage, and then like four days after I had a miscarriage, I found his computer and I came across like full-blown pornography and I lost it. Like I literally lost it.

So, I mean that was six years, seven years into our marriage. Mm-hmm. , um, was when I really understood that, oh wow, this is actually happening in my marriage. Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about what part of that experience was so painful for you when you found that? I think on one hand it was because I was like, oh my gosh, I like am in the best shape of my life.

I weigh 120 pounds. You know, I felt beautiful. And when I found out he was looking at pornography, I immediately made it mean something about me. I took it so personally back then and I thought, yeah, oh my gosh, like I'm not enough. I'm not meeting his needs. I really made it mean something about me. And can you tell me, did you make it mean anything about him?

Yeah, a little bit

So Zach is like the most amazing, attentive husband and father, and so I think part of me was like, he's a good man. , but then there's that part of like, oh no, he is bad. He is really bad. He is breaking the law of chastity and oh my gosh, can, is he worthy to go to the temple? And was, was our whole marriage a fraud?

Mm-hmm. , like, I, I really thought there was something wrong with him. Yeah. Interesting, interesting. Okay. Zach, tell me what it's like when you hear that. Like when you think about all the things that Darcy made it mean about her and made it mean about you. I wanna hear what you made your pornography usage mean about you and what it meant about her.

I. You know, it's interesting because I, I think that every pornography user, every, everybody who has something that they can't seem to give up, they, you know, we pray and we earnestly pray and we go, you know, I, if you could just take this one thing from me, heavenly Father, yeah. I would be the best of the best of the best.

And so, you know, I, for a long time it meant that somehow the atonement wasn't available to me for a long time. It meant that somehow I wasn't able to. to meet the standards that I felt I should be meeting. Um, it, it really did make me feel like a lesser person because I felt like, you know, I, I've checked all the boxes that I should be checking.

Yeah, why, why can't I just get past this? Why can't I just move away from this so that it's no longer a part of my life? And how would you answer that? Because you just said it wasn't an addiction. Yeah. So why was it so hard to move past? There's two things here, right? So one is a better understanding of the atonement is key here.

If you look at the Bible dictionary, the Bible dictionary talks about the atonement is a bridge. It's a bridge in the gap between your ability to return and commune with your heavenly Father and your person. Now, that's what it is. It's a bridge. Um, and understanding that is, uh, a huge component of. Just being able to say, I'm going to be okay, and whatever I've already done is forgiven.

I simply need to accept that. And once I began to understand that, I began to understand that I needed to stop focusing on what happened mm-hmm. , and start focusing on how can I resolve the problem of my pornography use? Love it. Now, before you were at this place where you started understanding the atonement better, you guys were kind of in agreement that maybe you weren't a good guy.

Both of you were kind of at that place. Darcy was thinking, I thought he was this really good guy and maybe he's not, and what you're telling me is I felt like the atonement wasn't working for me, that I wasn't getting any better. So maybe I'm not good. Is that fair? Yeah, totally. Now, how useful was it for both of you to believe that?

Like do you think that's a necessary place to get to? ? No. For me, it was completely depressing. Now I just felt hopeless. I really felt like this was like a death sentence, that this would be a struggle in our marriage forever. I really thought it was never gonna go away. I wanna come back to that. Zach, how about for you?

For me, it was basically the understanding of the atonement that got me out of it. It was, I came to a place where I decided that I wasn't a terrible person and I wasn't gonna beat myself up over. Pornography use anymore. And as soon as that began to be a part of the process, it was a matter of now I can make choices that will move me forward and not worry about what has already happened.

Hmm. I like that. So just to be really clear, you don't feel like being in the place of, I kind of have to hate myself to. Turn this around. You don't think that was the impetus? Hating myself was part of the problem and I, I think anybody who really deals with their pornography use in a coherent, measured way, they look at it and they'll find that when you hate yourself or when you hate who you are because of your.

Pornography use, you'll feel down more often and you just double down on that negativity and it, it turns into a place where you can justify bad things because how else am I gonna feel good right now? Hmm. Okay. I love that point. Okay. Now back to my other question. Um, Zach, what did you make this mean about Darcy?

Like she says she was 120 pounds, she felt like she was really fit and how attracted you were to her. Did that determine how often you were looking at pornography? No. I have never not been attracted to my wife, and maybe this happens to some pornography users that, where they're like, I use pornography so much that I just couldn't even look at my wife and feel attracted to her that that was never, that was not my experience.

You know, I, I've been blessed to be extraordinarily attracted to my wife. Ever since I first saw her, you know, it was always about how can I get better for this, this wonderful woman. Okay. So when you think about in those moments when you would look at pornography and you say it really didn't have anything to do with how attracted you were to your wife, what was the most likely thing to cause you to wanna look at pornography?

Broadly speaking, it was probably, I just wasn't feeling good about whatever was going on and the desire to just feel something more than boredom or loneliness or, at the time I was climbing the corporate ladder, I worked very hard to, to move up in the company that I worked for, and I found that it was this, you know, opportunity of stress release.

There were a number of factors that brought it on, but it was always this sense that I don't want to feel bad right now. How do I go? Feel good? Sure, sure. And, and that was always the bottom line is how do I feel good right now? Cuz I don't like how I feel. Something I've heard from some people that I've worked with on this are that they felt like they wanted to have some sense of control in their life.

And sometimes they felt like if they weren't able to have sex as often as they wanted to, or they never felt like it was up to them how often they were having sex. This is an area where they could feel some control in their sexual life. Can you relate to that at all? , yes and no. Right? So sometimes it was one of those things where Darcy would rebuff me in some way, whether mm-hmm.

it didn't always have to do with sex. It was like she was mad at me for one reason or another. Normal spousal mm-hmm. relationships where you're, you know, you're navigating the, the dos and the don'ts and that this is the way I want it and this is the way you want it. And sometimes it would be one of those things where I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna go do this so that, You know, I feel good about me regardless of what she's doing.

I couldn't say that it was, I never felt like it was about control for me. Sure. Uh, Darcy has always been very, I think, what's the word, conscientious of my wants. And, you know, this is an interesting topic of conversation because when I, when I work with pornography users, a lot of times you hear the, well, she, she doesn't meet my needs.

Mm-hmm. . Well, the reality is, is that, She's not there to meet your needs. Right? That's not her job. That may be something that she chooses to do because she is. Your wife and she wants to relate to you. She wants to be intimate with you, but she is not there to meet your needs and you're not there by the way, to meet her needs either.

What, what her marriage is, it's more about how can we grow together and build on each other and be be there for each other rather than you give me this, I, it's not really just a negotiation of you give and I give and I get, and you get. I completely agree and I find when I am talking with my couples that we run into that same issue.

And I'm so curious because when I'm teaching people that, yeah, you've gotta be responsible to take care of your own needs and marriage that comes up often. Well, what about when it comes to sex? That's something I can only take care of through my spouse. So I wanna hear, I have my answer to that. I wanna hear how you responded that.

I guess for me, I don't really feel like I am there to meet his sexual needs, and I don't think he's necessarily there to meet my sexual needs, and I don't really think that that's fair to put on the other person. So for me, the answer lies in the fact that first of all, your spouse doesn't owe you anything.

They don't owe you anything more than they're willing to give. You don't have rights to sex, you just don't. And beyond that, we're essentially. Putting our spiritual needs ahead of our physical needs. And what that means is to me, when it comes to why can't I make my wife have more sex with me is, listen, maybe your challenge is just that you don't have as much sex as you want.

and it's time for you to learn to, to choose to be okay with that. Because honestly, there's a lot in this world that just is what it is, and you're not gonna be able to change it. And I...