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Overcoming: Zach and Darcy's Journey Through Pornography Struggle- A Chat with Darcy
Episode 23610th March 2024 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:32:14

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Learning to Thrive Beyond Pornography use was the greatest challenge of our life and marriage. It had rocked my self confidence, tainted all of the most important experiences of my life and become the most impossible challenge I had.

With this podcast or at you'll learn about the struggle, how to overcome pornography use, and where to find additional resources to begin to thrive beyond pornography with your spouse.

At some point I took a step away from all the 12 step meetings and councilors and started to figure out my own brain, to look at my issue as something that I had the answer to and I was going to figure it out. Here I share those lessons and give you the power to start your own journey free. Whether you struggle with unwanted pornography use or are the spouse or partner, whether you feel stuck or just don't know where to start, here I will teach you principles, tools and skills that you can use today to change how you think and, in the end, what you do.

You'll hear interviews with my spouse, with experts on human sexuality and with former and current pornography users on how you can overcome your own struggle with addictive behavior.

The Thrive Beyond Pornography podcast will bring new perspective to your struggle and keep you coming back to improve all aspects of your life. (formerly, The Self Mastery Podcast: Overcome Pornography Forever)


Episode 236

Zach Spafford: "Hey everybody, and welcome to Thrive Beyond Pornography. I'm your host, Zach Spafford, and Darcy has joined me today. We promised this a couple of weeks ago, where Darcy would be taking questions from me, but it just hasn't worked out until now. She's very busy taking care of our lives upstairs.

So, I'm glad she's here, and I'm excited to ask these questions that go with the episode where she asked me a bunch of questions. The reason we're doing this is to give you an understanding of how things change. Often, when we talk about pornography, the narrative is very doom-based. It's all fear, shame, doom, and gloom. We want to give hope and an understanding of what can change. This is why we do this because we don't want any more marriages or individuals to have their lives seemingly ripped apart by this struggle with pornography.

So today, I'm going to ask Darcy a few questions to see what her thoughts are on what has changed, what was the problem, what was going on for her, and how things are different now. So, without any further ado, I'm ready. You're ready. Alright, let's see. Can you share how my struggle with pornography affected you personally and emotionally throughout our relationship?"

Darcy Spafford: "That feels like a very loaded question for me to answer, but I will do my best. In the early years, when I first found out about Zach looking at pornography, it personally and emotionally affected me greatly.

I was doing the dishes today, and as I was thinking about it, I remembered the times when I would be doing dishes, and all I could think about was Zach looking at porn and obsessing about it, having almost like OCD thoughts about it. And in that time period, it was very much all-consuming of my thoughts. Then, over the years, as we began to approach porn differently than we did in the beginning, things started to change, and I was able to more separate myself emotionally from Zach's struggle with pornography.

Instead of it being so all-consuming, I was able to compartmentalize it a little bit better and take out all the extra fear, anxiety, stress, and really the shame. I was able to take the shame out of it a lot, I think, for Zach. That is how it affected me.

And I think one of the bigger things was, it really amplified what I was already struggling with. I've talked about this before, but..."

Zach Spafford: "Pornography struggle amplified in you some of the insecurities that you were struggling with."

Darcy Spafford: "Yeah, like body image issues, that was amplified because of his struggle with pornography."

Zach Spafford: "And how did that shift?"

Darcy Spafford: "How did that shift? A lot of it was just realizing that I am more than just a body and that I brought way more to the table than how I compared to other women or what it was like. I started gaining more confidence in what I did bring to the table and what I did offer.

I began to realize that I am way more awesome than pornography, and maybe that sounds conceited, you know."

Zach Spafford: "Tell us more about that."

Darcy Spafford: "The whole well-rounded view, I feel like I'm way better than pornography."

Zach Spafford: "Yeah, I love that. So what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced as you were both trying to support yourself through this process and trying to be a spouse to me and even sometimes choose to support me as I was struggling to put pornography in the past?"

Darcy Spafford: "I would say the biggest, absolute biggest challenge for me was control issues.

I really, really wanted to try and control everything, and it makes total sense because now, I understand that when we think that we have control over something, then we think that we have more power to change it. I felt like if I could just control the environment, if I could make sure we were being intimate so many times a week, and if I made passwords and managed the electronics, then like I could somehow control this. And so that was probably the biggest thing that was a challenge for me was just having to realize that I really don't have any control over this. And that's a really scary thing because it really puts it totally out of your power to change it.

And we don't like that. We like to feel like we're in control and we like to feel like we can make a difference. But I think what I started to learn was that I could make a big difference, but not in the ways that I was.

I was really focused in the beginning on controlling, on shaming, and like thinking if I could just make him see how bad I'm hurting, then clearly he'll stop.

Or if I could just get him to see how bad it is, then he'll stop. And, I realized that didn't work either. So it became a gradual shift of really realizing that the way I could support him was really just showing up as my best self, choosing him, loving him, and being honest and supporting him and what it was that he was doing."

Zach Spafford: "I think a lot of spouses think they have to do more management. And I think one of the bigger proponents was being honest in that you were saying, 'I don't like how this feels and I don't like you doing it,' but not making what I was doing about you, not making what I was choosing mean that you weren't enough for me."

Darcy Spafford: "Yeah. And I think it goes back to, again, just being able to support each other and think about how is it that I want to be supported in my struggles and the things that I have a hard time with.

It's like, if I'm struggling with the kids or I'm struggling with the house, if Zach came in and was like, 'all right, here's what you're going to do. Here's your regiment. You're going to clean the house on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You're going to do these chores.'

If he like took control over that, I would not have felt supported. I would have felt belittled. I would have felt really not good enough. I would have felt like he clearly thinks I'm incapable of doing this.

And so really it just became supporting him by loving him and showing up as the best that I could."

Zach Spafford: "Yeah, I love that.


Zach Spafford: "Yeah, I love that. I think one of the biggest things we talk about with our clients, especially wives want to know, but even the men who are struggling, is trust. How did you do trust in our relationship? How did you maintain, create, and choose trust, especially during the dark moments? It wasn't easy, it wasn't like 'hey, I've got a problem' and everything was suddenly perfect. So, how did you navigate the trust issues we faced?"

Darcy Spafford: "In the beginning, my approach to trusting him was by checking up on him all the time. Like, if he fell asleep, I'd think, 'let's see if there's anything on his phone that shouldn't be there.' That was my way of trying to build trust, but in reality, it was the opposite of trust. As I progressed, I realized there are no guarantees in trust. It surprised me, the realization that people close to us do horrible things and we never see it coming. I started to trust how I felt and the trustworthy actions Zach was taking, despite setbacks. It's a weird thought, but now, even if my brain suggests he might be lying, I don't let it take over. It's about feeling at peace rather than spiraling into anxiety."

Zach Spafford: "And how has choosing to trust impacted you? Before, you'd ask if I had watched porn and doubt my honesty. We often misunderstand trust, thinking it's something to be earned, but you've found peace by choosing trust. Can you elaborate on that?"

Darcy Spafford: "Choosing to trust has brought me peace. It's not about blind trust or ignoring problems but feeling at peace with our situation and not letting worry control me. My anxiety and actions of mistrust, like snooping on his phone, actually made me the untrustworthy one. It was a hard lesson, realizing that focusing on his trustworthiness made me act in untrustworthy ways."

Zach Spafford: "I've noticed that too. When you reacted to my actions by making them about you, it didn't foster trust. Trust isn't just about believing the other person but also not making their struggles entirely about ourselves, which fosters a healthier relationship. So, facing the possibility of me lying, how do you handle that now?"

Darcy Spafford: "I've come to terms with the fact that I might not always know for sure. But if there's no evidence and I'm not unhappy, then it's not worth dwelling on. Our relationship's quality and how Zach shows up are what matter to me now."

Zach Spafford: "It's a shift from dwelling in distrust to creating a relationship where trust can flourish. Treating each other as trustworthy encourages trustworthiness. Remember, if you're always skeptical, it's challenging to build a positive relationship. It's vital to open doors to trust, even amidst difficulties."

Darcy Spafford: "Exactly. As we both worked on being trustworthy, it helped us communicate better and build a stronger relationship. Taking care of my mental health was crucial too. I continued my life routines, confided in friends, and practiced mindfulness, which all helped me navigate my feelings and improve my well-being."

Zach Spafford: "Dealing with stigma and navigating trust were significant challenges. But through it all, Darcy's growth and our relationship's transformation show the power of facing challenges together, fostering trust, and supporting each other's well-being."

Darcy Spafford: "Deciding to stay in the marriage, understanding that pornography wasn't the core issue, and learning to show up for each other were pivotal. It's about wanting the best for each other, even when facing tough challenges."

Zach Spafford: "Looking back, there are things we wish we'd done differently, like not focusing so much on ineffective solutions. But it led us to where we are now, able to help others navigate similar challenges."

Darcy Spafford: "Absolutely worth it. Despite the hardships, it brought us closer, taught us resilience, and showed us how to face challenges together."

Zach Spafford: "And that's why we share our journey, to offer support and guidance to others. Thank you, Darcy, for this open and honest conversation. You're amazing. I love you."

Darcy Spafford: "I love you too. And to our listeners, remember, we're here to help. Don't hesitate to reach out if you're facing similar struggles. Until next time, take care."

Zach Spafford: "All right, my friends, we'll talk to you next week. Goodbye."



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