Q: I recently became engaged. My fiancé is a fantastic person, but he has admitted that he has an addiction to pornography. I'm wondering whether this is a red flag — and if so, how big. Do you think we should move forward in our relationship?
Jim: I'd strongly suggest you hit the brakes until your fiancé is ready to get serious about dealing with his problem. You both must understand that pornography is as physically addictive as any drug. The addiction is based on neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of prolonged exposure to stimulating sexual imagery. Because of its neuron-chemical basis, it's tenacious, progressive and destructive in nature.
If you decide to marry this man, don't expect his addiction to go away on its own once you've said your wedding vows. In other words, don't assume that normal marital sexual relations will take the place of porn in his life. No living, breathing thinking woman can possibly fill that role without doing untold damage to herself as a person. That's because pornography addiction is not about sex. It's a symptom of an intimacy disorder — a comprehensive psychological illness that compels an individual to avoid deep, meaningful interaction with a real human being and to replace it with impersonal sensual imagery. Marriage won't fix the problem; it will only complicate matters and increase your pain.
I can't emphasize enough that you both need to get professional counseling, and I urge you to do it together. The porn problem must be addressed before any further talk of marriage. If your fiancé sincerely wants to spend his life with you, he has a powerful motivation to make the necessary changes now. Once you've tied the knot, that motivation no longer exists in quite the same way. Our counselors are well-equipped to assist you both on the path to healing; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: How can I get my kids to be grateful? It seems like they have no idea how much they have to be thankful for.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: This can be difficult given the natural consumer mindset we all possess. But it's an important matter, as research has consistently shown that genuine, ongoing gratitude helps improve emotional, relational, mental and physical health while developing key social behaviors in children.
Sure, it takes work and attention — but a few tweaks to our habits and attitudes can help our children cultivate thankfulness.
• Model gratitude. Your children mirror what you do. Do you speak and act from a grateful mindset? Look at your circumstances through a "gratitude lens." When you do, simple things like household chores become opportunities to serve rather than inconveniences. Difficulties can become opportunities for growth.
• Create a gratitude photo album. Take pictures of things you are grateful for throughout the year and put together a gratitude album. Have each family member share through photos the things he is (or can be) grateful for.
• Make a gratitude poster board. For an entire year, challenge your family to think of one new thing each day that they are thankful for. Write it on a poster board in different colors. Family members can take turns contributing that day's focus of gratitude, with a different member of the family writing it down. Encourage them to be creative.
• Go for a gratitude walk. Take time to walk and let your mind settle on things you're thankful for. Look around and simply appreciate what you see, experience or remember.
• Gratefully acknowledge those who have influenced you. Who has taken time to invest in you? Who has encouraged you with words or actions? Take a moment to thank them with a note, text or phone call.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.