It’s one thing to eliminate pornography from your life. It’s another to ensure that it doesn’t come back. Preventing future pornography use requires one to set clear boundaries. Having all Internet use monitored is one form of a boundary. There are many other boundaries that are helpful. To understand the importance of boundaries, we must first define what a boundary is.
A boundary is a limit that allows the good in and keeps the bad out.
There are many kinds of boundaries. A boundary can be physical, such as a tall fence that keeps the lions away from the people at the zoo. A boundary can be verbal, such as saying “no” to that extra piece of cake. It can also be emotional, such as not allowing the harsh words of another person to affect you. Boundaries allow us to have the healthiest possible relationships with others and the world around us. Limiting time spent with a difficult relative can prevent us from becoming angry and bitter toward that person. Boundaries can also protect others from harm. A man who defends his wife against another person’s insults protects her by setting a clear boundary between her and that person.
Avoiding pornography requires a person to set clear boundaries with people, places, things, technology and situations that might lead him to return to pornography use.
–People: certain people can trigger pornography use. They could be women in bikinis at the beach, cheerleaders at a football game, old girlfriends, etc. Friends can also be triggers for pornography use. For example, a man might have certain friends with whom he frequents strip clubs. Strained relationships with family members, friends, neighbors or even one’s boss can be triggers. For example, a young man might be tempted to view pornography every time he has an argument with his father. In all these relationships boundaries are needed.
In some cases certain people need to be avoided altogether. Thus a man might not be able to go to the beach on a hot summer day. He might not be able to watch football games on television anymore. He might have to end the relationships with his strip club buddies. In other situations relationships need not be ended, but boundaries must be set that limit interaction. The young man with a strained relationship with his father might need to limit the amount of time he spends with his father. He might also need to avoid talking about subjects that often lead to arguments with his father. By setting such boundaries he can have a healthier relationship with his father and not be tempted to view pornography.
–Places: For many men, certain places clearly lead to pornography use and/or acting out sexually with others. These include porn shops, strip clubs, bars, hotels, parks, airports, etc. These places obviously need to be avoided. Other related places may also need to be avoided, such as certain roads that were taken to places where one would act out sexually and even whole towns. I have worked with men who travel often for business. For these men, business trips are danger zones. Some have actually quit their jobs and found new ones that don’t require travel. They have set a boundary that does not allow them to travel for business. Other men have had to find new routes to work because the old route had them driving past porn shops or strip clubs.
–Things: Physical objects can be triggers for pornography use. These can include certain websites, videos/DVDs, CDs, clothing, photographs, gifts from old lovers, and books, catalogs or magazines. They might not appear to be blatantly pornographic; however, they can trigger the use of pornography. Eliminating such objects from your life and avoiding them in the future is a boundary that is necessary for successful recovery. As with physical pornography, I recommend these objects be destroyed before they are discarded.
–Technology: In addition to filtering/accountability software, boundaries should also be set for the use of technology. One major boundary is limiting the time spent using technology. I recommend no more than 30 minutes on the Internet at any one time. I also recommend no Internet use between 9:00pm and 8:00am. This can ensure that the Internet is used only for necessary business and not for pornography, gaming or idle surfing. I also recommend that all small gadgets be collected by 9:00pm, shut down and locked away until morning. This includes cell phones, iPods, MP3 players, iPads, tablets, eReaders, etc.
–Situations: For some people, specific situations can trigger the compulsion to use pornography. It could be an argument with one’s spouse, a bad day at work, financial struggles, consuming alcohol at parties, business trips, etc. Each of these situations could become a danger zone. For these situations, Battle Plans need to be created which include boundaries. For example, a man who often acts out after a bad day at work can decide not to go right home after work, but instead go to an adoration chapel and decompress with our Lord. A man might also decide to call an accountability partner after an argument with his wife instead of going to his computer.
Many of the men I work with struggle with viewing pornography on business trips. This is because they often find themselves alone in hotel rooms with a computer and/or a television that offers pornography. In this situation, there are several boundaries that can be used. First, a man can decide to only patronize hotel chains that do not offer pornography on their televisions, or he can contact the hotel ahead of time and ask that the television be disconnected or even removed from the room. Many hotel chains will comply with such requests. He can also arrange to call his accountability partners every night. Some men will even find out where the support group meetings are in the towns they are visiting and attend meetings at night while they are away. The more specific the boundaries the easier it is to avoid acting out sexually.
Setting healthy boundaries can be a challenge at first. It may be helpful to enlist accountability partners to help determine healthy boundaries and to help enforce them. Once these boundaries become habits, maintaining them shouldn’t be a problem and maintaining purity can become easier!
Source: Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography by Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., SATP-C (Emmaus Road, 2014).