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"With a willing heart and an open mind, there's ALWAYS a solution!" - Dr. Elia Gourgouris

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What if he never changes?

Mar 3rd, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My husband has been addicted to pornography for over 40 years. He was addicted before we were married, and tried to get me interested in sharing it with him and acting out together. I refused, and he has felt angry and rejected ever since. We have been to Church counseling, and the advice seemed to be get a divorce. Outside counseling aggravated the problem to the extent that our marriage has collapsed entirely, except for the fact we still live together and operate a small business–purely for financial reasons. I have been shattered by the realization that our marriage was always a sham–spiritually we were totally dead, although we were married in the temple–unworthily, I might add, due to heavy petting. We live with no contact, emotionally, spiritually, or physically. He has severe chronic depression and still views pornography infrequently. We attend LDS services, hold minor positions, and temple recommends. I attend the temple with friends, he does not. My question is: shouldn’t he have confessed this addiction during the temple worthiness interview? But my real question which really bothers me, is what will happen if he dies without resolving this problem? And where will I be as his wife? Is our temple marriage nullified in regard to the next world?


Dear BJ,

In terms of your husband’s life-long addiction to pornography, it is a sad state of affairs! The forty years of acting out have completely destroyed any kind of spirituality he might have had. The fact that he’s depressed is not surprising at all. If he lives another 40 years without a major life change, he will continue to feel empty, depressed angry and downright miserable. Sadly, the chances of him changing after all this time are diminishing…You guys are not only thriving in your marriage, but barely surviving. Is this the life you want?

Your business account might have something in it…but your love and spiritual account is facing bankruptcy! Why are you still in it then? What do you get out of this marriage and don’t you deserve something better? I’m just posing the questions…I hope you take time to ponder them…

You raise several important questions as to the eternal aspects of your marriage. Clearly this is outside my level of comfort in terms of giving you advice. The best course of actions would be to visit, at length I might add, with your ecclesiastical leader (stake president.) Let me ask you one last question…Let’s say you never divorce him but he also never changes in this lifetime…If you knew that you would be given a chance to decide on the other side if you want him forever or not, what would your decision be then??? The answer might help you in this lifetime more that you can imagine.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Pornography addiction: What happens to the spouse

Feb 24th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

I recently received a question at that addresses a very important topic. What happens to the spouse of a pornography/sex addict? Here’s the question:

“Brother Gourgouris,
I had the privilege of hearing you speak at our Stake Enrichment Conference
and ever since, I have wanted to ask you about one of my closest friends.
Her husband was excommunicated a few years ago and has worked very hard
to come back into full fellowship and even be re-baptized. He was baptized in the fall, but his wife is still very hurt and very distant and just can’t seem to let go of her anger. I have tried talking to her about the atonement and taking full advantage of it, but I just don’t know if there’s any way to help her gain a testimony of its power. Is there anything that can be said that might help to heal her broken heart? Thank you for your time and the beautiful spirit that you left in our building.”

Over the years I’ve been able to counsel with many spouses (mostly wives) of pornography and sexual addicts. The symptoms are pretty universal when a spouse has caused such tremendous damage to the marriage. Initially, the reaction is often disbelief, as in “This can’t possibly be happening in my marriage, or to my family.” Then, once reality sets in, it can be followed by anger, depression, fear of what people will say if they find out, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, escaping by overeating or a variety of other feelings and emotions.

In the early days of treatment, the main focus was always on the addicts themselves, helping them with their physical, mental and spiritual recovery. The wives would try to be supportive of the endeavor, while suffering in silence, often unable to even talk with their friends about such a sensitive topic. Not only were they on the receiving end of infidelity and the absence of the priesthood in their home, but almost always, no help was available. As the addict continued to recover, there was an unspoken expectation that the spouse also needed to be getting better. Forgiveness should be given, support extended and trust re-established.

Well, all these are easy to do on paper — in real life however it takes a very long time. I’ve known some marriages that never fully recover from such an ordeal. Others stay together for the sake of the kids, but once the “glass is broken” it can never be put back together again. I want to be clear that these are very normal reactions — if we try to do it all by ourselves! But there is another way, and thankfully the church has established local support groups for these dear sisters. If you are interested in joining one, contact your local Stake President to find out if one already exists in your area. If it does not, ask if he might be willing to help you get one started.

Aside from creating a support system, the best and ultimate resource of love and support needs to come from God! No amount of education or well meaning family and friends, can accomplish what He can do for a troubled and broken heart. In Mark 10:27 we read ” for with God all things are possible.” He alone can heal, comfort, love us through out toughest times in life, give us hope and most importantly help us to truly forgive. I have not found another way around it but I have witnessed many miracles of families re-uniting, couples re-building their marriages and eventually creating outstanding relationships. The recipe for success is as follows: repentance, forgiveness, trust and ultimately Christ-like love!

Know that there is always hope for the addict and their spouse if they can have an open mind, a willing heart and a tender spirit!

Am I Really an Addict?

Jan 29th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have been addicted to pornography for many years. The conundrum I
find myself in is in the infrequency of relapse. I’ve been married for
six years, and have been very open with my wife about the mess-ups I
have. They occur relatively infrequently–sometimes not happening for
many months–even up to a year. Because of this, whenever I have sought
professional help or help from church leadership, the situation hasn’t
warranted (at least in their perception) weekly meetings and/or frequent
check-ins. Thus, my ability to be honest and real prevents me from
getting more deeply sucked into the addiction, yet the infrequency of
relapse prevents me from feeling completely out of control–something I
often see spoken of as being necessary in completely overcoming this

I see several possibilities. One, perhaps I’m just not being humble
enough? Perhaps I am more out of control than I realize, and I have
trouble admitting it to myself, and that prevents full recovery?

Two, perhaps this is the normal progression, and the infrequent relapses
will become more and more infrequent until this addiction has evaporated
entirely? (Although the pattern I describe has been established as such
for all the years of my marriage with no real detectable improvement,
just mild ebbs and flows.)

Three, perhaps I just haven’t stumbled upon the answer yet, or perhaps
it’s something I’ve known all along and just haven’t recognized.

I am not in crisis. My wife loves me and is the sweetest support. I am
highly functional, and able to confess my slip-ups with immediacy both
to her and my leaders. I generally feel good about my life. However, I
really would like to set aside this behavior for good so that my life,
and my relationship with my wife and with the Lord, can be that much

Do you have any advice?


Dear Jason,

I appreciate the manner, tone and description of your situation. You are
certainly not alone, yet most of the questions I’ve received so far seem
to fall in the category of full-blown addictions. In your case it is
harder to discern because of the infrequency, lack of crisis and the
fact that you come clean right away. Without knowing you better, I’d be
reluctant to say whether you’re a true addict.

You bring up three possibilities to discuss. The first one has to do
with humility and possible denial. If you were not humble that thought
would not even occur. If you were in denial, you wouldn’t be asking the
question. Out of control behavior looks very different.

In your second one, as the saying goes “it’s progress before
perfection.” However, I would agree with your assessment of NOT making
detectable progress and therefore would not qualify this as the solution.

Are you really an addict? Let’s look at the following scenario.If you
were having a drink once every few months, you would not be considered
an alcoholic. If you drank only once every few months but binged to the
point of blacking out, then you would be considered an alcoholic.

The real question for you is this: if you only engage in this activity
once every few months, then why do you even do it? You have a loving and
supportive wife and a relatively blessed life. I know you want this out
of your life once and for all…and you can achieve that with a little
bit of help. IT IS TIME! The spiritual and emotional blessings will pour
forth to you my good brother. You are so close, get the help now and
eliminate this from your life once and for all!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Confused about Husband’s Addiction

Jan 27th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My spouse is addicted to pornography and has been for almost ten years
now. I found out about it 2 years into our marriage. He has taken some
steps to overcome his addiction, but does not seem very motivated to
recover. As a spouse, how do you address and encourage someone to
recover from this addiction. I am frustrated and concerned on a daily
basis. I feel like my thoughts negative outlook on this situation are
probably more powerful than his own addiction. What advice do you have
for the spouse of a pornography addict?


Dear Confused,

Interesting timing…I wrote an article at today
called Pornography Addiction: Hope for Recovery! I would ask you to read
it first and share it with your husband. Let me know what other
questions you might have after reading it. Then I’d be more than glad to
share with you some thoughts of how to deal with your husband’s addiction.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Pornography addiction: Hope for recovery!

Jan 27th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

A good majority of the questions I receive in the site seem to revolve around the topic of sexual addiction and more specifically Internet pornography. How I became an expert in this arena goes back to my early years as a therapist, back in the days when the term “sexual addiction” didn’t even exist and was not taught in graduate school.

As a young intern working at a counseling center, while receiving my Ph.D. in psychology, I would see anyone that came to our center. One day a man in his 30s came in and asked for help with an addiction. Now my field of interest was addictions already, having written my dissertation on The Effects of Psychotherapy on Long-Term and Short-Term Members of Alcoholic Anonymous. I was pretty familiar with AA’s 12-Step recovery process. When I asked him what he was addicted to, he calmly replied: sex.

Having never heard of such an outrageous claim, my first thought was that it must be a hoax. I had a group of Greek friends who played practical jokes and I figured that they must have paid him to come to my office and pretend to have a “sexual addiction.” Luckily, I only thought about this possible scenario and didn’t break out in laughter (which would have been highly unprofessional).

Over the course of the next few months, this gentleman actually taught me all about sexual addiction and somehow (I’m sure the Spirit had much to do with it) I was able to help him get better. As a result he started referring to me all his other addict friends, and thus it began. When I started my own practice with an almost exclusive LDS clientele, I never imagined how valuable those early years of my internship would be.

As Internet use became widespread, so did the pornography addiction. In a typical year I would get four or five people with Word of Wisdom issues: alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, abuse of prescription medication and so on. The referrals for Internet pornography would come in at the rate of one per week. This is not a misprint. Every week, 52 weeks out of the year!

In those days, the church had not established an addiction recovery program like it has now. Fortunately, I came across a stake president who was a pioneer in helping members of his stake. Together we established a program that has grown over the years both in stature, and most importantly, success. He predicted the “scourge of the last days” will not be some exotic virus that kills millions. He told me that Internet pornography will eventually cover the entire planet, because at some point everybody would have access to the Internet.

The success or failure of overcoming any addiction lies in the prerequisite admission from the person that he/she knows that they have an addiction. Following such an admission the path to complete and long-lasting recovery is as follows:

  1. Weekly or sometimes daily attendance (depending on the severity) to an addiction recovery group like the LDS Church’s. If someone chooses to go outside of the church, it is important that any 12-Step program they attend has a similar definition of sexual sobriety. For example, Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) defines sobriety as “no sex outside of marriage,” which would include no self-stimulation. Not every program espouses such a belief. Going to a program that conflicts with our belief system will create problems in the long term. Addicts will usually choose the easier path and therefore are likely to act out again.
  2. Frequent meetings with an ecclesiastical leader, like a bishop or stake president. Initially that might mean meeting weekly, but eventually it could be as needed. Having worked with many who’ve had a disciplinary action as a result of their addictive behavior, it is important for a recovering addict to stay close to their spiritual advisor.
  3. It is vitally important that the person the addict chooses to work with one-on-one is an expert in this field. In other words, if I was diagnosed with a tumor, I wouldn’t go see a podiatrist just because he has an “MD” after his name — I would seek an oncologist who deals with tumors on a daily basis. Likewise, just because someone has a Ph.D. in psychology doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to accurately treat a pornography/sexual addiction. The spirit of discouragement is much higher for someone who seriously sought help and ended up not getting the right help, only to fall again…

Having treated hundreds of individuals for a variety of addictions over the past 20 years, I can tell you that pornography addiction is the most difficult to overcome. If you recognize yourself or someone you love struggling with this addiction, seek help now! The longer the wait, the stronger the addiction will become and the harder it will be to overcome. The collateral damage to those around you can be devastating. Finding someone who has the expertise and works with the Spirit is the key. I promise you that the rate of success will be remarkable and the addict, the family and posterity will be blessed forever as a result.

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.


Sep 15th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0
Dear Dr. Elia,

My husband and I are in huge debt because of his addiction to gambling. I knew it was a problem for him when I met him, but I was hoping he was getting passed it. We have 5 beautiful children, and we are in debt up to our necks. He’d rather spend time with the machines than with us. Anything you could recommend would be helpful.


Dear Gamble,

Gambling is an insidious addiction for it will destroy everything in its path. Serious debt can be debilitating to the way a family functions. At this point it sounds like your husband loves the machines more than he loves his family. The question is, what if anything is he willing to do about it, before he loses everything! If he acknowledges his addiction then there’s hope. He can start attending a 12-Step program called Gamblers Anonymous. The good news is that it’s free…He can get a sponsor that will act as his mentor as he works through the 12 steps. Ideally, he would need to immerse himself in the solution just as much as he has immersed himself into his addiction! They say that 90 meetings in 90 days is the best way to make a significant shift in behavior…Will he be willing to make such a commitment?

There are also counselors that specialize in gambling addictions. Anything less than these two steps, I’m afraid will lead to more heartache for all of you. By the way, is there a spiritual leader you could talk to, that might bring you some comfort and support?

If your husband refuses to get help, then you’re faced with another dilemma…Ultimatums only work if a person is willing to go through with them.

God bless you and your family during this time of need.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

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