Accountability Partners (What Works Best?)

Today I’m going to talk to you about accountability partners—not you being his accountability partner, but about what will lead to the most success when your guy is looking for an accountability partner outside the relationship. (My advice about you being his accountability partner varies from situation to situation.)

In order to battle his addiction, early on my husband attended general men’s meetings and conferences where many of the attendees admitted they struggled with the same thing. This didn’t lead to any freedom for my husband, nor for the other guys involved.

Then my husband attended an accountability group for this specific struggle. It was there he received lots of grace and understanding. I knew the shame my husband felt for so long only fueled more porn use, so I was glad they welcomed him with open arms. And he did find seasons of freedom. It did not, however, cure his craving for it. (Between you and me, sometimes I felt all the understanding he received eventually turned into enabling behavior, because they weren’t finding freedom either.)

After my husband had three years of freedom from porn, he started attending a Sexual Integrity 12-Step Group in order to ‘give back.’ Most of the guys who come drop out by the third meeting. Of the regular attenders, about 95% haven’t yet broken free. (Which is understandable; even AA sponsors have said only about 10% will find freedom from alcohol.) My husband wishes this 12-Step allowed them to help one another, because he knows he be able to help many of them, but they call this ‘fixing’. So he goes to let them know, “It can be done! Obviously, you’ll have to do more than just the 12-Steps, but it can be done.”


So what kind of accountability partnerships or groups would be most helpful for you husband or boyfriend? Here’s what I’ve found over the last 20 years…

It is best if your guy chooses a man to be an accountability partner. This is because he needs someone he can open his heart to. But because opening our hearts to another–even spiritually–can naturally lead to sexual intimacy, it’s best if he doesn’t have a female partner.

If your husband has same-sex attractions, I would have him still look for a male, only one he knows he would never (ever) be attracted to. In the case of same-sex attraction, I’d have him look for a female he knows he’d never (ever) be attracted to, but only as a last resort.

In a perfect world, it would be easy for your significant other to find an accountability partner with years of success in this area. Here I have to be honest: this will be difficult. We’ve seen men who have been 12-Step sponsors for years still not able to get free in this area. (We’ve had men who’ve been therapists for years ask for my husband’s help because they can’t get free on their own either.) Even still, someone who’s had some success is something for your guy to look for.

If it’s difficult for your guy to find, he should look for someone who is serious about getting free and heading toward the type of life your guy wants.

It’s best if your spouse or boyfriend chooses someone who has the time to devote to the relationship. This accountability partner should be available, but not available every minute of every day.

Why? This will cause your guy to choose more than one accountability partner. This is important because it will help him crawl out of the isolation so common with sex-based addictions.

I’ve heard counselors say accountability partnerships only work when there’s some level of embarrassment. Otherwise your guy may start saying, “I will continue my destructive behavior because I don’t care what your opinion is of me.”

Your guy should choose someone he can be honest with, but also someone he would be a little embarrassed to share the truth with. It’s a sign he respects this person enough to want to do better.

So that’s a short list of some things your guy can look for in a his accountability partners. I share this information with you first, so you know what will best support your husband. But feel free to share this information with him. And all the best to both of you as he continues down this path.