We highly recommend you watch these two clips before reading through this amazing interview.
Years Married: 17 in January
Location: Orem, Utah
Kids: 2 girls
Occupations: Coby mentors those in recovery from addiction & Ashlynn runs Mamabear.Fitness (both work from home) Coby used to travel the world for corporate jobs & Ashlynn was a kitchen designer.
Hobbies/Interests: Hike, concerts with the kids, cook/bake, travel & Disneyland!
Favorite flavor of ice cream: Coby - always chocolate; Ashlynn - always vanilla.
Q. What are some of the little things you two do together to express love and appreciation?
C: Something Ashlynn did years ago that has helped us stay connected is our “I love you because _______” frame. She she got a frame at a thrift store or something...
A: It’s actually my Grandma’s old frame, same thing, right?
C: Exactly. Then she printed a piece of paper that says, “I love you because ______.”
Q. How often do you change out what it says?
A: It’s dry erase, so you can change it up often. For years and years we used to write a ton of notes. However, the last year we have forgotten a bit and it’s about every other week. When you do it several times a day for years, it’s just a good little reminder of the little things in marriage. This current one says, “You grill a great steak.” I grill a terrible steak, but he grills a great steak, so there you go.
C: This has been one thing that has kept us connected, emotionally connected. It has helped us to plant little seeds of thoughtfulness and to recognize those little things.
A: It’s a fun little surprise to see, since it’s from both of us. There is no rhyme or reason to who is supposed to do it. Our daughter has even written on it.
A: Also, another little thing that nurtures our marriage is when you know your spouse hates to do something, like how I hate to put away the laundry. Coby knows that, so he often (not always) will put it away and not say anything. Then I’ll see it and think, “Ah, that pile at the bottom of the bed is gone. Thank you.” Or he mops the floors, because I hate to mop the floors.
C: Yeah, that sucks. That’s what I do.
Q. How do you suggest couples stay connected?
C: I’ll give you guys one guess as to what our first knee-jerk response is...DON’T LOOK AT PORN. DON’T LOOK AT PORN. That is one of the first and best things you can do.
A: Because, you’d be surprised, we have a lot of people who reach out to us - from all religions, races, cultures, and ages - and so many of them think that porn is the one thing that will help their marriage, when it is actually destroying their marriage. It’s not a religious thing, it’s very much a human thing.
C: Yeah, for sure.
A: Porn destroys connection, and intimacy is based on connection.
C: So I would say, don’t look at porn.
Q. What would you say to those individuals or couples who really think that porn is healthy?
A: I answer most of the comments on social media that come our way (and we rarely get negative comments), but I actually don’t respond to a lot of the negative ones because we’re not in it to change people’s minds, we’re in it to help people who maybe already realize that porn is a negative thing in their life. When Addo and Bloom shared our video and then when Fight the New Drug did, they received a lot of negative comments from people saying, “Porn is healthy! This is so dumb!”
The people who post negative comments are just looking for a fight, so I just leave them alone and answer everyone else. I do answer people who say, “You’re stupid. You should have left. He obviously doesn’t love you.” Because I’m like, “Oh, you’re looking out for me, that’s great.” (Not really, they are just being mean), but I’ve learned that hurt people, hurt people.
Often the people who say porn is healthy don’t know what their partner really thinks. If you asked their partner, I guarantee they would not have the same answer. Often couples think they are on the same page, but they just aren’t. For example, Coby can think everything is healthy and great, when I don’t feel the same way. That has happened a lot in our marriage. Or I will feel like our marriage is good and then he will say, “I want a divorce.” Then I’m like “Wait, what? What’s going on?” And I feel like that is how it can be with pornography. One partner might say, “I feel like it’s good. It’s helping me. I enjoy it.” But the other person recognizes the negative influence that pornography has.
C: Porn misrepresents love, connection, and reality. Marriages thrive first on connection and emotionally intimacy, and then sex becomes the pinnacle experience for a couple. When you try to reverse that and use porn to create intimacy, the marriage just can’t function the same way. In addition to that, porn literally changes the neural pathways of the brain. And even if it is used consensually with both partners, it can literally change the way that your brain functions and the release of chemicals and hormones (like dopamine), etc.
With porn, your feet also leave the ground. Which means that your sexual intimacy is not based upon reality, it’s based upon this false mis-nomer of what a sexual experience is. But in truth, it’s just created in some seedy hotel in the San Fernando valley. Porn doesn’t represent reality at all. So, it’s not authentic. It’s not love. It’s not reality. It doesn’t serve intimacy.
This is a hard, hard one to navigate. Honestly, having gone through it, and the fact that Ashlynn stayed. I will also say this, too. My watching porn meant that I wasn’t safe and I wasn’t trusted by Ashlynn. And when a couple is meant to be connected and to share intimate moments, that is not possible when you can’t be trusted and you can’t be safe.
A: So that is the second part of that question, I guess, is that in order to have a healthy intimate relationship you have to be safe for your spouse. This goes for what your spouse is comfortable doing, and being okay respecting that. Be a safe place.
C: Yes, be safe for your spouse or partner. Finally, it’s important for people to know that Ashlynn & Coby don’t just say, “don’t look at porn.” That leads the charge, but that is not the only thing. So, to add to that, a few more thoughts.
Take advantage of when the kids are gone to school. The term “nooner,” is a practical and useful term. If you can have lunch at home, that is a really good thing. I’m actually super serious about that. Go home for lunch, and then some.
C: Another thing that may help is a sex fast. Two or three months after disclosure, I decided to do a sex fast for thirty days.
A: Most of your readers are probably thinking, “Why would I ever do that?’
C: Yeah, they will probably think, “That’s crazy! Never do that!” But it was really interesting.
A: It was intentional. A lot of people may think, “Well, we don’t have sex, so we are basically doing that,” but this is intentional. It’s very different than “We just don’t have sex.”
C: The sex fast allowed us to see, it allowed me to see Ashlynn, not as this beautiful woman that I wanted to have sex with, but it allowed me to focus on her as an individual, with all of the characteristics that I loved. That developed intimacy. That developed emotional intimacy. We also completed SENSATE exercises. These were mandated by our therapist (she is still our favorite therapist and we still see her).
A: If you google it, do not search images, search text only!
C: It really helped us connect and taught us a lot about what physical touch and non-sexual physical touch can do for a couple in order to build trust.
A: For sure. These exercises can be for couples, not just for people in recovery.
Q. Can you share more about how you both came through this difficulty and decided to stay together? What are some helpful things you could share for couples going through similar situations?
A: We lived with this for fourteen years. We lived through one affair and just kept going.
C: Actually, that was two affairs.
A: Well, I didn’t know about the second one until we started recovery.
C: That’s true.
A: I lived through two. Didn’t know it. The difference with those fourteen years of just not dealing with it, and just being “okay married,” and being in recovery, was that I decided that I needed to be a part of it and it wasn’t just his thing. For so many years I would say, “K, go to 12 step! K, you go do that!” and even when we would go to religious leaders, they would say, “Yeah, this is Coby’s problem. Coby, you go to 12 step,” because there weren’t a lot of resources for spouses then. There are now.
For me, I had to read, learn, and start to understand more about the issue. When I could start to understand that it wasn’t just him being a jerk, but that his brain had literally changed and he was addicted, then I could separate him from the addiction. That was the first major jump for me. I started to see him as a person and not just some jerk.
A: That would be the first thing. Separate the person from the addiction. The second thing was that I decided to focus on me. I tried to control Coby a lot (because when you’re not in control, you try to control everyone around you, right?). I always wanted to know who he was texting, what he was doing, and who he was with. I wanted to know everything, and I was kind of a “mom” or a “snoop.” Finally, I stopped. I pulled back and said, “I’m just going to focus on me.” So, I started reading my own books and went to a women’s conference. I just really focused on the fact that I can change me and I can’t change him. That’s when things started moving forward. After I decided to focus on me it was only four months later that Coby said, “We need to go get help.”
C: We had already been in marriage therapy. That sucked.
A: But it wasn’t helpful.
C: Not in any way, it was like going to a family doctor for like a torn ACL.
A: So what Coby meant was, “Let’s go get specialized help.” I think that was the big thing. That was when I stopped pushing and stopped shaming him and mothering him. That is when we started recovery at Addo. Their focus is to work on the “me” before the “we.” So we’ve actually never gone to couples therapy at Addo, it’s always been as a group with other women or other men, or separately. That has been great for us.
C: For the betrayed - the best thing for the betrayed to do is to realize that betrayal trauma is a thing. It’s like post-traumatic-stress-disorder. There’s depression and lack of sleep, anxiety, anger, resentment, they are all the same symptoms as PTSD. So when the betrayed lose their minds with fury because the addicted, their partner or spouse, has relapsed, they are just acting out of betrayal trauma. If they find a specialized therapist, a certified, sex addiction therapist (called a C-SAT), if they can find a CSAT that understands betrayal trauma, that is the best case scenario for the betrayed. If they can’t find one, then they need to go to Bloom for Women - that’s an educational website from Addo for women all over the world who are suffering from this and don’t live in close proximity to specialized recovery, like we do. They can use the promocode: ASHLYNNANDCOBY to get a free 30-day trial of membership for the website, and there are endless amounts of resources from specialists on what the betrayed is experiencing.
A: It’s a really great thing, because so many people don’t have the resources, and so it gives them tons of resources that can help them.
C: Totally. For the addicted - Our tips would be to find a certified sex therapist, and realize that you can’t do it on your own and that small, simple, steps everyday with that specialized therapist is what is going to help you. If you don’t have access to a specialized therapist, then setting boundaries in your home and with devices will be the best things possible. So, for instance, on my iPhone I don’t have Safari. It can be removed. I don’t have the app store. That can be removed. So I can’t download apps and then delete them.
A: Or social media.
C: Yeah, I don’t have any social media apps because those are, for me, a slippery slope. So, defining boundaries to keep you safe in the home with devices, is a great measure that the addicted can take. And parents of the addicted, too. I had someone reach out to me recently about their twelve-year-old who is addicted to porn and has been since he was seven, and they asked, “What can we do?” Even those parents can create boundaries with devices. No devices in rooms. No devices in the bathroom. Devices only in the family room. And everything has to be plugged in, in kitchen, by 9pm at night. Those are some very simple strategies that can help eliminate repeat situations that may lead to relapse.
Photo Credit: Ashlynn & Coby
Bloom for Women
Fight the New Drug
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
You Know You Want to Read
Everybody Loves These