To Tell or Not To Tell

Discussion in 'Rebooting in a Relationship' started by Meshuga, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    I'm looking for the opinions of porn addicts and their SOs regarding learning about their addiction. It seems the most represented scenario here is the SO who knows about the addiction, and the addicted party not admitting there is a problem. Are there others who have experienced different scenarios?

    If you're an addict who has come to terms with your problem, but had successfully hidden it, or an SO who learned of the addiction only after he confessed, I'm interested in learning why you chose to inform, how, and if you think it could have been a better experience.

    Thanks
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
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  2. Ted Martin

    Ted Martin Fapstronaut

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    Just a few thoughts on keeping the addiction secret from your SO and others. First, addiction thrives in the dark and when kept secret. Our pride and feeling like I don't need any help (I can beat this on my own) and perhaps shame (feeling like we're a bad person for doing what we're doing) make us think that we need to hide our addiction from the world. They make us think we're the only ones out there with this struggle. Everyone has it together or can watch a little porn and not seem to have a problem with it. Why am I different? It's that kind of thinking that keeps us in bondage. Let me tell you, in my experience and from what I've seen running a men's support and accountability group for this issue, Lone Rangers trying to recover on their own are not very successful. When they bring the secret out into the light it looses it's power.

    One quick side note. I have yet to meet an PMO addict that has "successfully hidden" it. Sure, for awhile you might be able to hide it, but addiction almost always escalates. It causes us to look at more and more P and many times to get that same high or rush we need to look at escalating levels of the type of porn (in terms of degradation, more hardcore, more extreme, fetish, etc.). The tame porn we started out looking at doesn't do it for us anymore. And when that is going on, believe me, it's going to come out. Your SO or someone else will find out. For many of us it takes hitting a rock bottom point to provide the jolt we need to break free. We spiral further and further down into depravity which makes us want to keep it secret all the more. We can't believe what we're doing and how it keeps getting worse. With each acting out period we say we'll never do that again and I can't believe I did that. The more we keep it secret and yet keep failing trying to break free on our own the more shame we feel over what we're doing. The more shame we feel the less we feel we can reach out to someone for the help we desperately need. I'm not lovable. No one would love or accept me if they knew what I was doing in secret. That's the addiction/shame cycle.

    What we need is a support network to help us recover from this. but we have to be willing to be vulnerable and put our pride aside. Things such as counselors that specialize in or have experience with behavioral-based addictions (not just substance addiction as there is a difference), accountability partners, friends and family that you can open up to and be vulnerable with regarding what you are dealing with, etc. You can't admit you need help and reach out to others to get that help you desperately need if you are going to try to keep it secret. The is addiction dramatically impacts those around. Your SO, your family, friends, coworkers, etc. I highly advocate for bringing your wife into the process. For me, and for many it wasn't me confessing to her, it was her finding out as I tried to keep it a secret. This then only adds additional pain. It may hurt her that I was looking porn and cause her to feel inadequate or "not enough" but then it's magnified ten fold by the fact that I betrayed her and broke her trust with the secret and lies and other damaging things that come along with that. The betrayal many times hurts more than the act of looking at porn it self.

    Your SO can't be your accountability partner or your counselor. She can't heal or fix you and shouldn't try. She more than likely has her own issues she should work on, but she does need to know what you are going through so that she can come along beside you and be a supporter and encourager for your recovery process.

    To answer your question, for me it could have been a better experience if I had admitted I had a problem and was able to humble myself enough to reach out to others for help and came forward to her about it instead of her finding out on her own and feeling that additional sting of betrayal.
     
  3. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    I can think of at least four, myself included, who at least believe their spouses didn't or don't know about the porn. I can also recall a thread when I first started, concerning how men should gently confess to their SOs instead of selfishly blindsiding them in a massive cathartic rush. There were specific examples of how men gave too many details of a highly escalated addiction, when the SO was struggling to come to terms with the betrayal in the first place.
    In my case, my SO knew there was a problem with the relationship, and was not surprised when I told her it was P, but did not know that it was P beforehand. Some men know how to clear their search histories, and some women are naive.
    There are some addicts who are reluctant to inform their SOs of their addiction and recovery process, perhaps for the reasons you enumerate, but also out of consideration for their SO's self esteem, out of fear from things the SO has previously said regarding P, or out of fear of adding on to the SOs burden in an already tenuous relationship.

    My wife immediately blamed herself, despite my vehement protestations and appeals to contrary evidence. Just like I knew she would. Some SOs have threatened to leave if they discover even a casual relationship with P, much less a full blown addiction with advanced fetishes. My point is, some addicts do have legitimate grounds for being reluctant to share their struggle. The benefits of exposing the addiction are also strong, however, so I'm hoping to gather information that can help these addicts reach a decision and, in the event they choose to inform, to do so in the most gentle, loving fashion possible.

    I am highly interested in your story as well, but for different reasons. Apparently, your SO discovered your problem and successfully persuaded you to get help. I see far too many threads where the SO has not been able to convince their addict, and I hope to see a resource developed that can help them be more successful as well.
     
  4. Arkansasdaisy

    Arkansasdaisy Fapstronaut

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    Ok, you said something important here. Maybe the SO does not know about the porn addiction but the SO knows there is a serious problem. So, hiding it does not really matter. We are quite aware there is a problem just maybe not savvy enough to figure it out or avoiding the issue. I am not the avoiding type most of the time but so many women are. They do not want to know what is going on for fear of a huge fight, ultimatum, accusing, etc. I find it funny that I knew he watched porn but I had no idea of the extent and the content. Now that I know, a part of me feels better knowing but there is a part that wishes I was in the dark.
     
  5. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    Definitely, and this is a strong argument for exposing the problem and saying, "there, see? You aren't crazy. Now we both know the problem and can fight it." Relationships, however, are more complicated than that. Porn is definitely a problem, maybe typically the main problem, but not always. Maybe a woman is going through a custody battle, just found out her mom has breast cancer, and layoffs are making the rounds at work again. This might not be the best time for her to learn that her husband has been substituting her with P.

    All of this is theoretical. I suspect that nine times out of ten, the addict is making excuses because he doesn't want to have that very hard conversation with his wife. I don't blame him for fearing it, I empathize with his position, but that conversation should happen for his benefit and for his SO's. However, I'm also concerned about that one time out of ten. I would hate to be the guy that says, "you should always do this," and discover that my advice was followed and now she's leaving him without giving him a chance to recover. One addict here plans to inform his wife after 45 days of sobriety, so he has something to indicate his commitment. I'm concerned about that 45 day period, but I also see his logic. If his marriage is already on the ropes and his wife is already fed up, she might not tolerate a confession. One could argue that it's his fault for being addicted in the first place, and letting it go this far, but if his marriage has a chance if he does it his way, I'm in favor of that.
     
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  6. Hanging by a thread

    Hanging by a thread Fapstronaut

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    I think this all boils down to circumstances as mentioned, if a SO is going through other traumatic situations it might be best to wait for a bit. This does not mean delaying it forever and justifying in the addicted mind why not to share. It also comes down to the SO and how tolerant, understanding, compassionate they are capable of being in this situation. Some people can not and will not be able to deal with something of this magnitude on an emotional as well as physical level. As a partner of an addict I can tell you, as understanding, empathetic as I am to his situation, the truth is his lies created a bigger hole in our relationship. I had to find out on my own and through questioning and hearing constant lies, it only distanced me. Eventually his conscience got the best of him and he had to reveal the truth, all this after me having to dig up the evidence. Is this a life you think your SO deserves? Someone who you've betrayed, lied to and created this terrible psychological damage to? Most partners who find out end up feeling inadequate, we question our beauty, ability to sexually fulfill, we begin to asks ourselves if something is wrong with us. Is this really fair and can you live knowing that? Had my SO just told the truth instead of trying to bury it more and more and me having to reveal the proof to get him to admit I could've been more accepting that it's possible to work with someone I love who is sick then someone who is a liar and was selfish and feel I never knew who he really was.
    Now we are left with ultimatums to rebuild instead of having had the ability to go hand in hand together into this to help his recovery. Instead of feeling like his partner I feel like his warden needing to spy on him for my own sanity because of all the lies.
    I know it's hard to share such a dark shameful secret but secrets always eventually come out. What is the purpose of living a lie with a SO, your life just continues to be lies and the addictions continue to grow. My bf went from porn and then advanced to parlors and escorts, eventually this is the fate of porn addiction which is really sex addiction, it will just progress, grow and manifest like all other addictions until you are left with absolutely nothing but having done more damage to yourself and your relationship. if tables were turned would you want to know? Is it owed to you too?
    I always tell my bf, he should always treat me the way he would want to be treated, if he deserves honesty so do i, if he deserves respect so do I.
    Now that so much has come out, our relationship although took a step back,we were able to take 2 forward because its no longer a secret. I know there is more and perhaps he needs his own timing to be able to tell me but he has now, after all the tears and pain he caused me, committed to therapy, couples counseling and finding saa support group. Please dont let your SO's go through the pain i did if you have rhe chance to make it right first, do not cause more damage. So I would recommend anyone on the fence about it, tell the truth, it will set you free. You have no right to let your loved one sit in darkness and wonder if something is wrong with them. At least if you tell them the truth you give them the choice to stay or go, if you lie you are just holding them hostage to a fake existence, no one deserves that. Seek some counseling, SHOW them you are fully vested in making it right. Trust me, for me, I can deal with the disease better then I can deal with the lies. We had something so good, now I don't know if I can ever fully trust again. I'm willing to give it a try because hes agreed to take the ACTIONS Necessary to make things right. I give him credit, I know it's not easy but this is proof of love, ACTIONS.
     
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  7. Ted Martin

    Ted Martin Fapstronaut

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    I agree with that. Perhaps I should have said that I haven't met a PMO addict that was able to hide the addiction long term. I certainly agree that there are many of us that hid it for awhile based on how tech savvy you are and good at covering your tracks, but my experience has been in the long term it always comes out if there an escalation going on.


    I know this is definitely true. None of us want to inform our SO of our addiction for a whole host of reasons. We're all scared to bring that secret in to the light. What will they think of me? Will they leave me? Will they view me as a pervert or monster? Will they blame themselves for my needing to turn to porn, etc. However, not telling them because you are afraid they might leave you just isn't a good enough reason when it is compared to breaking free from the addiction (IMHO). I only see three possible scenarios. 1. You fix it in secret without telling them and I just don't see fixing things in secret as a strategy that has much of a chance of success. 2. You tell them and they will either leave you or chose to stay. That's not your call. That's up to them and out of your control. What I've observed is that the chance of the SO staying with you is a 50/50 coin toss. 3. You don't tell them and try to fix it in secret and they find out anyway. That's more likely to happen than scenario #1 where you can get it fixed on your own in secret. And with #3 then the fact that you delayed revealing things only makes matters worse. The chance of your SO staying with you in this scenario seems to be even less than in #2 given that if behaviors have escalated they are less likely to be able to handle that and less willing to try to work at things. See my story below.

    I'm quite familiar with others that have similar stories as mine. In leading a weekly men's support and accountability group I've observed that I have never seen #1 work. Ever. #2 and #3 seem to be more the norm from the guys in our group. With #2 the sooner you come clean the better the chance for the addict's recovery and it increases the odds of the spouse staying and working through things. The #3 road seems to be the one though that the majority of guys from our group end up on and unfortunately make it hard to recover from in terms of the addiction and has a lower likelihood of the SO sticking around. Just my observations from 5 years of being part of this group and having approx. 20-30 guys come through the group.

    My story was the same. She immediately blamed herself. If I was more attractive or desirable he wouldn't need to look at other women. If I was more sexually adventurous or interested in having sex more often, If I was ______ [fill in the blank]. I think this is normal reaction and common response on the part of our SOs. That also illustrates the point that our SOs need to get help as well. They need a support network to deal with the emotions, the hurt and betrayal. I think it is critical for them to process through these tough issues in counseling and if possible a support group for spouses of addicts.

    I agree that there are legitimate grounds for reluctance to wanting to tell the spouse. None of us want to cause them that pain, turmoil, grief and despair that telling them will cause, however, in my view not telling them only takes those concerns and amplifies and delays the damage that will be done later anyway. It's going to come out. They are going to be devastated. There is no way around that. Better to rip the Band-Aid off now and work at trying to heal, repair and restore things (if that is even an option) than delay the inevitable. I just don't think there is anything to gain in not telling and the stakes only get higher. By not telling and trying to get it under control secretly you are only running the risk of the addiction continuing to spiral and escalate.
    (see my comments above regarding the three scenarios I see)

    All that being said, I saw your post above regarding the 1 time in 10 where there might be other major things going on in their life. I agree and would certainly take that in to account when deciding the best time to reveal things. There certainly needs to be some consideration for timing of when to come clean.

    For me, not telling lead me to escalate my behavior from just looking at P to going to online "cheater" websites where I started relationships with other women to explore fantasies and then eventually met in person and had sexual affairs with them. If I had confessed to my wife early on in the addiction when it wasn't involving other people it would have caused her pain but would have been less than the level it was at when she found out 19 months ago and found out other women were involved. Does that make sense?

    Yes, my SO convinced me to get help. It was a do or die situation for me. If I didn't she was leaving me and taking my daughter with her and my daughter means the world to me. That was my rock bottom point. That was the jolt it took for me to get serious about my addiction and recovery.
     
  8. Ted Martin

    Ted Martin Fapstronaut

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    Thanks so much for your vulnerability and sharing your perspective from the affected spouse's point of view. I completely agree with your thoughts and feel they align with my own story as well as many of the guy's I interact with my support group. We owe it to our partners to allow them the choice of whether they want to stay with us and come along side us as supporter and encourager as we walk the recovery road or whether they do not and choose to leave as it it's too much to bear or work through. I feel it's selfishh and not fair of us to take that choice away from them though.
     
  9. SeekingSolace

    SeekingSolace Fapstronaut

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    I am the SO of a porn addict who admitted his problem to me when I caught him doing something connected to acting out. I had absolutely no idea he had the problem. He was very, very good at hiding it and lying (even passed a lie detector test recently after admittedly lying on the test). The only obvious clue was PIED which I blamed myself for, thinking I was not attractive enough. Heck, I didn't even know that porn addiction was a thing.

    I think it is very important to disclose if the addict wants to quit. I think most committed SOs will help and serve as considerable support in the process which can make it easier for the addict to be successful. It is also unfair to the SO not to let them know what is going on. Whether you realize it or not, it is deeply affecting their life.

    I would also say that while you hate to dump too much on them too fast, the constant drib, drib, drib of prolonged disclosure can be fatal to a relationship. Trust is injured with the first disclosure, but it can be shattered if the SO finds out more that has been happening that the addict failed to disclose. The latter is what happened to me and it made it very difficult to deal with rebuilding the relationship.
     
  10. Elena46

    Elena46 Fapstronaut

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    I am an SO who over the last 7 years or so have known there was a problem. When I caught him out with stuff he lied, lied and lied. When I found out porn use had escalated to hook up sites he insisted he did not have a problem and would change, stop etc. That was 3 years ago, his behaviour has massivly escalated into things I can't even put in to words on an internet forum. In answer to your question, I would have been more supportive had he come to me and said he had an addiction but instead I had to catch him. If I hadn't? Would he have sought help and stopped? I doubt it, and I'm certain his acting out would have got so much worse. And these years have screwed with my head so much, I have found myself watching, spying on him, checking phone records, internet history etc. None of that has made me feel better, worse in fact. I think it's the end now, for me I can't feel the same about him, he is not the man I thought I married. So be honest to your SO if you want to make your relationship work.
     
  11. AllanTheCowboy

    AllanTheCowboy Fapstronaut

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    I'm the man in the situation you're describing. I'm not going to tell you what to do in your relationship, but I will tell you about me, and maybe that will help you see a way to heal. I've talked to therapists and priests. I've relied on their help and advice, and taken it to heart, and taken it seriously. A lot, perhaps most, of it has been immensely beneficial. One thing that's been said to me more than once is "you want to show her this new person you are." At first, YES! I still understand completely what they mean, but I've now come to dislike that characterization. I'm not a new or different person. This is the person I really was, all the time. I've learned a lot, and changed, of course, as we all do through time. But this is the person that was there, and being consumed and suppressed by the addiction/compulsion/behaviour. And being consumed by the secrets and the lies. I can only talk about myself, not other men, but if you were my wife, I would want to tell you, and hope that you could hear and believe, that I am the man you thought you married. This other man ... this twisted version, or whatever it is came out, took over, became more and more the man you had to see every day, and did all these terrible things. This is a really hard thing to explain because I know it sounds like I'm saying "it wasn't me, it's the disease's fault" and that's not true. I did all the terrible things I did, regardless of the motivations, or causes. But under it all, and always trying to get back out, and be on the surface, and defeat the parts of myself I hated, and ... I know I looked like a monster, and I acted like a monster, and by all objective measures WAS a monster... I was in there all along trying to defeat the monster I'd become, and even when maybe you thought I never existed and you'd imagined me, and that I'd just fooled you about everything you thought you believed about me... I really am the good person we both wanted me to be, and thought I was. That really is me, and it always was me. I am that man. I was that man. And I've slain the monster and escaped his dungeon. I am the man you thought you married, and I'm sorry for all the times and ways I wasn't me. I really am the man you thought and hoped I was, as far as any human being can be.

    That's what I would love to be able to tell her, and what I'd love for her to be able to believe, no matter how long it might take. I don't know if it's the same for you, but I know what it's like being him and having no way to get through the walls you've put up to protect yourself, just to tell you/show you what he's learned. I don't expect her to dismantle the walls on trust; I just want her to open the mail slot, read my letters, and be open the possibility of hope. I don't presume to know what's right for you, or what's happened to you. But if he is like me ... he is desperate for a way to show you the new reality.

    I feel like this whole thing is incomplete but I'm out of words. I hope for the best for both of you. Truly.
     
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  12. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    @Ted Martin and @Hanging by a thread, I really do appreciate your perspectives in regards to SOs convincing their addicts of the problem. This is an urgent issue, but not the one I want to address here. @Elena46, I'm very sorry about your addict's choices, and am grieved that he chose addiction instead of an honest, fulfilling life.

    As I stated in my original post, I'm looking for addicts who have recognized their problem on their own, and are seeking to rectify their behavior. Thus far, only @SeekingSolace has spoken to this issue.
    You can't choose to tell your SO if they already know. In that event, you are agreeing with them, not confessing to them. I am trying to collect data on whether an addict should drop the bomb on their spouse and how, not how the spouse should tell the addict that they are exploding.
     
  13. AllanTheCowboy

    AllanTheCowboy Fapstronaut

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    I absolutely should have confessed (first to myself). I am certain we'd be going through this together, not apart, if I had.
     
  14. Hanging by a thread

    Hanging by a thread Fapstronaut

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    I'm so sorry @Elena46, I'm feeling like you, checking everything but so far it's helped and hurt, helped in that I know I have some way to know what's going on, hurt in that it's come down to this. The dribbling down of secrets is very tough but it's hard sharing such terrible truths. I'm starting to feel resentful like you about new things popping up.
    I would say if he will be willing to submit to your requests of yourneeds such as porn filters/blockers, no social media, rtransparency with emails text, etc... and definitely counseling and a SAA support group, it would show his honest attempt and admission to the disease. If you've had enough, I understand too. God bless your strength to walk away while you still have the strength and hopefully your self esteem is still intact. Wish you all the best and know you should be proud for having at least tried.
     
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  15. Hanging by a thread

    Hanging by a thread Fapstronaut

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    In my view, drop the bomb, it's about to explode, give her a choice to detonate or run. But that's a SO view hope it helps.
     
  16. Elena46

    Elena46 Fapstronaut

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    A very honest post, thank you.
     
  17. NoBrainer

    NoBrainer Distinguished Fapstronaut

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    I'm not sure that anyone chooses addiction.
     
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  18. noexcuses

    noexcuses Fapstronaut

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    Hey @Meshuga I'll share my story even though it's probably not what you are looking for. I fit into the camp where my plan was to get X number of days clean then tell my wife that I decided to quit watching P. How it actually happened was she saw the title and cover of the book (George Collins "Breaking the Cycle") I was reading and asked me about it. I believe her exact words were, "So you're a sex addict?" (asked in a joking way) This then lead to a conversation about how I was trying to stop watching P. She was supportive and told me she was just worried about me (after seeing the cover of the book) and wanted to make sure I was OK.

    I should note that my behavior never escalated beyond watching P. I never had any contact (physical, text, email, cam sites) with any other women. My wife would not have been OK with that...
     
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  19. Elena46

    Elena46 Fapstronaut

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    Maybe not but there are choices involved, the choice to disclose the addiction to your SO, the choice to get help, people are on this website because of those choices. I was an ex smoker, up until this I hadn't smoked for over 3 years but it was my choice to buy cigarettes and smoke again.
     
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  20. Meshuga

    Meshuga Fapstronaut

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    No one chooses to get hooked in the first place. At least I don't think so. But when confronted with their addiction, some choose denial, or acceptance of their addiction. I personally chose this often, especially in the last five years or so. I told myself, "quitting is too hard, this is who you are, just deal with it." It wasn't until I read an article in "Time" magazine about a secular site that worked, that I thought it was possible for me to actually quit. It coincided with a time where my marriage was at its worst, and there was no perceivable way for it to improve without my quitting.

    This is actually perfect. A much better version of my own story. I was just acting angry from withdrawals and my wife had enough and said, "what's your issue?" and I said, "I'll tell you in an email." I was too angry to care how she felt, but to scared to tell her to her face. Pathetic.

    In both our cases, it shows how the results were far less severe than we thought. At least I'm assuming you thought she would freak out, kick you out, not be able to look at you anymore etc., but instead she rallied and helped you through, like mine did. I think that SOs have to go through a process of accepting, but they are usually much further in the process than the addict thinks. If you told her on your wedding day, when she thought everything was beautiful and perfect and there was nothing in the future but love, then yeah, maybe she'd lose it and trow a fit. But typically, if the addict has already accepted his addiction, there is a significant history of neglect and general disgruntlement, and she already knows there's a problem.
     
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