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September 21, 2015

Let’s Get Intimate: Is Porn Addiction Real? {Adult Q & A}

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Q. My husband and I have had a rocky relationship due to his porn addiction. 

The weird thing is I was fine with it before our daughter was born, but after she was born he got worse. He would look at it all the time: at the doctor’s office, on the public transit, at work, and at home—at least eight times a day. He had multiple accounts and was saving it to his phone.

It got to the point where he wouldn’t interact with me; he would just look at porn. I didn’t feel good enough for him and I was ashamed of myself. We fought so much after that. Finally, I said it’s me or the porn. After I told him that he said he stopped porn, which he didn’t.

He has lied to me so much about his addiction I never know when he is telling the truth. I’m so scared of losing him, but I don’t want to lose myself in the process.

Is it even worth it to stay with him if I don’t trust him and he can’t stop his addiction?

 

A. As I’m sure you are already aware, addiction is a very real and very serious problem. But as you may not be aware, this particular problem has very little to do with you…or even the porn itself.

The real issue is trust. If trust is lacking in your relationship, you don’t have a foundation for a healthy union.

But let’s discuss the pornography first. A recent study shows that porn addiction may not even be real. The research shows that brain activity of “porn addicts” actually decreases over time, indicating desensitization to sexual images. Other behavioral and substance addicts’ brain activity (those addicted to heroin, gambling, cigarettes, and the like) increases upon viewing images of their addiction. (For example cocaine addicts will show increased brain activity when shown images of cocaine.)

It’s likely your husband has other dysfunctions that he has not addressed within himself, and pornography is his way of numbing and/or avoiding the pain of these issues. Keep in mind that any habitual behavior is something to be concerned about, whether it’s of a sexual nature or not. Even if his “addiction” is weight-lifting, it’s still a problem. My primary advice is for your husband to get into therapy.

In the best of all possible worlds, you both would work together in couples counseling or coaching, and you would also see a counselor, therapist, or coach to find your own pathway to healing.

The fact is that if your husband’s behavior is causing you pain, there is a deeper problem here than his issues alone. When one member of the family unit is in pain, there is a reaction throughout the entire system. It makes perfect sense that you don’t want to lose your husband to pornography (or anything else, I’d presume); if he goes, so does the life you’ve both created.

Your desire to infuse health into your relationship is an admirable one. It begins with offering your husband the space to find out what is really driving his desire to isolate himself. Speak with him gently, not accusingly, about what his feelings are. Sometimes, all it takes is for our partner to feel he or she is being heard, and that what he or she is going through is not going to be judged.

Some questions you might ask:

Can you help me to understand what you like about pornography?
What do you feel when you see it—good, bad, indifferent?
Do you feel that your life away from porn is satisfying or unsatisfying? (If it’s the latter, you can ask what might improve it.)
Is there something you get from watching porn that you don’t get from day-to-day life?

Answers to these questions will give you insight into his views, but it will not ameliorate the issue of his turning away from you in favor of porn. Those topics are best discussed with a couples counselor. By working together on the partnership you have created, that trust you lost will begin to return. But this involves both of you being committed to the work of healing.

If your husband can’t talk to you openly about this subject, then suggest he may be more comfortable speaking with a mental health professional—ideally as a couple, but at the very least on his own.

Remember, though, that the desire for him to change has to come from him. You cannot control him. The only human being whose journey you can design is your own. Get yourself some professional support. That way, you will have the tools for the self-care you need, regardless of your husband’s decision about his own life path.

Happy loving!

 

Bonus Video: The great porn experiment | Gary Wilson | TEDxGlasgow

 

Relephant read:

What Porn Really Does to a Relationship.

~

Author: Rachel Astarte

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/D. Sinclair Terrasidius

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