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January 28, 2018

Why Internet Porn is Killing your Marriage.

 

It was a typical day and I was headed to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

When I walked through the door, I saw a friend of mine who I’ll refer to as Jessica. Not only is she beautiful, but she has an inexplicable talent for making anyone she speaks to feel like the conversation they’re engaged in is the most important one she’s ever had.

So, when I bumped into her cart in a corny attempt at humor, I was taken aback by the uncharacteristic look of sadness that she shot me. She went on to explain in a whispered hush that she and her husband were most likely splitting up after eight years.

“He is becoming more and more unavailable. Emotionally, sexually…just distant,” she sobbed.
“Is he seeing someone else?” I asked quietly.
“He’s addicted to porn. I’m sure of it.”

The situation that Jessica is going through, according to various studies, is more common than we realize. Globally, porn is a $97 billion industry with $12 billion of that coming from the United States alone. In addition to this, generally accepted statistics show that about 70 percent of American men between the ages of 17 and 24 access porn on a regular basis. The numbers for older men, while not as widely studied, may not be much different.

While none of this may come as a surprise, many don’t realize that this widespread and astounding reliance on internet pornography is having real world effects on relations between men and women in monogamous and heterosexual relationships, and might be diminishing the chances of those relationships to endure in a meaningful way.

Let’s be realistic. Committed relationships between men and women, especially after children come into the picture, are never as carefree as they were when there were no kids. The most contentious issues always seem to be money, daily responsibilities, and—you guessed it—sex. And, although loyalty and dedication once drove men and women to navigate these difficulties, the quick fix and instant gratification that pornography promises can have a tendency to lead men to disengage and not try as hard to repair damaged and time-worn sexual relations. The temptation is usually to take matters into their own hands in lieu of putting in the uncomfortable work.

Of course, this may be seen as speculative but more and more therapists are reporting similar issues cropping up with different clients. Sexual relationships with busy, overwrought women in the role of wife and mother take some effort.

There generally needs to be connection, foreplay, and eye contact, and if a man who is already straining against the friction of a shaky relationship can achieve orgasm in two minutes with a fraction of the effort, women will find themselves in situations where men are actually turning down “real” intercourse. This was expressed magnificently by the feminist Naomi Wolf in The Porn Myth: Why Porn Turns Men Off to the Real Thing:

“How can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond ‘More, more, you big stud!’)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?”

As difficult as it is to remove oneself from any compulsion or addiction, it is worth the effort.

The neurological pathways that are wired up with frequent pornography use wreak havoc on the brain’s reward system much in the way cocaine does, and there is proof that users will tend to seek out more novel and riskier content to reach the same level of excitement as time goes on. This, I believe, explains why almost one in five straight men regularly view gay porn.

But, the problems that internet porn addiction create go way beyond choice of content. Most experts who work in the field of couples counseling agree that a lack of intimacy and emotional distance inevitably lead to divorce.

The good news is, there is a three-step plan to get your marriage into a better state of health:

Cease and desist.

There is no time like the present to stop watching pornography once and for all. The best way to tackle this monster is to utilize the tried and true methodology of all good 12-step programs. Tell yourself that you will not log on “today.” Do not, under any circumstances, overwhelm yourself by thinking you’ll never watch it for the rest of your life. That is a sure-fire way to fail before you start.

Keep a journal.

Most sociologists agree that any time we put down destructive habits, our self-esteem and general morale increase. Once we trudge through the discomfort of breaking any unhelpful behaviors and patterns, we reach a point where we build momentum and want to continue with our newfound health. Keeping a journal helps us to keep our accomplishments at the forefront of our thoughts. This will increase our chances of sticking to it.

Get romantic.

It is important to retrain the reward centers of your brain with good old-fashioned courtship and dating. Take your wife out for a nice dinner. Go for a quiet walk and hold hands. You will find that the combination of returning to the simple pleasures and staying away from pornography will invariably help you and your spouse get back to being on the same team.

Of course, there will always be certain marriages that need to end. Abusive situations, serial infidelity, and irreconcilable differences oftentimes cannot be repaired even with the help of a good counselor. This is an unfortunate fact of life.

However, there are definitely times when a little effort on both sides can salvage families that would be better off staying together. It’s important to consider that before throwing in the towel—especially when children are involved.

~

Author: Billy Manas
Image: D. Sinclair Terrasidius/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman

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