Marriage’s Underwater Mines—Porn Addiction

A follow-up on my recent article on sex addiction

Pornography is not erotic literature, which can have social and artistic value. Serious moral issues pervade the porn industry, such as the exploitation of vulnerable women and the enticement of young people—mostly men, but an increasing number of women—into an unhealthy sex life that can interfere with normal sexual development—and a marriage.

The effects of pornography exposure at a young age can be similar to the effects of sexual abuse, which can do great psychic, emotional, and developmental damage to a young person. In fact, pornography addiction is often associated with sexual or other types of abuse that prevent a young person from developing a healthy ability to form and maintain close relationships.

The images available in print, movies, or on the Internet are far too graphic and unrealistic for a young person, whose life should naturally be about interacting with family and other young people in a way that promotes healthy development. And this early exposure can lead to a long-term preference for porn over affection, intimacy, and relationships with real people—and to an addiction that can undermine a marriage.

If you have been suffering from the compulsive use of pornography, you might find some or all of these scenarios familiar.

  • Your porn activities are secret and take you away from affection and interaction with other people.
  • When viewing porn, you lose track of time and your compulsion seems to take over.
  • Time spent viewing pornography increasingly takes you away from other important responsibilities or activities with the people in your life.
  • You become irritated or angry if your partner or someone else discovers your porn activities or confronts you about them.
  • You have built up an intricate set of internal arguments justifying your porn activities.
  • Despite your internal justifications, you spend a lot of time feeling guilty and your self-esteem is often low.
  • For you, sex is not associated with affection, commitment, and equality. Rather, it is often associated with seduction, control, and power differentials, such as dominance or submission in some form.

Sound familiar? If so, there is hope, as much progress is being made in the treatment of this addiction. Here are some of the steps you can take to begin the process.

  • Don\’t make the mistake of seeing pornography as a freedom or a right. Keep in mind that pornography has nothing to do with you being independent or above social norms. On the contrary, porn can hold you in its grip. It can be a barrier to advancing in life and achieving your full potential and ability to operate as a truly free agent, making healthy, mindful, and caring choices.
  • Be aware that you are being exploited. Whatever money you spend on porn or whatever time you spend on sites with advertising is enriching people who are not operating from a concern for you or a desire to have a positive effect in the world.
  • Admit the problem to yourself and communicate it to someone. I know—easier said than done. Many who are addicted to porn feel ashamed and spend time and energy hiding their activities. Opening up to someone else is one of the critical first steps toward changing your life. Sharing your addiction may not eliminate it, but it can lighten your soul immensely, help you feel more real and centered, and be the first step on a continuous path to recovery.
  • If revealing your activities seems too difficult for your partner to hear, Orange County couples and marriage counseling can help. At some point in therapy or counseling, you could arrive at a point where you are willing to bring in your partner to share information in an acceptable and workable way. Your counselor can help you do this.
  • The shift in perspective that comes from opening up can be one of the great gifts you give to yourself in life, since it is the first step in letting someone else into your private world. We all need to relate to someone intimately, with all of our weaknesses exposed. In that way, you are no different from anyone else. So join the world.
  • Examine your porn preferences and compare them to your relationships outside the privacy of your viewing screen. Be aware that there will likely be many correspondences. For example, if you seek out porn scenarios where you identify with a dominant actor, think about other relationships where you compulsively seek to dominate family, friend, or workplace relationships. Understanding these patterns can be a big first step in moving on from them.
  • You may not be able to perform sexually without the stimulation of pornography or private fantasies during sex with a partner. Be aware that these crutches drive a wedge between you and your partner. Sharing your addiction with your partner can be a big first step toward re-establishing intimacy.
  • Regular sharing of less sexual activities, such as massage, caressing, co-exercising, and talking can be a new foundation for affection and intimacy and a bridge toward a healthy sex life in your future.
  • For ongoing support and the beginning of a new social acceptance, contact one of your local 12-step programs, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous or Porn Addicts Anonymous.
  • If you or your partner is depressed or anxious, Orange County depression counseling can help. Start with yourself and get a strong foothold in a new life. When you are ready, bring your partner in for marriage counseling. Sometimes separate counseling for the partner is a good first step before both of you come in together.
  • Once you have made an initial break from porn, work to consolidate it. Some research suggests that Internet filters can help you distance yourself from the images.

Unlike some addictions, such as alcohol, porn addiction is not currently listed as a mental disorder in the DSM-IV, the listing of mental health disorders by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). However, mental health professionals are taking the condition seriously. This is an ideal time for you to take back control of your life by acknowledging your problem and getting help.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.

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