The Painful Truth about Pornography
When my friend told me her story, a story about how porn ended their marriage, I hesitated to write about it. However, after doing a little research on the epidemic proportions of porn and/or cybersex, I realized her story had to be told, to show how porn disintegrated and eventually ruined her marriage.
Gloria shares, “He was in the shower. The door was locked. Although we lived alone, I could hear him talking to someone. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but whatever it was, it was in a low voice, in lewd tones. I knocked on the door. ‘Dean? What are you doing?’ I called. After he came out, I went in to take my shower, and noticed the floor was slick, like there was oil or something on it. I asked him about it and he said it was nothing. But after that day, he started compulsively cleaning the shower every time he came out. He also spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Rather than taking his showers in the morning like he’d always done, he started taking them only when he knew I was busy doing something.”
When Gloria and Dean (not their real names) were first married, a second marriage for both, their favorite thing to do was sit outside on the patio, sipping iced tea and talking, or not talking. They just enjoyed being together.
During their first year of marriage they traveled frequently, having fun just being together. He told his family that Gloria was 99.9 percent perfect. “We always had fun together,” she said. “I think that’s what made it so hard to understand.”
After the first year and a half of marriage, Dean started spending more and more time on the computer while she worked in the basement. When she came upstairs, he would become agitated. One day she went on their shared computer to clear out some emails and accidentally hit the “history” button. She couldn’t believe what she saw: a list of porn sites.
“Dean was the last person anyone would suspect of looking at porn,” she said. “He was the one that insisted on going to church. He was always too generous and donated to too many charities. He was a very honest man, a good man, and proud of who he was. His parents were ultra conservative and their whole family was always very active in church activities.”
When she first confronted him about porn, he said it was “no big deal.” He told her he only did it once and forgot to delete it. When she got upset, he told her she was making it into more than it was, that it was really nothing. She felt betrayed and hurt that the person she loved would lie to her.
“I believe he had no idea where it would lead,” she said.
He bought his own computer. He would get on it when she was busy and became alarmed if she surprised him, saying she was sneaking up on him. His fear of her surprising him became so ingrained that even when he fell asleep on the couch and she accidentally woke him, he was defensive and angry. When they watched TV together, he always wanted to watch shows having scantily dressed women.
“When we were dating, he always treated me with more respect and consideration than anyone I’d ever met.” Now he was agitated whenever she was around. They were spending less and less time together. He was always anxious for her to leave, and spent more and more time in seclusion.
He lost all interest in spending time together. At first Gloria thought he was having an affair. She later realized it was an affair with porn. It was hard for her to understand how a good, Christian man could think porn was okay. “Nothing wrong with it,” Dean said. “Every red-blooded man does it.” He even asked her to watch it with him.
She knew they needed help, so she went to the library to find out what she could about it. Everything she read said the same thing; therapy was essential to break the addiction. When Gloria insisted that they go to therapy, he told her she couldn’t make him.
She said she wanted a divorce.
Dean finally agreed to go with her to see a therapist. In their first therapy session, he insisted that he really didn’t need to be there and that their sex life was fine. That night after they got home, Gloria remembers sobbing on the couch while Dean remained passive, acting relaxed and insisted that nothing was wrong with him. Gloria recalls, “He never said he was sorry or expressed any remorse.” That was the last time he attended therapy, although Gloria, in an effort to save their marriage, continued to go.
In therapy, Gloria learned that denial is a common response. Even after the problem is acknowledged, it could take years to change the behavior. Dean and Gloria stayed married for 18 months after that first therapy session, even though Dean continued the same behavior patterns. Finally, they both agreed to a divorce.
Alvin Cooper, a sexual behavior researcher from the American Psychiatric Association, calls porn addiction “the triple engine affect,” because of its accessibility, affordability, and anonymity. When it becomes excessive, relationships suffer. In a study at the University of Tennessee, researchers found that female college students who perceived their boyfriend’s use of porn to be problematic, experienced lower self-esteem and poorer quality relationships, with lower sexual satisfaction.
When one partner uses porn frequently, they tend to withdraw emotionally from the relationship—with increased secrecy, less intimacy, and more depression, according to a study in The Journal of Sex Research. Porn is defined as an addiction when it becomes so intense in frequency or duration that it starts to interfere with other aspects of a person’s life.
One study in 2013 at the University of Leicester in the UK suggests it might be more of a compulsion than an addiction. The study found some common traits—including neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and obsessional checking behaviors—were highly correlated with pornography use.
Patrick Carnes, editor in chief of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, notes that among the personality types amenable to sexual compulsion are people who are very accomplished and overreach themselves. Often they have a difficult time saying “no” to others’ requests. They can feel that they deserve some small reward for their work. Ministry and medicine are two professions that reinforce over-committed behaviors.
He stresses that before healing can begin, a person needs to understand the significance of the problem. This includes accepting that they need help and that it isn’t only damaging to the individual but to others as well. There are many forms of help and support available. These include therapy, medication, spiritual growth, behavioral changes, and personal exploration for growth.
When someone needs help dealing with a sex-related addiction or compulsion, it’s important for them to remember they are not alone. It’s crucial to reach out for strength, support, and encouragement. Dr. Carnes offers a list of online recovery fellowships that could help: Sexual Addiction Resources/ Dr. Patrick Carnes www.sexhelp.com, Co-Dependents of Sex Addicts www.cosa-recovery.org, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous www.sexaa.org, Sexaholics Anonymous www.sa.org, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous www.sca-recovery.org, and Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health www.sash.net.