Is Porn Really an Addiction?

Growthtrac Marriagec Medic

Q

I’ve recently caught my husband looking at pornography again. I feel betrayed and cheapened by his actions, but he tells me I’m overreacting. He has lied and made up stories about his actions and now blocks me from looking at his phone or computer. Am I wrong to feel hurt that he looks at pornography?

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A

Modern psychology has chosen to view porn as not being potentially addictive. Many believe that neither sex nor porn has the power to alter our values or ethical behavior. But talk to a man or woman who has struggled in this area, and you’ll hear a very different story.

In his Desiring God blog, well-known pastor/author John Piper quotes an article by Morgan Bennett entitled, “Pornography: The New Narcotic.” In it, Bennett states, “Neurological research has revealed that the effect of Internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent—if not more so—than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin.”

Without getting into the biochemistry of his conclusions, Bennett shows that pornography changes brain chemistry, enhancing its addictive potential. Addicts seek that pleasure repeatedly, and in fact crave more novel pornographic material to excite them. Not only is behavior impacted, but moral and ethical values are compromised, most certainly impacting marriages.

Back to your husband’s behavior. No, you’re not overreacting—and yes, you have the right to feel betrayed. Sadly, your husband not only is not taking responsibility for his hurtful behavior, but is shifting blame onto you. To make matters worse, he is being secretive and deceptive—behaviors that often go with addictions. Trust is built on transparency, and this seems to be increasingly missing from your marriage.

Let’s consider some truths about pornography, and then we’ll explore steps that need to be taken. Pornography:

1. Objectifies men and women. Pornography makes objects out of the people who are used for the images presented.
2. Causes the user to seek ever more daring behavior. Those using pornography again and again create “worn” neural pathways, causing the user to seek ever more daring and dangerous opportunities.
3. Promotes deceptive, secretive behavior. Deception becomes part and parcel of this behavior.
4. Creates distrust. With deception comes distrust. With distrust comes the erosion of intimacy.
5. Fosters conflict. With distrust and deception comes conflict. This conflict is rarely resolved, leading to increasing distance in the relationship.
6. Causes separation from God. Ultimately this sinful behavior causes a separation from God.

So here’s a solid game plan for those individuals and couples crippled by the impact of pornography:

Don’t argue about the “rights and wrongs” of pornography. As Solomon aptly advised, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him” (Proverbs 26:4). You have your values and firm convictions and need to hold them. Entering into a debate with your husband will not only be fruitless, but will exhaust you and deflect from the real issues.

Share your feelings about your husband’s behavior with him. Be concise and clear in what you share. Speak from your heart. Don’t argue facts except for the facts of your feelings. Let him know how degraded you feel and press him to understand your feelings. Ask your husband to empathize with you.

Take a firm stand that you will not tolerate pornography. Of course taking this position means you will establish consequences for this behavior. You must decide if you are really willing to back up this threat. Boundaries without consequences are simply hopes, wishes, or complaints.

Address the behaviors that surround his pornography habit. Deception, secrecy, and a refusal to be transparent must be eliminated in a relationship of honor, trust, and collaboration. Make it clear you desire intimacy—“into me see”—and this requires full openness.

Learn all you can about pornography addiction. You must learn the truths about this epidemic, the behaviors associated with it, and the treatment options available for it. Be prepared emotionally and spiritually to uncover even more than you may have originally believed to be part of the problem.

Insist on further support and counseling for his addiction. The opposite of enabling this behavior is insisting on an intervention. Because of the power of these behaviors, as well as the rituals and secrecy that go along with pornography use, it’s unlikely your husband will be able to simply walk away from this behavior and related behaviors.

Get support and counseling for yourself. You have been wounded and will need your own healing process. There are many support groups, notably Celebrate Recovery, that offer support for the mate of someone addicted to pornography.

In summary, don’t be lulled into thinking pornography use is simply a matter of preference and has no impact on both the user and the mate of the user. Be honest with yourself about what it is doing to you, insist on change to bringing health into your marriage, and finally, get professional, specialized help. I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions by contacting me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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