How to Break a Porn Habit

A Post Where You Get to Help A Fellow Reader Out

When I asked you all about your most vexing marital problems, AmyB commented:

Internet Pornography is a constant struggle. I’m not against sexual experimentation or even masturbation. I’m not even against other ‘consenting” adults using responsible pornography if they like it and it helps their sex lives, BUT I feel that in MY relationship I want my partner to direct his sexual tension and arousal to me, his very open sexual partner, not an anonymous person on a computer screen. According to him, pornography and sex with a partner are two totally different things. I still can’t help to think that it affects the dynamics of a relationship. Am I being unrealistic? Am I not allowing my partner to be independent in his choice to watch pornography? Should I respect his choice to watch pornography? He’s attempted to quit plenty of times and, at the moment, he doesn’t do it (to my knowledge). Still I know it’s a big struggle for him and I know that if he had the house to himself, he’d probably do it. What’s worse, I can’t do anything to help him.

Porn is one of those issues that tends to polarize people, so I’d like to attempt what might be impossible: a civil discussion about it. Here are the rules for commentating:

  •  No name-calling. I will delete any insults without a warning.
  • Definitely state your view. If you think it’s wrong, say it. If you think it’s a divine gift, say it. But DON’T attack someone else for not agreeing with your opinion.
  • If you try to comment and can’t, let me know. I’m still trying to fix what’s wrong with the commenting area on this site.

Got it?

I’ll start. My views on porn fall somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t offend me. I’ve watched it on occasion with my husband. It can be the spark that gets the mood started. All of that said, I think of porn much as I think of fast food. For me, fast food might be okay in a pinch—like when I’m on the New York Thruway at 3 am and seriously too hungry to go on. It’s not how I want to meet my daily hunger needs.

Similarly, with porn, it might work for a couple if it’s one trick in their arsenal of ways they get in the mood—and especially on those rare occasions when they are just too fatigued to come up with something better. But if it becomes a crutch–something you need everyday to feel happy, satisfied or in the mood—then it’s not healthy.

Because I didn’t feel completely qualified to tackle this topic, I also asked Stu Gray, who pens the Stupendous Marriage blog for insight. What follows are my questions and his answers.

Me: I imagine, like alcohol, some people can partake in porn and have it be a somewhat harmless pastime, whereas others get addicted and do much harm to themselves and their families. Do you agree with this? Or, after your experiences, do you feel there is nothing that is ever harmless about it?

Stu: I think from a scientific standpoint, that’s probably true. Some people are wired to be more prone to be addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or sex or food, and others don’t seem to be addicted to the ‘biggies’ that classify as addiction in our culture. The thing we can’t control is when the brain makes that click from “Its a harmless past time” to “I gotta have it all the time”. It’s a dangerous game to play especially with your brain and with sex. I heard it said once that “we aren’t born with an alcohol drive but we ARE born with a sex drive.” The drive that can be so good can end up driving us to do things that can ultimately be painful.

From a relationship standpoint, I think porn is harmful in several ways. Porn fans the flame of selfishness: She won’t give me what I want when I want it? I’ll take care of it myself.

The “me first” attitude tends to become a dominant factor. Great Marriages are made up of two people who love and give to one another. Porn rewires the brain to always be in a state of, “What can you do for me sexually?”

Porn usually leads to masturbation. Not for everyone, but for many. When you masturbate to an image other than your spouse, the sexual desire is fulfilled by someone outside your marriage. So, you have less desire to seek your spouse out for sexual connection. You also train your mind and your body to respond to images that are a false reality. So, your mind begins to think, “I want that all the time with my spouse.” Physically, if you are chronically masturbating, you begin to associate sexual release with images. This leads to a tough time in the bedroom with some people not being able to perform at all because it takes videos or images to be aroused.

Spouses feel like they can’t measure up because they don’t look like the images, and they don’t feel like the sexual fantasy you create when you “act out” with yourself.

Me: What are the signs that someone is addicted?

Stu: I think the quickest way to begin to see if someone is addicted is to ask him or her to stop. Most people who have a compulsion toward something harmful will say that they can stop anytime they want, that they just don’t choose to. So, call their bluff. Challenge them lovingly with, ‘If you can stop – do it’.

Most will begin with excuses about how it doesn’t harm anyone, that they are just having fun, or that it’s not a real problem. This type of denial is usually one indicator of an addiction. Also, if they do try to stop and can’t or begin hiding it, then they could be going down that road.

People show signs of addiction in different ways. For one addict, it could look like a need for more edgy pornography. For another it might be unhealthy adventurous sex with your spouse. For another it could be moving from images to real life sexual affairs. Or, It could look like something as simple as erasing the history in your browser because you know that it hurts your spouse when they find it.

Many times people mistake the “symptoms” for the “problem.” If someone is addicted to pornography, somewhere, at some point in time, it may have started as something fun they did when they were single. But now, it has become the “go to” when they want to escape from reality. So, the pornography itself isn’t’ the issue. It’s a heart issue. Why does this person need to escape from their current reality and look to porn to fill that need? That is the point couples need to focus on first.

Me: Beyond the obvious, what is the allure that keeps someone coming back again and again?

Stu: The allure is no consequences and no denial. If you don’t have to beg or cajole the image on the screen, that is much easier than having to negotiate a time between soccer and after the kids go to bed, or when they don’t feel like it, or some other perceived excuse to not have sex. Porn never gives an excuse to not have sex.

That’s the seduction. It’s an easy YES.

Porn makes the sexual act all about body parts and the looks of a person. Porn offers a surface look at body parts that is devoid of any type of emotional connection, which is necessary in marriage and healthy relationships. Anyone who has been married and had sex with one person for several years knows that the sex can get better as you get to know one another better. It doesn’t have as much to do with the body as it does with the connection to your spouse.

 Me: Understandably, partners can feel hurt, angry, and envious of porn. While perhaps justified, these emotions don’t lead to healing, understanding or progress. What can a spouse do to help an addicted spouse overcome the problem?

Stu: To begin with, I think it’s important to understand that your spouse’s addiction has little to do with you. You didn’t drive your spouse to pornography. Your spouse might blame you, but your spouse made these choices.

That doesn’t mean you should be harsh or condemning. Try to take emotions out of it.

It is very important for someone who is addicted to know that there are consequences for behaviors. With love, say that this behavior is not acceptable for you and your marriage. Ask if it is a problem. Ask what they get from pornography. Suggest someone with which can talk openly about it such as a counselor, pastor, or support group.

It’s likely you’ll meet resistance. Until the addict decides that he wants to change, there will be no change. So, sometimes you have to be the change. I’m not saying divorce — but perhaps a long trip to see the family (if you don’t normally do that), or a separating until you see positive steps taken (like filters on computers, accountability with other people, counseling, or some other actions toward health).

There are also groups for spouses of addicted folks. Getting into a group that is healthy (not just badmouthing addicts) can be very beneficial. Also, reading about sex and porn addiction can be eye opening. There are several authors who have written specifically for spouses of sexually addicted people. Check out work from Mark Laaser and Pat and Stefanie Carnes.

Readers: Now it’s your turn. What’s your advice? What’s your take? Remember the rules.

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11 Ways Sexting Hurts Your Marriage

I’ve gotten countless emails this week from people who are married to spouses who “sext,” which is the act of sending flirtatious messages via text message, email, Twitter, Facebook and so on. I wrote this post in response to the question, “Is this cheating? My spouse thinks this is harmless.”

  1. Just because you or your spouse do not define something as “cheating” doesn’t mean it can’t eventually bring your marriage to an end.
  2. Sexting is a form of flirting. Flirting is the first step in courtship. In fact, it’s what led to the two of you getting married. Would you feel comfortable if your spouse were actively courting someone else?
  3. Trust is an important ingredient to a happy marriage. Sexting destroys trust.
  4. If you wouldn’t do it with your spouse sitting right next to you, it’s probably not good for your marriage.
  5. As the saying goes: The grass is always greener where you water it. If you are sexting with someone who isn’t your spouse, you are watering the wrong lawn.
  6. By focusing your attention outside your home, you will end up neglecting what’s inside your home. Trust me: to keep it strong, your marriage will need all of the attention you can give it. Don’t waste your attention where it’s not needed.
  7. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you hurt your spouse’s self esteem. A spouse who feels this way is eventually going to check out.
  8. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you make it harder for your spouse to feel sexy. A spouse who doesn’t feel sexy isn’t going to want to have sex.
  9. When you flirt with someone else – either in person, on the phone, or digitally – you cause your spouse to feel unloved. If your spouse does not get the love she needs from you, she’s going to be more likely to search for it somewhere else.
  10. If you need a rush, try finding it with your spouse. The two of you can strengthen your marriage by solving this problem together.
  11. If you don’t feel sexy, try talking to your spouse about the problem. The two of you can strengthen your marriage by solving this problem together.

There is one way sexting can help your marriage. It’s this: do it with your spouse. Text “you are hot” to your spouse. Text “I can’t wait to see you naked” to your spouse. Everything you were thinking of sexting to someone else? Sext it to your spouse.

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What are your turn offs and turn ons?

Yesterday’s post about a celibate marriage sparked a lively and wonderful discussion. I’d love to continue that energy because I feel we can all learn from one another. Although I am not a 100 percent convert to the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus camp (not even a 50 percent convert), I do believe that men and women are different, and those differences both attract and repel us from one another. Those differences can, at times, prevent us from digging deeper and getting to know one another better, too.

With that in mind, I’d like to start a discussion about turn ons and turn offs. I’m not talking about specific incidents here, such as body odor or bad breath. I’m talking about the kinds of turn offs that cause you to lose your attraction to your spouse in an ongoing and painfully long way. I’ll start.

Turn Offs

For me, all of the turn offs have a theme. They cause me to fear being vulnerable, and when I fear being vulnerable, I don’t like being naked. In order to feel sexy, I need to feel safe.

* Talking down to me

* Not listening to my problems

* Making fun of my weaknesses

* Refusing to consider my view point

Turn Ons

For me, turn ons are about feeling adored, about the instinct to nurture or about feeling like a woman.

* Him being the strong guy who makes sure there are no serial killers hiding in the closet

* Him trusting me to listen as he tells me about a problem

* Him complimenting me, smiling when he sees me, and giving me a shoulder rub when he knows I’m sad or stressed

* Me being irrational and him just being supportive without telling me that I am being irrational

* Him taking an interest in my writing

What about you? What keeps you attracted to your spouse? What repels you? There are no wrong answers here. Again, be kind. Be open minded. We’re all here to learn from one another.

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Can a cheating spouse ever reform?

Q: My husband has cheated on me many, many times. I don’t think he’ll ever stop. I know I should leave him, but I can’t. I still love him! There is no one else I’d rather be with! So I’m wondering: will he ever stop cheating? Am I just wasting my time? How can I mend my broken marriage?—Please Make Him Stop

Dear Please Make Him Stop,

There’s one thing I can say about my husband with great certainty. He’s not a cheater. I’ve never once caught him checking out another woman. He doesn’t have female friends. He doesn’t flirt. It’s just not in his DNA.

Because of this, I found your question very tough to answer. Will your husband ever stop cheating? Perhaps, but probably only if you Bobbit him. (Please know that I am not suggesting this as a remedy to your problem.)

But what do I know? Really. This is out of my area of experience.

For a credible opinion on the matter, I turned to a friend who was once in your exact situation. Her first husband cheated on her repeatedly. She was a stay at home mom who raised three kids. He was a dad who wanted to do it with any woman but his wife.

I sent her your question. Here’s her advice:

You’ve already answered some of your own questions. You say, “He’s cheated on me numerous times.” You say, “I don’t think he’ll ever stop.” Go with your gut. You already know that staying with your husband any longer is just a waste of precious time. You deserve better treatment, a better relationship, and a better life. Your children will respect you more and have a better self esteem if they see that you will not allow yourself to be made unhappy and abused. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

He is choosing to cheat on you. You might think this is about the other woman, that they hold some power over him. It’s not about the women, though. It’s about him. He’s choosing not to exert self control.

You say you love him. Can you love him with the cheating part of his personality? Because that’s who he is. My first husband had the same personality issues. At first, I was like you. I thought I could mend my marriage, I thought I could change myself so that he wouldn’t think these other women were so great. I have 3 kids, grown now, and I didn’t want my family to break up. I didn’t want to lose my dreams about the future that I had envisioned. But, after too long of a time I finally became so disgusted that I realized that anything would be better than living with a cheating, lying husband. I wanted my peace of mind back. I wanted my children to live in a peaceful atmosphere. I have never regretted filing for divorce. I do regret taking so long to do it.

See? She’s great. I think her advice is right on the money. The only thing I would add is this. I think your main problem is a lack of self esteem and self worth. You don’t realize that you deserve better. The day you realize that? You will become a powerful woman.

Do you have any advice for Please Make Him Stop? Leave a comment.

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How long great sex really lasts

Are we done yet?

A few months ago, I was surfing around a discussion board for moms when I noticed this intriguing question, “About how long does it take you and your DH to do it?” I clicked through, and I immediately felt inadequate.

Mom after mom was claiming to “do it” for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and even two hours on a regular basis. These women were describing a “quickie” as sex that lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. A few even complained about short sexual encounters, whining, “I wish my DH had more staying power.”

I wondered, “Who are these women and why are they allowed to type such nonsense on the Internet?”

In my bedroom, a typical session lasts about 10 minutes, and that includes the taking off the clothes part and the clean up.

This, by the way, is not my husband’s fault. His staying power should probably be documented in the Guinness Book of World Records. (Note: His friends read this blog. My husband will now love me forever. He’d also like me to stipulate that the length of his, well, you know, is legendary.)

Our constant use of the quickie is all my doing.

I simply can’t imagine going at it for an hour. An hour?! Two hours?! When I think about having sex for that long, the following words and phrases come to mind:



“I have stuff to do.”

“Are we done yet?”

It’s possible that we completed a few sexual marathons years ago, when we first met. Those were the days when we used to think it was fun to gaze into one another’s eyes. My memories of those times have mostly been erased by a chronic case of momnesia, though.

In any case, we no longer have time to eye gaze, not to mention drag things out in the bedroom. Now in the AK (after kid) era, there’s simply no time for such frivolity. We have a 529 to fund, a daycare bill to pay, jobs to do, a house to clean, toys to fix, and meals to cook. Sex has become something we slip in somewhere between the daycare drop off and a mad dash to the bank.

Still, even if I had all the time in the world, I’m not so sure I’d want it. If sex lasted an hour or more, I’m quite certain I’d need to take ibuprofen for a few days afterward. I’m just not in that sort of shape anymore.

And even if I was in shape, I’m not sure I’m genetically blessed with the ability to go at it for that long. I’ve tried to turn myself into a better sex partner. I really have. For instance, I’ve tried doing it with my husband a lot more frequently, with the idea being that more frequent orgasms would lead to a better ability to delay them.

It sort of worked, too. Instead of 10 minutes, our sessions dragged on for about 12.

I’ve tried to focus my thoughts on nonsexual things, too, like how I planned to straighten up the bedroom as soon as we wrapped things up. I’ve even begged my husband to ease up. “No, don’t push me over the edge honey, I want to see… Oh, it’s too late now.”

It’s like that.

I thought about asking my real life mom friends about their sex lives, but I held off. I figured they might all be marathoners, too. I didn’t want everyone in town knowing that I was a sexual sprinter.

Then yesterday I was doing some research for a heart disease book that I’m writing and I stumbled across a Penn State study. It found that the most sexually satisfied couples usually had sex for just three to 13 minutes. In fact, the psychologists, marriage therapists and sexperts who were studied said that anything longer than 10 minutes was “too long.” (And if you wonder what that has to do with heart disease, all I can say is this: Google isn’t perfect.) The researchers were quoted as saying, “Unfortunately, today’s popular culture has reinforced stereotypes about sexual activity. Many men and women seem to believe the fantasy model of large penises, rock-hard erections and all-night-long intercourse.”

I thought three things:

1.    Hallelujah!

2.    Penn State rules!

3.    Bring on the quickies!

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