Being in a Relationship with a Porn-Addict

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Pornography is not the “harmless fun” that it was once considered to be, particularly in the 1960’s when pornography hardly qualified as “hardcore.”

Folks such as Gail Dines and Diana Russell, Ph.D and author of “Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm” and Andrea Dworkin – a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement in the 70’s and 80’s, and author of a handful of books, including some that deal with the topic of pornography and its effects – have found that even back then, the stage for pornography and its link to the objectification of women was already being set.

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Thanks to the efforts of these women, and those of many other groups, such as Women Against Pornography, we are well aware that the consumption of pornography is both highly addictive and harmful to our health.

Today, we have the internet and millions of people working to spread awareness about pornography’s destructive effects on us. Donny Pauling, an ex-pornographer, and ex-performers like Shelley Lubben — folks who have left the industry and now blog and speak out on the topic — have openly exposed what pornography is like behind the glamour.

With the internet and all the groups working so hard to make us aware, we know that kids are typically exposed to pornography around the age of 8-11. We know that pornography is highly addictive and that it gives us the wrong idea of what sex is all about. It lacks passion, love, and romance. It hardens us, causing us to require more and more disturbing scenes just to achieve satisfaction. And there is so much more.

We now know that viewing pornography changes our brain’s dopaminergic system, similar to the way gambling addiction does.

It is no secret that there is a possible link between pornography and violence.

While still a controversial topic, though, there is an unmistakable link (that only grows in assurance as time goes on) between pornography and human trafficking, yet we are so addicted that we still consume it, and in turn, contribute to this horror. As we continue consuming image after image, some argue that we become desensitized, and many professionals in the healthcare industry recognize a condition “Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction,” which is erectile dysfunction caused from pornography use.

Due to this wealth of information reaching the masses, and so many people being negatively affected by pornography, the “no FAP challenge” was born. The challenge, which is becoming somewhat of a trend now, is being accepted by men all over the world, is a voluntary attempt at quitting masturbation to pornography. Millions of young males, many of whom have openly shared their journey via blogs, videos and more, have taken up the challenge. Those are all things we know at this point.

What we do not know as much about is the folks struggling with the addiction, or those suffering alongside a porn-addicted spouse. It’s this reason that I’ve spoken with dozens of addicts and spouses of addicts — To find out exactly what it’s like to tread the dangerous ground that in this day, we’re being constantly warned about. To find out if this “porn is harmless” claims are true.

This endeavor, discussing the ordeal of being with a spouse who uses pornography had hardly begun when addicted men themselves began sharing their stories, which has been equally as eye-opening.

Among the folks I’ve spoken to, all with intense, raw and eye-opening stories to share, Anna’s stood out significantly, inspiring me to look deeper into the effects pornography may be having on other real people.

Anna’s story — in which she shared everything from the moment she found out her “seemingly innocent” boyfriend of two years had been a long-term pornography addict to her attempt at suicide — took me through the devastation one feels upon learning that a spouse uses the internet to find intimacy. It was eye-opening, heart-wrenching and utterly unfathomable.

“Pornography provides individuals – particularly young people – the wrong idea of what sex is. It also gives people the wrong idea of what bodies are supposed to look like, causes bullying, and self-confidence issues” writes a 17-year-old who’s struggled herself with the effects of her long-term boyfriend’s pornography use.

“I was heartbroken. I cried and cried, and he knew something was wrong, but I found it embarrassing to talk about what I’d found,” says Anna, says as she recalls the moment she found her boyfriend’s internet history.

“After finding the courage to tell him what I found, we both cried, and that’s when he admitted he’d been using since the age of 12 (he’s 20 now), yet he promised never to do it again.”

Soon after finding out that her boyfriend was addicted to pornography, Anna says she “spiraled into depression, and began having suicidal thoughts. I felt repulsive, ugly, deformed, not good enough and unbelievably worthless.” After repeatedly breaking his promises to quit using pornography, Anna found, via the internet history, that her boyfriend had been using daily, despite his promise never to do it again.

He did do it again, using the Xbox since she was not likely to check it, the way she had checked his internet history.

“That was the day I self-harmed,” she said. “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough, like I was worthless and that I couldn’t compare to what he was viewing. I felt sick that my other half wanted to look at these things, especially when I’m not interested in other men at all. I felt cheated and betrayed.”

Her boyfriend did not quit for long, and eventually turned back to using the internet over the Xbox, and she caught him again.

“That was the biggest argument we’d had yet,” she says, before going on to explain, “it was the first ever to turn into a physical fight. I felt worthless because he preferred porn to me, so I threw myself down the stairs and had to go to the hospital with a suspected broken wrist.”

After this, Anna decided, with the advice of her boyfriend and support of his mother, to seek the help of a psychiatrist, who prescribed SSRI medication. The psychiatrist visits, she later explained, were helping and things were looking up in her relationship. Continual betrayal, and with each fight ending in tears and promises, it was not long, Anna says, before another confrontation ensued, with her boyfriend’s now predictable reaction: apologizing, crying and promising.

She found herself walking in unexpectedly to find her boyfriend using live-cam to view real people, in live-action performing sexual acts, and on a later day, she found him far past the act of just browsing.

This was the last straw, Anna says as she describes silently packing her bags. She headed off by boat to go back to her family the next morning and says she fought between her head and her heart before deciding she should give him another chance. A week later, she returned apologizing for leaving him while her boyfriend continued with the promises of it “never happening again.”

By this time, although she was back with him, Anna was in a full-blown depression and having to take a sick leave from work. “I lied in bed all day thinking I’m so worthless and ugly. I even contemplated having plastic surgery to alter my image. I considered breast and buttocks implants as well as having labiaplasty” — a surgery where the labia are literally cut off, to make them smaller, that often leaves damage to the genitals, including decreased sensation). Anna desires labiaplasty, she says, so she would “look more like the people my boyfriend was viewing.”

It was not long before the string of events replayed in Anna’s life: things began looking up, the depression was lifting, and then she found him using again.

This time, though, Anna ran to a nearby bridge, attempting to jump off, “but he had me tight in his grasp. We lay on the ground crying.”

Despite all the suffering, months of medication, visits with a psychiatrist, and upon eventually getting her boyfriend to make an appearance along with her — where he admitted to having a problem with pornography — things continued to worsen.

“We were referred back to my original GP and received a letter from the cognitive behavioral therapist who gave an evaluation. The letter said that they didn’t think pornography addiction was that big a problem and they included some self-help websites for us to refer to. I felt as if the problem that was consuming us both wasn’t ‘big enough’ for the doctors to offer help with.”

Nearly a year later now, (August 2014,) Anna writes that she still suffers from depression, self-harm, and self-confidence issues.

“My boyfriend still hasn’t gotten any help, and he suffers from anger problems. Our relationship is suffering as we argue almost daily and have physical fights, which didn’t ever happen before all this unfolded.”

This is just one story of dozens I have heard recently from women all over the world. The only thing in their stories that these women had in common were their feelings. The self-esteem, the betrayal, the suffering from depression and feeling unworthy, those were all elaborated on by every woman I spoke to.

Not a single one of them said that their self-esteem and trust had not wavered since pornography entered their lives. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t sound “harmless” to these women.

Aside from that, the stories I have heard from the men are not much better. With statements like “I hate myself now,” and “my porn use ruined my life” and “I am disgusted with myself,” it does not sound like they would agree that it is harmless either.

3 Comments
  1. Ilia Davidovich says

    I don’t think pornography is at fault. One doesn’t need to go there to receive an image of what our body should look like, just open any glamour magazine or watch TV. No need to try and find an external cause to domestic issues. The real problem is usually lack of communication.

    As for kids watching it, when I was a kid I remember how exciting it was to find a porn story or look at pictures. I don’t remember drawing any conclusions from what I saw. It was stimulating and amusing and it didn’t change my perception of women.

    Speaking of mental issues, I think the so-called “no FAP” challenge can be just as harmful.

  2. Kendra says

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ilia. It’s okay to disagree on some things. 😉
    This is just *one* person’s real experience, so a little empathy can go a long way. I’m glad that using did not change your perception of women. I wish that were the cases for the folks I deal with, and talk to on a daily basis. 🙁

  3. theworldintoacoffeecup says

    Hi Kendra. Well…what can I say? I am part of these women who suffers being in a relationship with a porn-addict. Everybody -included himself- says it’s not “that bad”, or not as bad as going out to have sex with other women, I say it’s the same for me, the same betrayal, but he disagree and says it’s just my exageratted ego.

    All the feelings you describe: the depression, the falling of your self-steem, the feeling of being cheatted, unworthy, inadequate…ugly. I have felt them and I still do it. That’s the reason I have decided to divorce, despite he’s a very worthy man in every other issue, but, people continue saying me “it’s not such a big deal”. Am I wrong? I’d like to know from a psychologist if the problem is in me (if it’s just my ego, as my husband says) or if this is a real problem. Anyway, it hurts, it hurts a lot.

    By the way Kendra, I’ve got a degree in English, and I’m interested in start a Master in Social Anthropology next year. I’d love to contribute with your site by translating your articles to Spanish. Let me know if this is possible or to whom should I ask fo it.

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