Tag Archives: sexual problems

Fifty Shades of Grey: Sexual & Pornography Addictions Hurt Everyone

50-shades
Thanks to Danielle Adams of Lifestar Therapy for this guest post, which explains from a therapist’s perspective how this popular book/movie series affects the larger society.

We’ve probably all heard of Fifty Shades of Grey by now, the popular erotica book series and its accompanying films. The story follows the two main characters, Ana and Christian, and their unhealthy relationship revolving around Christian’s obsession with BDSM. And so it goes.

People’s opinions swing back and forth between extremes: it’s trashy – it’s just dirty fun –  it empowers women – it objectifies women. From a purely objective standpoint, the books are not great. The writing is sophomoric, the sex scenes are ridiculous, and the message is a fairly unhealthy one.

So why is it so popular? We could debate the question for hours and still not reach a consensus, but the fact of the matter remains: Ana and Christian’s abnormal relationship feeds into the idea that sexual addictions are easily overcome with merely the right motivation (i.e., the right partner), and millions of women are eating this up.

The Problem

Sexual addictions are primarily thought to develop because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like depression or other mental disorders, and the fact that antidepressants make a difference for some sex addicts suggests that this is correct. Studies have shown that food, drugs, and sexual interests share a common location within the brain’s circuitry. So in the same way that food sounds good when we’re hungry, abnormal sexual activity sounds good to a sex addict when they feel that urge. The addicted brain tricks the body with powerful chemical rewards when the sexual urge is fulfilled. In this way, self-destructive behavior is rewarded and therefore continued, even though the rational mind knows that it’s a problem.

This brain chemistry explanation especially helps to make sense of why accomplished, successful, rational people, men and women, can be just as susceptible to sex addictions as anyone else. A chemical imbalance in your brain is every bit as real as a broken arm or a gash in your leg.

There are many negative consequences of sexual addictions, including greater risk of STDs, low self-esteem, lack of intimacy, inability to maintain healthy relationships, and sometimes even legal trouble. And the harm doesn’t stop with the addicted person; there is often collateral damage. Partners discover the affairs and feel betrayed, family members become aware of the lying and sneaking around and find themselves overwhelmingly disillusioned.

The Fifty Shades Effect

One of the problems with Fifty Shades of Grey is the happy ending. Sexual addictions take years of struggle to overcome. Much of the time they are never really cured; coping mechanisms are put in place and practiced, the behaviors may stop, and the person can resume normal life and pursue healthy relationships, but sometimes it’s a lifelong battle.

Christian and Ana are able to work through his issues and emerge stronger for it, but in the real world, addictions are not resolved so neatly.

Oftentimes, the addict will not get the help he or she needs, or the relationship cannot survive the effects of the betrayal.

If you have someone with a sexual addiction in your life, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you did or could do to cause it, and it is not your responsibility to “cure” them. Be supportive and encouraging as they seek help, but don’t neglect to look after yourself. For spouses of sex addicts, it can be helpful to attend a support group. It takes immense commitment and consistent hard work every day, but with the right tools, relationships can be repaired and addictions can become a thing of the past.

About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.

 

A Personal Story: Pornography and Marriage

Last week I shared some detailed research on the Effects of Pornography on Marriage, Family & the Community. But I wanted to take this issue to a more individual, human level. The following is a revealing interview with Stu Gray, a happily married man (you’ll find his relationship posts at The Marry Blogger) who shares his personal experience with casual, then addictive use of porn.

When did you begin using pornography?I fell into pornography when I was a pre-teen/early teenager of maybe 12. I spent junior high and high school sneaking around the house looking at pornography that belonged to my dad – my or friends’ dads. When I went away to college, I began my own collection; by my sophomore year, the Internet had become an easy way to gain access to pornographic images.

I told many girlfriends, “Porn is just a way of life. Get used to it, or don’t be in a relationship with me.” Porn became a “destresser” after a long day—or a companion on a lonely night. I spent a lot of time with porn, at least daily at some points. There were seasons of time when it would be less important or exciting, but I would say on average my viewing was some sort of image once or twice a day.

I threw out all my magazines and videos the year my wife and I were married in 2004, but the computer still proved to be an issue for me. I really felt a change in my behavior happen in the fall of 2008, and porn has not been a huge temptation for me since then.

How did pornography use affect your marriage?Porn affected my marriage in huge ways. It put a roadblock between me and my wife on many occasions. She felt I was always comparing her to an image; she did not understand my desire or need for the extra images or stimulation, believing that she should be my source of sexual desire.

Now, because of our experience with porn, we have learned some very important lessons about our relationship. We discovered that anything that comes between a couple can be a wedge to pry them apart—or an opportunity to grow together—and to stand together and fight it.

My wife doesn’t like the fact that I have had this struggle, but she is my biggest fan. She realizes that we are a team, and we have to fight together against this thing…and not let it come between us. She used to view me thru the lens of pornography, and so did I. But when we moved the porn out from “between” us and put it “in front” of us, we were better able to battle it together. Not that we would wish any type of problem on any relationship, but this has been a blessing in our life – allowing us to learn a very important principle about being “one” as a husband and wife.

Did you find it addictive?
I didn’t believe porn was addictive until I decided I wanted to stop. Then I realized that I really had a problem. I used porn to medicate hurts, to relieve stress, to disconnect from real life. Many of those things are the exact same reasons people turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, over-eating—any of the “addictions” we normally think of in our society.

Did it make you feel less attached to your wife?
Absolutely. If my wife is to be the person I share our sexual intimacy with…and I am off by myself in “porn land” getting some sort of false intimacy from someone who is not my wife…guess what?  It changes the way I interact with her. I don’t have to be kind to her. I don’t really have to pay her attention. I tended to get upset easier, because I felt she wasn’t meeting my every sexual need (something I believed porn did). I had fewer reasons to be kind because my sexual need was being met, often, by myself. Communication would become difficult—or harsh—much more easily.

There seemed to always be a cloud in our relationship. It was made up of lying about porn, and hiding it. That also took its toll on our marriage, spending so much effort on cleaning up behind myself online to hide where I had been. It became a hassle. And, it catches up with you. To think that your decisions and choices won’t catch up to you is stupid. There always comes a time when you are caught, and have to face the music (and in my faith – that time to face the music may not be during my life here on earth). It wasn’t on the scale of Tiger, Jesse James, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton, or Dave Letterman, but it didn’t have to be to still be hurtful and negatively impact my marriage.

How do you think your pornography use affected your wife?
I believe it impacted her more than I know. Negatively – it destroyed trust and safety in our marriage. It put her confidence in me on the line. If I was being shifty in this area, was I being shifty in other areas as well? It made me hard to deal with, selfish and child-like.

On the positive side though, I have to give her credit. She, through much prayer and counsel, came to the realization of it being “us vs. porn.” If she had not had that epiphany and decided to come alongside me in this battle, and pray with me and for me, to encourage me, to help me stay accountable to people and remember my true desires (to be the best man I can be), I don’t know where we would be today.

How/why did you stop?
There were several times that I wanted to stop, and tried to stop. I had many reasons to stop…yet, the reasons were outside of myself. I would think, “I have to stop because people will think I have an addiction,” or “I have to stop because I might hurt someone,” or “’I have to stop because I don’t want my son to have a problem.” When I realized that I, first, wanted to be a better man, a man of better character, because I wanted to be better for me, then for my wife and son, for other relationships, that’s when the change really began for me.

One of the first decisions I made that led to change was my decision to give my life over to God as an adult. I had always thought of myself as a “Christian” because I went to a Christian school and didn’t drink and do drugs. I was a pretty OK guy in my mind. But I realized that my life wasn’t really OK—that I was a broken dude, and needed someone more than just myself to really bring about change.

Here are some practical ways that have helped me:

I ditched every piece of porn I owned. Trashed it in a big green dumpster. That was very first step. There were several more, but this was a physical act breaking away from the habit that I wanted to stop. I want to be a better man. To be a real man of character. Still broken, but trying to live out my life humbly – realizing that I couldn’t do it all on my own. When I really began feeling freedom from porn in 2008, that was the exact same time that my personal computer blew up. Literally—it just stopped working. I had to go to the public library to do any type of work. So, every day for a month, I was at the library in the computer lounge surrounded by people. It was a real reason to not surf porn. I was in public. When I finally got the new computer, the temptation was much less, because I was used to new habits.

I made the decision that I wanted to be better for me.

I changed up my habits.

I tried several groups…Sexaholics Anonymous was like dipping my toe in the water of “recovery” for me. I didn’t connect there for whatever reason, but did find another great Christian-based group called Samson Society. These are guys who are looking for real life and real relationships. It’s not a “sex addicts” group by any means. It’s a “Hey I’m messed up, he’s messed up, lets be in each others life so when we feel like messing up again, we can encourage one another to not be stupid” group. (Several Recovery Groups)

I meet with one guy whom I share everything with. I tried to have my wife be that person for a while…and that was too much for her. As much as she supports me and loves me, it still hurt for her to hear when I had messed up, or wanted to mess up. So, this guy and I share our lives with one another. We call one another and check in. It really helps.

I filter my computer use. In the past, I have limited the time on the computer, the places I could visit…and I still do this. There are several great programs you can use to help steer in a better direction. (Several Filters for Computer)
 

Thanks to Stu for sharing his candid story. We wish the very best to him and his lovely wife. How about you, have you struggled with this issue? Or does your spouse have differing views related to pornography?

Coming soon…Upcoming posts will provide insight into how married couples can have fulfilling, satisfying intimate lives with some insights from Dr. Patricia Love.

Porn Use Increases Infidelity, Divorce

Pornography is thought to be the most sought-after content on the web. Is the use of pornography a harmless, titillating tool for individuals and couples, or does it have deleterious effects on a relationship? More than a matter of opinion, the issue has been studied at length—with very conclusive results. Researcher Patrick Fagan, PhD, a psychologist and former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary, calls pornography a “quiet family killer” and says it is time for citizens to buck the laissez-faire approach to porn. His key findings:

  • Pornography use was correlated with an increase in infidelity of more than 300%. (Other factors may have also contributed to the infidelity, but it was a factor.)
  • 56% of divorces involved one party having an obsessive interest in porn.
  • Married men who are involved in pornography feel less sexually satisfied with their spouse and less attached to her. Wives notice and are upset by the difference. Many wives begin to feel unattractive or sexually inadequate.
  • More than half of those engaged in cybersex lost interest in sexual intercourse; one-third of their partners also lost interest.
  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate.
  • Users become desensitized and tend to seek more extreme types of pornography (including viewing aggressive behaviors and rape).
  • Child-sex offenders are more likely to distribute or regularly view pornography.
  • Pornography use alters sexual attitudes and behavior.
  • Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography use had lower levels of sexual self-esteem. Porn use was highly correlated with increased sex with non-romantic friends.
  • Men are six times more likely to view pornography as females, and spend more time viewing it. However, among women who engaged in cybersex, 80% went on to have real-life sexual affairs, compared to 33% of men.
  • When brains are scanned using a PET scanner while viewing pornography, the brain reactions are similar to a cocaine addict’s brain while viewing images of others using cocaine.
  • The presence of sexually oriented businesses in communities leads to increases in crime and decreases in property rates.
  • Dr. Fagan concludes, “Pornography corrodes the conscience, promotes distrust between husbands and wives and debases untold thousands of young women. It is not harmless escapism but relational and emotional poison.”

Read the full report in The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community by Patrick F. Fagan, PhD. It was co-published by the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. and the Marriage and Religion Institute (MARRI).

You may be surprised to read the detailed findings in this research report. I found it fascinating to know such documentation exists. To supplement the research, I wanted to hear from a married person who has used pornography to find out if it was as harmful as Dr. Fagan suggests. So, Monday I will post a candid Q&A from Stu Gray at The Marry Blogger. The interview offers some very personal insight as the effects pornography had on his marriage. You’ll want to check back to hear his story.

What do you think about these research findings? Agree/disagree?

Top Reasons Americans Give for Their Divorce

After today we’ll get away from the stats. For the data-seekers, here are some top reasons Americans say they divorce (they could select more than one reason). Po Bronson’s web site has much more analysis on family issues, divorce rates and marriage trends, as well as international divorce rates. The info is a little out of date but Bronson gives real insight. I was surprised at the high rate of physical abuse toward women. Top reasons why American women said they’d gotten divorced:
           communication problems (69.7 percent)
           unhappiness (59.9 percent)
           incompatible with spouse (56.4 percent)
           emotional abuse (55.5 percent)
           financial problems (32.9 percent)
           sexual problems (32.1 percent)
           spouse’s alcohol abuse (30 percent)
           spouse’s infidelity (25.2 percent)
           physical abuse (21.7 percent)*

Top reasons why American men said they’d gotten divorced:
communication problems (59.3 percent)
incompatible with spouse (44.7 percent)
unhappiness (46.9 percent)
emotional abuse (24.7 percent)
financial problems (28.7 percent)
sexual problems (30.2 percent) *

   
 

In a U.S. study, more than 25 percent of the women said that their husbands’ unfaithfulness was a factor in their divorce. Less than half as many men (10.5 percent) said it was their wives’ infidelity which was a cause of their divorce. In fact, more men said that their wives’ in-laws were a reason for the divorce (11.6 percent) than said it was because their wives had had an affair.

Sources from PoBronson.com:

* According to a 1985 study. Totals do not add up to 100 percent because respondents could select every reason that was applicable. Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.

 

     

*Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.