Understanding Porn UseThe root cause of pornography use is unmet emotional needs, says Matt Wenger, Clinical Director at Boulder Recovery. He said porn can be a way to address the desire to act out outside the marriage. These unmet needs for an addict can include validation, attunement, affirmation, and nurturing, all of which Matt states: “an addict subconsciously believes porn or affairs will address.” “In other cases, the type of porn chosen, such as one with themes of infidelity, reflects the core problematic behavior of infidelity. This can be a way of addressing the desire to act out outside the marriage when that behavior is not available.”
Porn as a Form of InfidelityMost believers consider porn use to be a form of infidelity. “Infidelity, at its core, is a violation of the sexual bond between partners and can be defined by whatever a partner considers a violation,” Matt noted. “This is especially true when the boundaries around porn have already been clearly defined by saying ‘I don’t want you to watch porn’ or something similar.”
Reasons porn leads to infidelity include:
- Damages Intimacy. The unrealistic nature of porn can result in unrealistic expectations for your partner. The expectations can damage intimacy and trust in a relationship.
- Lowers Your Self-Worth. You can experience empty feelings inside after looking at porn, knowing you’ve betrayed your values by viewing porn and widened a gap between you and your partner.
- Creates Psychological and Emotional Problems. The effects of porn use on the mind include lies, shame, emptiness, stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Leads to Dissatisfaction. An unrealistic expectation of marital and sexual behavior can cause a rift between you and your partner, especially if there are behaviors they might not be comfortable with.
Porn as a Gateway to InfidelityThe use of pornography can lead to other negative behaviors, Matt said. Porn can be a kind of gateway drug to acting outside the marriage. This is due to the brain adjusting to the level of dopamine provided by porn. Pleasurable behaviors cause the release of dopamine, the “feel-good hormone,” into your system and provide feelings of pleasure and satisfaction to the body as part of its reward system. Dopamine improves your mood and motivation. It also helps regulate emotional responses. You can get a rush of chemical compounds into your system through intimacy with your partner or even by putting in a good workout. Other, less positive activities also will give you a “rush.” Porn use causes that same rush. Matt says the brain acclimates to the ever-increasing introduction of dopamine and other chemicals into the system, which leads to the need for a greater chemical rush than ever before. And when you “crash,” you begin to seek behaviors to give you that feeling again. This cycle indicates the beginning of an addiction.
Keeping Porn Addiction From EscalatingAddictions rarely go away on their own. From the slightest dopamine release in the body’s reward system to constantly taking part in destructive and potentially dangerous activities searching for that all-elusive high, you must know yourself and keep these issues in check before they become uncontrollable. “All addictions escalate. They have to,” Matt said. “Addiction only ‘works’ if I maintain the level of pleasure chemicals in my brain adequate to make me feel different or change the way I feel.” He said addictions affect negative behaviors in their frequency, intensity, and novelty. Matt also explains increased novelty in sexual behavior can include new types or genres of porn or new behaviors, which can and often does “cause the addiction to escalate from porn to infidelity.”
Healing for Married CouplesAll marriages face problems, but many don’t survive infidelity. When porn addiction seeps into a marriage, it can damage a once loving, nurturing Christian relationship. Admitting your problem is critical to saving your marriage. After this first step, you can work on marital problems and start on the road to recovery.
Ways for Christian couples to heal include:
- Initiating Conversation. Talk openly and candidly with your partner.
- Building Accountability. Keep yourself in check by letting your partner know about your struggles with pornography and include a third party if needed such as a trusted couselor, therapist, or pastor.
- Install a Monitoring Software on your Computer. It’s an actionable first step that can help re-establish trust and ensure accountability. We recommend Covenant Eyes.
- Seek Support in Community. Addiction, especially porn addiction, thrives in isolation. Support groups such as Samson Society and Sarah Society help participants find connection, encouragement, hope and camaraderie in a recovery community. Actively pursuing recovery is one of the best things you can do for your relationship.
- Renewing Trust and Honesty. When you work on honest communication and positive accountability, you can begin to restore the trust you had in your relationship.
- Get Professional Help. Your porn addiction has underlying causes. There’s no shame in seeking help to address them. Seek out a qualified CSAT (certified sex addiction therapist) or treatment program.