In a Relationship, Is It Selfishly Better to Find Out Your Partner is a Porn Addict, or a Recreational User? I say Addict.

Sometimes, I find myself babbling during a podcast and stumble into something that makes a lot of sense I’d never put into words before. It’s kind of the same process as therapy, which is why I urge people to see a therapist, even if they only think they are babbling for 49 minutes. That 50th minute may be where the magic happens. Likewise, if you can get people to invite you onto their podcast, they’ll ask you questions and you’ll be forced to explore the answers.

Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on something I said a while back on a podcast, and have begun discussing it with a few people because it’s nothing I’ve heard before, but it’s something that just seems to make sense to me and I’d be curious if it makes sense to you.

For partners (yes, generally women dealing with a man, so forgive me if I do the non-PC thing and sometimes assume this is the arrangement) of any kind of addict, the partner is not the reason the addict got into their addiction. With addictions like gambling or drugs, this is just generally a given. Wives usually don’t wonder what they did wrong that caused their husband to be a video game addict and husbands don’t wonder what they did wrong to make their wives food addicts. The boyfriend didn’t make his girlfriend and alcoholic and the girlfriend didn’t make her boyfriend a cokehead.

This dynamic is often ignored or overlooked when it comes to porn addiction. The partner of the addict, upon learning of the addiction, will often go through a process called betrayal trauma that can last days, months or years. Essentially, it is the pain and hurt of both knowing that your partner was “living a double life” coupled with the pain that their addiction involved sex/nudity/other people, which crosses a certain line of harmful intimacy/cheating/betrayal in the mind of the non-addict. Often, it destroys relationships.

Now, here’s the thing. Regardless of the betrayal trauma occurring, the porn addict is sick. We know that they have a brain disease that is likely a system of a much bigger issue, including unresolved childhood trauma or another mental health issue. I don’t want to be seen minimizing the betrayal trauma, but it is not my focus right this second.

I can tell you that based on my story and based on the story of many sex/porn addicts that I know, have interviewed, have met, etc., the addiction is never about lust. Never. In my case, my addiction allowed me to subconsciously create a false sense of control. I didn’t realize this while in my addiction, but it’s crystal clear now after six-plus years of recovery. I wasn’t an addict for the naked girls or taboo feeling of getting away with something. It was serving a need I had since early childhood, when I had my sense of safety regarding control taken away.

I can also tell you I didn’t drink because it tasted good or I liked the social lubricant. I’d say 95% of my drinking was done alone, isolated, simply to numb my brain to the point I wasn’t thinking beyond the very surface.

Cocaine addicts don’t snort because it’s fun to watch white powder disappear. Video game addicts don’t sit in front of the TV or computer for 15 hours because they appreciate fine digital graphics. Food addicts don’t like cake that much more than you and I. All addicts have a brain disease happening. It’s not about the substance or behavior. It’s about the subconscious pleasure, safety or sense of wellbeing the addictive behavior or substance provides, and it becomes the priority in life.

I think it’s also important to mention that almost all addicts suffer a decreased sex drive and need for intimacy, except those who are abusing stimulants like cocaine, or those who have just experienced a chemical-induced high. For the most part though, especially in males, there’s enough science to show that there is usually a slowing or shutting down of the libido. Ask a heroin addict how important sex and/or intimacy is to them.

So back to porn addiction. Why do female partners suffer from such betrayal trauma? I believe it has nothing to do with the addiction itself. I think the fact that there may be an addiction is often forgotten and lost in the betrayed person’s mind. They focus on the perceived intimacy/fantasy with another person that comes with their partner’s use of pornography. That use usually ends with an orgasm – just as the act of intercourse does. If intercourse is supposed to be “sacred” and reserved for only the partner, it’s understandable why they are hurt.

In researching my second book, learning these women’s stories and reading many of them on online forums where they post and receive advice, it stuck out to me that while many of these women clearly had partners who had an addiction, others had partners who seemed to barely have an unhealthy relationship with pornography, and even more simply caught their partner looking and had no real evidence to reach a conclusion that he was an addict.

I’ve come to wonder how often this kind of betrayal trauma happens with the female partners of men who are not porn addicts, because I think these are the female partners who really have to worry.


We all know the person who can have the occasional beer or two, or the person who can play video games for an hour and then put it away for several days. I visit a casino two or three times a year with my wife, never lose more than $40 and always walk away if I’m lucky enough to win $100. I don’t bet on sports or play the lottery, so I’m not sure if I can even be called a recreational gambler, but let’s just say I am for the sake of this article.

Let’s say for whatever reason, my wife was 100% anti-casino and anti-gambling. Maybe her father gambled away her college fund or her mother lost the family house…whatever. If she were to ask me never to gamble again, I would not have a hard time walking away from it. I find it fun watching the reels of the slot machine spin, but it’s a moment I wouldn’t miss if it disappeared from my life.

Let’s say some friends ask me to meet them for steaks and blackjack this weekend at the casino. I have three choices as I see it: I can decide not to go because it follows my wife’s wishes, I can tell her that I got the offer and gauge her response deciding accordingly, or I can decide not to tell her and just go.

If I go without telling her, it doesn’t make me a gambling addict. I may want to see my friends, do something without her, have a steak…whatever. I continue to stay within my “lose $40/win $100” gambling rule I’ve set for myself. Let’s say that my friends make a plan to do this once a month. It may be my only chance to see some of them, I appreciate the camaraderie, whatever, but I decide to make it a regular thing. This also does not make me a gambling addict.

It makes me a serial liar. It makes me someone who puts my own wants above some very specific boundaries set by my partner. It reveals a self-centeredness that shows I’m probably not a very good partner. But it doesn’t make me a gambling addict.


Now let’s consider the guy who looks at pornography but is not an addict. I absolutely believe that most people who use pornography, both men and women, are looking for little more than visual stimulation to help them achieve an orgasm.

I believe that these people (who are the vast majority of society in the under-50 group of men and under 35 group of women) learned along the way that they can satisfy their sexual needs with a self-induced orgasm. Masturbation is a selfish thing, but nobody understands how to work your equipment better than you do.

Intimate lovemaking is a wonderful thing, but sometimes in the eyes of many, just having sex with somebody they barely know can be the release they need, even if there is no love or true intimacy involved. Again, not moralizing or judging, just recognizing a fact. And sometimes, despite the option for intimate lovemaking exists with a partner, a person simply wants to experience the faster release of self-orgasm because they are not in the mood/too tired/whatever to invest what is necessary for mutually beneficial lovemaking.

I do not believe that the non-porn addict becomes an addict when they opt for occasionally masturbating over having sex with their partner.

But, like with my gambling example, what if the female partner views pornography as a reprehensible thing? What if she views her partner’s masturbation as a slap in the face and rejection? She has every right to set those boundaries, but does his breaking them without her knowledge automatically mean that he’s an addict? Of course not. Does lying about it automatically make him an addict? Not at all.

Yes, addicts lie. So do husbands and boyfriends who are caught doing something they shouldn’t. Addiction and lying are horrible character traits, but they are not mutually exclusive. One involves a disease and the other is just about covering one’s tracks. Five-year-old kids lie. Politicians lie. Salespeople lie. That doesn’t make them addicts.


Here’s the most important distinction between the addict and the liar who uses pornography: One is mentally and physically programmed beyond their control, the other just likes to get off. Addiction is certainly nothing I’d wish on anybody or their partner having gone through it with porn and alcohol, but I wasn’t using just to get off. In truth, when my porn addiction was at its worst, there was no “grand finale” orgasm. I wasn’t using it for sexual gratification – I don’t think I ever was. Yes, frequency of intercourse with my wife slowed down, but I got a very different need met when I was with her vs. when I was utilizing pornography throughout the first 11 years of our marriage before my addiction came to light.

I believe the recreational user is getting the exact same need met when they look at porn vs. when they have actual intercourse. Yes, there may be a fluctuation in the intimacy level, but I believe the recreational user choosing to use porn is simply looking for the orgasm and uses pornography as a visual aid.

The next question becomes is it better to be with a partner who has a disease of the brain that has nothing to do with you, or do you want to be with someone who has no pre-existing condition and is consciously choosing porn over you?

I’m not going to debate that human emotion is a tricky subject and that betrayal trauma shouldn’t register regardless of your answer to that question, but if I was in the situation of so many women who discover that their partner is looking at porn, I’d take some selfish comfort in knowing it was a disease and not a rejection of me.

Am I crazy here? Am I correct? Assuming I am anti-pornography, I would be more concerned about my role in my partner’s viewing of pornography if they were not an addict vs. if they are. Being an addict is an extenuating circumstance. Being a liar just means your partner is an asshole.

From the Department of Things I Never Thought I’d Say: Watch Me Coach the Naked Podcaster

I like doing podcasts. It scratches a few internal itches that I have. They provide me with someone’s attention for an hour, help continually remind me of my battle with pornography and alcohol addiction, allow me to spread an important educational message and are the easiest way to market my books.

One of the things I don’t do enough of is talk about my advising/counseling service. I love doing it and while I usually only have 1-3 clients at any given time, it does help justify the time I spend since I get a few dollars. But, for whatever reason, I don’t promote it as much as I want and I’ve been wanting to revamp that section of my website for over a year. I wish I had 5-6 clients at a time because I genuinely enjoy hearing people’s stories and helping them.

I made a conscious effort to pull back on the number of podcasts I was doing a couple months back, which has led me to turn down a few offers and not spend very much time looking for shows that would fit my message. I used to say yes to almost everybody, but I’ll actually check out somebody’s credentials first and see what their podcast is like before agreeing to it.

There have been a few times where it’s clear I’ve been invited to a show to be attacked. They are usually shows that market themselves as “pro-healthy sexuality” but in reality they are just about justifying hyper-sexual behavior. I’m not necessarily against that if you’ve got the right partner in the right situation, but I’m always cast as the frigid anti-porn guy who just doesn’t get it. I’ve learned to spot them a mile away and pass.

Back in late December or early January, I was asked to appear on a show called “The Naked Podcaster.” I almost tossed the email before reading it, but the first line that read: “I’m not even sure that I should be writing you about this…” It was clear that Jenn Taylor had a different kind of show and that while she was naked on her end of the screen, she never showed anything and it was as much a metaphor, and marketing gimmick to gain eyeballs as anything else. I still was a bit hesitant, but realized that this was a controlled environment that would not cross any lines and would ultimately show people that pornography addiction is not about a naked person. It’s about what the mind is seeking but looking for pornography. I also knew that seeing someone from the shoulders up has never been triggering for me. I’m just not a collarbone guy.

So I recorded the show in early January, it appeared a week later and I posted it as I post every other podcast. It was a good appearance and we had a nice rapport. Sometimes people who decide to have podcasts are not good conversationalists. Lord knows why they want to be part of a project that forces them to talk. These are the shows that are tough to get through. It wasn’t like that with Jenn and I thanked her for giving me access to her audience. If you’d like to see that appearance, it’s available HERE.

About a week after it ran, I got another email from Jenn saying that she was looking to do online coaching with former guests. She was upfront with her reasoning… it provided interesting content and she gets free coaching. It reminded me of how many times I’ve written the “man goes to a spa” story in my life for various publications just so I can get a free facial, massage and pedicure. I always had to play dumb and ask, “I’ve heard there’s some kind of wax treatment for your feet?” That’s when you soak your feet in a paraffin wax bath. It feels like you’re wearing slippers for a couple days after that. Anyway, I digress.

I also knew that doing this with Jenn, while different than what I do when I’m coaching or advising someone (or their partner) about porn addiction, would give the overall feel for what I do with people. I think what keeps a lot of people away is the fear of the unknown and this shows that I’m a guy just asking questions, prompting the person to speak, and I come with no judgment and throw out some possibilities to get the person on the other end to think about once we’re done. It’s easy to do, but not easy to start.

So, here are the two coaching sessions we did, via YouTube. It’ll take two hours of your time to get through them, but I think it’s interesting and I’m curious if others will reach the conclusion I did at the end.

Here is what Jenn wrote for the introduction on the YouTube video:

It might seem strange that a porn addict is coaching The Naked Podcaster, however, when I read Josh’s book, “He’s A Porn Addict… Now What?” I realized that I have triggers from my past. 3 of my 4 serious relationships had porn as part of the mix and I became curious about how that impacted me, how I was attracting people and if I could have handled it differently. I also felt a little confused about my reaction to pornography. In Session 1 we dive into my background and set the stage for session 2. I was nervous about this discussion but excited about the possibility of learning more about myself. Welcome to my porn journey and brace yourself for session 2.

In Session 2 you will learn more about me from a sexual standpoint than you ever wanted to know.

If you don’t have the time to watch, or just want the spoilers, here is what Jenn wrote following our session:

In the end, with some great coaching from Josh, he determines that I am an open, healthy sexual person, evolved, transcendent and willing to openly discuss sexuality and I’m not in your face about it. In my mind, I feel I should have a more open, healthier attitude by LIKING porn but I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t want to admit that because in my mind it pokes holes in the balloon of being openly sexual. My definition of being openly sexual is defined on INCLUDING porn, so because I don’t really like it, I struggle with if I can be healthy sexually when I don’t really have that openness. In the moment I wasn’t sure if that was accurate or how accurate it is, but with hindsight, I believe it’s spot on. I DO like lower-key sexual encounters in an R rated movie, but once it’s blatant, I’m actually uncomfortable. What this has meant since we recorded, is embracing that having a healthy sexual relationship does not have to be all-inclusive and that’s OK. I also don’t want to have a 3-some, am not interested in women and have never wanted to attend a sex party and those things didn’t determine feeling that I’m sexually open. We all have to determine what’s in our comfort zone. I appreciate that Josh was willing to have me as a coaching client since I”m a bit removed from my engagement with porn and to explore difficult conversations with me to uncover what my triggers are.

While I’m going to be revamping things on my advising/coaching page, if anybody is interested in my services, please get in touch with me at jshea.writer@gmail.com

Healthy Sexuality is Very Different from Total Abstinence and Self Denial

I realize that one of the things I don’t talk enough about on this site is what healthy sexuality looks like. I try very hard not to be an anti-porn crusader because I think it’s a waste of time, flies in the face of my beliefs surrounding personal freedoms (for both producers and consumers) and it’s ultimately not the way that we get a handle on porn addiction in this world. If you want any proof that banning pornography would be a pointless waste of time and resources, read up a bit on how America tried to outlaw alcohol early in the 20th Century.

So, while a pornography-free life is the best choice for me, much like an alcohol-free life is the best choice for me, my battle is not with you looking at porn. My battle is with you not knowing that if there are certain factors already in place (childhood trauma, other addictions) you may be more susceptible to becoming a porn addict and the consequences that come with it.

Since sexuality is such a wide-ranging topic, I rarely delve into it beyond aspects of pornography addiction. I was not an intercourse addict, nor voyeurism or exhibitionism addict, so I can’t speak to those aspect of the umbrella “sex addiction.”

Outside the realm of addiction, I have learned a lot about sexuality, but to be honest, I’m not completely sure that there’s as strong a connection between being a sex addict and abnormal sexuality as experts think. Abnormal sexuality is a side effect of porn addiction, not a cause of it, much like I believe unhealthy eating habits are a side of effect of food addiction, not a cause of it. I think that there are people who can use pornography in unhealthy ways that don’t rise to the level of addiction, and I believe there are many people who see any use whatsoever as addiction.

In doing the research for my latest book, and in doing some marketing since, I spent a lot of time on blogs and in online forums, like those you’ll find here on WordPress or on Reddit, learning from female partners of porn addicts. Simply reading their stories taught me so much, and at least here on WordPress, you know who you are. Places like Reddit are a bit different. There are a lot of women who confuse their disgust of pornography with usage that rises to the level of an addict. Removing any moral argument of whether they should or not, is it possible for a man to look at pornography once, or look somewhat regularly without becoming an addict? Statistics, history and facts lead me to say yes. I’m not endorsing it, I’m just saying as a scientific fact, it seems like it’s possible.

Despite one being morally opposed to it, their partner may use it and not fit the definition of an addict. However, if that partner’s use is harming the relationship, and is causing a disturbance to their sex life, I would argue that it is an instance of unhealthy sexuality. If he removes the porn immediately, but nothing changes when it comes to this couple’s communication, aren’t they still living in a world of unhealthy sexuality?


Healthy sexuality is a very individual thing, and it’s something that needs to be defined as a unit if you’re part of a couple. My wife and I would never participate in BDSM or be part of swingers’ groups, but if you’re part of a couple that wants to do this, likes to do it and it has no negative bearing on your life, is it unhealthy just because it’s out of the mainstream? I don’t think so.

I think if what you’re doing sexually is legal, you enjoy it, feel it is a natural extension of how you express yourself, it doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself, you’re not forced into it, it doesn’t have a negative effect on your day-to-day life and you’re not forcing anybody else into it, then it really can’t be unhealthy, even if it’s outside of societal norms.

We judge so much of this world on what we feel is normal and average. I believe most people want to fall within the 40th and 60th percentile of almost everything so they can feel like part of the larger flock. One of the ways of being part of a majority is to rail against a minority. I really try not to do this when it comes to pornography.

I’ve mentioned on here before that there are anti-pornography arguments that have been spewed since the 1950s that clearly don’t work. If it’s anti-woman, why are more women watching than ever before? If it degrades its participants, why is it becoming a huge work-at-home industry? If it’s only for those on the fringes of society, why do statistics suggest that the majority of men under 60 watch? If it’s a sin, why are usage numbers by the religious higher than that of secular society?

I can apply a moral filter to viewing pornography, and for me personally, I have one now that I didn’t have before entering recovery. I know it’s not as strong as many people’s, but I also don’t scream and yell about it the way some do, yet then don’t apply that filter to themselves. My moral issues with pornography have nothing to do with the arguments I listed above, and I don’t make them part of my presentations and rarely talk about them here because they cloud my overall theme that education about pornography addiction needs to be happening in this world.

That education should be part of overall healthy sexuality for everyone because I believe with knowledge usually comes health. Beyond that education though, it’s not up to me to tell you what to do with it and it’s not up to me to determine what is sexually healthy for you or not. Would I ever watch porn with my wife? No. Is porn healthy to watch with your spouse? Well, statistics show that married couples who watch porn get divorced at higher rates than those who don’t. That said, there is truly not enough data that you can extrapolate watching porn together equals doomed marriage. Are there couples who watch porn together and have happy marriages. Yes. Their healthy sexuality is not mine, but it’s also not mine to judge or infringe upon.

If you’re asexual, you’re asexual. If you want to change your gender, or dress up like a different gender or whatever, that’s fine with me as long as it’s safe, legal and consensual. Be gay, or straight, or celibate… just be genuine to who you are in the healthiest way possible. Most people who try to eliminate sexuality as part of their life as a function of recovery end up in the camp of “sexual anorexia” which is just the other side of the spectrum of unhealthy sexuality.

I don’t talk a lot about healthy sexuality on this site because it looks different for every person out there. What you may see as one person’s repression is totally their comfort zone and vice versa. I’m not here to dictate to you what is healthy sexually within your life or your life as part of a couple. I’m here to say if pornography is part of it, it may lead to other problems, or it could exacerbate problems that already exist, as it did in my personal case. What I am here to say is that both of us need to continually define healthy sexuality in our own lives and continue to strive for it, without judging others.

Christians Need a New Strategy to Battle Pornography Addiction

One of the areas that I’ve been starting to focus on with my porn addiction education is podcasts and radio shows that have a spiritual or religious audience. Most of them are Christian, which is perfect, because the statistics around Christians who use pornography far outpace that of the secular world.

I was a leery to enter this space for a long time. I was raised Catholic, but don’t really subscribe to a lot of the doctrine and dogma. Watching from the sidelines for a couple of years though, most of the religious people who write about porn addiction are still using shame and God’s judgment as motivation to quit. That just doesn’t work. You can pray away addiction as effectively as you pray away cancer.

The rates of use among Christians is fairly staggering. Here are a few numbers from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes:

  • 68% of men who attend church on a regular basis and 50% of pastors report viewing pornography on a regular basis. Among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s 76%
  • 87% of Christian women said they have watched pornography at least once.
  • 70% of youth pastors say they have had a teen tell them that they have a pornography issue in the last month.
  • 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issues to their congregation, while only 7% say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.

These are numbers that reflect a population that needs help. Both the clergy and the followers have been raised in an institution that preaches sexual sin is among the worst. Despite various forms of repentance is different denominations, it’s human nature not to admit the problem in the first place for fear of the fallout, embarrassment and shame.

For the Christian people out there struggling with pornography, if your church is unwilling or unequipped to help you, seek assistance outside. Simply because somebody doesn’t worship the same way that you do, or doesn’t worship at all, does not mean that they can’t help you overcome your personal demons.

Porn addiction does not make you a bad person. It makes you an ill person who can take the proper steps to get better. Having a strong faith and belief system will only be a plus in the process, but you can’t let that belief system be a hurdle to getting healthy.

If there is anything I can do to help any Christian or clergy member out there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

———————————————————————————————-

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.