Five Things for a Sex or Porn Addict’s Partner to Realize Upon Discovery

Despite the fact that I’ve got a book coming out about the subject the first week of December and I spend a lot of time talking about it on the radio show and podcast appearances I do, I really don’t write enough about the women who are left to deal with their partner’s pornography or sex addiction on this site.

I include sex addiction, or intercourse addiction, as I like to call it because it seems women who are faced with finding their partner is either type of addict have a similar reaction and it’s a reaction unlike any other addiction’s reaction. When you find out your gambling addicted partner lost your child’s college fund at the casino, you don’t question if you were the problem. When your partner turns to heroin, you don’t wonder if you weren’t enough in the bedroom. When your partner develops a video game addiction, there isn’t the sense of intimate betrayal.

I’m not suggesting being the partner of any addict is easy, it certainly is not. But when it comes to the core of sex and porn addiction, which is unhealthy sexuality, it leaves the person who you are supposed to be the only one to intimately share that sexuality with crushed in most cases.

I think loving, intimate relations between partners is a sacred thing. It’s almost as if it is a secret kept between people who have a bond that goes beyond being best friends. When the partner is discovered to have a sex or porn addiction, the sacred becomes soiled, the secret becomes a lie and the bond is severed.

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Once discovery happens, the story can go one of a million different ways, and the female partner is left with a lot of questions, which the new book examines. I do, however want to drive five points home:

  • What you’re feeling is called betrayal trauma and it is absolutely appropriate. You have been dealt a giant emotional and mental blow that is difficult to process. Have your reaction. Do not repress it as that will only make things worse. This may last months or years. I wish there was a quick fix to get through it, but in my personal experience and learning the stories of dozens of women, it lingers for a long time.
  • His addiction is not your fault. If he is the kind of man who is denying an addiction or telling you that you have in some way contributed to his illness, you have not. I was addicted more than 10 years before I met my wife and she didn’t learn of the addiction until we’d been married another 10. It had nothing to do with her and it has nothing to do with you.
  • It’s up to him if he wants to get help, either individual or couple’s counseling. You can create boundaries that encourage him to seek help or face consequences, but ultimately, it’s on him to get better. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t seek therapy. You 100% absolutely should. Talking with somebody and finding other women who have been through what you have (and are further along in the journey) will help you immensely.
  • You’re not a weak person if you decide to stay. You loved him and admitting you still do is not failure as a wife, girlfriend or woman. It doesn’t give him all the power and is not you admitting defeat. My wife, thankfully, recognized amid her trauma that I was a sick person. Yes, I did the hard work of recovery, but her support was my foundation and I couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t see her as weak for staying. I see her as strong for getting through this shitstorm that was not her doing.
  • You’re not a bad person if you decide to leave. While most experts will urge you not to act quickly and take some time assessing the situation, if you find that you simply cannot move forward with the addict as your partner, that’s your right and you should not feel guilty about exercising that right. Your mental health is most important and if it’s going to get wrecked staying, you should go. If my wife had left, I would have been said, but appreciated the need to take care of herself apart from me.

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Gee, I hope I didn’t give away the book there. You should still buy copies for all your friends. They’ll make great Christmas gifts if you want the party to get really awkward in a hurry. Seriously though, if you’re a woman (or even a man) and find that your partner has this other part of themselves that you never knew about, a strong reaction and even stronger lingering feelings are normal.

Sadly, it may get worse before it gets better. But it can get better and that was one of the big reasons I participated in the the book. I think not being with a woman physically helped my relationship’s healing a lot, but almost six years later, we still sometimes have conversations that are uncomfortable. I know they may happen forever, but that’s OK. I’m just thankful we’ve reached this point.

When my book is available in early December (or if you are reading this long after) the homepage of RecoveringPornAddict.com will have links to purchase.

Hey, Non-Addicts: Want To Better Understand What Addiction and Recovery Feels Like? Try This!

Just about every addict will inevitably be asked what it feels like to be an addict. For the non-addict, understanding the pull of a substance or behavior is mystifying. Further, the idea of stopping something seems easy to them, but in addiction it’s not. Recovery is tough. While I can’t make you feel exactly what it’s like to be addicted to pornography, or what the recovery has been like for me, I think I have a two-day model that can help get some kind of a handle on addiction and recovery for the non-addict.

Day One

You’ll probably want two days off in a row from school or work to run this experiment. Do not let anybody know you are doing this experiment as it could taint the experience.

The first thing that you’re going to do in the morning is to take your cell phone and turn the volume of the ringer and all of your alerts for texting, social media, etc. to the maximum level. Make it loud! Do not look through your phone. Just turn the volume all the way up.

Then, take a Post-It Note and put it on the face of your phone so you can’t see the screen. You could tape a piece of paper to it as well. The point is to not see the screen, but not make it difficult if you decide you want to see it.

Keep your phone next to you all day. Don’t put it in the other room. Don’t put it in a drawer.

Do not use the phone. The phone is the drug or the addictive behavior. You may not call or text or Tweet or Snapchat or whatever. You may not use the phone.

Every call…every chime…every bell…every whistle that comes from someone else; you must ignore them. No excuses. No “good reasons” to interrupt the experiment…NONE!

You may not borrow another person’s phone, nor try to skate your way around the rules. If you feel like you’re bending or going around the rules, you are. Do not participate in any activity that you would normally use your phone for.

That’s it. Sound easy? For some it may be, but I think for the vast majority willing to try it’s going to be much, much harder than you think.

If you use your phone during the day, you fail. You succumbed. Welcome to the world of the addict.

Day Two

Keep your phone in the same state as Day One. The rules to your phone apply exactly the same as they did yesterday.

Today, though, you can figure out a way to do the things you normally do on your phone…you just can’t use your phone.

If you’re going somewhere and don’t know the way, you can’t use Google Maps. You’ll have to use a real map, or get on another computer and print out a map or write down directions.

If you need to talk to somebody on the phone, find a landline. Find somebody else’s cell phone. Go to the gas station and see if they laugh and ask you “What’s a pay phone?” when you ask to use one.

Need to keep up with social media? Facebook started only for desktop computers. Use that, or a tablet. Like to read books on your phone? Pick up a real book. They’re not that heavy. Want your news? Watch TV like we did in the 1990s.

Today’s exercise is about doing everything you would on your phone, just finding out a different way to do it. Were you able to get through today or did you find it too frustrating and resorted to using your phone? That’s tantamount to a relapse.

Results

Day One should be difficult if you’re like most people who don’t realize just how tethered to their cell phone they really are. I think anyone under 30 or 35 will really have some issues as they’ve been raised in a world where the cell phone is almost an extension of the hand.

The reason I say not to tell people you’re embarking on this experiment is because you want completely normal conditions. You need to get the calls, texts, etc., that you’d normally get. After all, the addict lives in the normal, real world. They can’t tell people not to bother them for two days.

I think most will find it easy at first to leave their phone alone, but by that second phone call, or third text, or fifth snapchat chime, it’s going to feel really rough. You’ll wonder if it’s something important, even though you know it’s a 99.9% chance it’s not. You’re going to want to rip that Post-It Note off the phone to see what you’re missing. There’s a whole world living in that phone that you can’t touch.

That’s the feeling for the addict. There’s a whole world in our addiction that we feel like we have to get our hands on. For those of you who cave and look at your phone, which I think will be most, that relief you feel when you finally give in is the relief the addict feels when they give in to their addiction. You know it’s wrong, you know you lost the battle of wills, and sure there is some guilt and shame, but you just feel so much better.

Day Two is about developing the tools and problem-solving skills to still live your life as richly as possible, but without your cell phone. This is what the addict has to learn to do in recovery. We have to develop a set of tools and skills to cope with the real world without the crutch of our addiction. Some of us use to quell anxiety and stress. Some use to forget trauma. Some just want to escape everything. Now, we have to figure out how to get relief and live life on life’s terms in the real world without our addictive behavior.

Every time you pick up your phone on Day One, you’re active in your addiction. Every time you pick up your phone instead of figuring out another way to do things in Day Two, you’re relapsing.

If anybody reading this is bold enough to try this experiment, I’d love to hear about your results and find out if you better understand what addiction is all about come the morning of Day Three.

Stories from Jail: Realizing the Role Intimacy Plays in Sex and Porn Addiction

As a man of above-average means and intelligence, I was thrust into a world very unfamiliar to me with men I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to engage with when I served six months in the local county jail in early 2016.

There was the occasional outlier (I was in minimum security and in jail, not prison, so I admit I didn’t see the worst of the worst), but I would guess that 60% were there tied to drug/alcohol abuse, 25% for domestic violence and 15% for sex crimes. Maybe some were awaiting trial, while others were serving their sentence, or temporary locked up because of a probation violation, but in my non-ethnically diverse area, this is how it broke down with the 60-80 guys I got to know during my time there.

For someone on the outside who enjoys buzzwords of the day, they would have seen this group of men and immediately said, “This is the very definition of toxic masculinity.”

As somebody who, at the time of my sentencing, had just done nearly four months of inpatient rehab for alcoholism and sex/porn addiction, along with hundreds of hours of one-on-one and group therapy, I think I served as a bit of a de facto life coach/advisor for many of the men.

One of the reasons so many of these men trusted me with their stories was because they knew I sought help for my porn addiction. Despite being locked up for other reasons, the vast majority of these men had clear issues with both sex and pornography.

I recall one man (a domestic violence offender) who came to me off to the side one day and told me that he’d heard me talking to other guys. In his early 30s, he said if he did the math, he probably had slept with 1,500 women. When you break it down as two or three one-night stands per week over a little more than a decade, the number isn’t so unrealistic.

I remember his saying to me, “It sounds like a lot of these have only been with three or four women in their life. It makes me think I may have a problem.”

Another man, there for a probation violation because he was belligerently drunk in public (again), confided in me that he watched 5-6 hours of porn every day and even when he was holding down one of his rare jobs, he’d go to his car during his lunch break and watch porn on his telephone. It had never occurred to him that this could be an issue.

“Sometimes I watch with buddies, sometimes by myself and I don’t *Insert your favorite euphemism for masturbation* a lot of the time. When I’ve had girlfriends we’ve watched it together,” he said.

“Why do you watch it with other people?” I asked.

“I dunno. Cause it’s funny. Or sexy. It’s like a bonding thing I guess,” he responded.

“How else do you bond with people?” I followed up.

“It’s not like I only look porn. I meet a lot of people in bars,” he said.

“Isn’t that the reason you’re here?” I asked, motioning to nothing in particular in the room, about the same size as a doctor’s office waiting room we shared with 6 to 10 other guys.

“I’m gonna think on that,” he said.

Later that night, he came to me, asked to sit on my bunk (standard jail protocol) and said, “I feel good when I drink and I feel good when I watch porn. I don’t feel good too many other times. So maybe like you, my porn watching is just as bad as my drinking and I never knew it.”

“At least it’s not too late for you,” I thought to myself, yearning for the day in the near future I’d be released, hoping he’d get help before his porn problem ever become as critical, or depraved, as mine.

It was in that moment that I recognized while I thought I had real intimacy in my life, I wasn’t unlike many of those men.

I was surrounded by plenty of people in my real life, just like my fellow inmates were. It didn’t matter mine had better jobs, higher educations and could afford nicer things. It didn’t matter that I had two loving parents, a supportive wife and kids who thought the sun rose and set with me while they may not have been that lucky. None of us were willing to stick our neck out and create relationships that went deeper that what was on the surface.

They never felt unconditionally loved, trusted and cared for by any parent or guardian early on, or by any partner as they grew and entered into the world of adult relationships because they were unable to give what they were getting…and when I thought about it…it was my story, too.

Isn’t the physical act of sex and the visual stimulus of porn completely just on the surface? We all intuitively understand the difference between “having sex” and “making love.”

Intimacy is vulnerability, and it’s not just about being physically intimate. When those men came to me with their issues, they were being vulnerable. They shared things with me I never would have shared with anybody.

Despite being more than two years sober at that point, it dawned on me that my recovery had miles left to go and it had nothing to do with porn or sex.

Is Porn Viewing Becoming a Problem? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

As a generation of people who never knew a world without the Internet become firmly entrenched in their 21st century jobs, we’re just starting to see fallout from the first couple of decades of having the world at the end of our fingertips.

Sure, we no longer need to visit a library, video store or travel agent since these services are now just a click, instead of a car ride, away. But, to obtain and view pornography, the days of sketchy XXX theaters, scuzzy adult bookstores and mail order are now just a click away.

This is not a good development. Statistics regarding the use of pornography have not only exploded in recent years, but so have the documented cases of pornography addiction.

I was lucky in that I had the resources to seek treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation facility and that was where I learned that women can also be porn addicts. Despite reading similar statistics that suggest the ratio of female-to-male porn addicts is 1-to-5, Of the 15 people in my program, only one was a woman. She told me in conversation that while it’s shameful and embarrassing for a man to seek help, it is downright unacceptable for most women to even admit to viewing porn where she came from. How can you get help if you can’t tell anybody you’ve got a problem?

Most people who view pornography neither develop an addiction nor break the law, but for many who end up with a problem, like I did, it often isn’t recognizable until it’s too late.

Have you been wondering if your porn consumption is starting to become an addiction? Here are several questions worth considering as you reach your conclusion:

 

How much time am I spending with porn? There’s nothing inherently wrong with using visual aids to enhance masturbation, but when you’re watching three, four or more hours of porn daily, it’s gone beyond a simple self-pleasuring tool. How many photos, film clips or websites must you visit to be satisfied? Has this number grown over time? Do you find that you’d rather watch porn than do other things you once found pleasurable? When your duration of use continues to escalate and that time is replacing experiences that once brought you pleasure, it should be a red flag. Porn is quickly climbing the list of priorities in your life.

Is what I’m watching different than in the past? Most people who become drug addicts don’t start with the hardest stuff possible, but end up there. The need to escalate comes from the brain’s desire for the same dopamine hit that once came easier. It explains why those with gambling addictions make increasingly larger wagers and how the marijuana user evolves to heroin. There are plenty of people into roleplaying, S&M and exploring their sexuality in extreme ways in photos and on film. Have you found that the content of the porn you watch is becoming more extreme? Does what you once watch not do it for you anymore?

Where am I viewing porn? Most people view pornography in the privacy of their own homes on their computer screen, television or in the pages of a magazine, end of story. A study that’s almost 10 years old suggest that nearly a quarter of US workers view porn at work. Do you think that number has gone down or up in the last decade? Even more than that watch it on their phone, in the bathroom at work, or while driving in the car. Are the places that you’re watching porn not considered traditional? If so, when did this begin? Why can’t you wait until you get home?

Who am I lying to about my viewing? Statistics suggest that the majority of the people who have access to a computer are watching pornography with some kind of regularity. Since self-pleasuring is usually accompanied, the entire topic is one many shy away from. But, if your use is starting to enter problem territory, the odds are good someone may have broached it with you. Did you lie? How big was the lie? Were you flustered and irritated they asked in the first place? Would you lie about your porn use to the people absolutely closest to you – those who you could otherwise tell everything?

How are my intimate relationships? If you’re in a relationship, has the frequency of physical intimacy dropped, but the use of porn increased? Many people being using porn within a relationship to enhance the experience, but if your partner is not into it, this can leave one wanting more. If you’re not in a relationship, do you find yourself paying for sex or frequenting strip clubs more than before where emotional intimacy is not a subject to be bothered with? Does the viewing of porn make you want to seek out casual sexual encounters? The idea of being intimate with only one person for the rest of their lives freaks out a lot of people. That’s natural if you’re one of them, but what is your long-term plan in lieu of lifetime commitment?

How do I feel about yourself? Addiction of any kind often brings an increase in depression, stress and anxiety. Immediately after you use porn, does a sadness wash over you that is hard to explain? Most addicts feel isolated and alone, even if they’re constantly around people and unlike some addictions, porn is the kind of addition one generally engages in privately. Are there feelings of shame when you think around your use of pornography? Do you wish you could slow down or stop, but find it impossible? Do you worry about where this is heading?

 

You probably had a good idea if you were addicted to pornography before answering these questions. A more important question is if you’re going to do anything about it. The disease of addiction is something that can be fought, and it’s easier to do the sooner an addict faces their problem.

If you can’t quit cold turkey, there are 12-step resources like Sex Addicts Anonymous available. Most private therapists can speak to the issues of addiction, if not porn addiction specifically. For the critical, there are inpatient rehab options available.

Suffering alone, in shame, is not necessary any longer. If you believe you may have a pornography addiction, or are developing one, seek help.

Figuring Out if You’re A Casual or Problem User of Pornography

For this article, I’m going to suspend the discussion of whether pornography use in moderation is not unhealthy or if there is any moral component to the decision to utilize pornography. I’ll tackle those issues later on. For now, I simply want to provide a list of questions that people who are wondering if they have an issue with pornography can ask themselves to better understand their situation.

I think words like addiction, habit, obsession, compulsion and problem are more subjective than objective. Their definitions can be fluid and feature a lot of crossover from one term to the other. Ultimately, it’s up to you to honestly decide whether you have an issue or not with pornography and more importantly, what you’re going to do about it should you conclude there may be something there.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that much like there are people who can drink, play video games, gamble or eat in moderation – yet are not addicted, nor have a problem – that there are also people who can view and utilize pornography in moderation. At what point does “recreational” use start to bleed into being a problem? Asking yourself these questions may help point you in the right direction:

Is there any sort of trauma in your past? This doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual abuse, either. It can be physical or emotional. Roughly 90% of full-blown addicts of anything can trace their past to find some kind of meaningful trauma. With porn addicts, the number is 94%. That still leaves an opening to be an addict with no pre-existing trauma, but the two often go hand-in-hand. If your parent killed themselves in front of you, a sibling molested you, or any number of other major negative events in your life happened as a young person, addiction may be a symptom of how you deal with that trauma.

Is there any co-occurring disorder or previous addiction existing? While not at the numbers of trauma and addiction, more full-blown addicts have some kind of mental health issue than those who don’t.  These mental health problems may include bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety and a number of other diagnoses. Also, it is very easy for someone who is addicted to one substance or behavior to become addicted to another. Addictive behavior is not limited to one addiction at a time, although there are people who trade addictions, successfully battling one obsession only to take on another.

Are you addicted to pornography or masturbation? In my case, it didn’t take long to recognize once the porn was removed from my life, masturbation dropped to almost nothing. I masturbated more as an indicator to end a porn-viewing session than anything else. There are many people who have the opposite story. They were able to easily stop watching porn because it turned out pleasuring themselves was their actual vice. There’s a fairly easy way to determine which you’re addicted to, or if it’s both. For the next week or two, allow yourself to look at porn, but don’t utilize it to masturbate. Conversely, masturbate all you want, but do it without visual aids. You should be able to determine a trend among obsessive thoughts where your addictions truly lay.

Are there rituals around your use? Addicts generally use in the same way almost all the time. My alcohol use, which was certainly an addiction, came with rituals. I never drank cans of beer. It was either a bottle or in a pint glass when I was away from home. Corona, specifically, couldn’t touch my lips without a lemon or lime wedge. At home, I didn’t drink beer, just tequila and Red Bull. I’d only drink at night at home, and it always had to be in one of the three large plastic tumblers we had. I always poured the tequila and Red Bull the same way, almost parfait-style. First a dash of Red Bull, then tequila, then Red Bull, then tequila, and so on until the tumbler was full. That’s routine, or ritual and is common with addicts.

Do you lie to others, or yourself, about your usage? OK, it’s pornography, I get it. We all want to pretend that we’ve never looked at it, despite statistics saying those that don’t are in the massive minority. When the topic of pornography comes up in mixed company, do you stay quiet? Do you try to hide the role pornography plays in your life, especially the amount of time spent looking? Would you like about the time you spend if asked point-blank? When you’re finished looking at it, do you make deals with yourself that you won’t spend as much time engaged in the activity, yet you can’t keep the promises to yourself? Are you spending any money on pornography outside of typical Internet fees? Do you find yourself sometimes picking isolating to look at porn over other activities? Do you rationalize that the time you spend or material you look at is not as extreme as others with addiction, so if they have a problem, you have less than a problem? The answers are all small red flags that add up.

I am by no means a doctor, but do know how I answered these questions when I was in the throes of my addiction. I’ve also done more research and met more pornography addicts than most professionals, not to mention I’ve been through plenty of group and one-on-one therapy for my formerly rampant addictions. I understand if you don’t like your answers and want to discredit my opinion…but that may also be a sign you want to avoid the truth about your addiction.

As I mentioned earlier, anybody can diagnose you as an addict, but what matters is that you believe you have a problem. More importantly is deciding what you’re going to do about it. Next time, we’ll talk about what to do next when you’ve reached the conclusion you need to do something about your problem.