'Love You, Hate the Porn' shows path to healing a marriage

By Scott Livingston

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 19 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

One of the many victims of an addiction to pornography is hope. A person addicted to porn may believe there is no way out. The marriage partner likewise may feel a painful mixture of anger, betrayal and hopelessness.

There is in fact great hope, according to the authors of "Love You, Hate the Porn," (Shadow Mountain, $18.99), a new book about overcoming an addiction to pornography.

Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D, and Geoff Steurer, a licensed marriage and family therapist, are both very clear about the purpose of their book.

“The good news is that the marriage itself can be a couple’s most powerful tool in healing a pornography habit,” they write in the summary of "Love You, Hate the Porn."

“When someone has the real thing (the bond of marriage), porn can’t hold a candle to it,” Steurer said in a recent interview.

Chamberlain, director of the ARCH counseling centers in West Jordan and Clearfield, Utah, regularly sees firsthand the damage porn addiction causes in a marriage. In "Love You, Hate the Porn," he and Steurer use stories from their own as well as other therapists’ practice (with all names changed) to guide a couple through the process of healing.

Chamberlain pointed out that the stories are directive.

“They resonate at a deep level with people of many faiths, or those with no faith at all,” said Chamberlain in a recent interview. “One of the most important purposes of the book is to show men struggling with porn that their marriage can help them to overcome their addiction."

Steurer said it is important to understand what that healing looks like. Steurer, the founder and executive director of St. George-based LifeSTAR, says that the “opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection.”

Both authors have seen the truth of this repeatedly in their work with couples. Steurer said that "Love You, Hate the Porn" deals with the three phases of porn addiction recovery: his, hers and theirs. This third aspect of recovery, the couple’s, is the one most often neglected, said Steurer. “A common misunderstanding is that if the addict can just stop, everything else will somehow heal itself.”

One of the main points that ties the book together is the concept of primary attachment. Among a person's many relationships, there is one that supersedes in importance all other connections that a person make with others. If one is married, this primary attachment should be with their spouse.

Pornography corrupts this connection and, especially for men, creates a deception whereby they transfer this emotional attachment to the porn instead of to their spouse. The process Chamberlain and Steurer outline and model in "Love You, Hate the Porn" shows how this attachment can be restored to its rightful place.

“An addiction to pornography is not about sex,” Steurer added. “It’s about attachment. Spouses threatened by porn can learn that the emotional connection only they can offer is a powerful means of helping their spouse to recover.

“Instead of viewing their spouse as the enemy, the book helps them come to see that working together as a couple is the most powerful means of helping their spouse to overcome this terrible addiction,” Steurer said. Both authors want to make sure the spouse of someone addicted to porn understands that their feelings are valid.

"Love You, Hate the Porn," also shows how a man can help his wife to heal, even though they were the source of the hurt she now feels.

“Learning that their husband is addicted to pornography is especially devastating to a woman’s self-esteem and ability to trust,” said Chamberlain. “And it’s perfectly natural to feel that way.”

Both Steurer and Chamberlain stressed the importance of understanding that a great marriage relationship is in and of itself insufficient to help a man recover from a pornography addiction.

“In order to completely recover, a man has to emotionally connect with himself,” said Chamberlain. This is also where a supportive spouse can make all the difference. Rather than suppressing their feelings of hurt and betrayal, honestly expressing those emotions within the exclusive environment of the marriage has potent healing power for both the addict and their spouse.

“There are a lot of forces at work in a porn addiction,” said Steurer.

"Love You, Hate the Porn" makes clear the truth that couples are a source of both pain and comfort to one another — even in an addiction. It powerfully affirms that there is abundant reason to hope for all victims of pornography’s relentless war against marriage. That is the message Chamberlain and Steurer are hopeful will reach anyone desperately searching for light in the darkness of porn addiction.

Scott Livingston blogs about the uphill climb of becoming a writer at sleye1.blogspot.com.

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