Quantcast
National Edition

Trauma and recovery: 2 couples claw back from porn addiction

Published: Tuesday, July 9 2013 11:40 p.m. MDT

Why the dramatic attitude shifts? Porn’s message is that “sexual pleasures can be experienced without freedom-curtailing emotional involvement or commitment,” Zillman and Bryant wrote. These attitudes, they suggested, “could undermine the values necessary to form enduring relationships in which sexuality, and possibly reproduction, are central.”

In a related experiment, replicated at least once, the porn-exposed group was asked to assign a prison sentence to a fictional rape convict. Both men and women in the porn group offered prison terms half as long as those chosen by their respective control groups. For whatever reason, rape was viewed less harshly after exposure to porn.

Tom had never seen this line of research, but he was not surprised. When he was using porn, Tom felt at odds with himself, torn apart, as if the person he meant to be was incompatible with the one he was becoming. Psycholgists call such stress “cognitive dissonance.”

Mood swings

Elsewhere in the Salt Lake area, another couple, Jill and Paul, was going through a dissonance similar to Megan and Tom’s in many respects.

Jill had always known that Paul had issues with intimacy. Paul’s mom had died when he was 12, and his dad was distant and cold. “The only time we spoke of my mother’s death was when he woke me and told me that she had died at the hospital that night,” Paul said. “He never spoke of it again.”

Paul had become addicted to porn about the time his mother died. Porn became his crutch, his medicine, his comfort. After marrying Jill when they were both 24, Paul continued using porn, hiding it.

“I always knew something was wrong,” Jill explained, “but I also knew what he had been through. I attributed his erratic behavior to that trauma and thought if I hung in there it would get better.”

A total stranger

It didn’t. Before Paul reached rock bottom, he had begun intermittently trolling online “hookup sites” and meeting up with real women. He did this every few years. He would then recoil and the cycle would repeat. Porn and infidelity blended seamlessly for Paul. The same tastes, the same websites, the same people.

Jill found a conversation on his computer with one of his liaisons one day. She hadn’t even been looking. But there it was. “I felt like I had been living with a total stranger," she said, "after all those years, I suddenly realized I had no idea who this person was or what he was doing."

They sought out a marriage counselor. After a few months, they quit. “There was the illusion that we had made progress,” Jill said.

The meltdown came two years later, in 2007. Oddly enough, it wasn’t porn that directly sparked it. It was their 24th wedding anniversary, which Paul neglected on the same day that he bought a farewell present for a departing female associate. What he didn’t know was that for Jill this anniversary was a mental milestone: her parents had divorced after 24 years of difficult marriage.

The fight that night was epic. Both awoke the next morning assuming the marriage was over. But Paul by now had formed a pretty good notion that he was an porn addict, and the first therapist he spoke with recommended a porn-addiction support group.

Group therapy

That’s how both couples ended up at Lifestar, a Utah-based sex-addiction recovery program with a national reach. The program is roughly akin to the 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, but with key differences tailored to porn addiction.

Megan went into the group therapy thinking she was doing it for Tom, but she soon found that she needed it for herself. The women in her group formed a strong bond, she said, and they still get together once a month for lunch.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS