Men, in more than a dozen years of research about how guys privately think about things like sex and porn use, I’ve seen a striking pattern. Although nearly all men are visually tempted today, and many hate and struggle against the temptation, most of those same men also think of it as a private thing that has nothing to do with their wives. They may feel awful about it, but they really don’t understand why their wives would. As one very representative guy told me, “Sometimes I deal with it great. Other times, not so much. But my wife knows I love her, right? She knows that if I look at porn it says nothing about my love for her.”
Guys, I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong. And please know I’m not trying to heap guilt or shame onto the heavy load you’re already carrying. Honestly, given my research with thousands of men for For Women Only and, more recently, Through a Man’s Eyes, I actually have immense compassion for your struggles in today’s culture.
But I’m here as a woman – and as a researcher – to help you understand the truth of what your wife has probably been telling you: that your porn use really does make her feel terrible.
Here are three of the reasons why:
1. To her, your porn use is, by definition, sexual involvement with someone other than her. Women generally aren’t as tempted toward self-stimulation as men are; and even where we are, it is usually around internal fantasies, not via external pictures of a completely different person. So when you’re looking at another woman and having a sexual experience at the same time, we view that as having a sexual experience with another woman. I know many men don’t view it that way. But we do. (And so does God, by the way. When Jesus calls it “committing adultery in your heart” he’s not just laying down a rule of some kind; he’s accurately describing what truly is going on in the hearts of men.)
2. For your wife, sexual attraction/involvement doesn’t happen without emotional connection and love. Our female brains are wired differently than yours. Although there are certainly exceptions, we women aren’t usually sexually tempted by a man unless we’re emotionally attracted to and connected with him. And of course if we’re married, we think there’s no way we would “let” ourselves become emotionally attracted to someone other than the man we love. Thus, if you’re sexually tempted by other women (even images of them), we instinctively feel you must also be “letting yourself” get emotionally attracted and connecting to these other women; you must have some love for them, somehow. And that makes what might otherwise be seen as a purely emotionless sexual, physical experience (see #1) seem like a painful betrayal. The wounded heart cries, But you promised to love me, and me alone!
3. Your wife already feels she cannot measure up to other women… and you just confirmed it. This, oddly enough, is probably the most gut-wrenching feeling underneath the other two. Everyone has different fears and insecurities, but we discovered in our study with women for For Men Only that one of the most common insecurities for us as women is the deep desire to know that we are beautiful to our men – as well as the deep doubt that we are.
You know all those images out there in the world that tempt you to look at them? The cover of the magazine, the girl in the short-shorts, the babe on the TV? Well, we see all those images too. And as they parade by, they tempt you … but they destroy us. They whisper, You’ll never be pretty/thin/tall/well-endowed enough to be attractive to anyone. You’ll never measure up to this. You’re not beautiful; you’re ugly. And once we get married, we think we’ve found someone who does find us beautiful…. But that underlying insecurity is still there. So we subconsciously wonder, “But am I attractive enough for him?” And if your head swivels sideways when the hot girl saunters by, or we discover you’ve been looking at porn, you’ve just confirmed our deepest fears. No. We’re not enough. We’re not beautiful enough for our husband. It can be devastating.
Now, let me reiterate:
I do not share those three things to make you feel terrible, or burden you with shame. I don’t even share those to give you more pressure than you may already feel. I trust that if you have read this far, that you deeply love your wife and truly want to be the man she needs. So I share this solely so you can know what is likely going on, deep down, inside the woman you love. She needs your reassurance and your protection.
We are strong, confident women on the outside. But on the inside, most of us are still like those young girls who secretly hope that our Prince Charming will show us, yet again, that he finds us beautiful.
Men, you’ve got a treasure in your hands: your wife’s vulnerable heart. Ask God for what I know you truly do want: the ability to hold and protect that treasure well.
You may ask yourself this question. However, you may be asking the wrong question…
Your behaviors are not the source of the problem… it is your thoughts…
One of the first steps to recovering from an addiction is to correct negative ways of thinking and faulty or wrong belief systems.
In CBT, these are called negative schemas. Changing how we think causes us to change what we believe. Changing what we believe results in changes to our behaviors. In my work with pornography addicts, one common goal is the attempt to repair and/or rebuild my clients’ worldview.
The following are ways of thinking that fuel [and perpetuate] sexual addictions. Which of the following do you believe and tell yourself often?
Normal sexual behaviors and desires are wrong.
I am alone and no one will [or can] meet my needs.
I must give in to sexual urges and desires they are too powerful for me to resist. [no choice]
I am worthless, unlovable.
I can only trust myself to meet my needs.
My sexual needs are my most important needs.
I am powerless to control my life. [I am not responsible for my actions]
I am a dirty pervert.
Others exist to meet my needs because I deserve it.
Others entice me and I cannot help myself. [I am not responsible for my actions]
Others are here for my pleasure.
If no one sees [what I do], it does not matter.
If no one knows[what I do] it cannot hurt them.
I cannot live without sexual release.
I cannot live without my addiction. [It is who I am]
I am not hurting anyone by watching porn.
It is nobody’s business what I do with my own body.
I am not capable of handling my own life.
I am unattractive, stupid, ugly, unlovable…
I cannot be free…
If you believe any of the above statements, you are believing lies. Seek truth. Seek help.
Whether you are a Christian or not, you will eventually (if you haven’t already) realize that you do not have the strength to overcome your addiction on your own. I challenge everyone to Seek God for His help in this time; for He is the only true source of limitless help and strength. If you don’t know Him, you can… right now. Start Here:
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10; 13 NLT)
In addition to seeking the Lord, enlist the help of other people. Admit it. You have an addiction. If you could quit you already would have quit. You need help overcoming an addiction to pornography, and you need others to hold you accountable. You may need someone to show you the path to recovery. If so, please reach out to a local counselor/therapist with experience treating sexual addictions. Start your journey to freedom… today.
If you are looking for help recovering, and live in the Upstate of SC, consider reaching out:
I currently serve as Counseling Pastor for a church in the upstate of South Carolina. I hold a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University. I am awaiting my scheduled time to sit for the SC LMFT-I licensing exam.
It is my goal to help rebuild broken lives and families from the inside-out through awakening and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. I specialize in helping men recover from addictions to sex and pornography. I run a support group for recovering men on Wednesday nights at 6:30pm.
Recent research is telling us a lot about the brain when it comes to watching porn.
Over a decade ago, Dr. Judith Reisman called porn an “erototoxin,” theorizing that the brain itself might be damaged while watching porn. She speculated that future brain studies would reveal that the surge of neurochemicals and hormones released when someone watches porn has measurably negative effects on the brain.
Recent studies are validating her theory about brain chemicals and porn addiction.
What Brain Scans Tell Us
Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon was featured last year in the UK documentary Porn on the Brain. Her research demonstrates that the brains of habitual porn users show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. A brain structure called the ventral striatum plays a significant role in the reward system of the brain—the pleasure pathways. It is the same part of the brain that “lights up” when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink.
In The Porn Circuit, Sam Black describes the various hormones and neurotransmitters involved when someone views porn and how each ingredient in this neuro-cocktail contributes to the problem:
When having sex or watching porn, dopamine is released into a region of the brain responsible for emotion and learning, giving the viewer a sense of sharpfocus and a sense of craving: “I have got to have this thing; this is what I need right now.” It supplies a great sense of pleasure. The next time the viewer gets the “itch” for more sexual pleasure, small packets of dopamine are released in the brain telling the user: “Remember where you got your fix last time. Go there to get it.”
Norepinephrine is also released, creating alertness and focus. It is the brain’s version of adrenaline. It tells the brain, “Something is about to happen, and we need to get ready for it.”
Sex or porn also trigger the release of oxytocin and vasopressin. These hormones help to lay down the long-term memories for the cells. They “bind” a person’s memories to the object that gave him or her the sexual pleasure.
The body releases endorphins, natural opiates that create a “high,” a wave of pleasure over the whole body.
After sexual release serotonin levels also change, bringing a sense of calm and relaxation.
This system works the way it is supposed to work when you’re having sex with your spouse. Together you can experience a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin). With each sexual embrace you are emotionally bonding to this person (oxytocin and vasopressin). Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine).
But porn short-circuits the system.
How Porn Hijacks the Brain
Multiple problems happen when porn is used. First, instead of forming a deep connection to a person, your brain ends up “bonding” to a pornographic experience. Your brain remembers where the sexual high was experienced, and each time you desire sexual stimulation, you feel a sharp sense of focus: I’ve got to go back to the porn.
In addition, pornography gives the brain an unnatural high. In a recent TEDx talk, physiology teacher Gary Wilson explained that when men look at porn, they experience surge after surge of dopamine in the brain. The brain eventually fatigues, stopping the production of dopamine, leaving the viewer wanting more but unable to reach a level of satisfaction. As a result, everyday pleasures stop causing excitement and the viewer seeks out more novel, more intense pornography to get the same high as before.
This imbalance in the brain leads to many problems: impotence with your spouse, frequent masturbation with very little satisfaction, anxiety, fatigue, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, and escalating tastes for more bizarre or novel porn.
Louise worried her husband was way too busy and buried in work. She had more than noticed that he stayed in his home office most of the evening and late into the night, even after she went to bed. She felt there was almost a vacuum where her husband should have been. So she shared her feelings with Tom. He told her that he was working on an important project. For six months? Really?
Folks, if you have been where I have, down in the pit with pornography, or you know someone who was, then you have a pretty good idea of exactly what Tom was doing and looking at, and it had nothing to do with his job.
Pornography is an insidious snare–a snare that Tom fell into and couldn’t get out. Men, the pull of pornography is like a creeping plague–a powerful drug. Do it once, we think it’s okay. Do it twice, and we’re hooked. We are sucked in and trapped before we know what happened.
Pornography enslaves and then destroys! Christians, I cannot tell you how many men I have worked with who were in the same fix as Tom. And although he went to great lengths to conceal his misdeeds by keeping the door closed, constantly deleting history and cookies from his PC, quickly shrinking the image on his monitor at any inkling of someone approaching, she will find out. Be assured, she will.
If Tom was fortunate and had a truly forgiving wife in Louise, he might not receive the same treatment that a popular television psychologist so often prescribes, that is, “Kick his butt to the curb.” Oh! So many divorces result from just this one obsession.
Ways porn can damage your marriage
Please mentally weigh this–when we husbands are so “absent” while having sex with ourselves or the women in those images, our wives know that something is terribly wrong. They know! They just can’t identify the culprit.
Wives miss all the things that a loving husband can give, i.e., his attention, his affection, his honor, his affirmation, his loving touch, his listening ear, his romancing, his intimacy, his caring. When we are so preoccupied with ourselves, how could we possibly make her feel secure in our love? But in that scenario, we are so gripped by our love of porn and of self that we have nothing to give her.
I promise you that the plague of pornography can only lead to crushing ruin. I’ve already mentioned divorce. Many such addicts have lost their jobs, gone to prison, had to step down from the ministry, and more. How do I know? I have talked with these men and counseled them, one-on-one, during the past fourteen years–more than four thousand men, each with his own story of destruction through the cancer of pornography and its seeming irresistible attraction.
How we can begin the freedom journey
Admittedly, we’re not going to get porn removed from the Internet or anywhere else, at least not by next Tuesday. The world does not have Christian values. And our church is not in charge of the media. But individually, we can confront this enemy. If we are even slightly tempted to go there, there is hope for each of us. Here is a way to start:
1. Cut off access to porn on your various electronic devices. That’s what Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering is for, right? That would be a strong beginning. The Filter will help block access to pornography, and the Internet use reports can be sent to a trusted friend or mentor to help keep you on track on your journey toward freedom.
2. Get help! Talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor. Search the Internet for ministries that help with sexual addiction. Yes, addiction. If you are looking at porn once a week or more, you are hooked. Please do not believe the lie, “I can stop anytime I want.” Get help!
There are lots of Tom’s out there, and Joe’s and Larry’s, who have their own stories and struggles with porn. It’s time to get going and do something about it!
Neill Morris is a Mentor with the online ministry, www.FreeInChrist.org. Along with a number of other Christian volunteers, he works with men who are addicted to pornography and other forms of sexual immorality. You can contact Neill at email@example.com
The following is adapted from an article I found on xxxchurch.com by Alice Neaves on July 18th, 2016
Addicted to masturbation??? Is that even possible?
Perhaps you’re already picturing me as a hundred-year-old Sunday School teacher or pastor, with corduroy pants so high rise they must be a cover for a long-term fitted chastity belt.
Or maybe you’re seeing the Christian protester who has nothing better to do with their precious time on Earth than to yell about people “fanning the flame” or “ringing Satan’s doorbell” or… choose your favorite euphemism.
But have no fear; I’d like to think I’m a fairly reasonable and open minded gal, who hasn’t worn anything corduroy since the early nineties.
However, the reality is, masturbation can become a legitimate addiction, just like any behavior. I’m not intending to make a moral statement or provide a biblical guideline but rather to help you decide if you are addicted so you can seek healing.
Here are three practical ways to help you discern if you’re addicted to masturbation:
1) Are you using masturbation to alter your mood?
Masturbation is a quick fix. It’s free, accessible and easy. It’s the perfect drug. Understandably, men and women use it to medicate bad moods. Those warm fuzzy chemicals sure hit the spot!
There are more positive ways to sooth moods, for example, listening to calming music or having a hot bath after a lousy day. The difference with using masturbation to alleviate negative emotions is that the powerful chemicals and hormones involved set you up for compulsion and emotional repression, not to mention they can be a detriment your future or current sex life. These are powerful chemicals you’re playing with.
Take note of when you feel the urge. What has triggered you in the past? Did you feel stressed? Powerless? Rejected? Lonely? Tired? Anxious? Sometimes the feeling that drives us is just a need for comfort. Whatever the trigger, there is often an underlying motivation: to feel good. Because you don’t already.
If you’re regularly masturbating in response to negative emotion, you may be addicted. Why? Because it reveals you’re not processing your emotions and indicates you’re living in some level of distress, making it the perfect opportunity to get hooked. Addiction loves pain. It is a faux salve for emotional wounds. But in reality, our vice, be it masturbation or otherwise, is infecting that wound that so desperately needs to be healed.
2) Do you feel like you can’t stop?
Perhaps one of the clearest signs of addiction is when you feel you can’t stop, even when you really want to. Pretty simple. You may white-knuckle it for a few weeks, but it always come crashing back into your life.
There’s a reason for this.
A sexual encounter (with someone else or on your own) instigates the release of a host of nice-feeling chemicals into your brain’s reward system. It’s an incredible gift from God when it’s not confused (and used as He intended – within the bonds of matrimony). It keeps humanity thriving and surviving. It releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin when you participate in a behavior that it [the brain] believes ensures survival of the body or gene pool (hence why an orgasm feels so much better than mopping the floor or eating dirt). The reward pathways function is to remind the brain to do that thing again! Your body begins to make unconscious associations. When you feel poorly, it remembers how to give you a kick! A process begins deep in your brain which, unbroken, leads you right back to the behavior, because your brain is wired to seek the easiest route to pleasure.
3) Is your habit harming you or those around you?
A characteristic of any addiction is continuing despite harm. Harm can come in many forms: emotional, relational, physical, spiritual or criminal to name a few.
If you’re masturbating to the point of overuse or needing medical assistance, you may very well be addicted.
Compulsive masturbation can lead to sexual dysfunction and less-than-ideal intimacy with your spouse. This is a very real harm that must be identified. More than physiological, this can affect your spouse emotionally. Are you masturbating to the detriment of your sex life?
Isolation is another harm to look out for. Such retreat can be rooted in shame, anxiety or the lost ability to interact non-sexually. Perhaps you would rather be at home masturbating than socializing?
Having an orgasm is easier than building real relationships.
But only building real relationships will bring lasting happiness and fulfillment in the long run.
Masturbation is a very personal and complicated topic. It can be a response to sexual or emotional trauma, it can be a struggle that begins in early childhood, it can be accompanied by viewing porn or voyeurism or nothing at all; and the line between “struggling with” and “addicted” can get blurry. There is a battlefield of opinions out there and it is so easy to slip into judgment and shame in this conversation.
Please know that, no matter what, you are known and cherished by the God of the universe, and the team at XXXchurch have resources to help you find freedom. You are not alone, and you need not feel ashamed. Recovery is so possible.
If you are looking for help recovering, and live in the Upstate of SC, consider reaching out:
Shannon Watson, LMFT-I (awaiting licensure)
I currently serve as Counseling Pastor for a church in the upstate of South Carolina. I hold a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University. I am awaiting my scheduled time to sit for the SC LMFT-I licensing exam. It is my goal to help rebuild broken lives and families from the inside-out through awakening and fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. I specialize in helping men recover from addictions to sex and pornography. I run a support group for recovering men on Wednesday nights at 6:30pm.