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7 Questions Wives of Porn Addicts Ask

ella hutchinson photoPornography addiction is a form of sex addiction. Wives of porn addicts are baffled by this addiction and feel like they are partially responsible for their husband’s behavior. The reasons for this are numerous and include the shame associated with this addiction for both the addict and the spouse, the sense of betrayal, and stereotypes linked to the addiction. Ella Hutchinson, a counselor from Katy, Texas, specializes in counseling wives of sex addicts. She sees women who haven’t told anyone about their husband’s addiction, sometimes for months, years and often, they never disclose. The lack of support available to spouses, and often inaccurate information being put out about partners of sexual addicts can cause a wife to suffer additional trauma. Ella has formulated 7 questions wives of porn addicts ask.

#1: How can my husband love me and look at porn when he knows it hurts me?

 It is possible for your husband to love you, even though he is looking at pornography? In fact the two are completely unrelated. Men are better than women at compartmentalization. A man’s brain can be compared to a waffle. There are many different compartments so that he can divide his life up into separate components that don’t touch each other. His marriage and family can be in one compartment, his job in another…you get the point. This is a benefit when a man is fighting in a war and able to focus on the task at hand without worrying about his family back home. But it also makes a man able to look at pornography without thinking about how it may hurt you or his marriage. Women’s brains are more like spaghetti where everything is connected. Women are more likely to be worrying about our kids when we are at work and thinking about work when we are at home.

When a man becomes addicted to pornography, it can become a perceived need rather than a choice for him until he becomes willing to reach out for help. His use of porn causes a release of the same chemicals involved when a drug is ingested. At the height of his addiction, nothing, not even the risk of losing his job or his marriage, is enough to stop him. This explains how a politician or celebrity can make such risky, career-destroying moves without stopping to consider the consequences.

Later Ella will discuss the kinds of consequences that can catapult an addict into reality.

#2: Why does my husband prefer porn and masturbation to sex with me?

 Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of the acclaimed book, The Brain That Changes Itself, studied porn addicts. He stated,

They reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses, or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive. When I asked if this phenomenon had any relationship to viewing pornography, they answered that it initially helped them get more excited during sex but over time had the opposite effect.

Your husband had this addiction, or the proclivity toward it, before he ever met you, regardless of what he says. In spite of what you think or even what he might have said, nothing you could do could be enough to sexually satisfy your porn addicted spouse. Pornography presents an unrealistic reality that damages a person’s brain. They become engrossed in this fantasy world where they don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but themselves and no emotional connection is required.

While a porn addict desperately craves love and intimacy (something he is probably unaware of), he seeks it out in the exact place that will cause him to become less and less able to experience it. As a counselor, Ella hears sexual addicts talk about their past, it becomes apparent why they are so uncomfortable with the idea of intimacy. This topic is beyond our scope here, but it is important for a wife to be aware that there is a reason her husband became addicted to porn, and that reason is not her.

#3: Why am I not enough if I am sexually available to him?

Beyond the intimacy issue, pornography offers the thrill of what is forbidden. The more taboo, the more exciting. This is why a porn addict may progress to looking at more hardcore porn and even pornography involving aspects that a healthy person would consider offensive and grotesque.

Gary Wilson, human sciences instructor, and Marnia Robinson, author of Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships, state:

 The uniqueness of Internet porn can goad a user relentlessly, as it possesses all the elements that keep dopamine surging. The excitement of the hunt for the perfect image releases dopamine. Moreover, there’s always something new, always something kinkier. Dopamine is released when something is more arousing than anticipated, causing nerve cells to fire like crazy. In contrast, sex with your spouse is not always better than expected. Nor does it offer endless variety. This can cause problems because a primitive part of your brain assumes quantity of dopamine equals value of activity, even when it doesn’t. Indeed, porn’s dopamine fireworks can produce a drug-like high that is more compelling than sex with a familiar mate.

#4: He says he looks at porn because I don’t have sex with him enough, am I not pretty enough, am I  too fat, etc. What can I do?

Ella hears this a lot and it is called justification. Your husband doesn’t want to believe he is sick. If he is not ready to admit he is an addict and take responsibility for his own behavior, he will say anything to convince you, and even himself, that he does not have a problem. Blaming you is an easy way to save face.

There is nothing you could do to be appealing enough to make your husband stop looking at porn. We see very beautiful women whose husbands no longer desire them, couples where the wife looks like she belongs on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine or on a model runway, and the husband has admitted to her that he is physically repulsed by her. Ella speaks of another couple who has sex every day, yet she still catches him looking at porn and frequenting adult bookstores. There is simply no credibility to the argument that a wife causes or contributes to her husband’s use of pornography.

#5: My husband says all men do it. Am I making too big a deal out of this?

It is unfortunate, but true, that pornography use is overwhelmingly common. This does not make it okay or mean you should turn a blind eye. Ella often hears women say that their husband’s porn use makes them feel cheated on. This makes sense. When a man uses porn he is finding sexual satisfaction from someone other than his wife. So the betrayal a woman feels is natural. God created sex to be between a man and his wife. The Ten Commandments interpret looking at a woman with lust is the same as committing adultery with her in his heart. Looking at porn is purposely choosing to lust.

#6: My husband refuses to get help or admit this is a problem. How can I make him stop? What are the risks if he doesn’t stop?

In short, you cannot make him stop. It usually takes something significant to get a man to the point where he is ready to admit his porn addiction. This is what they call “hitting rock bottom”. Sometimes, for a man who has hidden his porn use for years, just getting caught is enough. But more often, it takes losing his job, his wife leaving him, or another monumental event to shake him to the core and wake him up to reality. It may be his porn use progressing to acting out with another person or other people and facing the multiple possible consequences of this, to cause him to recognize his need for help.

You can insist your husband stop his porn use and you have every right to do so. The compulsive use of porn will, without exception, do damage to your marriage and your family. It affects a person’s sense of right and wrong. It can cause your husband to lose respect for you. You will likely feel him pulling further away from you and your family as he gets more entrenched in this sinful lifestyle. If he refuses help, it will only get worse. Your pleading that he stop will fall on deaf ears if he isn’t ready to hear it. This is a harsh reality, but one too many women just do not get. Some women beg and plead for decades until they grow cold and bitter. Then they tell me that they wish they had left years ago and feel they have wasted most of their life.

When porn is an issue, it is likely that extramarital affairs are or will become an issue. This means you are at risk of more than the heartache of discovering your husband has been sexual with another person. You are also at risk of STDs or your husband fathering another woman’s child. Additionally, your children are almost guaranteed early exposure to porn, something that was likely a contributing factor in your husband’s addiction.

#7: Is there hope? Can a man like this change?

Recovery from sexual addiction is very much possible. Men who get out feel a sense of freedom, as if a huge boulder has been lifted off their chest. It is such a liberating feeling that many men forget that their wives are still grieving from his actions and likely will be for some time.

For some men, simply the threat of their wife leaving is enough to cause them to get help. But for many others, they need something more. This can cause you, as the wife, to feel helpless. You are not helpless. You can’t control your husband’s recovery, but as the injured spouse, you can control your own. The fact that you need recovery does not mean you are sick or that something is wrong with you, but that you have likely been traumatized by your husband’s behavior. Your recovery includes building up a support system for yourself. Don’t keep silent. Reach out to a trusted friend, your pastor, or a therapist. Keeping this secret will cause feelings of shame, loneliness, and isolation. Finding a support group for wives of sex/porn addicts can be very helpful. If there is not one in your area, there are phone support groups available, led by trained life coaches and therapists who have been in your shoes. Finally, learn to recognize your unmet needs and what it will take to meet them. A skilled therapist can help you with this. The absolute best book written for wives is Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Ella strongly encourages you to find a therapist (individual and marriage) who is familiar with this book and subscribes to the treatment model described in it. If your therapist isn’t familiar, ask if they’d be willing to read it.

Beyond self-care, Ella recommends that you take some time to come up with some clear, firm boundaries for your marriage. While this may not result in the desired outcome, it is worth it to put in the effort. At the very least, this is a first step toward helping you get to a place where you can make an informed decision about the direction of your relationship. This means bottom-line behaviors you will not tolerate and actions you need to see happening in order for you to feel safe in your marriage. Your list of unacceptable behaviors may include viewing pornography in the home, inappropriate conversations or relationships with other people, and other possible abusive behaviors toward you that are often present in a sexual addict. The actions you need to see your husband take might be installing a filter on computers and phones, open discussions about where all the money is going with you having access to all accounts, attending sexual purity or sexual addiction support groups, counseling, and talking to a pastor.

Before you present this to your husband, make sure you are prepared to follow through with consequences if he refuses or does not stick to what he agreed to do. Consequences can be anything from insisting one of you move to a separate bedroom (an in-house separation) to one of you moving out of the home. Your husband will likely be resistant to you setting these boundaries and may accuse you of being demanding and giving him an ultimatum. Do not engage in any kind of manipulative or accusatory conversations with your husband. Learn to recognize this behavior and refuse to participate. It is important that you wait to address your new boundaries until you are able to do so in a calm manner. A therapist’s presence (and guidance beforehand) is a good idea. A good book on this topic is The Gaslight Effect by Dr. Robin Stern.

If your husband does not follow the boundaries you set, you now have a choice to make. You can choose to accept that your husband is simply not ready to stop his porn use. This means letting go of the nagging, criticism, and efforts to control (which should have stopped already by this point since you have learned they don’t work). If you choose to to not follow through with the consequences, even though he has made it clear through his words or actions that he is not willing to stop, you are choosing to accept his behavior. This will probably require a good deal of emotional detachment on your part. It may be a marriage that looks more like you are roommates. Ella says she has not yet met a woman who has chosen this arrangement and found any kind of long-term life satisfaction in it, but it is an option.

Your choices may need to include making the necessary preparations in case you need to leave. This may mean getting a job if you don’t work and starting to put money aside. Separation does not mean divorce, but it can be a prelude to it. Ideally, that should not be the goal for separation. The purpose is to show your husband that you are unwilling to share him with pornography. Once he sees you are serious and can no longer be placated with words and half-hearted attempts that don’t last, he is also more likely to take his addiction seriously. Also, getting physical space between you and him can make it easier for you to clear your mind, spend more time in prayer and God’s Word, and make objective decisions about your future. A good Christian counselor can guide you through a therapeutic separation where rules are put in place for you both to follow during this time.

Many men have escaped the chains of sexual addiction. Here is an important truth to be aware of. Your husband has probably tried to stop more times than he can count. He is not deriving pleasure from his lifestyle. He keeps going back, trying to fill a void that porn will never fill. Willpower is not enough. Recovery from sexual addiction is multifaceted, but includes reaching out to other men who have been there, and often requires professional help as well.

God must be the central focus in recovery. However, many men have learned the hard way, in the words of author, speaker, therapist and recovering addict, Dr. Mark Laaser, “You can’t pray it away.” If prayer was all we needed then we wouldn’t have to have jobs or pay bills. We could just pray about it and our bank account would never run out and the bills would get paid. If prayer was enough we could eat and drink whatever we want and every check-up would reveal a clean bill of health. But God wants us to do the work, and keep doing it.

Once a man has decided to become serious about recovery from sexual addiction, there are more steps to take to help the marriage heal. After all, just because the behavior has stopped, it doesn’t mean the damage that has been done will go away. Marriage counseling with a skilled sex addiction therapist is important. Couple’s Intensives are a great way to get a jump start on recovery for the couple. Ella recommends the book Hope and Freedom by Milton Magness to learn more about recovery for you, your husband, and your marriage and to learn about intensives. You can also read about intensives and other issues surrounding marriage and sexual addiction on Ella’s website, Comfort Christian Counseling.

. . . .

Ella Hutchinson, is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Counseling from St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. She is also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. In addition, Ella is certified in treating sex addiction and specializes in counseling partners of sexual addicts. She practices at:

Comfort Christian Counseling,

2900 Commercial Center Blvd #101, Katy, TX 77494

You can contact Ella at:

http://comfortchristiancounseling.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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The Artist’s Way

Practical, action-based tools can restore your creativity in sobriety.
By Jane Doe

I always thought that in order to be creative, I had to be connected to some kind of pain or trauma. Ever since I was a little girl, making art was always a big part of my life. However, the passion around art began to shift when my addiction to food, and then alcohol, began. After years of addiction, pain and misery felt like the only entry points to access creativity. Recovery has allowed me to slowly reconnect to art-making in a deeper, more loving and practical way, one step at a time.

I started abusing food at the age of 13. My addiction took on the form of bingeing and restriction. By the time I was 15 I had developed bulimia. As my disease grew, my art had less and less room to grow. I still drew and painted, but I was stifled by perfectionism. I wanted to be the best and I was afraid to make any mistakes or to look weak. Food and my body was a way to feel in control—and at the same time feel relief—from the pressure I put on myself. More and more of my energy became consumed with secrecy around bingeing, purging, hiding food and isolating in order to cater to my addiction.

Today it is more painful to hide my art than it is to pursue it
I had my first drink on my 16th birthday with my best friend. We were in her parent’s house and stole some of their liquor. It was an amazing feeling. I was laughing and I finally didn’t care about anything anymore—not my body or school or anything. Eventually I threw up all over myself and my friend had to clean up after me. I felt like I had entered a rite of passage into adulthood and went home hungover and proud.

The consequences around drinking came fast. Three months later I was at a bar with friends and some men in their 30s. I came to with the three of us in a hotel room at 4am. That did not stop me from stealing my family’s liquor; my father started measuring the bottles to see if I was stealing alcohol.

My art became darker. My inspiration came from the daily pain I felt. The summer before my senior year in High School, I went away to an art program. Rather than taking advantage of it, I retreated into addiction. It was painful to be around artists who were as talented or more talented than me. Instead of putting my energy towards going through the uncomfortable adventure of creativity, I did a minimal amount of work, and indulged my addictions. Twice I tried paying other people to buy me alcohol: The first ran away with my money, the second time, security guards caught me and threatened to kick me out of the program. So I relied on caffeine pills and food to medicate myself.

I went on to a liberal arts college and my drinking and food addiction progressed. The first year I attempted to major in Fine Art, but by the second year I dropped out because my drinking and partying took up too much of my time. Some of the consequences of my drinking were: blackouts, an ambulance being called, going home with strangers, damaging relationships, and alcohol poisoning.

My drinking continued for five more years. As each year went on, managing my addictions became harder and my art not only became darker, but became less of a priority. In the last year of my drinking, I moved to New York thinking that a move would change how I felt about myself but my drinking only got worse. Five years ago a friend confronted me about my drinking, inviting me to come to an AA meeting. I cried because I had tried everything to fix myself other than quitting drinking and nothing had worked. I was 23 at the time.
The first year in sobriety was the hardest for me. I was unwilling to change my lifestyle at first and eventually I tried drinking again after five months sober. In just two days, I quickly came to realize that I had no control: The second night I came to at Coney Island, having passed out on the train, and peed and defecated in my dress. Only after a further humiliation was I willing to admit that self-knowledge was useless against alcoholism.

After surrendering again, I got a sponsor who brought me through the steps. I also received a lot of outside help. After about a year sober, I began talking to my sponsor about my art. I was too terrified to actually do anything about it. I thought that since I had stopped making art I could not be an artist anymore. She asked me practical questions like, ‘What artists do you like?’ and ‘What galleries do you like?’ I had no idea. Practical ideas about art were not tools I had acquired. I had a fantasy that if I was really talented, I could do it by myself and someone would discover me somehow.

Very slowly, she began introducing action-based tools around creativity. One of the most powerful tools was discovering I had choices. She told me to draw for five minutes a day and to text her “I chose to draw for five minutes” or “I chose not to draw for five minutes.” I felt ashamed to tell her that I had made the choice not to draw. That small action of drawing for five minutes showed me that I had a choice, that I was not a victim anymore.

Gradually, over the course of a year, drawing for five minutes grew to ten minutes, which led to attending drop-in classes at art schools, which lead to asking for help from artist friends, which eventually led to a small portfolio of work. I learned that I did not have to take any uncomfortable actions alone, and that if I asked for help, there were many people who were there to guide and direct me.

As an addict, I want immediate results. I want to change my life in a moment. Drinking allowed me to feel like everything had changed when, in reality, nothing was changing. It was uncomfortable to trust that taking small, manageable actions would accumulate. It was uncomfortable to ask for help, and to make art that I did not like. In sobriety, I get to feel all of my feelings around creativity. I have discovered that there is an infinite amount of inspiration, which is deeper and more poignant than my addiction.

Today it is more painful to hide my art than it is to pursue it. Between my third and fifth year of sobriety, I began selling my work and showing in galleries. Life has unfolded in a way I would never have predicted five years ago. I am eternally grateful to AA for my sobriety and the ability to show up for a life that I could have never imagined.

Jane Doe is a professional artist who wishes to remain anonymous

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Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s)

As follows are the behavioral characteristics of adults that are the grown children of alcoholics or drug abusers. These characteristics can also be seen in grown children raised by parents that do not have an alcohol or drug problem, but the parents were raised by an alcoholic. These characteristics span generations. If these characteristics ring a bell with you, or are characteristic of a client you may be working with, suggest an ACOA 12-step meeting (http://www.adultchildren.org) and therapeutic assistance.

• Fear of losing control. ACOA’s maintain control of their feelings, their behavior, and try to control the feelings and behavior of others. They do not do this to hurt either themselves or others, but because they are afraid. They fear that their lives will get worse if they relinquish control, and they get very anxious when they cannot control a situation.

• Fear of feelings. ACOA’s have buried their feelings (especially anger and sadness) since childhood and cannot feel or express emotions easily. Eventually they fear all intense feelings, even a good feeling such as joy.

• Fear of conflict. ACOA’s are frightened by people in authority, angry people, and personal criticism, so that they often mistake common assertiveness on the part of others for anger. As a result of this fear ACOA’s are constantly seeking approval, and they lose their identities in the process. They often find themselves in a self-imposed state of isolation.

• An over developed sense of responsibility. ACOA’s are hypersensitive to the needs of others. Their self-esteem comes from others’ opinions of them, and thus they have a compulsive need to be perfect.

• Feelings of guilt when they stand up for themselves instead of demurring to others. ACOA’s sacrifice their own needs in an effort to be “responsible”, and therefore avoid guilt.

• An inability to relax, to let go, and have fun. Trying to have fun is stressful for ACOA’s, especially when others are watching. The child inside is terrified, and in an effort to appear perfect, exercises such strict control that spontaneity suffers.

• Harsh, even fierce, self-criticism. ACOA’s are burdened with a very low sense of self-respect, no matter how competent they may be.

• Denial. Whenever ACOA’s feel threatened, they tend to deny that which provoked their fears.

• Difficulties with intimate relationships. Intimacy gives ACOA’s the feeling of losing control, and requires self-love and the ability to express one’s needs. As a result, ACOA’s frequently have difficulty with their sexuality, and they repeat relationship patterns.

• They see themselves as victims. ACOA’s may be either aggressive or passive victims, and they are often attracted to others like them in their friendship, love, and career relationships.

• Compulsive behavior. ACOA’s may work or eat compulsively, become addicted to a relationship, or behave compulsively in other ways. Tragically, ACOA’s may drink compulsively, and become alcoholics themselves.

• A tendency to be more comfortable with chaos than with peace. ACOA’s become addicted to excitement and drama, which can give them their fix of adrenaline and the feeling of power which accompanies it.

• The tendency to confuse love with pity. As a result, ACOA’s often love people they can rescue.

• Fear of abandonment. ACOA’s will do anything to preserve a relationship, rather than face the pain of abandonment.

• Cognitive Dissonance. The tendency, when under pressure, to see everything and everyone in extremes. All or nothing thinking. Perceptions that everything should be laid out in black and white.

• Physical illness. ACOA’s are very susceptible to stress-related illnesses.

• Suffering from a backlog of grief. Losses experienced during childhood were often never grieved for, since the alcoholic family does not tolerate such intensely uncomfortable feelings. Current losses cannot be felt without calling up these past feelings. As a result, ACOA’s are frequently depressed.

• A tendency to react rather than to act. ACOA’s remain hyper-vigilant, constantly scanning the environment for potential catastrophes’.

This guest post was written by Robert Mittiga, founder and owner of The GATS Program Australia’s leading Private Addiction Treatment Center in Adelaide Australia. You can contact Robert at the GATS Program by Email: gatsservices@bigpond.com

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