Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marriage and Pornography Addiction

Addiction is tough on a marriage. That is a pretty obvious statement I'm sure, but until you are in the middle of trying to recover from an addiction and repair a marriage, I don't know if you can understand just how much pain an addiction causes. And a sexual addiction only increases the strain and stress on a relationship.

Why is addiction, and sexual addiction in particular, so painful and devastating to a marriage? Some reasons are obvious, some perhaps are not. I put some thought into this question and from my experience, here are a few answers.

1) The feeling of being cheated on
Even though in many pornography addictions there is no actual physical acting out with another person, the feeling of infidelity is the same. Spouses of addicts feel as if their mate is going outside their marriage for sexual satisfaction.  These feelings can be just as real as if their spouse had an affair, and just as painful.

2) Dishonesty
Addiction nearly always brings with it half truths, deceptions, and outright lying. Eventually a spouse gets lied to so often that they start to question everything the addict says. They wonder if anything the addict has ever said is true, including "I love you".

3) Emotional Immaturity
I can't speak for all addicts, but I know for me, and for many, the addiction developed at a young age. It replaced many of the productive strategies youth learn to develop meaningful emotional relationships. Instead of developing these skills, I was too busy building "relationships" with porn. I did not learn to share my emotions, or even deal with them. In a marriage, these emotional skills are crucial to developing intimacy.  Being married to someone who lacks these skills can be a very lonely place.

4) Emotional Distance
Closely related to #3 is the fact that whenever the addict is tied up in planning to act out, or thinking about acting out, or acting out, or fantasizing about the chance to act out, they almost always withdraw emotionally. This can cause a difficult roller coaster affect, where the spouse wonders what happened. Things in the marriage were going well, and suddenly their spouse withdraws for seemingly no reason.

5) The Need to be Supportive
This is one of the more subtle strains that an addiction puts on a marriage, but also one of the most difficult. Addicts need support, it is one the most crucial aspects to recovery. Some of the best support comes from the people love the addict the most. Nobody is in a better position to support and build up the addict than their spouse. Yet, the spouse is also generally the one who is the most hurt by acting out. It's nearly impossible to be supportive of an addicts recovery, when their acting out cuts so deeply. This causes great strain on a relationship, where the spouse feels like they want to support, but is emotionally unable to because of the pain. And the addict knows the pains they have caused, yet needs the unconditional support of their spouse.

6) A Feeling of Inadequacy
No matter how much a spouse understands in their mind that they did not cause, nor can they stop, an addiction, the feelings of not being good enough are nearly impossible to suppress. A sexual addiction can cause the spouse to feel unattractive, not good enough, too out of shape, and a million other negative feelings.

I'm sure this list is not exhaustive, but I do think it covers much of the pain caused by an addiction in marriage.

How to solve all of these issues?  Well...if you know, I hope you'll tell me.  Because they are not easy problems to solve. But I do know that it takes a concerted effort and a lot of thoughtfulness.

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