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Resources for Dealing with Porn Addiction

These starting points can help you move forward.

Perhaps you believe that you or someone you love is addicted to pornography. While you may be tempted to keep it quiet, there are lots of resources to help with recovery.

In her book, An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Hall says there’s no easy answer. As the wife of a porn addict, she learned she had to disengage from trying to fix him. Instead, she had to take care of herself.

“You have to build your own personal foundations under you—boundaries, standards, tolerations, and requirements,” says Hall. “It was not an option to tolerate this in my home. I learned that one of the first steps toward recovery, whether you are the person addicted or the spouse, is to seek help from a trained counselor.”

Hall learned that some counselors empower the spouse who is dealing with the difficulty of being married to a sex addict. Others simply don’t understand the nature of sexual addiction.

“Working with a counselor who doesn’t get it can leave you feeling shredded,” Hall says. “I have hundreds of letters that bear out this point.”

When looking for a counselor, Hall suggests you ask:

  • Where did they get their counseling training?

  • Have they had specific training in dealing with sex addiction? Where? When?

  • What is their approach in dealing with this subject?

  • Does the counselor network with national groups who deal with this subject?

  • How many people have they counseled on this issue?

After the session, ask yourself:

  • Did the counselor treat me with respect?

  • Does this person view me as a partner in my own healing or as a project?

  • Did the counselor hear me or lecture me?

  • Does the counselor encourage or discount my intuition?

  • Is this person’s belief system compatible with mine?

  • Did I feel safe?

  • Did they offer any resources—books, pamphlets, websites and/or support groups for more information about sexual addiction?

Next Steps

If you suspect a problem, but aren’t sure, you can take a sex addiction screening test developed by Dr. Patrick Carnes, an expert on sexual addiction and recovery. You can take it online at faithfulandtrue.com under the self-assessment tab.

If you know you have a porn addiction, Dr. Mark Laaser, author of The Pornography Trap and Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction, suggests you begin by admitting the problem. Talk with an accountability partner and seek help. Put blocks on your computer and put the computer in a public place. Be straightforward about what would tempt you. Porn is in the mind of the beholder; certain things are universally considered porn, but other things like catalogs and magazines could be pornographic to an addict.

“With help from a trained counselor, we are seeing evidence that people can successfully recalibrate their brain,” says Laaser. “By demonstrating sexually pure behavior, you can rewire your brain to be satisfied with sexual purity in your marriage. Though it is not an easy process, there are people who have been successful.”

You can find additional secular or faith-based resources on these websites:

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The First Year of Marriage

There are challenges ahead, but you can get ready for them!

Scene 1: The Big Day

The day has finally arrived. You walk down the aisle taking in all of the people who have come to witness this momentous occasion. You and your fiancé enthusiastically say “I do!” There is a great celebration and finally you leave. Now, the two of you begin your journey of happily ever after.

 

Scene 2: Beyond the Honeymoon

Reality sets in. Sometimes it happens on Day One of the honeymoon. Others experience it when they arrive home and are trying to settle into a routine. You both realize it is just the two of you and you have to figure out how to do life together as a team. While this is something you have been looking forward to, it can create some difficult moments.

 

Scene 3: What Nobody Tells You  

Regardless of how long you have been together as a couple, being married is different. The first couple of years can actually be very challenging, but nobody really talks about that for fear that people will judge them.

Learning how to live with your spouse is an adventure. In most marriages, each person has unspoken expectations based on what they experienced in their own home. Things like:

  • Who cleans the toilets, pays the bills, mows the lawn, does the laundry, shops for groceries?

  • How will you deal with the in-laws?

  • Will you eat dinner together every night?

  • Who does the cooking?

  • What about sleep? Do you go to bed at the same time?

  • When you experience conflict (and you will) how will you handle it?

All of these things tend to trip couples up because each person comes to the marriage with assumptions about how things will be.

 

Scene 4: What Might be Helpful to Know

As you navigate the first years of marriage, here are some things to consider that can help make the transition smoother.

  • Get prepared. You probably spent a lot of time and energy preparing for the wedding, but don’t forget to prepare for the health of your marriage. Getting married without preparation is like planning to compete in the Iron Man and hoping you have what it takes to finish the race. Couples who take the time to learn the skills needed for successful marriage are 30 percent less likely to divorce. Make the time to attend a premarital education class where you can practice handling the hard stuff.

  • You are a team. Before marriage you only had to be concerned about yourself. Adding someone else into the mix, even when you love them, can be tough. It isn’t all about you anymore. It is about two individuals coming together with the goal of helping each other grow. This requires give and take, thinking through priorities and being totally invested in making the relationship work.

  • Love isn’t all you need. Many couples believe that because they love each other they will agree on most things. This is when things can get really dicey. Studies show that all couples fight about money, sex, kids, others and time. An advantage of marriage is you have someone who cares so much about you they are willing to disagree and weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. Couples who understand these disagreements are normal and learn to manage those areas of their life do better.

Happily-married couples rarely describe their marriage as challenge-free, even after decades of marriage. In fact, many of them describe the hard times as those that refined them and made their marriage stronger.

Whether you are preparing for marriage or you are a newlywed, remember you are building something new together. You may come to marriage with a blueprint of how you always thought it should be, but as you hammer it out you both realize you need something different. No matter who you marry, there will be challenges. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

When the kids leave the nest and are almost off the payroll, that second half of marriage is within sight. You finally have time to breathe. But suddenly you have questions…

  • What in the heck will we do with the second half of our marriage?
  • How will we handle the challenges of aging parents, crises with the children or unexpected medical issues?
  • What about retirement, finances and the like?

While some couples look forward to the years ahead, others feel trapped. They’re unhappy in a marriage that is less than fulfilling, and they wonder if this is all there is. For them, the idea of the second half is quite scary.

So… what does a thriving marriage look like in the later years? 

Gary Chapman and Harold Myra interviewed “second half” couples for their book, Married and Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half. They found few couples who had escaped the unexpected challenges of life. However, some traits appeared to be significant between marriages that flourish in the second half and those that don’t. Laughter and acceptance, resilience and faith seemed to make the difference.

Whether the second half is just around the corner or you find yourself dreaming about it, you can prepare for it now. Chapman and Myra quote Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier’s book, The Adventure of Living:

“To make a success of one’s marriage, one must treat it as an adventure, with all the riches and difficulties that are involved in an adventure shared with another person.”

Even if your marriage is stuck in a rut, you can intentionally turn it into an adventure.

After years of marriage, it’s easy to focus on the differences between you and your spouse. But these differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is to figure out how to make your differences an asset instead of a liability.

Chapman writes, “While differences can be deadly, they can also be delightful.” Thriving couples learned to accept their spouse and were even able to laugh about their differences. This goes a long way in finding fulfillment in your marriage.

What about the kids?

While many couples have terrific relationships with their adult children, others encounter one crisis after another. Chapman and Myra encourage these parents to maintain a balance between self-preservation and self-sacrifice. Many marriages suffer when they become so focused on helping the children that they lose themselves. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help to overcome these challenges together.

Despite encountering unexpected job loss, illness, family crises and difficulty adjusting to retirement, thriving second half couples kept putting one foot in front of the other. Their commitment to marriage enabled them to stand together through life’s ups and downs.

And finally, these thriving couples said their faith was central to it all. That includes working through personality differences and all of the other challenges they have faced.

Although you might be anxious about what the future holds in the second half of marriage, Chapman and Myra encourage couples to embrace the challenge and to enter this season with great anticipation.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 6, 2016.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

“What if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse?”

That’s the question a woman asked social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn after she spoke at a conference on the topic of kindness.

Feldhahn encouraged her to take a 30-day Kindness Challenge. The steps are:

  • Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them.
  • Each day, find one positive thing to praise or affirm about that person. Then tell them and tell someone else. 
  • Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.
  • You may or may not choose to tell the person you chose about the challenge.

Three years later, the same woman approached Feldhahn and said, “You won’t remember me, but I asked you a question three years ago about what to do if you don’t respect or appreciate your spouse. I decided to take you up on the Kindness Challenge and I learned a lot about myself. I had no idea how unkind I was to my husband, and I thought it was all him. As I was kind to him, his defenses lowered. Three years later, we have a great marriage.”

“What I have found based on my research is that when kindness starts to flow, it is really incredible,” says Feldhahn. “It’s actually a real-life superpower. For years, I’ve been studying what makes people thrive. And I’ve seen that whether or not we thrive in relationships is far more related to how we treat others than how we ourselves are treated.”

Feldhahn believes kindness is the answer in any difficult situation.

“This means being kind when you are super-irritated and you really don’t want to be,” Feldhahn shares. “Even in situations where you need boundaries, that is usually the kindest thing you can do. If someone is being abusive, for example, it is not kind to allow that person to continue to destroy their own emotional state by being that way.”

For her book, The Kindness Challenge, Feldhahn surveyed study participants extensively before and after the 30-day period. After completing the challenge, 89 percent of all relationships had improved, 74 percent felt more love and affection for their romantic partner, and 66 percent felt more love and appreciation by their romantic partner.

“One of the biggest surprises from the research was that most of us already think we are kind,” Feldhahn says. “In fact, most of us are totally delusional. We have no idea how often we are unkind without even realizing it. In the book, we identify seven patterns of unkindness and negativity – and every one of us has at least one of them! We encourage everyone to identify their own pattern of negativity – because in most cases it is a pattern across all relationships, not just that one.”

The Challenge opened participants’ eyes very quickly to that reality, and it showed them that they also weren’t as affirming to the other person as they thought. It also changed their feelings, to appreciate the person more.

As Feldhahn put it, “That only makes sense, right? After all, if you’re irritated with someone, and you tell them that you’re irritated, and you tell someone else that you’re irritated, are you doing to be more or less irritated?”

We all know the answer to that. Just as we know that we’ll simply notice the positive more if we’re looking for it. And while being kind doesn’t take away problems, it often makes them easier to solve.

Feldhahn wants the Challenge to transform relationships.

“It’s really life-changing,” Feldhahn suggests. “It is a training ground to become a truly kind person. You have to designate one person to do the challenge for. But it can be anyone – your spouse, child, friend, in-law, co-worker, anybody.”

Like the woman who didn’t respect or appreciate her spouse, the outcome is a pleasant surprise for many Challenge-takers after 30 days.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can find out more at jointhekindnesschallenge.com. The outcome just might surprise you, too.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 7, 2017.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Sally, an outdoor enthusiast, is happily married to her husband, Sam, a computer buff.* Instead of nagging Sam about not being outside with her, Sally joined a weekly hiking club to meet her need to experience the great outdoors. Sally made lots of new friends. On hikes, they would talk about kids, spouses, etc. While Sally loves Sam, she shares the love of the outdoors with these men and women.

“This is often how inappropriate relationships begin,” says Dave Carder, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Torn Asunder: Recovery from Extramarital Affairs. “People move from talking in generalities to more specific things like, ‘Help me understand my spouse,’ to even more private issues. This starts a gradual erosion of boundaries and often leads to an affair.”

How can you know if a friendship is inappropriate?

“If your heart races when you anticipate seeing this person, that is a definite sign that there is more to the story than friendship,” Carder says. “If you have said or thought to yourself, ‘If I weren’t married, I would marry this person,’ that definitely puts the relationship in a different category. This is often when you see people acting like they are drunk in love.”

What if you suspect your spouse is having an affair?

The best thing you can do, according to Carder, is to ask him/her. Be very direct. “Do you have an emotional or sexual relationship with someone outside of our marriage?”

“Very few people I have worked with over the years have gone out looking for an affair,” Carder says. “Most people literally fall into them. It is so exhilarating he/she hates to leave it behind. You start to save conversational topics for this relationship that you don’t share with your spouse – you used to share them, but now you save them for the friendship. You start nourishing the friendship and starving the marriage.

“Marriages often become so encumbered with life (kids, career, household responsibilities) that the couple loses that lovin’ feeling, that way they felt before they married. So the ga-ga feeling and the exhilaration of doing crazy things spontaneously is very appealing in these extramarital flings.

“The good news is there are huge numbers of marriages that don’t just survive affairs, they are significantly better than they were before the affair. The key to a marriage surviving an affair lies in its good marital history. If 20 percent of a couple’s history is simultaneously viewed as positive by both spouses, they have a better than 90 percent chance of making it.”

Common risk factors for affairs include these issues and more:

  • Poor impulse control;

  • A history of infidelity in the family;

  • An abusive or chronically conflicted past; and/or

  • A promiscuous adolescence.

Can a marriage survive infidelity?

Once an affair has occurred, Carder says four universal concepts can save a marriage: forgiveness, rebuilding respect, building trust and building love.

“If you don’t rebuild respect, you will never have an appropriate love relationship,” he says. Even if you don’t stay married, you still need to go through this process in order not to continue to pay the price of the affair in future relationships.”

Carder encourages people to look at this situation like an alcoholic would look at getting sober. The person in the affair might want to cut back or keep it innocent, but they want to keep the relationship. It’s a mood-altering experience. For restoration of the marriage, this is not possible.

“You have to leave the club,” Carder says. “You have to get out of the music group, be very direct and cut off the relationship. There is a big difference is saying, ‘We gotta stop this,’ and ‘Don’t ever call me again.’”

Carder recommends the following action steps to couples dealing with infidelity:

  • Don’t try to go it alone. Find friends with experience. If you’ll be brave and share your situation with some friends, the number of people who have been there will probably amaze you.

  • Nobody can work on two relationships at once. Stop the one, and work through the marriage first.

  • Find a therapist who meets the following three criteria: structure for the recovery, a safe environment and a goal of marriage stabilization – not future determination.

Outcome studies indicate that couples who save their marriage after infidelity report the highest satisfaction levels of their mutual history. With time, both partners can forgive without forgetting, rebuild trust, restore respect and rekindle love.

Every marriage faces challenges. Whether it’s infidelity or a continual conflict that creates friction and tension, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome. Learn how to move forward in your relationship by registering for Maximize Your Marriage on our home page. It’s an experience to help married couples gain helpful skills to better communicate, handle conflict and create expectations for the future of their marriage.

*Not their real names

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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