Last time I talked about Sex and Intimacy, I was only able to really begin to broach the subject. There are so many things that come into play and each part plays an equal role in the big picture. We can’t have healthy sex if we aren’t having healthy communication, we can’t have healthy communication if we are hiding secrets or shame.
So this week I am going to share the biggest killer of intimacy that I have found, pornography. This is something that I struggled with from a young age. I will share my experience, and then how that compares to those men who I have partnered with to overcome this same struggle. When we are looking for intimacy in sex we are killing it with porn. We aren’t looking at sex in a healthy way because of pornography, it really is interconnected.
It started for me around 1993, like many other kids I was first exposed to it by my older brother’s friend. I thought the pictures were cool but I was still too young to really understand the implications of what I was looking at. There were a few infrequent exposures with magazines and a grainy old VHS tape, then came along 1996 and we got our first home computer with Windows 95 and a 26k modem. Welcome to the fast lane. I had anything I wanted to see right at my fingertips. I didn’t have to worry about having a magazine in my room that my parents would find. It was so easy to find I once accidentally found a website when doing a research paper for class when I typed in the government web page as .com instead of .gov!
As the internet age-progressed, we got faster and faster internet and now I could browse as fast as I wanted and didn’t have to wait on pictures to load, then came along video. With the advent of internet fast enough to load streaming sites and download videos from peer-to-peer information services the pornography use spiraled out of control. At its peak, I was using pornography when I would wake up, on my lunch break, and in the evenings. At this point, it was having a horrible effect on my marriage. There was very infrequent sex and the sex that was there was not intimate at all, it was pretty dead.
My wife knew I was looking at pornography but did not realize the extent that it held me captivated by its lustful grasp. She didn’t know the depravity, the frequency, or that I was talking to other people in chat groups. It was a deeply rooted issue that I had no intention of changing, or even realizing it was something that I needed to change. I knew that my behavior was not normal but I didn’t realize how abnormal it was, or the destruction that would follow in its path.
The point that I realized I needed to change was when I recognized how it warped my view of women. It changed my everyday look at women in public. The lust that I had nurtured and fed for those years was evident in my trips to the gas station or grocery store. I wasn’t acting out or being inappropriate to those women that I came across but I sure had the thoughts in my head. As I was busy looking at women like a wolf on the prowl I was ignoring the one woman who wanted nothing more than my focus to be on her.
I started out like most guys, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I was going to fight this one on my own, and I thought I would win alone. I didn’t bring my wife in on what I was going through, she was the last person I wanted to tell. I thought if I told her the extent of what I was going through she would leave me. So I fought the fight alone, and I lost miserably. I would do ok for a few days Then my advances would get turned down by my emotionally injured and shut down wife, then that would be my excuse to turn back to pornography. Pornography wouldn’t turn me down, hell it even told me that there were horny women there for me to use for my entertainment. This cycle continued for a while and l was gaining ground but I was still stuck in the repetitive loop. I was just trying to fight my way through it. Have you ever tried to untie a knot by pulling on it? That is what I was doing and the whole time the knot just got tighter and harder to move.
Losing the fight even led to me having an emotional affair with a woman that went on for months. She told me all the things I wanted to hear and gave me the illusion of emotional fulfillment that I was actually craving from my wife. I still remember the day it all came unraveled. My wife had found the series of emails that contained conversations and pictures that the other woman and I had been sending back and forth, I did nothing to try and cover my tracks. As terrible as that was it was the catalyst that would start to bring sexual healing to not only myself but also to my marriage.
It took years before I actually started using tools available to me that I finally started gaining ground in the battle for my mental and sexual health. It took therapy, accountability, putting up fences, and open honesty with my wife. There is a myriad of tools available to us but we have to know about them and then we have to use them consistently. There were gains made and ground lost as I fought through this war inside my head.
I found an accountability group, I was going to church meetings where we had open conversations and shared tools, and I was telling my wife about my failures. It was not easy to tell a room full of men the things that I had done. It wasn’t easy to tell my wife about my pornography use and when I would slide back. I would love to tell everyone that this is not an issue for me anymore. It is something that I still struggle with at times, and there are times that I do look at pornography. I am proud to say that those times are few and far between, but they are still there.
The strongest tool I use is the group of men that I am accountable to. We check in daily with one another and share our successes and our failures. Knowing that if I do slip there is a group of men that I have to tell about it. Having those men in the trenches of the battle with me gives me strength and courage to say no. As a part of being in a good accountability group we talk about triggers, we talk about tactics to overcome the temptation, and we talk about what we see in our successes. Knowing what we are fighting for gives us a clear picture of where we are going and why we want to be there.
A revelation for me came when I realized that the majority of women were not doing pornography because that is what they want to be doing. A lot of the women who are in porn are coerced or outright forced to participate. That is something that I could not reconcile with the thought these women were making porn because they chose to. Writing it out now I realize how ridiculous it was to ever have that thought process but from a young age, that is what I believed. That thinking is what allowed me to justify my objectification of women.
Reducing access to the source is a big key to avoiding temptation. There are programs that can be installed on phones, computers, and internet routers. I have had friends who went from smartphones to old school text and talk phones. Having software installed on all devices puts up fences that make going to pornography an intentional act. Any time we look at pornography it is an intentional act but until we rewire our brain and short circuit that temptation it is a habit that happens far too easily. Covenant Eyes is the program that we used and it is effective, can be customized to fit a particular person’s needs, and is a great tool to keep our kids from accidentally accessing something they shouldn’t be looking at.
Being honest with my wife was one of the hardest tools to put into place and is still hard to be accountable to. I find that when I am consistent in telling her about my indiscretions it helps me to maintain my integrity and to stay away from it. Each wife is different and in most cases having your wife for an accountability partner isn’t recommended by most experts. It was disastrous for one man I was in an accountability group with. He thought he was holding a higher standard by letting her know, to her it was a huge infidelity every time that led to big fights and almost cost them their marriage.
The biggest motivator for me has been getting clean. Not giving in to that temptation. Knowing the freedom that abstaining from pornography brings. I look at my wife differently. I am more intimate with her, in the bedroom and out. I look at women differently. I look at the world differently. It isn’t just me that feels this way when I am making healthy choices with what I look at, almost universally the men that I have walked with through this feel the same way.
This isn’t a fight you can just fight hard enough against and win. The harder you fight against the noose of pornography the tighter it gets, and it will kill you eventually. If you are struggling with pornography use please reach out, reach out to me, a trusted friend that has walked this road, a therapist, a pastor, anyone that will walk with you. Get in the trenches in men and win this war, it can be won.
Stay in the fight men. Stay in the fight for your wife, your children, your sovereignty. Standing Shoulder to Shoulder through the trials and triumphs of life. See you next time men.