Is watching porn causing your relationship problems?

By David Joel Miller.

What would your therapist say about watching pornography?

sex-on-a-cork-board

sex-on-a-cork-board.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this Internet age, pornography is much more available and widely viewed. Occasionally a client tells their counselor they think they have problems with viewing pornography. Much more often this issue comes up in couple’s sessions when one partner, commonly the woman, is angry, or hurt, or feeling insecure, as a direct result of her partner’s watching of pornography.

Some counselors and therapists received a little bit of information on the problems connected to pornography during their training. Most did not. Those counselors who work with couples are likely to hear about the conflicts couples are having regarding pornography use. What they say to their client’s is probably largely based on their own beliefs, what other clients have told them or their personal “field research.” So just how big a problem is pornography causing in relationships?

The two questions above are, of course, two very different questions. Recently I came across a professional journal article which looked at the training, attitudes, and competencies counselors have when it comes to helping couples work through the issues involving pornography.

Pornography is hard to define.

Even the courts have found it difficult to define pornography. Contemporary standards have changed. You will see things on prime-time television now which once would’ve been considered inappropriate and pornographic. Technically the term pornography is customarily used to refer to explicit sexual material that crosses some line or boundary and therefore becomes illegal.

When clients talk about pornography what they usually mean is “adult entertainment” consisting of pictures of naked people or suggestive poses. Often it includes depictions of people engaging in a variety of sexual behaviors. The intended purpose of this material is to cause arousal in the viewer.

In the year 2000, sexual material was the number 1 item viewed on the Internet and accounted for more than half of the money spent on the Internet. It’s possible that Internet shopping, social media, and the increased popularity of videos has altered those numbers, the way doubt it’s changed that much. It’s quite possible that people viewing pornography were early adopters of the Internet. Whatever the statistics say today, it’s common for individuals and couples in counseling to report using the Internet for a variety of sexual activities (Ayres & Haddock, 2009.)

Pornography is the primary relationship problem for some couples.

Researchers have identified 5 ways internet usage may be harming a couple’s relationships

The largest consumers of pornography are reported to be married heterosexual males. There use of porn significantly impacts their partner, resulting in reduced self-esteem, loss of respect and trust, and impairment of the connection between the partners (Bergner & Bridges, 2002; Schneider, 2000.)

While some couples are reported to view porn together, this rarely brings them to counseling. The type of viewing which causes the largest problems is when one person, usually the male, views it privately and in secret. The keeping of secrets part significantly damages the trust in the relationship.

Time spent in this secret activity is time away from the partner and family. Discovery of this secret leads to marital discord and frequently separation and divorce.

Online sexual activity can lead to affairs.

Two types of affairs can be facilitated because of online sexual activity.

Cyber affairs and cybersex results in the parties meeting their needs online and having less sex with their regular partner. Online sexual activity can cause the same damage to relationships as real-world affairs.

Sexual activity online can also be a way to facilitate real-world hookups resulting in either a string of casual sexual relationships or a longer lasting affair. One of the ways these hookups, which are being facilitated online, comes to the attention of the relationship partner is the contraction of a sexually transmitted disease.

Pornography can create individual problems also.

About 10 percent of pornography viewers spend 90 minutes a day or more searching for and viewing sexually explicit materials. Individual issues may include an increase in erectile dysfunction at a young age. Internet viewing porn has been described as “the great porn experiment.” 

In addition to altering patterns of arousal, heavy use of cybersex and pornography has been reported to lead to sexual addictions. The diagnosing of sexual addictions remains controversial. But the pattern of behavior closely matches the pattern of drug addiction. The person addicted to sex spends more time seeking it, engaging in it, and more effort trying to hide what they are doing.

As a sexual addiction develops, the addict shows tolerance, needs more and more sexual encounters and seeks activities that will increase the arousal. The addict lowers their standards and will engage in sex with people they would not have found attractive in the past.

The typical content of adult entertainment is likely to create unrealistic expectations for partners and distorted beliefs about the roles of women. The plots are often bizarre, fantastic, and feature atypical behavior rather than the way in which most couples typically express their sexuality.

Can pornography and cybersex addiction be treated?

Individuals with the pornography problem or sexual addiction can be treated, often with good results. Where these activities have damaged the couple’s relationship, couples counseling can help. Just like in-person sexual affairs, couples can recover from these experiences.

Treatment for sexual issues is very specialized, and you should seek someone experienced in working in these areas. In addition to the couple’s issues, each of the parties probably needs to see a counselor for individual therapy.

If your partner has a problem with pornography or cybersex, it is important not to blame yourself. It’s common for women to believe there is something wrong with them and ask what it is that the other woman had that made them more attractive. The truth is it’s rarely the woman’s fault. What was attractive, whether it was online pornography, cybersex or an in-person affair, was largely the result of one person’s individual problems, their need to constantly seek something different. Individual counseling for the partners of sexual addicts is extremely important.

Pornography and sexual addictions are only one way in which trust can be damaged.

Look here for more on the topic of trust.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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10 Rules for recovery after an affair.

By David Joel Miller.

Recovery after an affair.

The common perception is that once the affair is discovered the couple is headed for divorce. The truth is that up to 70% of married couples stay together, for a variety of reasons, after they discover that partner was having an affair.

Among those who do divorce, many will later regret making that first impulsive decision.

Your family and friends may be telling you to kick him, or increasingly her, to the curb. But should you call it quits? What does it take to recover from an affair? How can marriage counseling play a role in mending the pain?

1. Don’t make sudden decisions when you discover an affair.

Give both of you time to think it through. You have a lot of time and emotions invested in this relationship. You owe it to yourself to see if it can be repaired before you junk it.

2.Both of you need to process how the affair affected you.

Both partners in the relationship may need therapy to work through their feelings about the affair, their relationship and how it reached this point.

Therapists recommend that the non-affair partner write a letter to the affair partner telling them how they feel and how this has affected them. This is the kind of letter you need to write but do not need to send. Process these feelings first in your own therapy. Eventually, you may be able to read this to your relationship partner and help them to understand how this has affected you.

3. You need to create empathy for the non-affair partner.

Many people who have had affairs have very little understanding of how this has affected their partner. They will say in counseling that they have ended the relationship and that should solve the problems. Having them listen to the non-affair partner talk about how they were hurt by the affair and what feelings this created in that person can increase empathy and understanding.

4. Avoid staying together after the affair and ending up living two separate lives.

Some couples arrive at this point as a result of unspoken feelings. They will stay together for the children, for the economic needs or because of the problems of splitting assets. What they don’t plan on is having an emotionally close relationship ever again. Most of these efforts fail as the two people involve find that they are living a life devoid of love and affection.

Even if the couple plans to try to make this relationship work, avoiding having those tough talks about their plans goals and future may result in a relationship that feels like to unrelated people living in the same house.

5. Rebuilding trust after an affair is a long hard process.

The most devastating part of finding out your partner had an affair is the feeling of betrayal of your trust. It takes a long time and lots of effort to rebuild that trust. You need to let each other into both your lives and make sure neither is hiding anything. Do not tell your partner you are going to get gas for the car and then turn up several hours later with leftover takeout food. If you plan on several stops tell your partner if plans change, call them and let them know or stick to the plan and make a second trip some other time.

6. Do not use counseling or therapy as a way to get even with your partner.

Trying to use marriage counseling as a way to get even with the affair partner makes things worse. No amount of beating them up will erase what happened and it will result in fresh wounds that may never heal.

7. Give the non-affair partner all the information they need but no more.

Many partners want to know every detail, what did you two do in and out of bed. It is important to stop keeping secrets but beware of giving more details that requested. Non-affair partners can suffer from symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After hearing about sexual activity between the partner and the affair partner the non-affair partner can experience intrusive thoughts. They may imagine graphic images of their partner engaged in sexual activity with another person.

8. Make post affair counseling a repair effort.

Give the partner that had the affair a chance to show their intentions. Do they do small things to make it right but quickly slip back into old behaviors? Let them know that you hope for and expect the best but they will need to prove their desire to change and make it right by making visible changes in their behavior.

9. Get extra honest with each other to rebuild trust.

Affairs are about the fights you never had. If there are problems in the relationship talk them through. Work on expressing your feelings, being careful to ask to have your needs met rather than run your partner down. “I feel disrespect when you do not help clean up after dinner.” Not “You are such a pig!” You never clean up after yourself!”

One key characteristic of affairs is the need to keep secrets. The non-affair partner sometimes feels then may have contributed to the affair by not asking what the other person was doing and feeling. Some people who have had affairs tell me that they felt they had a sort of permission to have the affair a “don’t ask don’t tell” code.

Couples may need to have a lot of those talks about sex and relationships they did not have before they entered this relationship. Women frequently have a different definition of an affair than a man will. She thinks that flirting and emotional closeness with another woman is cheating. He may think that anything short of intercourse is OK. That attitude and some alcohol have led to a lot of one night stands.

10. Avoid problematic use of drugs and alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions. People with an untreated substance use disorder are at increased risk to engage in affair behavior. Drinking and using places encourage sexual activity. People who abuse alcohol and drugs may accept those kinds of behavior as a part of the “Partying” lifestyle.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Does an affair mean you should divorce?

By David Joel Miller.

7 things you need to know if you stay together after an affair.

Divorce after an Affair

Divorce After an Affair?
Divorce Cake
Photo courtesy of Flickr (DrJohnBullas)

One partner has had an affair, should you divorce? Should you stay and try to work it out?

Here are some of the things that you need to think about, talk about and work through in counseling before you decide whether to stay together or separate.

1. Do you and your partner share any common values, goals, and interests?

What do you have in common other than having been sexual partners?

Having common values and goals for your life is a great predictor of long-term compatibility. In the first intoxicating insanity of love, we often do not ask questions about the values that underlie our potential partner’s desires and dreams.

No matter how hard you try to support your partner’s dreams and goals if you have different values the results are uncertain.

Any couple should expect to have tough times. Affairs are one of the toughest. So are deaths in the family, particularly the death of a child. Addictions are another severe crisis.

When a couple is thinking about the decision to stay together or part ways, now is the time to have those discussions about your values. That discussion can bring you closer together or help you make the decision that this relationship is not salvageable.

2. How will you feel about yourself if you stay?

What does it mean to you if you go?

The first few weeks after the discovery of an affair you may be asking yourself all sorts of questions about you. How did you make this mistake, is it your fault that the partner cheated.

This is a time to get in touch with yourself. Some people can never forgive or forget. This is an especially difficult problem for those who have been the victim of abuse or neglect in the past. If you already had “trust issues” this crisis may be beyond your ability to accept.

Think this through carefully. If you can feel good about yourself for the decision to stay, then give this a chance. If you feel you can never forgive yourself for letting them get away with this then your own mental health may demand that you leave.

3. How will you feel about being alone?

Are you likely to get into another relationship to fill that void? If you do start a new relationship they will have a sexual and relational past.

Being alone can be a scary situation. If you are fearful about that think carefully about your ability to stay single for any length of time after you end up separating.

Each partner you pick will come with a past. People fresh out of a relationship, those who are afraid to be alone, are at extra risk to start a relationship with a person who has their own set of problems and their own emotional baggage.

If you have a lot of time invested in a relationship, be careful that you do not leave one partner because they had an affair only to enter a new relationship with someone who is single because of their affair.

There are reasons why people are single. Think about what attracted you to this certain partner. Will those same things be attractive in a new partner? What are the chances that you will pick a new partner that may cheat or have an undesirable sexual past?

4. Did you contribute to this in any way?

Will you change or will you pick a new partner and go through this again next time? If you had a role in these problems, say you did not have those discussions about problems with your partner before they started the affair you will probably contribute to the same sort of problems with the next partner.

It takes two healthy people to have a healthy relationship. If you are healthy and both you and your partner are willing to work on mending this breach, you have a good chance of ending up with a great relationship. If only you will stay and do the work.

5. Is he or she reliable in other ways or is this part of their pattern of being unreliable.

If this is the only significant problem in your relationship then it may well be mendable. If this partner has a history of not coming through when you need them, they are not likely to change just because you know about the affair.

6. Besides being lovers, were you two really life partners.

If you have things in common, you like the same things, have the same hobbies and want the same things out of life, consider staying together and mending the problems in the partnership.

If the only thing you had in common was the sexual part or if the emotional closeness you had is gone and neither of you is willing to do the work to get it back, then the chances are good that you will never be life partners.

Two people living separate lives under the same roof is not much to settle for.

7 What other serious problems does your partner have?

If your partner has other serious problems, addiction, alcoholism or gambling, an affair could be the smallest part of the problems you will have to face. Criminal lifestyles can sweep you up. So can most any other addiction.

All of these are things to consider before making your decision to stay or go. It can help to talk this through with a Marriage Counselor or trusted advisor.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Are internet affairs real affairs?

Are internet affairs real affairs?

Today’s post over at counselorfresno.com (my website for counseling clients) talks about the phenomenon of internet affairs, how they may be damaging real relationships and suggests reasons to seek counseling if you have experienced this problem.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Internet affairs? Internet addiction?

By David Joel Miller

Internet affairs? Internet addiction?

The internet is affecting a lot of real-life relationships. Today’s post over at our sister blog counselorfresno.com tells the story of three ways your internet usage may doom your other relationships.

This post is part of a series of posts written for clients of my Counseling and Therapy practice here in Fresno California But I thought it was worth sharing with the rest of you.