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

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

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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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Should you be more trusting?

By David Joel Miller.

How do you decide who and when to trust?

Trust sign.

Trust.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

People often described themselves as having “trust issues.” The question they should be asking is, are they trusting too much or too little? Trusting is a complicated issue. How much you trust is affected by your personality and your past experiences. The level of trust you have will and should change with the circumstance.

Trust has been studied largely in 2 situations. Individuals are largely concerned about the trustworthiness of their partners in romantic relationships. Occasionally, this extends to their ability to trust friends or people with whom they conduct financial transactions.

Companies have studied trust in the workplace. It can take a long time to develop group cohesion and teamwork. People today move from job to job, work with consultants, and contractors, and may work in small, temporary work groups. Productivity increases when new workers develop trust in each other.

Here are some factors affecting trust you need to consider.

Trust is challenged when you meet new people.

Trust generally develops slowly over time. The longer you know someone, the more you know about them, the more you will feel inclined to trust them. Some people are extroverts, very outgoing and easily able to strike up a conversation with strangers. If you’re an introvert, you may find you are wary when meeting new people.

Trust in these situations should be limited. Those who learn to use small talk do better in these situations.

Trust varies with the role this person will have in your life.

You will have one type of trust when you meet a new employee at work. The company selected this person, and it’s reasonable to trust they can do the job they were hired for. You will have a different type of trust with the new doctor or mechanic. This trust is based on their education, license or certification, and the setting in which you meet them.

Your trust should be different in both kind and quantity on a first date. You probably should trust the cashier at the grocery store to ring up your purchases and give you the correct change. You wouldn’t trust that same person to spend the weekend unchaperoned, with your spouse.

You should have levels of trust.

Trust is not an all or nothing characteristic. You’ll have people you trust at school or work, but you should not trust them with the keys to your house or your bank card and pin number. People who said they have “trust issues” often over-trust when they first meet a new person. Because of this excess trust, they are more likely to be hurt when that person fails to live up to their expectations.

Are you more trusting of strangers?

The longer you know someone, the more you learn about their faults. Far too many people jump into a romantic, sexual relationship, on a first or second date. They are trusting this other person because they want them to meet their needs. What they haven’t done is spend the time to get to know them and find out how trustworthy they are.

Your general level of trust is a part of your personality.

The characteristics we call personality are a mixture of your genetic material and your life experiences. How much you trust generally can also be affected by the way you think and the choices you make. Most people have some general underlying beliefs about who to trust, how much to trust, and when they should be trusting.

When many people first meet a new person they use their default level of trust. They are either high in trust or high in distrusting. The longer you know someone, the more information you have about that person, the more likely you are relying on information rather than a general level of trust.

Trust is influenced by the experiences you had before you met them.

Your early life experiences set your baseline level of trust. In mental health, we look at ways young children relate to others based on their experiences with their primary caregiver. Problems in these relationships are diagnosed as attachment disorders, which can be either reactive or disinhibited. Attachment disorders used to only be diagnosed in children, but recently was moved to the group of diagnoses referred to as “trauma- and stressor-related disorders.” With time, treatment, or both, many people alter these patterns of relationship. For some people, however, their adult “trust issues” can be traced back to having caregivers in early life who were untrustworthy.

Life experiences, having been involved in relationships with others who violated your trust, can make it more difficult to trust in the future. If your partner had an affair, it could be hard to trust them again. If you separate from them and begin a new relationship, you’re likely to find you will have difficulties trusting that new partner.

Trust involves things you can’t check on.

Trust is what they will do when you are not watching. If you are standing there watching what they are doing, there’s very little trust involved. One of the best ways to increase your level of trust is to observe what people are doing. Unfortunately, there are too many things in life for you to check up on all of them. That’s where you need to use your trust skills.

Relationships that involve a lack of trust can become very dysfunctional. If you find the need to follow your partner around, check their cell phone, and read their email, this lack of trust can destroy your relationship. Healthy couples can talk about their concerns.

Constant checking your partner can be a sign of excessive or even pathological jealousy. Some people develop delusional jealousy believing their partner is cheating on them even when there’s no evidence. If you have trust issues, you need to ask yourself if this is about them or is it about your fears and insecurities?

No amount of monitoring can prevent someone from violating your trust. You either must trust people or end the relationship. If a lack of trust and jealousy characterizes all your relationships, consider getting some professional help.

What are the risks of trusting this person in this situation?

It’s easy to trust when the risks are low. When you are faced with “trust issues” consider what are the risks? Some situations are relatively low risk. You go to make a purchase and hand them some money. You are trusting that they will give you your merchandise and your change. Giving them 20 dollars at the grocery store is low risk. Paying cash to someone you just met in an alley for something valuable is a high-risk situation.

What has been your experience with trust? Have you been too trusting? Or does your excessive lack of trust damage your relationships?

Look here more on the topic of trust.

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

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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.

Therapists have therapists – Who do pastors and priests see?

By David Joel Miller.

Who is helping the helpers?

Religious Place

Religious Place.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Therapists are encouraged to go for their own therapy. Rather than being a sign that there is something wrong with this professional, having someone you can talk to about your problems is recommended practice, and for good reason.

This got me thinking, wondering, which professionals who help others are encouraged to get help for themselves and which are too embarrassed, ashamed or arrogant to get help for themselves.

Counselors need to have counselors. 

First, let’s talk about the counselor or therapist who goes for therapy and then we will inquire about other professions.

Beginning counselors are encouraged to see another professional both as a part of the training process and ongoing after they are licensed. Being a helper is a stressful job and you would have to be pretty arrogant to think that once you become a professional you will not need to see someone for your own stuff.

Clients sometimes ask about this. I see it in the search terms from time to time. There is no reason to avoid a therapist who is going for personal counseling and in fact, we think this is a good thing. Many licensing boards feel it is so important that the counselor work on their own stuff that they allow us to count a certain number of hours of personal counseling towards licensure. This process is so important there is even a bonus of extra credit for some hours of personal therapy.

Many schools require counselors in training to go for their own counseling. Doctors see other doctors. Teachers take classes from other professionals and it just makes sense to take good care of yourself.

Drug counselors need help staying sober.

Substance Abuse Counselors have recognized this for a long time. They are at high risk of relapse by virtue of spending all day talking about drugs with their clients. Sponsors should have sponsors and therapists need to see another mental health professional.

In substance abuse counseling it is common, almost universal for the counselor to be in recovery and often they are still attending meetings.

Mental health staff needs self-care also.

What we do not hear nearly enough about is the number of mental health professionals who are in some form of mental health recovery. Our professional schools are still too under the influence of those Freudian’s who never self-disclose anything to anyone. But a whole bunch of mental health professionals have told me privately that they have struggled with or are in recovery from some mental illness or other. If not them then they have a relative or friend who has that issue.

Why else would you want to work in this field if you or someone you knew had not had to overcome an issue?

Incredibly that mental health professional who entered the field because someone helped them create a happy life, once they are in the field, becomes too embarrassed to talk about their own issues. Some have even been threatened with loss of job or friends if they self-disclose this item. Peer counselors and members of self-help groups are at special risk to think that having “fixed” themselves they can now stop working on themselves and just help others. This is a relapse waiting to happen.

If you work in this field, as a professional, a peer or even a volunteer, you need to stay connected to a support system that can help your recovery and that may mean you need to continue to go to meetings or see a professional.

So what about other professions self-care?

It is Sunday, I wrote this on another day and scheduled it to appear later, but it is being posted on a Sunday. Which brings up the question – who – mostly works on Sundays?

The first thing that comes to mind is what about religious leaders?

One way of understanding churches and similar institutions is that they are hospitals for the spiritually sick. Many recovery programs include spirituality or religion as parts of the life that need to be included in your recovery plan.

So do religious leaders, pastors, priests, rabbis, Imam and so forth ever need spiritual guidance or are those guys and gals that close to spiritual perfection? Far as I know there are relatively few perfect people on earth and the ones who think they are there, that they have arrived at perfection, they are at the highest risk of taking a wrong turn into thinking that they need to take over and do the job of being God.

Does anyone out there know – do pastors see other pastors? They can’t very well go to church can they, what with having to work every single Sunday.

I know that some denominations have a hierarchy and that the local pastor or priest has to report to a superior. Mostly that looks like running a business. How many viewers did your sermon get and how much was in the collection? What about real spiritual guidance?

Given the number of cases of child sexual abuse and the affairs of the clergy, one has to wonder. Pastors and Priests do, for the record, end up in rehab. We can’t tell you which ones. That is about confidentiality. It would appear that religious leaders have the same prohibition on self-disclosure therapists are encouraged to observe. They just seem able to hide it better than depressed psychotherapists.

What is up with us not wanting to admit that the caregiver sometimes needs help and that needing help sometimes does not disqualify you from being of service to others?

Related articles

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.

Why Sunday scares me, believing nothing does not increase tolerance

By David Joel Miller.

Sunday is becoming more confusing than ever.

List of Religions

List of Religions

I am feeling a little scared each and every Sunday largely because of the way my neighborhood chooses to celebrate this day.

Actually, to be truthful, the whole weekend thing is scaring me. Weekends used to make sense but not anymore.

This uneasiness is not solely because of the number of religious observances that occur over most weekends but also because I see a shift in the dominant religion and I am not sure I can fully embrace this new faith.

Most of my neighbors have abandoned the small local church, synagogue or other religious establishments in favor of monstrous temples dedicated to crass commercial consumption. The place of worship that seated one or two hundred has been replaced by the hundred thousand square foot place dedicated to the worship of a god known only by the name “More.”

All my neighbors seem to need to make weekly or more frequent pilgrimages to these palaces and they return with their vehicles laden with sacred venerable articles of the new faith in mass consumption. Buy more and the country and you will prosper.

The custom used to be to make donations to the work of the Lord, whatever particular lord or lady you chose to venerate, and then expect some form of blessing in the future.

Not anymore.

Now you load up your car with big screens, fashionable semi-clothing, and other shiny trinkets and then having received your blessings in advance you make a legally binding promise to continue to pay your alms on the monthly installment plan.

The banks and credit card companies are only too willing to do the work of the Great God of Manufacturing.

I try to be understanding of this new faith. I am accustomed to the concept that the entire weekend may include religious ceremonies on Friday evening Saturday or Sunday. Some faiths have worshiped by day and some by night. Some even worship outside. Some get dressed up and some were nothing or next to nothing. A smaller few even pray.

But this newfangled faith in the God of Things has taken to conducting their sacraments, called doing business, at all hours of the day and night. Some temples to consumerism are now open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Can any heavenly God without a distribution warehouse match those hours?

I had fully expected that the rapidly expanding multiculturalism of this world would lead to more tolerance (religious not chemical tolerance.) It has not.

My neighbors who consider shopping a religious duty are beginning to look askance at my reluctant consumerism.

I have the anti-religious approach of driving my car until the parts can no longer be found for her in the wrecking yard. In deference to Mother Earth and my local political guru, I do get her smog checked on a regular basis.

My neighbors are beginning to indicate that my older car is both a detriment to the neighborhood and some form of religious sacrilege.

There are in fact an entire constellation of religious artifacts that are beyond my comprehension. I cannot invoke any I-prayers on my I-tablet nor am I familiar with blue rays or any other colored rays for that matter.

I would like to find the freedom to practice my own religion in my own way but the nightly broadcast media tells me that I am not doing either my religious or civic duty because I have not made any major purchases this month.

I am willing to greet the usual assortment of religious proselytizers that occasionally reach my doorstep. Recently, however, there has been a radical influx of missionaries devoted to more opulent consumption who tell me I am shirking my duty by not buying a host of products from vacuum cleaners for the hardwood floor to weekly specials on USDA rejected beef.

I had expected more religious tolerance, but somehow my efforts at frugality are seen as undermining the common morals.

Clearly with church attendance continuing to decline and a host of new religions vying for our membership there is less, not more, tolerance on matters of personal belief and practice.

For those of you have not yet done so – go buy something before Sunday is over. I am occupied for the moment watching a little bird outside my window as he scratches through the lawn looking for free seeds and bugs. He has not yet gotten the message that the duty to spend is awaiting.

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.