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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Affairs, Pornography Addiction, Sexual and Internet Addiction Posts

The effects of affairs, pornography and sexual addiction on couples.

Here are some of the recent posts on the effects of affairs, pornography and sexual addiction on couples. Topics covered include making the decision to stay or go, how to repair the relationship and when and how professionals can help in mending relationships touched by these problems.

The internet is making it harder to define all the things that may be damaging relationships. Cybersex and virtual affairs are becoming destructive of relationships in the same way real life meeting-up affairs.

Despite the suffering, these problems cause most are not yet recognized as specific diagnosable illnesses. Most are very close to being a behavioral addiction but to date, only one behavioral addiction (gambling) is recognized as a specific mental illness.

Here are the posts so far – more to come

5 Misconceptions about the causes of affairs

Does an affair mean you should divorce?

Are internet affairs real affairs?

Internet affairs

Internet affairs? Internet addiction?

10 Rules for recovery after an affair

5 ways the Internet may destroy your relationship

Grieving bad relationships? Why men fear marriage counseling

Length of time together in failed relationships or marriages

Is he internet addicted 

(Some of these posts are scheduled to appear in the future so if the link does not work please check the list of recent posts or let me know and I will fix the links as the posts publish.)

Feel free to leave comments on these posts or send me a note via the “contact me” feature. I can’t do relationships counseling here via blog or the internet. That is not what this blog was designed for, but I will try to answer questions as I can and where possible tell you about other resources. If you know of resources out there that might be helpful then please let the rest of us know.

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.

5 Misconceptions about the causes of affairs.

By David Joel Miller.

The causes of many affairs are not what people think.

Often they are a lot simpler than you may expect. Here are some common misconceptions.

1. Affairs are all about the sex.

Love Triangle

Love Triangle
Photo courtesy of Flickr (slambo_42)

Some affairs do start that way, the one night stand or the hookup, but most include a much deeper feeling component. Wives are often surprised that the woman their man picked for an affair is not all that spectacular.

Far more affairs begin as over close friendships that develop given enough time together and the increasing sharing of feelings that develop into an intimate relationship. Many affairs start out with the sharing of things that the affair partner is not able or willing to share with their regular partner.

Affairs can begin as a result of people spending time together on the job or in an outside activity. They progress from spending lots of time together to sharing about the hobby or job and ultimately reach sharing about feelings and secrets.

When someone begins sharing inner secrets with someone other than their partner the risks of an affair increase. This is one reason therapist are warned to always be on the lookout for clients who are beginning to feel attracted to the therapist or vice versa.

2. Affairs are the result of a bad or unhappy marriage.

Many people, up to 37 % in one study, reported that they thought they were in a good relationship. They did not begin to think of their primary relationship as bad until after they were involved in an affair and then felt the need to choose between the relational partner and the affair partner.

3. People leave their wives and families for their lovers.

That does happen sometimes, but it is true less than 25% of the time. Most of these relationships that started out as affairs do not work out. Either the primary couple reconciles and works it out or the person who had the affair ends up alone for a period of time before getting into another long-term relationship.

4.  Affairs are planned ahead of time.

Most affairs are the result of opportunities and attitudes. Away from home travel, working or socializing with the opposite sex and being in a culture that accepts or condones sex outside marriage increases the risks.

If others around you are hooking up and fooling around it becomes more difficult to maintain boundaries.

5. An affair is a rational choice – there had to be a reason he picked her.

Often the affair is a purely accidental happening. When it comes to a romantic relationship humans are often drawn to someone very different from themselves. A new partner who is very different from the primary relationship partner has that extra allure of the unknown. They may also present the challenge of seeing if you could get that person to want you.

As people get older the affair may be a chance to answer that question “Do I still have what it takes.”

6. Affairs are secretive solitary happenings.

Sometimes affairs are conducted in secret but more often than not the affair couple develops a social circle of friends who support the affair couples relationship.

The social group of one or both of the participants in the affair frequently encourages the affair couple. Working in a place with lots of single people or a culture of hook-ups and away from home sex can encourage an affair. Some jobs have a culture of partying after work, complete with alcohol or drug use and hook up sex.

In a setting where others are fooling around it is easier to end up hooking up yourself. Having friends who will facilitate your adventures and cover for you increases the risks that you will engage in an affair.

Affairs happen, more often than not. They can cause a huge amount of suffering. Some people have one affair and they regret it. Others repeat the mistake. If this is the first time and the person who had the affair regrets it then there is hope. Marriage counseling can help. So can individual counseling for the two married people to help them see why it happened and how to create a safe relationship in the future.

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.

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.