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

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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Trust.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Trust sign.

Trust.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Trust

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”

― William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

“It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.”

― Confucius

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Trust

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

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.

List of Feelings Posts

By David Joel Miller

Here are some of the past posts on feelings and emotions.

Some of you have told me that it is hard to find past posts on a particular feeling. Here is a list of some of them as I find more I will add them. If you notice a post on a particular feeling, mine or another blogger’s, which has been helpful please leave a comment.

Anger – Why Controlling Anger does not work

Anxiety – Fear, anxiety or phobia?

Nervous constitution or Anxiety disorder?

              – How to turn anxiety into paranoia

Communication –

Contentment – How far is it to Contentment?

Empathy –  Emotional Chameleon or naturally empathetic?

Fear – Fear, anxiety or phobia?

Guilt – Guilt and Shame

Happiness – Pretending to be happy?

Happy Enough to make your bed? 

Hope – Hope is contagious

Listening – Learning to hear – Do you need to relearn?

Love – Model for unconditional love – your pet

Nervousness – Nervous constitution or Anxiety disorder?

Pain – When Mindfulness makes you feel worse – about pain

Paranoia – How to turn anxiety into paranoia

Perfectionism – Perfectionism – good thing or bad thing

Shame – Guilt and Shame

Trust – What will the therapist tell me about trust? Trust issues

Worry – Why worry may not be a bad thing

How many feelings do you feel? The feelings problem  

That seems to be most of the feelings posts – for now. But we will need to talk more about these and other feelings again in the future.

Hope you are all making progress on your recovery from whatever you see as your challenge and are moving forward on your journey to a happy life.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Mindfulness on a full brain

By David Joel Miller.

What is all this mindfulness stuff?

And how can I possibly include that in with my cognitive behavior therapy?

Problem-solving in mental health as in life has always been pretty straightforward for me. If we are applying the wrong formula to a problem then we keep getting the wrong answer. Once we learn an improved formula all we need to do is turn the crank and out comes an answer.  Get a head change, a new way of seeing things and the problem changes from unsolvable to a manageable size. So we work on core schemas, automatic thoughts, irrational or dysfunctional beliefs. And we work on acceptance – radical acceptance. So the whole mindfulness thing troubled me—until-

There have been a lot of articles recently on mindfulness. Now I feel that this has its uses. Religious and spiritual practices have their place. And I am as much in favor of candles and herbal scents as the next person. All this has its time and place. And we know that if the client believes in something it will probably help. But do mindfulness techniques have a place in modern scientific, best practices, forms of treatment. Then I read some things that made me think.

Siegal has written and talked about mindfulness and recently I happened to read some things he had written on the subject. They made sense to me from a logical rational perspective.  Let me try to explain this as I get it and hope not to do too much violence to the science.

Scientists have discovered mirror neurons in the brain. Now if all they did was see someone else doing something and result in us knowing how to do the same thing that would be the end of it, one more way to learn stuff.  But these mirror neurons detect patterns that allow us to infer why someone is doing what they are doing. Learning these patterns makes our world a more secure and predictable place. This has a lot to do with understanding attachment theory.

If when we reach for more food at the table we get slapped – we learn to not reach but ask which may be a valuable learning experience for a young unsocialized child. But if the response varies depending on the amount of alcohol mom has consumed, what we may learn is the pattern that the world is a scary and inconsistent place. The pattern of asking may be adaptive and is quickly forgotten if we encounter a situation where it is not expected. The pattern of seeing the world as a frightening place is likely to last a lifetime.

So the mirror neurons help to explain how we learn basic core ways of relating to the world.

But there is more.

Mindfulness teaches the practice of paying attention to how we feel inside. As we come to recognize how we are feeling it becomes easier to recognize feelings in others. This is sometimes called the “expert” effect. If you are an expert on antiques you will spot them and probably will notice the cheap reproductions also. If you are not an antique expert you will see things you like or don’t like but lots of stuff will go unnoticed in the piles of other stuff. Same thing with feelings and empathy.

Seeing people express love will teach you the pattern of love.  But if the people you live with don’t show love or show it inconsistently then you may be unable to recognize the pattern and to replicate it. This does not mean that people whose early caregiver did not love them as much as they wanted will be unable to love. What it does mean is that it may be harder to recognize and express love in later life.

Lots of people in recovery, from drugs, alcohol, mental illness or dysfunctional caregivers report they have difficulty with trust issues. Most came from situations where it was not safe to trust on a regular basis so they never learned the pattern.  Some recovering people have spent so much time being deceitful to cover up and continue their addiction they no longer recognize the truth when they hear it. Their mirror circuits have not had trust images to reflect back and incorporate into their catalog of patterns.

So how will mindfulness techniques help someone who has trust issues, attachment problems or dysfunctional behaviors? How might these approaches help counselors in helping clients?

By becoming aware of our inner feelings and thoughts we can begin to dispute dysfunctional beliefs. We can learn new more functional patterns of meaning in life. We can recognize our feelings of anger, mistrust, and fear and test these feelings to see if they have a basis in reality. And we can learn from recognizing our own feelings to have empathy for others.

Counselors can especially benefit from mindfulness techniques by becoming better able to present an empathetic other who can participate in a corrective emotional experience with the client.

More to come as I research for that book I am writing on resilience.

Wishing you all the mindfulness you care to have. Hope to hear from some of you.

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.