Jason (and the hidden cause of his porn addiction).
Jason, 26, is a Christian pastor and newly married man. He began his initial session looking like he had the wind knocked out of him. “I struggle with pornography,” he said, with his eyes looking downward. He paused for a moment, and in a tone of bitter frustration with himself, he declared, “My wife is so angry at me, but I can’t seem to stop messing up. I’m a disaster!”
Jason began to reveal his story. “I was exposed to pornography by a friend in elementary school, and at that very moment, it felt like my body was going to explode. I hadn’t felt anything like that before. It was shocking, confusing and I had this sense of euphoria all at the same time.” Several years later, Jason was again exposed to porn when he slept over at a friend’s house and noticed his friend’s father watching a sexually explicit movie. “I kept replaying that scene over and over in my mind.” As Jason spoke, his eyes looked excited, yet disgusted. “It was so confusing, but I had that good feeling again. The scene was with this beautiful woman suddenly dropping her bathrobe. It represented everything I wanted from a woman— full acceptance and vulnerability from her.”
Jason went on to discuss his marriage, describing everything but acceptance and vulnerability from his wife. “Scarlett’s angry at me. Disappointed in me. She treats me like I’m gross for months after she finds out I've relapsed and gone back to porn.” Jason seemed completely unaware that he was seeking out types of pornography that represented the very feelings he wasn’t experiencing in his marriage.
“In these scenes and fantasies I’m drawn to, it’s always women looking up to me. They see me as powerful, irresistible-- they absolutely have to have me. And when they look at me, they know I’m the man.”
With the help of his therapist, Jason began to see that his primary trigger to use porn is feeling the opposite of being “the man” it was feeling inadequate as a man. “When Scarlett yells at me for not doing something right, when I feel like I can’t make her happy, that’s when I suddenly have the urge to go back to porn. It’s uncontrollable.”
“In that moment, my values, my commitment, not just to my wife, but to myself, they all go out the window. I’m back at the computer, and I don’t care what the consequences are.”
By his 6th session at The Breakthrough Clinic, Jason reported absolutely no arousal in regard to hisoriginal sexually compulsive sexual fantasy. “It was dialed up to ’11’ when I first came in here. Now, it does nothing for me. I’m struggling to believe this is real— it seems like Voo Doo. Hey, I’m a pastor, I’m not supposed to be getting into Voo Doo!!” he laughed loudly.
Though the sexual fantasy lost it’s ability to overpower him, Jason retained his sexual desires toward his wife (something he and his therapist had no reason to change).
Jason reported several sessions later that he would only occasionally use porn. After some examination with his therapist, they discovered what was causing it. “My wife was totally controlling me one day, micromanaging everything I did. It was one of those things where nothing I could do was right. It’s not that I even wanted to use the porn, I just wanted to get back at her. So I went back to those websites as a way of expressing how mad I was at her.”
Jason’s therapeutic work was to be able able to express his anger toward his wife and tolerate her emotional response. His therapist encouraged him to tell his wife about his anger. “Tell her?? I’m afraid I could just lash out,” he said. “I feel like she would scold me! Arrgh, I hate that I act like a little boy around Scarlett, afraid of her getting mad at me… so instead, I hold it in. I go and work out at the gym.” Jason was now on a roll. “We haven’t had sex in a year and that makes me furious.”
Together with his therapist, Jason's next several sessions were designed to help him work through his anger, create a plan for how he could express it toward directly and constructively, and then tolerate whatever his wife’s emotional responses would be, particularly her disappointment and criticism.
Universally, men who compulsively use porn also have difficulty tolerating a woman’s anger and disapproval— and they seem completely unaware of the connection between these two things.
“I want to be able to say what I honestly think and feel with my wife, without crumbling under her disapproval. I hate walking on egg shells, trying to deal with her criticism and disappointment. The man I want to be is someone who’s assertive and real without going into feeling inadequate.”
It took work in therapy, but within two months, life began to change. Jason was able to lovingly tolerate his wife’s disapproval. And he was direct when he communicated with her, even about his anger. To his shock, she actually respected him more.
“I was too dependent on her, on making her happy. I let her opinion of me change my entire day, my entire sense of identity. I came to therapy thinking I had a problem with porn, but now I see this is my real conflict— to be the assertive man I want to be and tolerate whatever my wife’s reactions are without going into that feeling of inadequacy."
“I’m now more transparent with her than I’ve ever been, more masculine in how I relate to her, and less emotionally dependent on her to make her (and me) happy. I can honestly say we’re closer in our marriage than we’ve ever been— and my pornography use has been zero.”