This week’s “Dear Whys Guy” blog features a heartbreaking scenario where the husband would prefer to watch pornography on his phone than have a real sexual encounter with his wife of 22 years. How does a romance go from head over heels in love to utter indifference?
Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson, the authors of “Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow”, have written an outstanding article in Psychology Today on the debilitating effect of frequent pornography viewing on men. They observed that “recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain’s normal response to pleasure. Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation desensitize the user’s response to a neurochemical called dopamine.”
Ultimately, continued use of pornography by a man leads to a decreased response to dopamine. This results in declining natural desire and in a cyclical effect, increased need for even more visual stimulation. This insatiable hunger for pornography will increase as the reward for watching it decreases. This is the inevitable downside of addiction.
In addition to this physiological deadening, University of North Carolina Professor Joshua Knobe and his colleagues showed that porn use also changed the way men view women. Professor Knobe described this effect male porn use had on the way men perceived women as “animalification-treating a woman as though she lacks the capacity for complex thinking and reasoning, but at the same time, treating her as though she was even more capable of having strong feelings and emotional responses.”
There is little that the wife of the pornography addict can do to interest her husband. He has used artificial means to go beyond the outer limit of human beings. He is not feeling the ordinary joy he used to experience and he doesn’t even look at her the same way. The husband must hit bottom, break the cycle of addiction and allow his natural limited desire and perception of the opposite sex to return before they can together return to a healthy fulfilling sexual relationship as husband and wife.
The wife can use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate the whole marriage from the ground up once the man seeks help. Many men are not finding acceptance in their conventional monogamous relationships. These men are unconnected to their unsuspecting spouse and children and seek a temporary high, connection and escape from reality in pornography, lap dances in Gentlemen’s Clubs, prostitutes or serial adultery.
How did these once ardent paramours end up having to tip toe in at 2AM, shed their clothes into the washer, shower off the stink of cheap perfume from a stripper and slip quietly into bed next to their slumbering spouse? The sad reality for many men is that their conventional relationship was based on inappropriate emotional and physical intimacy and the deception of approval seeking. After the ephemeral high of the honeymoon fades, these men find themselves trapped in a prison of their own device. They enjoy symbolic physical nakedness in each sexual encounter with their wife, but there is no acceptance of their naked self, because these rejection fearing mirage men never give their partner the chance to really know and accept them.
These men will cope with their empty marriage by employing real or virtual women to provide them with the temporal acceptance they find lacking in their steady relationship. It will only last for a few hours before they must flee back into their alternative universe where they live with their wife and children. The next day these mirage men will find themselves just as alone and disconnected as before. This will feed the need to keep seeing the person or website who gives them that high, which will lead from a dalliance to addiction.
Mirage men won’t admit there is a problem in their marriage until it reaches a crisis point or the various addictive coping behaviors that spring up become so blatant they can no longer be ignored. These addictions will lead to an exaggeration of their character defects. The family will learn to adjust as the mirage man becomes more and more eccentric, after years of living with no mooring to his true self. In this Whys Guy blog case, the man is openly watching porn on his phone and tuning out all those around him. It took a long time for his secret life of addiction to become this outrageous and shameless. We can only hope he will hit bottom and seek help before his wife considers ending the relationship over grounds of emotional abandonment.
Published on November 7, 2011 by J. R. Bruns, M.D. in Repairing Relationships
- Children as young as 11 ‘addicted to’ online pornography (thetimes.co.uk)
- Here’s How Pornography is Damaging Male Libido (socyberty.com)
- British study shows children becoming addicted to Internet porn (theprovince.com)