Saturday 22 November 2014

My husband's internet porn addiction almost ruined our marriage

Online pornography is having a devastating effect on the sex lives and relationships of more and more of us. One couple tells John Costello how they beat this problem

John Costello

Published 26/07/2010 | 05:00

Online pornography is having a devastating effect on the sex lives and relationships of more and more of us

Caroline was horrified. She felt betrayed. David had promised her it would never happen again, but their home computer provided the irrefutable evidence -- her husband of three years had been viewing internet porn.

"I remember the absolute feeling of betrayal and shock," recalls Caroline.

"I really had believed him when he'd told me months before that it was no big deal and he wouldn't do it again. I wanted to believe him and gave him the benefit of the doubt. But the second time really hit me. I was devastated.

"It was almost as if I'd discovered he was having an affair. I felt stupid and alone. Stupid for believing his lies and I kept asking myself how I could let myself be taken in like that."

Caroline's horrific experience is becoming increasingly common, with internet porn addiction becoming one of the fastest growing addictions in Ireland, according to the country's Centre For Sexual Addictions (CSA).

"I think Ireland most likely mirrors other western countries in this regard," says Declan Fitzpatrick of the CSA.

"The internet has been described as the 'crack cocaine' of sex addiction. The seemingly limitless amount of pornography available and the increased ease of access have all fuelled the problem."

Before deciding to tackle the issue with her husband, Caroline knew the trust on which their marriage had been built had crumbled and that if things remained the same their future together was in jeopardy.

"When I confronted David I think he really got a shock," she says. "It was different to the first time. He could tell that I was really upset by this and wasn't going to be fobbed off. To be fair he admitted to what he had been doing. It was hard to hear that stuff."

Discovering her husband often preferred staying up late to watch pornography instead of coming to bed with her left deep emotional scars.

"I felt inadequate both as a woman and a wife," says Caroline.

"I even doubted myself wondering if it was my fault. There was a voice in my head saying, 'If you were good enough then he wouldn't be looking at other women' and that felt awful."

Caroline and David's story is far from unique. A record number of marriages are breaking down because of the rapid rise in the use of internet porn and cyber sex, according to Accord, the Catholic marriage care service.

Since 2007, the marriage counselling service has witnessed problems connected with internet usage increase by 87.5pc.

"Addiction in general plays havoc with relationships," says Fitzpatrick.

"Sex and porn addiction can be particularly damaging. A partner can feel rejected and inadequate sexually and the very fabric of the relationship is threatened."

The CSA has established a website to provide information and a list of therapists who can offer support because of the growing prevalence of the compulsive use of internet porn and the potentially devastating impact on relationships,.

Caroline and David are one of the many couples who have benefited from such therapy, after making contact with the CSA.

"I admitted to lying about my use of pornography," says David. "My relationship was disintegrating before my eyes and I couldn't see it. I remember the first time that Caroline confronted me.

'She was obviously upset and confused but I managed to just fob her off and I had no real intention of actually doing anything about it. I think I was trying to delude myself as much as her. I really had no idea of the extent of the problem or the effects it was having on our relationship."

Even though he agreed his behaviour was out of control, David was extremely anxious about opening up about his addiction and nearly did not show for his first appointment with the CSA.

"I felt like a freak or a creep and thought that there must be something wrong with me," he says.

"I didn't realise until I spoke to my therapist the first time that addiction to pornography is a very real problem and many people struggle with it.

"It was such a relief to hear this in our first session and I immediately felt better about myself and felt that I could be understood and helped to beat the addiction."

The therapy helped David realise how much of a hold pornography had over his life and its destructive nature.

"I was spending vast amounts of time and energy looking at pornography and I prioritised it above other things like social events and even my relationship with Caroline," he says.

"There were times when I preferred to watch pornography rather than go to bed with her and make love. But the scary thing about it is that I had no idea of just how out of control my behaviour had become.

"In many respects being forced to get help has been a blessing. I have been able to address the problem in a very real way and with the help and support of my therapist I have a better understanding of myself and of why I got into that mess in the first place.

"My relationship with Caroline has improved too and she has come along to a couple of sessions with me. There is no doubt that we are closer as a result.

"I think there are times still though that Caroline finds it hard to trust me or might be worried that I've slipped back. If I have to genuinely work late, for example, I can often hear some concern in her voice when I tell her. But in therapy we've learned to try to be as honest with each other as we can and learning to respect each other's feelings helps. I know it will take time before the relationship is fully healed."

Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, believes the prevalence of online pornography on mobile phones and laptops is having a profound influence on our sexuality and relationships and driving a massive boom in addiction levels.

"Addiction is addiction," agrees Fitzgerald. "But porn addiction is no 'stronger' than things like alcoholism or compulsive gambling for example. Whatever addiction we are dealing with we are usually addressing the same kinds of issues for someone regarding emotions, coping skills and managing life.

"Many people do make a full recovery and go on to develop a different relationship with their sexual selves and can enjoy productive and happy lives and relationships free of the problem. The main thing is that the problem is addressed and some attempt is made to arrest the behaviour and to look at the underlying causes and drivers for it."

While, like every addiction, there is no miracle cure, David and Caroline owe the survival of their marriage to seeking help and being open about how internet porn almost destroyed their relationship.

"I have to say that I was sceptical at first when David went to therapy," admits Caroline.

"But I was encouraged when he asked me to come along for some sessions. I felt I got a chance to explain how much this behaviour affected me and that helped me enormously.

"I still have flashes of hurt over it and I know we still have some way to go before I'll fully trust him but I know that he is trying hard and is committed to beating the addiction and I'm happy to support him with that."

David and Caroline's real names have been changed to protect their privacy. The case study was supplied by the CSA

Irish Independent

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