Today’s blog post might come as a surprise.
The majority of my writing deals with men who are addicted to pornography or have out-of-control sexual behavior. At the same time, I know some women read these posts because they’re concerned about their husbands or long-term partners.
If you’re a woman in this situation, today I want to write to you. If you’re one of the brothers in the Porn Reboot system, though, this post will be helpful for you, too. You may learn a thing or two you never considered before.
I know women read this blog, watch our YouTube channel, and listen to our podcasts because these women reach out to me. They feel devastated, defeated, and betrayed when they discover their boyfriend or husband is addicted to porn. Their sense of certainty in the relationship feels shaken and shattered.
At the same time, these women also insist their partner is a good man and most other things about the relationship are fantastic.
Does this sound like you?
Signs of a Porn Problem
When you care for someone it’s natural to justify their behavior, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. But it’s that justification that keeps you in a dysfunctional cycle and gets you hurt over and over again. Porn addiction symptoms, just like any other addiction, affects not only the porn addict but everyone else in his life.
Here’s the thing – no matter how great of a man your partner is, he’s still struggling with an addiction. And that addiction is destroying you, it’s destroying him, and it’s destroying your relationship together.
How can you determine whether pornography has become a problem for your husband?
Lack of Sex
How often do you and your partner have sex? If sex in your relationship has lost its quality or disappeared completely, there’s a problem. You may feel a lack of connection with him during sex or maybe he doesn’t feel present at all.
Your first instinct might be to look at yourself. Women often blame themselves for their partner’s lack of attention. They think they’re not attractive enough, they’re not adventurous enough, or they’re enthusiastic enough. The list goes on and on. In reality, he may have a problem with porn which has nothing to do with you at all.
Spends a Lot of Time Online
Do you notice that your partner spends a lot of time online? Men who struggle with pornography addiction often isolate themselves and spend a lot of time at the computer. When you go to bed he stays in his office or another room of the house browsing online.
Again, you might think it’s something you’ve done. You worry he’s upset or mad at you. He won’t come to bed when you do and it even becomes habitual over time. Eventually, it probably feels like he’s choosing the internet over you. But it’s difficult to pull away from the computer when you’ve got a problem with pornography.
Watching a lot of pornography skews a man’s view of women. It portrays women in negative circumstances and removes all empathy from the sexual experience. Guys who are addicted to pornography tend to objectify their partners and become very critical about various aspects of their partner’s life.
For example, he might say negative things about your physique, your lifestyle, or other things he never gave any attention to before. His criticism leaves you feeling hurt, overlooked, and uncared for. No matter what you do, though, you’ll never be able to overcome these criticisms; they’re the result of a much bigger problem that has nothing to do with you.
Develops New Sexual Interests
As a man’s pornography addiction progresses, he starts watching different types of pornography. This tends to translate into the way he wants to have intercourse with you. Maybe he’s suddenly become rougher in bed or introduced the idea of new sexual acts he’s never seemed interested in before.
These interests could be things you aren’t comfortable with or even have no interest in participating in. Some men pressure their partners to participate while others withdraw to their online world where they can fulfill their newfound fantasies.
Becomes More Private or Secretive
Once men realize their problem has progressed they start making attempts to cover their tracks. He doesn’t want you to see his browser history, his text messages, or other things on his phone. Your partner puts a password on his device or refuses to leave it around you. You notice inconsistencies in the stories he tells you.
If you point out these shifts in his behavior, though, he becomes irritated and refuses to talk. He’s overly defensive when you express your concerns and might insist that you’re overreacting or making a big deal out of nothing.
Increasingly Detached and Cold
Over time you probably noticed that your partner is a lot more distant than he used to be. The connection feels like it isn’t there anymore. It’s difficult to recognize, though, because he won’t acknowledge it or he’ll blame something else for his being emotionally unavailable.
When you reach out to him and ask what’s going on, he’ll flip it on you and accuse you of being needy, overly emotional, or something along these lines. Don’t allow him to make you question yourself, though; you know who your partner is and you know when something’s wrong.
The Endless Cycle
Porn addiction tends to follow a familiar cycle for most men and their partners. First, you find out that he’s keeping secrets from you about his porn use. When you confront him, though, he reacts by blaming either you or something else. He’s defensive, angry, and sees something else as the cause of the problem rather than taking responsibility.
What happens next is usually one of two things. He’ll either apologize for his behavior and tell you he wants to quit, or he shuts down and refuses to communicate. You can work with the first reaction but there’s nothing you can do about the second. Men who shut down typically try to manipulate you afterward, too, either by keeping you around or pushing you away.
After the confrontation, he may try to reel it back in for some time. Your relationship seems to return to normal again. He’s in what we refer to as the “dormant stage” of his addiction style. He might even quit for some time which gets him reengaged with you and the relationship. It feels like things are turning around and you’re on the way back to a good place.
But then he relapses. He watches porn or acts out on his behavior again. Then everything goes back to square one and the cycle starts over.
Does This Sound Like Your Partner?
I’m going to assume that women still reading right now answered yes to at least a few of the behaviors above. If you notice these behaviors in your partner, he likely has a problem with pornography or another compulsive sexual behavior. So what do you do next?
There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news is you cannot make anyone “just stop” or “overcome” their addiction. You also run the risk of trying to help him and failing over and over again. I see women doing this regularly and all that happens is your relationship becomes an unhealthy, codependent mess. You are not your man’s mother. Controlling his behavior is not your responsibility.
The good news is that nothing is wrong with you. The problem lies with your partner, not you. His pornography addiction is not a result of the way you look, of something you did, or of any other excuse your mind comes up with. It is his problem that he needs to work out for himself.
What Can You Do?
I’ve watched couples go through this cycle dozens of times. It leaves women like you feeling emotionally exhausted, traumatized, and devastated by the repeated betrayals. If this sounds familiar to you, there may still be hope for your partner. Sit down with your partner and try to identify the cycle with him. Bring his behaviors to light and discuss how this cycle is destroying your relationship.
More importantly, though, it’s time to focus on yourself. You might have spent the last few months or even years invested in his porn addiction cycle. It’s worn you down over time and you’re still left with nothing to show. So you need to shift your focus to yourself and begin building your self-esteem and confidence back up.
Again, it’s ultimately up to your partner to change his behavior. No amount of pressure from you will force him to change. You don’t need to be his accountability partner, you don’t need to treat him like a child, and you don’t need to police him.
Instead, spend more time with your friends, join some classes, and read uplifting material that you enjoy. Try to remove stress from your life and strengthen yourself along the way. If you reach a point where the pain is too much, reach out to a professional. You can even reach out to us. While we don’t work with partners yet, we can connect you with a great therapist or group.
Once you shift your focus to yourself, your partner’s behavior becomes secondary. As you strengthen your mind, you put yourself in a position to better determine how to move forward. It’s not your responsibility to save your partner and if he refuses to make a change, it might be time for you to move forward without him.