5 Warning Signs That Your Partner Might Be Looking at Porn

Being married to a porn addict can be a very difficult trial for the partner. In spite of the pain that a porn addict goes through in trying to overcome and continue the addiction, it is not as intense and traumatic as what the partner has to experience. A major factor that contributes to this pain is the complete lack of emotional awareness that an addict has for their partner’s trauma with the addiction. They can be so intensely involved in the addiction that they cannot emotionally comprehend their partner’s pain. Becoming aware of this pain and feeling it is one of the major steps in overcoming pornography addiction. In addition to this lack of awareness, the partner of a sex addict is often left in the dark. They go from day to day waiting and dreading to hear about the next relapse. They often get so anxious and fearful with this waiting that they find themselves almost wishing their partners would tell them they looked at pornography, just so they can be relieved of the intense fear. Even if it’s just for a small moment before they go back into the fear cycle. Experienced partners of porn addicts often come to know of the addict’s signs of relapse. However, there are many who are left in the dark for days, weeks, and even years. Here is a list of warning signs that are common for sex/porn addicts that every partner of an addict should be aware of. Keep in mind that I made this list to help promote accountability and healthy communication. It’s not intended to be used as evidence to support the casting of a guilty sentence based on a partner’s fears which may or may not be accurate. In the end, sometimes all that a partner of an addict can do is to just inquire and have faith that the addict is being honest and accountable to them. Acting on our fears and confronting an addict with all the fear and rage of an angry bull can often lead to more disconnection, increased paranoia, and a lower likelihood that the addict is going to be accountable. These warning signs can be helpful, but the greatest warning sign I have witnessed with all my work with couples who go through pornography addiction is the partner’s intuition. Even if you doubt your intuition sometimes, don’t make the mistake of telling yourself that you’re crazy. You’re “crazy” for a good reason.

  1. An Increase/Decrease of Sex and Physical intimacy
    • When an addict is looking at porn, they will most likely go on two extremes regarding sex and intimacy. Partners will either feel a pressure to engage in more sex or they will feel sexually neglected. If an addict desires to have more sex, they will often want to engage in activities in the bedroom that might make the partner feel uncomfortable. In addition, an addict’s sex with their partner will often be focused on obtaining a physical release of sex rather than increasing the emotional connection and intimacy with a partner. Keep in mind that it’s common for an addict to struggle with seeing sex as a means to increase a couple’s emotional intimacy even when they are not currently looking at porn. This tends to get better as an addict’s brain and relationship starts to heal from pornography’s affects.
    • Sexual neglect or rejection from an addict, the other extreme, can be common as well. The greater the pornography use and masturbation with an addict, the greater the likelihood that they start to prefer porn and masturbation over intimacy with their spouses. This is due to how they have trained their brains to respond to intimacy. Because of this you will often see an addict experience an increase in erectile disfunction or other sexual issues due to his’ or her’s continued use of pornography use and masturbation. One of the other more common reasons for sexual neglect in an addict is their intense shame. Their shame leads them to isolate themselves from their partners and thus avoid physical intimacy.
  2. Changes in Mood
    • Pornography use and masturbation can often cause intense shame in an individual. This shame will almost always lead an addict to isolate him or herself from the relationship; thus increasing emotional disconnection. If an addict doesn’t learn to manage and face their shame and other emotions it will often lead to “shame rage.” In other words, they can become very emotionally reactive and critical of their partners. It is easier for them to put blame and become reactive to their spouses or children then to face the pain of what the addiction brings. However, withdrawal  symptoms of a porn addiction can come with changes in mood as well. However, It is usually not as intense and frequent as what shame can do to an addict because of their continued use and secrecy.
  3. Changes or Neglect in Interests and Responsibilities 
    • As an addict gets further into his or her addiction… work, school, religion, and hobbies will start to decrease or become neglected. The addiction and the continued hiding and secrecy take up all of his’ or her’s time and mental efforts. They will often be forgetful and absent minded. They can also start to lose focus on important tasks.
  4. A History of Porn Use Prior to the Relationship
    • One of the most common things that I see in my office is when a couple comes in after a partner of an addict is exposed to the seriousness of an addict’s’ problem. Prior to this the partner was either unaware of past pornography problems or had very little knowledge of it. The addict will often tell the partner that he or she struggled with pornography use and masturbation in their past but they “kicked the habit” and are free from it’s hold. The partner will often say to me, “I knew he had looked at pornography before we met, but he made it sound like it wasn’t a problem any longer.” One of the best things an individual can do before they get married is have an extensive inquiry about past history of pornography and masturbation use with their partner so they are not left in the dark if the problem comes back a year or two later. If an addict didn’t have authentic recovery before he or she gets married then most likely the problem will be back fairly soon after the marriage starts. An addict knows when he or she is in recovery because they will know their triggers and how to deal with them, they will be accountable for their past mistakes, and they will have experience in dealing with the painful emotions they have put off for so many years as an addict.
  5. More Privacy
    • Another common sign of pornography or sexual addiction is continued privacy with computer and cell phone use. In my experience, an addict that is dedicated to his recovery and that has accepted accountability will not be overly-cautious with privacy regarding their cell phone and computer use. Late nights on the computer and obsession over being in constant contact with their phone is common for an addict. In addition, addicts start to become experts at covering their tracks. A common sign of this is clearing the internet and text history on a computer or phone.

Please remember that these warning signs do not necessarily mean that your partner is engaging in pornography. Also, most often when confronted, an addict will deny pornography use and become defensive. They will find a way to feed their addiction no matter what the cost is in the end. The best thing you can do as a partner is to take care of yourself emotionally by establishing boundaries and reminding yourself that his or her addiction has really nothing to do with you.

Take Some Time Out of Your Day and Watch This! You Will Thank Me Later…

Social networking and cell phones are largely designed to increase our connection with others, but in reality it ends up creating more disconnection. This is a great video describing the impact that social networking and cell phones has on our abilities to connect. It’s very well made, entertaining to watch, and very inspiring.

The Greatest Enemy to Your Happiness That You Never See Coming

Many of us try to rid ourselves of those things in our life that we feel weigh us down and prevent us from experiencing happiness (addictions, toxic relationships, depression, etc.). Sometimes we are able to do it. Other times it continues to plague us like something that we feel is apart of our selves that we can’t ever imagine our lives without. So what keeps us from getting what we truly desire and on to a path of peace and out of the constant suffering?……. Shame.

Fossum and Mason defined shame in their book, Facing Shame, as “an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient as a person. It is the self judging the self. A moment of shame may be humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound that one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, effective, unworthy, or not fully bad as a human being.” Or in other words, we don’t take off our chains of unhappiness because we don’t believe we are capable or worthy as a person.

People often confuse shame with guilt. However, in reality, they are two very different things. Shame is a secondary emotion while guilt is a core emotion (see my blog on secondary vs. core emotions). Fossum and Mason also do well at defining guilt as “the developmentally more mature, though painful, feeling of regret one has about behavior that has violated a personal value. [It] does not reflect directly upon one’s identity nor diminish one’s sense of personal worth.” Guilt leads to change in behavior by feeling it and is an outward emotion (meaning it is about others and how we have affected/hurt them). Shame does not lead to change in behavior and experiencing it just leads to more shame and despair. Shame is an inward emotion (meaning it is self-focused and about ourselves). We use it to protect ourselves, but it just leads to more despair, isolation, and hiding.

There are only three ways that I have seen that helps us to get out of our shame. First, bring it out into the light. Talk to people about how you are feeling and what is happening with you. Talk to them about your fears and especially about the things you fear they will reject you for.

Second, building a connection with God. Prayer and a spiritual connection with our higher power helps remind us of our value and potential as humans.

Third, facing the shame. Notice when shame starts to creep up on you. Practice some self-compassion and mindfulness practices. Also, turn that shame into what your body needs to feel; the core emotion. This might be sadness and fear but is probably quite often…guilt. Let yourself feel how you might have affected yourself or the individuals around you by your actions. Whenever I catch myself going into shame I recognize it and start doing a guilt process. I think about other people and how they might have been affected by my actions. This gives me a sense of love and compassion for them and brings me out of the darkness and into a desire to do better and to change.

Getting yourself out of shame can be difficult to do. This is why it’s important to seek help from a therapist or coach to assist you in walking through these processes and out of the shame.

Why are some emotions more intense and painful than others?

There are numerous kinds of emotions and all emotions are important, but some emotions are deeper and more important than others. Our deepest and most painful emotions are called core emotions. They are core because they have two important features. First, they are the deepest and most basic emotions. Second, they are the only ones that can truly bring us “change” inside ourselves if we can honor them and feel them. There are five basic core emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Guilt. All emotions are subsidiaries to these emotions. It’s important to remember that there can be many other types of emotions that we would consider core, but these five are just a way to categorize all of our core emotions. For example, Sadness can be used to describe core emotions such as hurt, despair, or grief. Unfortunately, the core emotion (Joy) that we seek most of the time is often covered by our other more painful emotions.

Furthermore, sometimes these emotions can be intense and painful. Because of this we go into less painful emotions. These are known as secondary or counter emotions. These emotions are still hard to bear, but they are less difficult to face and our bodies are very aware of this. These would not be considered core emotions because keeping ourselves in these emotions can often lead to feeling stuck or overwhelmed. In addition, there is always a more painful and necessary emotion that we need to uncover underneath these emotions that can lead to healing. Some common counter emotions are frustration, anxiety, shame, depression, anger, and resentment. Anger is a little tricky because it can be a core emotion, but it is a secondary emotion most of the time. The other core emotions can also be acting as secondary emotions covering up something more painful and intense. Sometimes these emotions can be too much to bear so we put up defenses. These are things like intellectualizing, addictions, distractions, laughter, etc. Once we build all of our baggage of emotions on top of one another, we can feel overwhelmed or, on the other side of the spectrum, numb. Once we get to this phase, we have taught our brains to continue to seek relief through our defenses. Then the cycle of misery continues…

So when this happens, how do we get back to the joy? In order to do this, we need to move past our defenses, through our counter emotions and into our core emotions. This can be difficult when we have spent years repressing them. Once we can access them, we need to allow ourselves to feel them and deal with them. We know we have done this properly when our painful core emotions start to dissipate and we begin to experience Joy (i.e. love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, etc.). However, this might be equivalent to Mount Everest unless we receive guidance from a therapist trained in emotional work.

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Six Things I Wish Every Couple Knew Before They Got Married

There are a lot of things couples wish they probably knew before they got married, but here are six important principles that I think that would have saved a lot of couples from pain and heartbreak. 


1)   It takes work to make a marriage work.

  • Marriage is not a picnic. It isn’t the cherry on top. It is a start of a new way of life. A new way of really living. You will find out more things about yourself and your spouse that will challenge both of you, but if you want to be happy, do what it takes to make the changes YOU need to make. Don’t rely on your partner to do the work.

2)   Any couple can make it work as long as you’re both willing to do the work.

  • I don’t believe in falling out of love. I don’t believe in “we are just not right for each other.” I believe in a foundation of love and a whole lot of resentment and unmet expectations that gets built on top of love that leads to these statements.

3)   Sometimes divorce is warranted, but it’s used more often in relationships than it should be.

  • There are some relationships that are better off apart. (e.g. abuse, infidelity, no change or personal growth from one person after years of patience). However, I think that couples often pull the trigger on divorce sooner than they should because of consistent heartbreak and let-downs, and they want to be free from it. They put all the effort they feel like they had in the relationship, but they didn’t have the skills and guidance to make it work. Achieving a successful marriage is like trying to open a door to your partner’s world. However, in many cases of divorce, couples will spend all their energy trying to kick the door down instead of using the doorknob. Unfortunately, they just end up hurting themselves and accepting failure that the door just won’t open. When actually, they don’t understand how a doorknob works or realize it was there in the first place.

4)   You don’t have to do it alone.

  • Many people think that they need to work on their problems themselves, and they don’t want to bother people or are afraid of what others might think of their current situation. It doesn’t have to be that way! Don’t do it alone. There are many people that are willing and able to help (family, friends, church leaders, therapy, etc.). Just make sure that you are both doing it together and not against each other. Therapy is a common thing people don’t want to admit they need. I think everybody could benefit from therapy. I have two daughters. The first thing I will do when they get engaged to their partners is to send them to a therapist to work on their relationship. It is better to work on their issues at the beginning and learn to talk to each other rather than waiting till the relationship hangs by a thread, and you have already spend years trying to kick the door down and don’t feel like turning a doorknob.

 5)   Ninety percent of the time, right and wrong is irrelevant in relationships.

  • Many times couples get so caught up in their view of the world and expect their partners to see things the way that they see it, they forget that they are often the only ones in their world and that their partners live in a entirely different world. There is no “right” world. There are just differences on how we view the world. Spend time understanding and validating how your partner sees things. You will learn something and your partner will too. The greatest thing that they will learn is that you love and care for them and the things that are important to them. How often do we wish to serve and care about others once we feel cared about ourselves? Your partner is much more likely to hear you if you hear them first. Don’t get caught up in right and wrong views. You will just end up going in circles with each other and it doesn’t get anywhere.

6)   Spend less time and effort on being loved and more effort on loving.

  • People always think that the best way to feel loved by their partners is by spending all their energy on making sure that they get their needs met by their partner. You would be surprised at how much time people spend on trying to do this. Unfortunately, It just results in self-absorption, unmet expectations, and feeling more disconnected and unloved. The best way to be cared for and loved by your partner is to make sure they are being cared for and loved by you. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be able to express your feelings and the needs that are important for you. If you don’t, you are just taking the opposite end of failure and caring too much for your partners needs and not getting your own met. However, people often spend too much time focusing on what they don’t have and not enough time on what they do have and what they should be giving to their partners. You will be happier and more fulfilled as a person if you spend less time worrying about yourself and more time making sure you are loving your partner enough and building them up.

The Three Pillars of Happiness

photo_6953_20080816I have learned through my work with clients and in my own personal life that there are three pillars or foundations that I think are necessary for overcoming any trial (e.g. addiction, individual trauma, life stressors) and obtaining peace and happiness. These pillars are: The Emotional Pillar, The Spiritual Pillar, and The Choice Pillar.

1) The Emotional Pillar

Often times, we underestimate the emotional side to our problems. We live in a society that teaches us that emotions or feelings are trivial or unimportant. We focus much of our efforts in overcoming and getting rid of the feelings that we don’t like rather than trying to understand them. We hope that through the passage of time, our problems will work itself out. We tell ourselves, “I just need time.” In fact, what we are really saying is, “I don’t want to feel this way anymore so I just need some time to numb my pain and distract myself with other things.” Addicts of all kinds do this on a regular basis, and they are often completely unaware that the constant porn use, or the “just a little more television, then I will go to bed,” or the constant need to find something to eat even though they are not even hungry is most often the result of not properly managing and dealing with emotional needs. Many of us are not sure how to deal with what we are feeling without making matters worse. This is why therapy can be important. Sometimes we were never taught how to deal and manage our emotional turmoil. That’s why it’s okay to get help.

2) The Spiritual Pillar

I firmly believe that spirituality is an important foundation for happiness. However, I think that many of us often mistake religiosity for spirituality. They are actually quite different. We can go to church and show our worship for a Higher Power but still feel completely disconnected to that Higher Power. Each of us needs a connection to something more powerful than ourselves; a personal and intimate connection. Someone that we feel will lead and guide us in our lives and onto a better and happier path. We need to feel that something or someone is out there looking over us and has a plan for us. Gaining a greater spiritual connection with our Higher Power can greatly increase our individual self-worth and give us the motivation to live the life we need to be happy.

3) The Choice Pillar

I have been racking my brain on what to call this pillar. I think the choice pillar has a mixture of our individual behaviors to obtain the happiness we seek, the work we need to do for ourselves and others, and how our thoughts often determine our actions and the importance of changing them. I have realized that it all comes down to “choice.” Many of us frequently feel that we are stuck in our lives and that no matter what decision we make, it is a dead end. We can also feel at times that we are bound to certain behaviors or actions and that we cannot control them no matter what we do. This is really a hopeless place, isn’t it? It is also a lie we often tell ourselves because sometimes it is easier to give up then to keep trying and always failing. Then we start to wrestle with ourselves. A part of us knows we can do better, but the other part is telling us that we can’t. This is when it really gets frustrating. However, we should never loose sight that no matter what battles occur within ourselves that we always have the choice to do something different then what we are presently doing. Even if it is impossible to believe that we can’t envision our life without porn, television, food, etc., we can choose to make a step in the right direction. Even if it is just a small step. However, often times, we expect more of ourselves than just small steps and then if we can’t live up to our high expectations then we tell ourselves that we might as well not do it at all. I see this all the time with people setting individual goals. I once set a goal to read a chapter in my scriptures everyday. I lasted a week and then gave up. Later, a wise person said to me, “If you start with a chapter you will never meet your goal! That’s like saying that my goal is to run a marathon by next week, but I have never actually ran a day in my life. Why don’t you just start with a verse a day and go from there?” It was great advice. Since then, I have rarely missed a day. Don’t set your goals too high. Start small and work from there.

Often times, we might focus on just one of the pillars and neglect the other two feeling that we don’t need them. This often ends with failure to overcome our difficulties and can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. I see this with porn addicts all the time. Many of them feel that if they have faith in God, pray hard enough, and do all the work necessary to keep them from acting out (Pillars 1 and 3) then they can overcome their problem. Sometimes it works too. However, what usually happens next is because they neglect their Emotional Pillar, they find themselves starting new addictions (e.g. video games, television, food).

For myself, every time I face a problem I will ask myself about these three pillars and which of the three pillars I might be neglecting that is influencing my dilemma. First, “How am I emotionally with this issue?” or “What is happening with me on an emotional level that might be contributing to this issue?” I then ask, “How is my relationship with my Higher Power? Am I feeling distant?” Lastly I will ask, “What is my part in this? What can I do to get through this and on to the path I want to be on?”

I believe that if we focus on all three of these pillars to overcome our problems, we can gain the happiness and peace we really look for and let go of the chains and baggage that we so desperately seek to let go.