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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.