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Obstacles to Intimacy

Also Infidelity


Pornography

by Paul Paiva,   © 2022 CoCreative Intimacy

Is porn bad?  We are not all the same.  Here are various attitudes.  

Some... 

  • have no interest and are unaffected
  • are offended by it
  • partake of it on occasion
  • engage with it on a regular basis

Rather than declare if porn is bad or not, I ask deeper questions:

Does engaging in porn decrease your level of physical or emotional intimacy with your partner? 

Does it foster clandestine behavior, or does it increase transparency and vulnerability?

What unfulfilled intimacy needs do you have for which you find fulfillment in porn?

I believe it depends on the kind of porn, and on the person. 

Declaring porn as bad is not helpful because it is shaming, which encourages surreptitious behavior.  

Is browsing through the Victoria's Secret catalogue or website inappropriate?  For some, not at all - they are shopping for an outfit for themselves or their spouse to wear.  Could even be a fun romantic activity to do together.  For others, this may encourage them to engage in clandestine acts which incur shame and distance themselves from their partner.

The Situation
I have clients who want me to tell their spouse that porn is bad and they need to stop.  I don't do this, because it won't work.  If I ask the man (this is not gender-specific, it could very well be a woman) to stop doing porn, they will say "sure".  The wife is happy her spouse heard it from a counselor.  

But since this may be an addictive1 or compulsive process, they eventually return to it, and they won't tell me, because they are ashamed of admitting to me that they don't have mastery over themselves.  After a few sessions of therapy the wife thinks the sessions were productive, the problem has been satisfactorily addressed, and there is no more need for sessions.  

Until weeks or months later, when she discovers it is still happening.

Alcoholics (not in recovery) are notorious for displaying to their family and friends they are clean and have it together, although the whole time they are drinking.  They are MASTERS at doing this while putting on a good facade.  

The same happens with porn.

My Approach in Couples Counseling
I have sessions with the male and female partners, separately.  I pledge confidentiality to each, that whatever they tell me, I will never tell their partner without their consent.  This is still couples counseling because it is focused on unity of the couple, and we still unite for sessions for all three of us.  I explain that I will never shame or embarrass you about anything you have done in the past, or are doing now.  I will not make you feel bad.  I will not tell you to stop engaging in porn (it won't work).  Rather, I understand, love, and accept you.  You need full acceptance from me, to develop trust with me as your counselor, and to develop confidence in your self-mastery.

I will attempt to discover how your needs are being met through engaging in porn, and will introduce you to other methods to increase intimacy with your partner.  

The Process
This will take some work.  It will take commitment of both parties to love with compassion,  and above all, to develop an attitude of LISTENING in the relationship.  It means an agreement to stop mentioning the threat of divorce.  It is ok to have those thoughts, but don't share it with your partner, or be regulated on how it is shared.

This goal is very attainable!  With regular sessions, follow-through on listening and other exercises, being merciful to yourself, and the support and direction of your counselor, great progress can be made.

The Goal   
As you are introduced to new tools for enjoying time with your partner, learn to communicate more effectively, and you bask in being heard (by your partner and by your counselor), your emotional and physical intimacy increases and your need for porn will decrease.  When you are having fuller, more ecstatic experiences of emotional intimacy and discovering that your can find your spouse to be sexy and pleasurable, porn will no longer satisfy you, because you are now on a healthier, more nourishing diet.  The sizzling intimacy you discover may well be deeper than what you had in the past.

 


Infidelity

by Paul Paiva,   © 2022 CoCreative Intimacy

What is Infidelity
Infidelity is when a promise to remain faithful is broken.  This promise can be part of a marriage vow, or an agreement between the couple that reflects their level of commitment to each other.

Infidelity is also known as cheating, adultery, or an affair.

There can be sexual or emotional infidelity.  Sexual infidelity is generally clear to define.  Whether emotional infidelity has occurred, however, is often not agreed upon.  

Understanding Infidelity

  • When you discover your partner has had an affair, you may think your marriage is over.  Would you consider starting it afresh with new clarity?
  • It hurts to discover your partner had an affair.  Do address this hurt, but resist the urge to shame your partner.
  • Instead of shaming your partner, discovering an affair can be an invitation for both to vulnerably share feelings about intimacy in your relationship.  Having this honest discussion is the key to saving, and even revitalizing, your relationship.
  • The cheater may be the "problem".  But often, not so.  
  • It is not accurate to assume the cheater has unresolved trauma, a dysfunction, or is emotionally immature which leads them to cheat.  
  • Infidelity can be an exploration of the cheater's repressed parts of themselves.  A part that is desperately seeking expression in the relationship, but is not able to get traction due to an unhealthy communication dynamic.  
  • Many who cheat say they love their partner and would never leave them5.
  • It isn't helpful or accurate to label the cheater as a liar, traitor, sex-addict, perpetrator, womanizer, or slut.
  • A cheater may subconsciously have an affair to usher in a new relationship - a renewal of the relationship they are in.  
  • It is essential to examine the behavior, experience, and background of both parties.
  • Others can be affected, too, besides the couple - friends, children, family, co-workers.
  • As a couples counselor, it is imperative I support you both, 100%.  Each has a valid story that needs to be heard and sorted out.

NOTES                                          Back to top

1Porn addiction is currently NOT listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

2The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) contains a new diagnosis with may be appropriate for porn addition, Compulsive Sexual Behavior Disorder.

3The above views expressed on this page for addressing porn addiction and compulsion, are my own.

4For excellent research about porn, see YourBrainOnPorn.com.

5Sometimes infidelity happens in happy relationships.  See this excellent article.