Porn and anger go together, because porn doesn’t just affect someone’s sex drive. Porn affects personality, too.

Last weekend I was speaking in Edmonton at the Breakforth conference on a cold, dark, freezing rain Sunday morning. The topic was “how porn wrecks intimacy and causes anger”, and despite the weather and the 8:30 start time the room was full.

Normally when I talk about porn here on the blog I talk about its effects on a husband’s sex drive. One of the things I talked about in that seminar, though, was the effect that porn has on personality–porn and anger seem to feed each other.

Here’s a question that I recently had sent into the blog:

reader question icon - Porn and Anger: How Porn Use Stunts Emotional Growth

Reader Question

I am 52, married to a man 8 years my junior. Just recently I discovered that he was viewing porn…a lot! Just recently I noticed him spending an increased amount of time on his phone, and staying up later than me (which he has never done). We always go to bed together. He forgot his phone at home last week and I looked at the history. Needless to say, I was devastated! When I asked him what was going on, he told me I was just over reacting. He even became angry at me because I was crying. I really feel like he cheated. He told me he would never look at it again. That’s not what I wanted from him. I wanted him to tell me it wasn’t about ME, and that I was still attractive to him. We haven’t been intimate since. In fact I know he has been pleasing himself rather than make love to me. He hasn’t been viewing porn since, I know because I have been checking. But he seems different, like he is bored or depressed and he always says he is tired. Please help. We have a great marriage other than this.

Isn’t that sad? So many women I know are going through this trauma of their husband’s porn use, and it is very difficult to get through, especially because the husband often reacts angrily when we question whether he’s really quitting porn or whether he really loves us.

I’ve written before about what to do if your husband uses porn, and these posts are very important. I won’t reiterate them all here, but it is vital that you deal with the porn use in a firm way, and that you not enable him to continue. He needs help, he needs to properly repent, and he needs to devote himself to recovery, or else your marriage will be stuck.

I’ve also written about how porn addiction affects women, too–and has similar effects to the ones I’m discussing today for men.

Those posts will help, but I don’t want to repeat that today. What I do want to talk about are the psychological effects, including anger and selfishness, of porn on husbands. Those effects are often still present, even when the porn use ends, because porn use changes personality.

Porn and Anger: How porn use affects personality

Porn use reinforces selfishness

When you watch porn, you masturbate. They go hand in hand (sorry for the terrible pun; but they do!). So the porn user pairs sexual response and a dopamine reaction (the pleasure chemical in the brain) with the stimulation of pornography. The images themselves reinforce selfishness (you deserve to be served and to take what you want) and then the masturbation reinforces the idea that you deserve to receive pleasure when you want it.

Drs John and Julie Gottman, who are clinical psychologists and marriage experts, wrote an open letter on porn that’s worth the read, but this is especially pertinent:

First, intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people.  But when one person becomes accustomed to masturbating to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse… This is unrealistic as well. Research has revealed that genital engorgement leads to a desire for sex only 10% of the time in women and 59% of the time in men. Fourth, some porn users rationalize that pornography is ok if it does not involve partnered sexual acts and instead relies only on masturbation. While this may accomplish orgasm the relationship goal of intimate connection is still confounded and ultimately lost

Porn replaces vulnerability with depersonalization

God designed sex to be about giving to one another; to be an intimate and deep knowing of one another, where you’re completely vulnerable with each other. Indeed, in Genesis 4:1, God uses the Hebrew word “to know” to denote sex–“And Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived a son…” As I explained at length in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, that’s the same Hebrew word that is used in the Psalms when David says “Search me and know me…” It’s a deep longing for a completely intimate connection.

Porn, on the other hand, is not about opening up to someone. It’s about using someone, so that the other person doesn’t matter. Porn teaches you that other people are to be objectified.

Indeed, caring about people is now a complete turn off. Because porn is so impersonal, what becomes sexy is the idea of taking from a stranger. That’s also why some porn users can be very affectionate towards their wives at times, but never in the bedroom–or they don’t even want sex anymore. They have so divorced sex from affection that the two just can’t go together. This is why erectile dysfunction and low libido are major effects of porn in a porn user’s life.

Remember, too, that they are giving their bodies positive feedback every time they depersonalize someone. Because they masturbate, then they reinforce this depersonalization constantly.

A study was done that showed pornographic images to married men (not a study we’d endorse, for obvious reasons, but we’ll still cover the results). When compared to men who did not look at porn, men who were shown a nude pornographic photo rated themselves as less in love with their wives.

Terry Crews, who is a famous actor and former NFL football player, once went to rehab due to his porn use. He described the depersonalization of pornography this way:

“My issue was, and is with pornography is that it changes the way you think about people, people become objects, people become body parts; they become things to be used rather than people to be loved.”

Porn and anger go together because porn use makes one irritable

Porn users just aren’t nice to be around. Our reader’s husband is irritable all the time. Very common. Think of a smoker who is trying to ditch a 30-year habit; they’re going to be shaking and always thinking about that cigarette they can’t have. Porn users are the same.

Even when they’re still addicted they can be quite irritable, because when they get upset or bored or stressed what they want to do is to go watch porn, but they can’t because you’re around or the kids are around or they have to work. So they go through life at this constant level of frustration, where the people they love are actually an impediment to them getting what they want. That’s why porn and anger are paired; they’re angry that they’re not getting to pursue what they need.

Combine that with porn’s message that “you deserve to be able to take what you want”, and they become very entitled and irritable, all at the same time.

A Porn Addiction Can Cause Depression

The letter writer says that her husband is withdrawn and seems bored or depressed. That’s very common when you quit porn, because you’re not getting the dopamine stimulation you used to get.

Because men typically hide their porn use, it causes a cycle of secrecy. Among men who use porn frequently by themselves, psychologists argue, rates of depression increase. Fight the New Drug, a non-profit that writes extensively on the problems with pornography, put together a really nice piece on why pornography increases loneliness that is worth the read.

Porn Use Stunts Emotional Growth

In this letter writer’s case, it’s unlikely that the porn addiction began in full force as a teenager, since at his age internet porn didn’t exist. But for many porn users today, their porn use began when they were in their early teens.

So imagine being a 14-year-old boy feeling lonely because his friends don’t understand him and girls won’t look at him. Porn gives the message: “You are powerful. You can take what you want. You deserve to be served. You deserve to be happy.” So he turns to porn instead to deal with his ugly feelings. When he gets stressed and feels like he can’t cope, he turns to porn because it makes those stressed feelings go away. When he gets bored, he turns to porn because it’s something to do.

All of these negative feelings are shoved under the surface, rather than dealt with properly, as the boy turns to porn. So he never learns to deal well with problems. In many ways, a porn addict’s emotional development stops at the point when he starts watching porn.

That’s why many 38-year-old women married to 40-year-old porn addicts feel like their husbands are only 14. You can’t talk to them about deep things. You can’t have a proper conversation about something that’s bothering you. You can’t make plans about what to do if he loses his job because he feels like it’s such an attack on him. You feel as if you’re coddling an adolescent–because you are.

How to Recover from the Porn and Anger Connection

I’ll have to write a longer post about this in the future, but most porn users will need some real counseling so that they can understand why they’re angry, understand that they have done these things to themselves, and that these things aren’t normal. Then they will need to learn some new coping patterns.

Especially if the porn use started when the boys were teenagers, they will have to learn for the first time healthy ways to handle stress, boredom, loneliness, or feelings of inadequacy. They’ll need to see the porn and anger connection. Before, whenever these feelings surfaced, instead of facing them, they hid them by turning to pornography. Now they have no coping mechanisms for dealing with them, so they react in anger. They honestly are up a creek without a paddle.

And this is the key:

Recovery from porn use is not just about quitting porn. It’s about developing coping mechanisms to deal with anger and stress in life.

Yes, you need filters on your computers and devices to make porn less accessible. Yes, he needs accountability to make sure he’s not still seeking porn. A new tool we just discovered is the “emergency button” provided by nofap.com. It takes you to a motivational message, meme, video, or reddit thread to help distract and to encourage users to resist temptation.

But more than that, he needs counseling and real group therapy that addresses the underlying psychological issues and the anger that he’s dealing with. It’s not just about porn or sex or women’s bodies. It’s about his whole strategy for coping with life–it’s about him admitting that porn and anger are related in his life.

The good news is that many men come out on the other side, and get less angry, more giving, more present, more communicative. I have seen it happen in so many marriages. So seek out help. Talk to a counsellor who specializes in this, and ask the hard questions about managing stress and anger. Seek out celebrate recovery groups in your area.

And pray hard! If he understands his need to grow, and you help him battle both porn and anger, you can find victory.

What do you think? Have you seen these effects of porn in someone’s life that you know? What’s the best way to recover from both porn and anger? Let’s talk in the comments!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - Porn and Anger: How Porn Use Stunts Emotional Growth Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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