Pornography and intimacy
The Gottman Institute has become a renowned organization when it comes to analyzing relationships and marriage using the latest science. His studies have been cited and mentioned on such shows as NPR and This American Life.
But Dr. John Gottman has made an about face on his stance on pornography – specifically internet pornography. In a heartfelt open letter to colleagues (some that have suggested pornography is ok or even to be encouraged as he did himself), he states his stance unequivocally:
In summary, we are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our readers around the world to understand what is at stake.
Pornography destroys relationships, distorts healthy sexual expression, and damages the ability to form healthy intimacy. Even divorce lawyers are seeing the trend:
In an informal meeting survey in 2002, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers questioned 350 divorce attorneys and found that roughly 60 percent reported that internet porn played a significant role in the divorces, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.
It’s not just lawyers who are picking up on the trend. In 2005, Dr. Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sexual addiction, pornography, or betrayal trauma, brought her research on porn and its connection to divorce before the Senate. According to Manning’s research, 56 percent of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.
John Mathews*, Family Law and Divorce Attorney, has also found porn to be a prevalent problem within his practice. Mathews explains that, in most cases, spouses deny porn use. But during discovery, a process wherein each spouse is given a list of questions to answer under oath, and during the back and forth between spouses as he tries to understand the complaints, he sees clearly the role porn plays in crumbling marriages.
Mathews explains that porn is most often cited amongst complaints of “Constructive Desertion,” meaning the spouse is at fault for emotionally abandoning their partner and withdrawing from sexual intimacy. Mathews says that he has had several cases in which a husband can’t stop engaging with porn, causing him to withdraw from quality time that could be spent with his wife. Most often, Mathews explains, porn use takes its toll by creating false expectations for physical intimacy. “I have had many cases where the husband won’t even touch his wife and several cases in which the spouses have not had sex in three or four years,” Mathews says.
Pornography is an addiction – on in which you have become addicted to the chemicals of sexual stimulation our own bodies generate. If this is destroying you, I’d urge you to take the following actions:
- Recognize that intimacy is not just sexual expression. Sexual acts only have meaning to us when they draw us into a relationship with another. Outside of that, they leave us feeling more empty and alone afterward. Something that captures this idea for me is this, “Stop spending all your time fretting about who you want to get into bed with. Spend your energy on who you want to wake up to instead.”
- Seek out a professional counselor or professional tools that recognize pornography as an addiction and treat it as such. Even Gottman has changed his tune on this topic. Professional help is important. Like gambling or substance abuse addictions, it’s very hard to impossible to solve it yourself. You need support and assistance.
- You will fall. Seek our the grace of confession and resources of a local parish. Be open and honest in your struggles and ask for grace in the sacrament to strengthen and heal you.
- Know it is possible. The expression and truth of real intimacy is far, far greater than just a mere physical expression of sexuality. When sex is wrapped in relationship – it is transcendent.