Each week, I receive at least 1 to 2 emails from partners of spouses who are hurt, angry and confused by their spouse's pornography abuse and wondering what they should do. Many feel like something is wrong with them because in their eyes, their spouse is choosing images on a screen over being sexual, intimate, and emotionally connected to them. The emotional impact on partner's of spouses viewing pornography, according to one study, ranged from rage and devastation to feeling abandoned and betrayed (Weiss and Schneider, 2011). In American culture, this indeed is having a significant impact on couples.

My initial response to partners dealing with this is: NOTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU. The reality is that no one can compete with the images and facade of pornography,etc. It is all fake and ultimately destroys relationships.

Since the invention of the internet and cheating websites (ashleymadison.com), cell phones and cell phone apps (friend finder, Grindr,etc.), the challenge for partners has now become not only the reality that their spouses may be viewing images on a screen, but that they also have the opportunity to engage in cybersex with a live person, and/or develop a cyber romance (which is often very dangerous).

If you are a partner of a spouse who is addicted to pornography, you may be wondering why your loved one would turn to porn, cybersex and/or cyber romances?

First, pornography addiction, which is a type of sexual addiction (yes, it is real), is a brain disease. Whether or not one has a propensity for addiction, research shows that pornography is highly addictive. The brain literally gets addicted to the pixels on the screen when viewing pornography. The satiate mechanism in the brain responsible for telling a person "I am full" doesn't switch off when one looks at porn, thus the rewards centers of the brain, namely, dopamine (the "gotta get it" neurotransmitter) continues to get a 100% spike, thus feeding addiction, in some cases erectile dysfunction, and ultimately damage to intimate relationships. (For more information on the impacts of pornography on the brain, please go to "yourbrainonporn.com").

In my experience of working with both male and female sex addicts, especially individuals that have a pornography addiction, many of them have fearful avoidant attachment styles. Most often, porn addicts also tend to be more love avoidant in nature, meaning they are terrified of intimacy (although all sex addicts are actually terrified of vulnerability and don't know what intimacy even is), and have an unconscious fear of being abandoned. These issues always stem from childhood, specifically issues with their caregivers. Research shows that most sex addicts, over 80% have been abused in some way.

So if you are a partner of a spouse who is looking at porn, here are some signs that it is a problem and that they and you deserve therapeutic support to save your relationship (the following list is adapted from Untangling the Web by Robert Weiss and Jennifer Schneider, 2011):

1. Your spouse would rather view pornography, movies, and/or have online sexual encounters than be sexually intimate with you;

2. They cannot ejaculate unless viewing pornography (usually a tell-tell sign they are addicted);

3. They don't want to stop the behavior, regardless of knowing the negative impact it is having on you or the relationship;

4. Their reaction towards you when you confront the issue is anger, denial and blaming you; crazy making (remember, you are not crazy; their addiction is!).

5. They make empty promises and have failed attempts at changing or stopping their porn, etc. use, but don't.

6. They lie to you about their porn, etc. use, even when you catch them.

It is important to note that BOTH men and women view pornography. However, research shows that women, who tend to be more relationship focused, often identify themselves as being more addicted to cybersex and less to viewing porn, whereas men are more likely to view pornography for sexual pleasure. Most women prefer chat room where they can connect to a person, and are less likely to use the internet to purse sex. Most women I work with who have love addiction (an obsession with another person) also have sexual addiction (pursue love through sexual encounters).

If you are a partner of a spouse who is addicted to porn, cybersex or cyber romance, there is hope.

At Namaste Consulting, LLC, we offer treatment for both sex addicts and their partners. Both of you deserve to be on the same path to healing by qualified clinicians who know how to treat this very specialized addiction.

Call Candice to schedule an assessment today: 240-257-6463. There is HOPE. Healing is Possible.