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Alys

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  1. Alys

    Struggling to trust again

    Judith, it’s great that you’re doing much better now. I don’t feel that I’m any example of a success story, it’s more a case of trying to make my way through an unfamiliar territory. My husband has quit his porn habit successfully but the effects on our relationship and on each of us as individuals goes very deep. There’s no doubt that our hypersexualised porn culture has consequences on us as individual women and of course it’s a huge influence on the thoughts and behaviours of our partners, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Every day, we - as women - receive toxic cultural messages: be young, be hot, be sexy, be thin, be busty, be sexually available, be compliant, be a temptress, etc. On the other hand, men are served up hundreds of images of “sexy” women for their titilation, their arousal, their entertainment. They almost always fit into a narrowly defined set of physical characteristics. For those of us married to porn addicts, we lose our life partners to nothing more than pixels. Suddenly all the images in the magazines and advertising hoardings etc are triggers. If they hadn’t had the disastrous effects they did on my relationship they wouldn’t be these triggers. And that’s what’s hard about it. This stuff is everywhere, in publications and entertainment aimed at women too. It doesn’t matter if I’m slim. It doesn’t matter if I eat enough and eat well. It doesn’t matter if I wear nice clothes. Even if it’s not a trigger, there’s always a message that tells me — and you — that I’m not enough. That no woman is ever enough. Just look at the magazine covers. It’s all about weight loss, beauty products and how to please your man in bed. Once you add to this negative brainwashing all the sexually objectifying imagery aimed at men, whether it’s magazines aimed at men featuring women barely dressed, music videos with near naked women dancing provocatively or the explicit porn sites — what does all that do to us when we’re married to a man who’d rather masturbate to this than have “real” sex? Who can’t leave it alone? Who has it on his phone, his USB sticks, hard drives or even stored online? Just how straightforward is it to be a real, living, sentient woman in the midst of this hypersexualised culture that is running your partner’s sexuality? That has left you isolated, body shamed, or body dysmorphic even, hiding your shape with shapeless dowdy clothes, you have low self esteem, your eating is disordered, you’re depressed, and so on. It’s not a good place to be, but I’m fighting back. And I’m not buying into this commercialised definition of what female sexuality “should” be. Because that’s all wrong. It’s not a healthy message at all. What works for me and what has really helped me are the women activists, authors and podcasters who take a stance against all these harmful messages aimed at us, day after day. I’m not here to indoctrinate people but there are alternative voices who are critical of porn culture, diet culture, and the unhealthy aspects of the beauty and fashion industries. Now, I love dressing and adorning myself, I enjoy food and cooking, I like nice bags and scarves, etc, but I’m choosing these things for positive reasons, not to try and live up to these false ideals imposed on us. I’m resisting these “not good enough” messages. So where am I at now? Im working on body acceptance, im learning about intuitive eating, I’m actively resisting our toxic hypersexualised culture. Im trying to work out a better way. It’s part of MY healing. Maybe not for everyone, but being my own one-woman resistance movement is helping me heal. At lesson for now.
  2. Hi everyone and thank you for your input. I just want to emphasise that my partner quit porn 2 years ago and has done so successfully. I've done all the work of learning and understanding how porn addiction happens, why he was vulnerable to developing a porn addiction (attachment trauma and the death of a parent to suicide at the age of 12) and that he never learned adequate coping strategies and communication skills. I have also done everything I can to understand and empathise with his emotional need for the distraction and 'excitement' of porn and strippers around the time his addictive patterns began. So I really have tried my best to understand porn addiction in the context of his life story. I think I've done as much work as any partner could, given that we are outsiders and spectators to the lived experience of being the addict The problem I have is that I don't sense much empathy coming from my partner. I don't believe he's as honest or as open as I hoped he would be, although my experience is that honesty can be painful to listen to and it's hard not to react with hurt or anger. I have a lot of trouble with the idea that sex and porn addiction isn't a judgement on the partner. I know we aren't the cause. I know that porn addiction is about the brain being conditioned to expect a reward from certain cues. But in contrast with the effect it had on me — a depressive breakdown, body dysmorphia, zero self esteem and loss of identity — it was an intensely personal experience. Feelings of rejection that went on for years that resulted in the shutting down of my sexuality, and a negativite body image that I saw as 'objective' evidence that explained it. It was all deeply personal to me. Yet the addiction theory tells us it's not personal. My relationship gets stuck when he says "you think it was a choice, you think I was having a great time. I wasn't." OK, that can be explained by addiction theory. I understand. But when he claims he never lost his desire for me, then why did he lose all interest in having any kind of sexual relationship with me? Because I felt invisible. In the end I would get undressed in the bathroom at night because I couldn't take his indifference to my naked body. I felt it was rejection all over again. It FELT personal. Deeply personal. Also, the recovery literature says (quite rightly) that we need to heal our own damage. We have that responsibility to ourselves. I get that too. But the hard part is that i'm still in a relationship with the guy who did all that, ignored me for years, sought out women or images of women as his fantasy sex objects, yet says it wasn't a reflection on me. That is so hard for me to reconcile. These days I can look in the mirror and say "wow! That's one impressive lady looking back at me". But it doesn't eliminate that awful pain of rejection. I might be 'middle aged' now but I'm also aware there would be a few men of my age who would find me attractive, and I feel so wretched because I know this is how it "should" have been. A mature man being attracted to a mature woman, not only sexually but intellectually and because they've had experience of living. But instead I ended up married to a porn addict who was masturbating to women 30 years younger than himself. And that in itself gives me the heebie jeebies. I would never be unfaithful to my husband and I don't really care about attracting other men, but how I wish my husband could have been more mature and grown up. As a result, neither of us have matured in a psychologically healthy way. I was in my 30s when my husband became hooked on porn and since then I've gone through the peri menopause and then the menopause. I could accept myself as 'older' but being in a relationship with a man who was masturbating to images of women decades younger than himself, the natural course of things has been skewed. Also, I get fed up with being told I look young for my age and having a good figure because I don't want my value to be tied to my physical appearance. I've gone through feeling OK and positive about myself as a young woman, to feeling wretched and despairing of my body and appearance when I lost my husband to porn, and now I feel under pressure to be this "matured like a fine wine" sort of woman at an age when I want to be free of all that crap. This is how my husband's addiction has effed with my mind. Thanks for reading if you've got this far.
  3. Alys

    Looking for understanding

    Hi Anon123 My husband was also addicted to internet porn for 16 years and before that he was buying porn mags and videos, and going to strip bars, so his habit goes back maybe 20 years but the internet turned his habit into a compulsion that took over. Sex dwindled as soon as he could see porn online at home and eventually we had a 100% sexless marriage. He disclosed nothing after d-day except the porn he bought in the 1990s and admitted to going to another strip venue, also on the 1990s. Everything else I had to find out for myself. Unlike you, I knew he was using porn as soon as we had the internet at home but although I found out and had a few confrontations with him about it, he just carried on. Even so, I can't believe I stood for it. Eventually I ended up with depression and body dysmorphia, no self esteem, I had become sexually 'shut down'. I reached breaking point one day in 2015, like a depressive breakdown. At that point we hadn't had sex in about 7 years. Our sex life ended in failure, and I couldn't bear the thought of begging for sex with a man who couldn't get erect for me but he obviously could for porn. I believed that he had no desire for me whatsoever and that belief was very damaging. After our d day in 2015, I didn't know what to believe. Is he capable of honesty? Because he seemed to lie at every opportunity. There was a side to him I had no idea existed. The porn was one thing, but going to strip bars was something I wouldn't have known about had it not come out by accident (because he didn't know what he'd told me or not). He honestly intended that I should never know. And of course, with all the lying he did, and the deception and 'lies of omission', what else don't I know? He says I know 'everything' but then he said that before I discovered more about his behaviours. And I'm afraid that this is as good as it gets. I have had to learn to live with the possibility that there are aspects of his behaviour I might not ever know about. It's not a good situation but if I choose stay it's something I have to live with. I don't believe my relationship is fully recovered from this. He may have quit porn but the relationship has its problems, mostly to do with communication. Sexual recovery has been erratic too I am still traumatised by seeing what my husband watched. His tastes were relatively tame, but then again, porn is a lot more ugly and explicit than it used to be. I can't understand the appeal of watching people being paid to perform sex for the camera. Against my better judgement, I did return to the scene of the crime to make sense of what the big deal was, what was so great about porn? I don't see anything to do with female sexual pleasure. It's impossible for any woman to perform those acts and actually feel anything remotely pleasurable. It's all about maximising as much explicit detail as possible for the camera. And for what? For some guy masturbating into a tissue? It's ridiculous. I refuse to feel bad about myself or feel bad about my body because of this porn shit. The problem is my husband's. He brought this garbage into our relationship. I never asked for it. I never wanted it. The horrible realisation was that HE was the problem. HIS behaviour created these issues. I'm not saying that there aren't other relationship issues. Of course there are. And those issues are preserving very difficult to fix – communication, honesty, trust, objectification of women, etc. Some problems are my responsibility. You can only give it time. You need to see whether or not your husband will quit, stay quit, and whether you can put the relationship back together again. It's not easy. I started out with high hopes, I believed in the "better than ever" outcome, but this hasn't quite happened. He still wants to hide behind his evasiveness even for things that don't really matter. He blames me, he says I make things difficult for him if he is honest! But that's part of the deal. Being honest it's difficult. Listening to what you don't want to hear can be upsetting too. But I don't see any other way otherwise we can't move beyond where we are always getting stuck Good luck. I know it's not easy. X
  4. Behappy, I think you need to tread very carefully on this one. Porn addiction is rarely about sex and is almost always an emotionally driven behaviour. There are two obvious caveats that come to mind. Firstly, that you may find yourself turning to porn as a comfort, or to escape your own feelings of upset about what's going on in your relationship. If this is the case, you need to ask whether this is actually good for you and your relationship in the long term. Secondly, if you are hoping that your husband shares his interests in porn as part of your lovemaking, but you discover that he is continuing to watch it without you and in secret, and continues to lie about it, then I doubt very much you will be able to incorporate porn into your shared sexual relationship in a healthy way. I know that some couples can and do incorporate porn into their lovemaking but in porn addiction, the addict most likely does not have a healthy relationship with their own sexuality to begin with and has used porn and masturbation to deal with uncomfortable emotions without having developed adult coping skills. In addiction to this, porn addicts will often have several windows and tabs open as they frantically seek for the ultimate clip to 'finish' to by clicking and clicking and clicking on video after video until they do. This is a characteristic of internet porn addiction. As the addict clicks on each new video, the anticipation creates a dopamine spike that falls away rapidly that makes them click on the next video for another dopamine spike and so on until the reward centre in the brain gets what it's craving i.e. the orgasm. So this might explain why addicts can't really "share" their porn activity with a partner. Could you honestly be turned on by your husband seeking out the ultimate 'hot babe' just so he can ejaculate to calm down some weird brain mechanism that fools him into believing he's having some great sexual experience with the woman on the screen? My husband's interest in porn was always something hidden and and kept secret from me. He couldn't really have both a real life sexual relationship with me AND a porn habit. He thought he could have both, and that his porn habit would have no impact but it didn't work out that way. The porn took over as soon as he could get online for the first time at home. But before then he was buying porn and watching it alone on the video and then DVD player when I went out. I had no idea he was buying porn back then. So it was always something he did alone and kept hidden. Some years before the internet, I even suggested maybe we watch an erotic movie together, I don't mean porn but maybe a movie with some steamy love/sex scenes but that suggestion fell on deaf ears. I think he was buying hardcore porn on VHS then and he'd have rather masturbated away to that with me out of the house than watch some tame little movie with some racy scenes as part of a date night with me. The secrecy/solitary aspect seems to be important in porn addiction.
  5. I'm almost two years into recovery and I'm still struggling at times. Recovery in relationship terms, although successful in that my husband has quit and remains resolute, I still have issues about trust and I feel insecure quite often. I trust my husband in terms of his behaviour but I don't believe there will ever be full disclosure of the true extent of his past behaviour and nor do I expect he can ever by 100% honest with me. Perhaps this is the legacy of being lied to so many times about his behaviour in the early months of recovery and having to search his devices so thoroughly to get a more realistic picture of what had been going on over the years. But here we are now. He's quit and we've slowly made progress, although erratic at times. I was aware of my husband's use of internet pornography as soon as we were online at home, which was 16 years before we reached a crisis point where I just couldn't take the distance between us any more. It was my fear of his behaviour escalating to beyond the internet is what triggered a crisis in me – that is, I could not stay in a relationship and 'turn a blind eye' to more than just' porn. The problem I created for myself was that after 1-2 years of his online porn habit I gave up. I had 'caught' him 4-5 times and initially it was all nice and polite, he'd been a bit 'naughty' or whatever and it was just a curiosity. No big deal, etc etc. Then there were a few more times, including finding saved files on a disk. By that time he'd become very thorough about his internet history we a shared computer then. It was his lack of interest in sex that was alerting me. One day I walked in on him when he was viewing porn, as suspected, as this was the only way I thought I could. He was mad at me and said I was sneaky, as if I was the one breaching some sort of code of conduct, and not him. We had a row. I said that I thought his interest in porn was becoming unhealthy and I catch him out again he (or we) would need some sort of psychosexual counselling. But what happened? He became so thorough about deleting his history and changing the file names and file extensions to appear like innocent documents, not that I ever searched his computer much after that. Whenever I looked everything would be cleaned up by his special cleaning apps, his browser history was set to delete history and cookies on closing. He made it so difficult to find any evidence, so it became impossible to live up to my word. I knew from other signs it was still going on, that he would be online when I was sleeping (or out) and if I woke up he'd have the door closed, but he wouldn't at any other times. Sex became a rare occurrence and eventually it stopped. He never initiated anything anyway and I was becoming used to being turned down. Eventually the early signs of erectile dysfunction happened, and after that had happened a few times I just couldn't take the feelings of rejection. I gave up. I hurt. But I gave up. I feel really bad about this. - I stopped looking for evidence because he had made it too difficult to find anything - I never attempted to 'catch him in the act' because he made it so he always had enough time to shut down the browser and always had the BBC news page open to pretend he was reading the news - I considered other options for gathering evidence but I lacked the knowledge and didn't know what to do or how to go about it - if I had presented him with the evidence, I seriously doubted that anything could be achieved. Nothing had ever changed in the past, so whatever I did I would most likely end up back to where I started. Like before. - I was aware of having said I would insist on psychosexual therapy in the past, but I became afraid of not being able to enforce it and besides, after 10 or 15 years there was plenty of opportunity for him to 'forget! I'd said this - *FEAR that if I didn't 'let' him have porn he would look outside the relationship for sex, and I could lose everything - *FEAR that if I insisted on no more porn it would only confirm that he did not want me sexually any more, and I couldn't force him to have those feelings towards me if they weren't there. So, I had the unhealthy belief somewhere in there that the 'success' of our relationship depended on him having access to porn as a sexual outlet because whatever attraction he had felt for me in the past was long gone. I was actually afraid of what stopping the porn might do to our relationship. So I buried my head in the sand. I became an 'enabler', I suppose. The crunch came when I began to suspect that his interest in porn had maybe run its course. That it was no longer enough. Don't ask why, it was a gut feeling and to this day I don't know what I felt or suspected, I don't know what/if anything else was going on. It was when I found myself asking what else was I prepared to ignore. If I was actually reaching the point where I would have to make another deal with my psyche, that there may be/possibly have been physical infidelities and could I put all thoughts of it out of my head and ignore how I hurt I would feel? That was the crunch. I couldn't put up with more hurt and more pain than I already had. Our sexual relationship had ended maybe 7 years previously and I couldn't see him actively using porn and not being interested in sexual opportunities. I couldn't take it any more. So I more or less broke down one day and that was the beginning of 'recovery'. I am having trouble with reconciling this 'enabling' role. I can acknowledge the role I played in perpetuating his behaviour because it takes two to make a relationship. But I didn't stick to my guns about getting help and I ended up in a warped mindset that he had to have the porn in order for our relationship to work in all the other areas (though not sexually). I also feel that I have been the architect of my own misery and all those years of putting his 'needs' before mine, and putting up with him having no respect for my feelings about it, covering his tracks so thoroughly etc. Why did I tolerate it for so long? My self esteem was completely demolished. But why did I "collude" in something that wasn't happy about?
  6. Hi dw Porn addiction is awful. I had no idea that porn was addictive and my husband certainly didn't. It turned out that he was finding the experience quite miserable. He tried to quit but always went back to it. I had no idea it had its downsides. I was under the impression that the way of thinking was was "this is fantastic, these women are amazing" and in their heads imagining they were having some sort of incredible sexual experience. The other side of he story is a lonely man searching compulsively for the "ultimate" video clip to "finish" to after trawling through all the movies that fail to deliver. It's the brain chemistry that they get hooked on. There's a really good website that explains the addiction theory called YourBrainOnPorn.com When men say it's not a reflection on their partner and we shouldn't "take it personally" etc, the addiction theory explains why. Once I understood this dopamine/reward cycle that was going on, then it didn't feel so personal. Having said that, my self esteem was non existent and I had an extremely negative body image. I hated my reflection in the mirror. His porn "tastes" didn't do me any favours. When Paula warns about having mental images, or in my case actually seeing for myself, it causes even more harm to one's self esteem. We only have one body and as a woman, to have my body rejected felt like a rejection of my very existence as a human being. It took a lot of pain, a lot of tears and a lot of work to get me to where I am now but I don't think I'm over it. Far from it. I'm still hurting. I'm still recovering. We both are. He has stayed away from porn. Finding out about the addictive process of porn and its effects on the brain helped us both. He didn't want his behaviour to be just some sort of Pavlov's dog response. He woke up to reality. His "sessions" were no more than just him and a laptop. There was nobody else in the room, just pixels on a screen. There was no sex happening. He was masturbating to pixels. The movies were just recordings of performances done for the camera. Nothing was real. It was all an act. He wasn't having sex, he was consuming a product. It took a lot for me to even try and feel good about myself again. I'm still trying. Porn addiction is never really "over". He could relapse. It happens. He hasn't relapsed so far but he acknowledges that he could. The addiction pathways have been created and were reinforced by years of porn viewing. They might become weaker with lack of stimuli BUT they never disappear, just like you can't unlearn how to ride a bike That's why it's so important to build ourselves up again and feel good about ourselves regardless of whether we are married to a porn addict. If you don't have Paula's book for partners, buy it. It makes even more sense to me now than it did 6 months ago. You and your husband can overcome this as a couple but believe you me, it's like a crazy roller coaster ride that will go on for months. Tackling this problem takes a lot of inner strength and resolve, so be prepared. I always knew that it was going to be a big thing to face up to, and perhaps that was why I turned a blind eye for so long. But I reached a point where I realised that for the sake of my sanity and my dignity, not to mention the survival of my marriage, it had to change. He was relieved to stop though. It had gone on for too long and he was caught in a cycle of misery with it. Good luck, and please check in and tell me how it's going.
  7. It has been almost a year since my partner's porn addiction came to a head when I had a complete collapse of my self estee. It was more or less a total emotional breakdown. My partner had been using internet porn for 15-16 years which I knew about. In the early days when I discovered it in his internet history he half heartedly agreed to quit but he never did. He became very thorough about hiding and deleting any evidence and without anything to "prove" I felt powerless to raise the subject even though I knew he was using it – the closed door, rapidly clicking and closing the browser window as soon as I walked in, sitting in his dressing gown with tissues on his desk. I felt there was nothing I could do. By the time I reached breaking point in 2015 I don't think we'd had sex in 7 or 8 years, and I really do mean nothing at all. After porn arrived in our home via the interest our sexual activity was affected, not greatly to begin with, but the tailing off dramatically with faster connections and streaming video. From my perspective, he totally lost interest in me sexually and I believed that he no longer found me attractive. He didn't notice me even if I was stark naked in front of him, there were no compliments about my appearance, nothing. What finished of four sex life was that on the rare occasions he reciprocated my advances - and it was always me doing the initiating - he would lose his erection and be unable to finish. Sometimes there would be no physical response to my touch at all. All this compounded the belief that he was no longer interested in me sexually and was not attracted to me. When I used to see that closed door when I knew he was watching porn, it broke my heart because he had plenty of drive for that rubbish and NOTHING for me. I interpreted that as "fact", that I was an unattractive, sexually boring old prune whose time had been and gone. I felt that the evidence was right there, staring me in the face and I just had to suck it up and hope that his interests didn't go beyond "just" porn After it all came to a head, I probably felt even worse because he wouldn't be straight with me. He admitted to having gone to strip pubs a few times some years ago but insists he hadn't been for years, not since before he could watch all the internet porn he wanted for free without having to go anywhere, but that only came to light by accident otherwise he'd never have told me. If I am being honest, I don't know whether he's told me everything, but I do know that he lied to me about aspects of his porn use even though he agreed to be open and honest with me. Over the years, life happens so there have been many stressful situations to get through. I know that plenty of other things can affect relationships but where there is a porn addiction an emotional distance will also happen and I have to say he wasn't always "there for me" emotionally and when I tried to be there for him it's almost as if he was resisting me or pushing me away. I felt very isolated and I still do. He agreed to quit porn last year. I had no idea but it was making him miserable. He had tried to quit but couldn't and when the ISP blocked adult content when the law was changed he got a bit desperate to get his porn fix. I was surprised at what a grip it had over him. He was also completely oblivious to how much his behaviour was hurting me. My life hasn't been the same since the day I broke down. It was an emotional roller coaster. It's not as bad as it was but I still feel confused and bewildered. I feel very uncertain about everything. Was our past just a lie? Everything I once believed going back to our very happy years before porn feels like one big con. Was he always living a secret life? What else don't I know. This is a man who could look me in the eye and tell me an outright lie. Trust is never the same again. I don't even know what trust feels like any more. If he can lie about something as stupid as porn, how can I expect him to be honest about more "serious" issues like fidelity? What other lies has he told me? I had a course of counselling and further help for low level depression. I've read the self help book for partners. I'be slowly improved my self esteem which was non existent a year ago. I hate what his porn behaviour has done to me. My sense of self worth, my identity even. Yet I know I'm an attractive and intelligent woman. It's just that no woman can ever feel sexually confident and attractive when she's with a man who has ogled and objectified and fantasised about thousands of other women, even if it's just make believe on a screen. There have been occasions when the thought of him touching me has made me feel sick and made me want to get in the shower and scrub myself clean of him. Some days I just feel so rotten and alone. There hasn't been a happy ever after. Tackling the porn issue has turned my world upside down. Sometimes I feel optimistic. Other times I feel very, very low. I always feel uncertain. I still feel emotionally disconnected from him sometimes, especially when this situation gets me down.
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