Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.
I have been struggling with my weight for many many years.
For 24 years of married life my husband has had a huge problem with pornography and masturbation.
I have continued to find evidence of porn. He has asked me to do odd things sexually – things that he has seen in porn. They made me feel yucky but I did them anyway because I thought if I did then his “need” for this behavior would switch from pictures to real people. About 9 years into our marriage he finally confessed to a Bishop. He lost his temple recommend for a short while. I felt like I had to lie about why he missed temple experiences and why he couldn’t baptize our daughter or give the family blessings.
Nothing has stopped the madness. Each time he tells me he “slipped” all of the past hurts return to me and crush me in their dark despair.
I don’t want bad things to happen to him. In fact, I want him to overcome this problem and to triumph. But I can’t say I want to fight anymore. I’m too tired. I really have little hope for our recovery. All of which makes him impatient with me and he tends to lecture me that I’m being prideful and I need to let the Savior heal me and that all things are possible with God.
PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME!! This is the first time I have broken my “silence” about this… well I did try a few Bishops. Their comments hurt me just as much as his actions. One Bishop said I wasn’t exciting enough sexually and if I’d try “stuff’ he’d be more interested in me. The same Bishop said that it was because I was fat and that no man deserved to make love to fat. His counsel was to lose weight. A different Bishop blamed me because I didn’t monitor the Internet well enough in my home. I don’t think my family would agree. I’m pretty sure they feel I’m the Internet Nazi.
It is not safe because if I lose the weight I might become a “hotty” and be in the same category as the porn. If I stay fat I can never truly be in their “gang”.
If I lose weight I will have to give up all the things that bring me comfort.
If I lose weight I will have gone through all that effort and I still won’t be “enough” for him to stop his addiction. If I stay fat I can at least conserve effort and have something to blame.
If I lose weight I won’t have a reason to blame for his problem… it will return and “fat” won’t be the excuse. I will still not be enough.
If I lose weight I might discover that I don’t “need” anything and my family possibilities will be lost forever.
If I lose the fat I will lose my protection. In some weird way the fat is protecting me.
Natasha, I can guess that you are very busy, please help me, and in turn it will help all of my children.
It sounds like you have a long history to sort out – both within your marriage and also within your relationship with self. Here are some thoughts:
- Your awareness that your issues with weight go beyond just simple diet and exercise is a great start. The many psychological factors as to why you feel safer being overweight will affect your ability to self care and take off the weight if that is your end goal.
- Correlating the problems within your marriage, sexuality and your body-image only to the issue of pornography is taking a rigid view and will not help you achieve your own potential. If being attractive, at a healthy weight, sensual or beautiful means that you are somehow “approving” or “joining” in with the pornography industry then you are stuck. You’re only option is to feel ugly, fat and non-sensual.
- Pornography addiction is a form of infidelity – but with the added issue of compulsive behavior – and can be extremely difficult for a spouse to come to terms with, understand and not take personally. Some of the things that have been shown to help an addict of any type are self-awareness, honesty, openness, addressing issues of underlying shame, safety and accountability. All of these are severely compromised in your marriage – mainly because you are both nursing your own hurts. Licking your own wounds. Feeling judged. Feeling inadequate. It’s difficult to reach out to another when focusing on our own pain – especially when that pain seems to be inflicted by the same person we want to be intimate with. Therein lies the biggest dichotomy of marriage.
- In no way am I trying to minimize your pain by validating your husband – but imagining the shame I’m sure came to define him as he went through this self-abusive pattern of trying to overcome something he wanted to desperately overcome – feeling continually guilty about his thoughts and feelings – failing over and over again – the humiliation of losing his recommend, his callings, his standing as a “righteous” man. That’s pretty difficult and damaging. When we can begin to look through the lens of empathy – it can be freeing from many different perspectives.
- I encourage spouses to have prepared statements for the types of public situations that inadvertently come up when repentance is unfortunately made a public process (i.e. taking the sacrament, baptizing a child, attending the temple, etc.). A few examples of appropriate statements include: “I am not at liberty to discuss that subject,” “Why don’t you ask him/her?,” “That is something personal I’d rather not discuss right now,” and “We are dealing with some personal issues.”
- The fact that you are finding yourself depressed, anxious, “tired of the fight,” and wondering if you still want to be married are all normal responses in this situation.
- There has been an ongoing breach of your marital contract. Therefore, you have the right to leave this marriage. Staying because you feel a need to “endure to the end” is not necessary nor healthy. However, there are legitimate reasons you may want to stay (your children for instance). And problems that go unresolved in first marriages many times find their way into second, third and fourth marriages. In other words, it is in your best interest to resolve issues in the relationship you currently find yourself in. But I am not implying that anyone should put up with or endure abusive behavior.
- I’m sorry you received less than helpful or even inappropriate advice from some of the bishops you relied on for help. It is very unfortunate when this happens. I suggest you seek professional help in addition to any ecclesiastical help at this point.
- Do not make your husband’s struggle and addiction your own. Believe it or not, this addiction has little to do with you, your weight, your sex life, etc. This is not about YOU! It has to do with neurochemicals in your husband’s brain that were in place way before he met you. It has to do with his own sexual and personal development. The less personally you can take this issue, the better. Give this problem back to him where it belongs.
- Pick up a copy of Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts Edited by Stefanie Carnes, PhD. HBO has a great series on addiction films that can also be useful in understanding what you are up against and that it is much more complicated than the simple choice of whether or not people want to be righteous.
- Part of having appropriate boundaries is understanding that trust is something earned, not given. It will take time to rebuild trust in your relationship. If I was working with you as a couple, I would want to start the focus of trust on honesty vs behavior. “By-gones” cannot be “by-gones” until they are properly dealt with. This is part of a successful repentance process.
- Get in touch with your own body, sensuality, and sexuality. These things should not be held hostage by your husband’s addiction. These things are yours. You are a woman, you are a daughter of God and these are part of your birthright.
- Expand your own horizons as to what brings you joy. You are correct in realizing that food is a great sense of comfort. What other things can you develop in your life that bring you joy? Hobbies, interests, career goals, friendships, self-care, exercise, etc.?
- Do not work on yourself FOR your husband. Do it FOR you. That way, regardless of what happens to the marriage, you are still ahead of the game.
- Focus on your health versus weight loss specifically. Weight Watchers is a good program that focuses on “lifestyle” more than “diet.” They have an on-line program as well. A lifestyle has to be sustainable over time. Many times diets are not.
- Medication might be part of a temporary solution – especially if depression/anxiety are overwhelming at this point. This is something you can discuss with your primary health provider or counselor.
If you want to be with this man, stop worrying about his redemption. Be willing instead to be witness to his shame – his struggle. See his divinity regardless of what he’s wallowing in. These issues do not define him. And they definitely don’t define you!
Be willing to get help. Get all the help you need. You deserve it.
What you tell yourself is possible is powerful. Believe anything is possible! Faith, after all, requires a belief in God. If we can believe in His existence, we should be able to believe in anything.
Did you really just advise this woman that her husband is in breach of their marital contract and that she has a “right” to leave because he masturbates to porn? Does he have the right to masturbate to porn because she has breached the marital contract by letting herself go? Respectfully, I don’t think that is a constructive way to approach this at all. Masturbation and porn and problematic, but not because they are a form of infidelity. That is just a very unhelpful mis-categorization that minimizes actual infidelity.
This is clearly nuts, as in insane. The prostate is designed (within some range of specs) to be, uh, stimulated, within a certain time period. For some (many?) men, without the stimulation they get actual physical problems–like prostate problems. These can be pretty serious. To call an undeniable physical urge that a man is fulfilling in the decentest way possible within his power an addiction is just, I don’t know, like telling someone that eating will keep them out of the Celestial kingdom. They’re going to have the occassional snack whether you approve or not. By this guilt cycle you’re making the problem worse. Let it go. So what if a guy likes boobies? The only hurt is in the realm of the invisible. You’re making the problem worse. Statistically, when countries allow pornography, all sorts of sex crime against women and children decline remarkably. Let it go and the ‘problem’ which is caused by guilt will just go away.
Cheating? Are you kidding? Really? With himself?
This situation again provides evidence for a long-standing personal belief: bishops don’t automatically become qualified, professional counselors when they receive their call.
Conservative estimates suggest that more than 60% of LDS men masturbate to porn. I would recommend against taking it personally.
I’ve heard from a lot of cultural Mormon men about this, and the one thing that is guaranteed to make the problem worse is obsessing about it. The one thing that diminishes the problem is (not “wife becomes hotter”, but rather) stop worrying so hard about it.
If he wants to get over it, fine, but tell him to do it on his own, clear his own history/cookies, and stop bothering you about it.
I don’t mean to be callous, but if all he and the bishop accomplish by bringing you in is to blame you and make you feel guilty about being fat, then it doesn’t sound like a very constructive dynamic. Don’t let him put the responsibility on you by expecting you to be his “Internet Nazi” — he’s a grown-up, let him police his own Internet usage. (If you think that will lead to real-life infidelity, I’d like to see some evidence to back up that claim.) Be loving enough to offer real-life social/sensual interaction (which the 2-D images can’t give him), and tell him that his interaction with 2-D images is between him and the Lord (if he really wants to bring the Lord into it, that is…)
Just as not everybody who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic, not everybody who masturbates or looks at porn is a sex addict. But some are, and the advice directed here to the wives of such addicts is, for the most part, excellent. But I, too, am troubled by the infidelity label. If you consider being an alcoholic a form of infidelity, then I can’t argue. But if you label one form of addiction “infidelity” to the exclusion of other forms, then I think you are off base.
I am in shock that you consider masturbation infidelity. It isn’t. And wasn’t considered such in the Mormon church before President Kimball, who clearly had some issue with it. Just let it go. It’s what many men just do. Just because a few with lower than normal sex drives can abstain says nothing about the average man.
The woman in the story above clearly has some issues with her husband over her weight, it seems. This is a different problem. If the real problem is that her spouse doesn’t find her physically attractive, that’s tragic, and sad, and even sadder. You’ve got the causal error running the wrong way.
You are actually recommending that a woman leave her husband because he looks at Porn? I think you’re sorting men on their ability to lie and keep those kinds of secrets. Again, such astonishingly bad advice. What percentage of men use porn? It’s pretty darn high, even in Mormonism. Should, what, 75% or so of women leave their mates? Or only should the women go whose husbands are bad liars? Sigh, whatever, have a happy life destroying families.
Hm. I didn’t read her to be telling the client to leave the husband because of masturbation. Or porn, necessarily. She says that “pornography addiction is a form of infidelity,” this goes beyond just looking at porn or masturbating. This is when an addiction gets to the point that it severely interferes with the marriage relationship. Then she says, “There has been an ongoing breach of your marriage relationship.” This can be a result of many factors, and I think the therapist is right to point out that divorce is an option in this case.
Anyway, I like how she advises the client to focus on her own health and not make her husband’s struggle her own. I’m no therapist, but it seems to me that the body image issues come from the woman herself, and don’t necessarily have anything to do with the porn addiction. We read the Bishop’s connection of the pornography addiction with her being fat, but we don’t know if it is even an issue for the husband at all. Men don’t necessarily get addicted to porn because they find their wives unattractive, but we women will certainly take it that way.
Does anyone (Chanson, etc.) have any references on these stats (such as “conservative estimates” being 60% and etc.)?
Also, I think everyone has a “right” to leave their relationship, regardless of the reason. That doesn’t always mean it is a useful/helpful/good decision, but if someone in a relationship (or both partners, as I think is the case in this post) have been significantly injured, I totally think they are understandable if they decide they can’t risk being hurt anymore.
I learned something on my church mission that I think applies here. My ability to communicate with an investigator varied to a degree based on the sincerity of the investigator. On some occasions, I was able to speak way beyond my normal ability. On those occasions, I would listen to myself teach.
I think this is how it is with Bishops, when the Lord wants to communicate through them, the Bishop will be enabled. If not, then the Bishop will just be giving his best advice.
Both the Bishop, and the one being counseled will know the difference–at least in most cases.
I had another thought after reading through some of the newer comments: Just like everything else in life, it’s up to the individual to take personal control over the situation. I’m a single young man and I will be the first to admit I have had an enormous sex drive throughout my life and, having been exposed to a lot of material over the course of my life that people would consider pornographic, I could claim I’ve become desensitized or, in other words, I’ve gotten used to it. However, I also have a firm line drawn on what kind of material I allow myself to think about or look at since, in many cases, I’ve found pretty much anything “hardcore” to be disgusting and taking the fun out of a fantasy. My ex-fiancee and I had several open-minded discussions about this and, had we actually gotten married (we broke up for a different reason), we would have committed to respect each other and our set limits.
I guess the point I want to make is all of the hellfire and damnation talk that comes with every single conference talk on porn is completely backfiring. Of course it’s not okay to go out and indulge in it up to your neck, but at the same time it’s not okay to try and completely deny a part of us that God included. Yes, men have sex drives, but part of our mission on this planet is to learn how to properly and healthily control it, not to try and avoid it completely.
All I can think of here is what I learned in Alanon – detach detach detach. This is his problem, not yours. You didn’t cause it, you can’t “cure” it, but you can deal with it by loving detachment. Don’t enable him by lying on his behalf – just tell people they should ask him if an uncomfortable question comes up. You can’t FIX this, and it’s not your problem to fix. You’ve had some remarkably bad counsel from bishops. Are you seeing a therapist or a couples counselor?
Also, re: being fat. This is the least of your problems right now. You need to be in a mental space where you are not owning your husband’s issues, and you need to deal with your own. One step at a time. In spite of the crap spewed by almost everyone everywhere, it’s possible to love yourself right now, without changing a thing.
Hey, in my neck of the woods, men prefer women with some heft. “Fat” is beautiful.
Are you seeing a therapist or a couples counselor?
lol, Ann, I suppose she is seeing Natasha.
Thank you for your comment #12. That was amazingly insightful and well written. I wish I had said it. But, it doesn’t matter WHO said it, I wholeheartedly agree.
#1 and #2, perhaps you didn’t carefully read the OP. In it, the spouse is blamed for her husband’s interest in pornography. He asks her to engage in acts with which she is uncomfortable. And when she seeks counsel, her well-meaning bishop mistakenly blames her for her husband’s problem.
The counselor correctly places responsiblity for porn viewing on the husband, not the wife. And the counselor correctly speaks to a number of issues the wife has as it relates to her taking control of her life.
#10 Jared, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Are you suggesting that the Lord did not want this bishop to counsel the woman in the proper way, so He withheld inspiration? Or are you suggesting that the woman was somehow not worthy of the bishop’s inspired counsel? Or are you suggesting that the inspired council was, in fact, what was given, that the woman is to blame for her husband’s behavior? (Set aside whether there is real transgression in the husband’s behavior.)
The OP is not an issue of whether pornography viewing / addiction is acceptable. It is about the spouse’s response and how she can care for herself in a more healthy way. And the therapist’s advice is excellent advice for anyone dealing with an addicted loved one.
Good grief, I’m still all hopped up about this. I used to be married to an alcoholic, and addiction is addiction. I agree completely with chanson that he needs to stop “confessing” to you. He needs to be confessing to the people in his addiction recovery group, who will call him on his excuses and rationalizations and other crap. He is taking the baggage from his addiction and dumping it on you, and by making his problem yours (which it’s not) you are enabling him. Go to Alanon. Seriously. I don’t know if they have a partners of sex addicts support group, but if they don’t, go to Alanon. And don’t mess with the church’s version of addiction recovery for yourself – stick with the model that’s been working for over 50 years and not the Lord’s “inspired” derivative. Alanon. Alanon. Alanon.
What I am saying is that Bishop’s can receive inspiration or not. It depends on the situation. What I learned on my mission is that inspiration flows to the Lord’s servants based on the sincerity and faith of the individual involved.
I don’t have any idea about the particular situation being discussed. I am making a general observation about the workings of the Spirit based on my experience.
What I find weird is the intimate involvement of the bishop in the sex life of a married couple. It’s as if the Church is the third person in the bedroom for this couple. The Church gets a vote on what happens in bed and even gets to publicly shame the husband if he doesn’t have sex the way the bishop wants. (The bishop also gets to lay a guilt trip on the wife.) There’s triangulation involved as the wife and the husband each try to get the Church to back their side of the dispute (“She’s fat!” “He’s a porn addict!”). The big problem in this case is that the Church is playing an inappropriate role. It’s the presence of the Church in the bedroom that is not a success factor in this relationship.
My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that this relationship is dysfunctional in ways other than the problem presented.
#18 MoHoHawaii — the spouse in this post is the one invited the bishop to offer counsel. He did not insert himself there. People often go to a clergy person for counseling in times of personal turmoil. Thank goodness she also went to a therapist where she received concrete advice.
The church clearly counsels bishops that they are not to discuss intimate details of a couple’s sex life.
He needs to be confessing to the people in his addiction recovery group, who will call him on his excuses and rationalizations and other crap. He is taking the baggage from his addiction and dumping it on you, and by making his problem yours (which it’s not) you are enabling him. Go to Alanon. Seriously. I don’t know if they have a partners of sex addicts support group, but if they don’t, go to Alanon
That was what I was thinking as I read the original post.
Re #19, whether, how and when the husband masturbates is pretty dang intimate. Telling a woman that her husband is sexually repulsed by her obesity is pretty intimate.
The point is that the bishop isn’t a therapist or facilitor. He’s a full participant in the dysfunctional system.
I second what Jared said in #10. I believe bishops do have a mantle and can be inspired to say and do things the “natural man” version of themselves couldn’t. I’ve seen it happen many times. I’ve also seen the exact same bishops do and say things that made it clear they were no smarter than the next guy.
I’d add to what he said, though, in that sometimes the inspiration isn’t there in spite of faith and sincerity. This is true giving blessings as well. I’ve given blessings where I am convinced I was inspired. But I’ve also given blessings to very sincere, faithful people (while feeling comfortably worthy), and just had nothing inspired to say.
I think that too often priesthood holders try to “force” inspiration (I don’t know, by just being sincere enough, intense enough, whatever), and that’s just not the way it works. The Lord gives his inspiration when He feels it’s time, and in the meantime expects us to muddle through as best we can. Unfortunately, I think many bishops either don’t recognize when they’re not inspired and when they’re not qualified to give advice.
#18 – You’re correct on that. I had more than one professor at BYU who were bishops and/or stake presidents and they all answered the question of, “Is it appropriate for a husband and wife to do (insert name of many types of sex games here)?” and their response was, “It’s none of our business. The church stops at a closed bedroom door.”
That reminds me of another point I’ve heard about in the recent past. While this is only anecdotal evidence I’ve heard of a few cases of couples committing fornication prior to their marriage, not because of something they thought of, but because of ideas given to them BY THE BISHOP when interviewing them. If the bishop is asking, “Well, have you been doing (insert details, possibly graphic, of such and such)?” when the couple hadn’t even thought of such things, the ideas are going to enter their mind. Of course they’ll still be held accountable for actually going through with the fornication, but those are not the kinds of things bishops should ask.
As for the couple in question, I highly agree with #12 (which got posted while I wrote my previous comment). While husbands and wives are expected to share one another’s burdens, that doesn’t mean that one can dump everything they have onto the other. That is one of the reasons I broke off my engagement because she expected me to solely handle all of my problems, but to take on all of hers AND all of her friends’ because “She couldn’t help it,” meaning they would become her problems and then get passed on to me.
Apologies for so many somewhat-rambling posts so far, but these things have been great to get off my chest.
#21 — You’re right. Maybe you missed my earlier comment in which I said the bishop gave this spouse bad advice. He should not, in my view, have done that. It violates the guidelines he’s been given. That said, bishops get an awful lot of stuff to read, and they may not read it all. Or they may not remember it when they need it most.
#22 — I agree that our good bishops are generally well-meaning and often are terrific! They can be inspired and exceptionally helpful. But the bishop in this case, if he’s being properly reported by the spouse in the OP (and who knows if her perception is corrrect; she has issues of her own and may or may not remember the interview clearly) was in error. First, he didn’t counsel within the bounds of his guidelines. Second, he blamed the spouse for her husband’s actions.
#16 — I agree a 12-step program is a great idea. I would not recommend AlAnon based on my own experience, as the group I attended was extremely exclusionary to loved ones of addicts of things other than alcohol. The church is piloting family support groups, specifically for family members of addicts (of any kind), which I think will ultimately be more helpful than lumping them into ARP meetings (which had been the prior practice). The Family Support Group that operates in our area is quite helpful in working the steps and helping participants to sort out what is theirs (compared to what belongs to their loved ones), which is a key issue in the OP.
I just found this story on a site I’ve been reading through for the past while: http://notalwaysright.com/a-nasty-case-of-selective-hearingitis/788
While the “punchline” deals with selective hearing, I want to address the part where the lady says her 14-year old nephew would “never” do such a thing like order the adult films she’s being charged for. Not only does she obviously not understand what a 14-year old boy is going through, but isn’t that kind of denial a form of pride wherein the importance of trying to uphold the image of what is likely a budding Latter-day Saint youth (this does take place in Salt Lake City, after all) is a greater priority than addressing the issue that the nephew may be STEALING from her to watch pay-per-view adult films? How will she react when she can no longer deny what may well be happening?
I second all of Ann’s comments. I have a good friend who has found Alanon extremely helpful, and the church program less so, although she said that the church program could have been good if people had been willing to really speak up and be honest about their feelings. I think that often when we talk about difficult subjects in a “church” setting we find ourselves constrained by what we feel we “should” or “should not” be saying.
Let me also say that I don’t believe that porn and masturbation issues are about sex. I read a wonderful book years ago called “Willpower is not enough” that dealt with overcoming all kinds of addictions (including porn and overeating, if I recall correctly). I’m certainly no professional, but I think we lapse into these kinds of behaviors when we are feeling bad and trying to comfort ourselves. One of the problems is that while we find these behaviors comforting for a time, afterwards we tend to feel bad, and in need of comfort, and the whole cycle repeats itself. I am both a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and I worked as a group leader for them for a couple of years, and it is a great program, for way more than losing weight. The program really tries to deal with the reasons behind our eating, not just weight loss. There is a lot of focus on positive self-talk, visualization, etc, that can help you not just with eating habits, but in so many areas of your life.
To the poster, love yourself! It is clear from your comments that you are sincerely trying to deal with a very difficult situation in the best way possible. I have been there, too. Love your husband, and like Ann said, detach… not from him- love him and support him however you can. As long as he cares and is trying, there is hope. Remember that your weaknesses (or what you or others may see as weaknesses) do not define you, neither do your husband’s define him.
I feel like I have so much more I could say about this, but I already feel like I’m rambling. Just remember- you are good people. Your Heavenly Father loves you. And from somebody who has been there (and may be there again someday- I don’t pretend that it couldn’t happen again), you can get through this, and so can your husband, and you can be okay- but not perfect. And again, like Ann said, don’t worry about your weight too much right now. Focus on doing things that help you feel good about yourself. For a while I was feeling so bad about myself that I would try to come up with at least one good thing I had done that day (for me, I feel bad about my eating because I feel like it signals that I have no self-control, which is probably how our husbands feel about masturbation/porn)- so maybe my one good thing was that I made dinner for my family, or I made my bed, or I watched a friend’s kid- whatever- just focus on what you are doing right, however small it may be.
Ack! Now I am rambling. Hang in there!
I find it funny, as in ironic, that some of the male responses to this Op don’t find Porn to be a problem. I personally don’t think masturbation is a problem,, but when done in conjunction while watching porn and then expecting his wife to perform the same way as those that he is watching well that is what I call a problem. Wives can not, nor should not ever be made to feel as if they need to perform in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. The problem is his and his alone to work out. You have no ownership in this at all.
Those who consume pornography fall into the same category as drug users: they are facilitating much worse sins, in this case the prostitution, degradation, and often enslavement of the women involved in producing it. Kimball had it right. Christ is not going to wink at this stuff on the last day, no matter how many people are doing it. I’m usually one to take into account a person’s history and chemistry, but most of the responses to this post are out to lunch. This guy is a scum-bag. He’s had way more chances than he deserves. A few years, sure. But 24!?! Time to move on.
And those bishops weren’t just saying slightly-less-than-inspired things, except perhaps the third one. What they reportedly said to this woman was devilish. These aren’t things they could have said if they had the spirit with them at all. Telling her it is her fault for being fat or that she should cater to his perversions? Come on. That’s criminally idiotic talk, not well-meaning pastor talk.
I would rather have no man at all than have a man who relies on sexual satisfaction from any source other than me, who would rather masturbate and fantasize about plasticized women than make an effort to communicate within the marriage, and who then turns around and either minimizes and excuses his behavior or blames me for his addiction rather than taking responsibility for it.
Seriously, djinn. If your view of men is accurate, than who needs them?
I would like to clarify how I define the word “infidelity.”
Taken from “Save Your Marriage Central”:
“Infidelity is the breaking of any one or more of the covenants of marriage between the partners of the marriage.
“These covenants bind the partners to standards of behavior which protect and nurture the partners within the marriage and therefore the marriage itself.
“Any breaking of the covenants of the marriage may be considered an unfaithful act which is harmful and even destructive to the entity of marriage.
“We must, therefore, speak to infidelity on a multitude of levels: sexual, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual.
“Because of the deep connections created and forged by intimate emotional and physical/sexual intercourse we recognize and acknowledge this form of infidelity as the most destructive to the marital bond and therefore to society as a whole.”
Taken from Wikipedia:
“Infidelity is a violation of the mutually agreed-upon rules or boundaries of an intimate relationship, which constitutes a significant breach of faith or a betrayal of core shared values with which the integrity of the relationship is defined. In common use, it describes an act of unfaithfulness to one’s husband, wife, or lover, whether sexual or non-sexual in nature.”
I agree with these statements and many others (available through a google search) that speak to this issue in a similar way. Therefore, many behaviors (not just sexual) can be seen as unfaithful. This is why I particularly chose the words “a form of infidelity.” There is a wide continuum of the seriousness both of unfaithful behavior as well as the effects of this behavior. If you don’t agree with this definition, that is your prerogative.
As an example of where I stand – if a couple was working under the common understanding that theirs is an “open marriage” (i.e. it is OK with both of them to go outside of the marriage for sexual experience) then I would not consider this unfaithful behavior. They are both on the same page as to what is acceptable within their relationship. I may have my own ideas as to whether or not this is healthy behavior, but it would not be unfaithful.
In this particular example however, the wife is obviously not OK with her husband watching pornography. It also seems that he wants to stop this behavior and has made promises to do so. Therefore, there is a violation of mutually agreed upon boundaries that has been taking a toll on their marriage for decades. The added complication that this seems to be a compulsive behavior for him complicates things because compulsive behavior doesn’t just go away because we want them to or because we promised somebody they would. Therein lies the importance of understanding addiction and the ability to not take the compulsive behavior personally (which is extremely difficult when you are facing the fact that your spouse gets sexual satisfaction somewhere other than with you, when your spouse has acquired $50,000 in debt, when your spouse has changed their physical appearance dramatically from overeating, etc., etc., etc.). It is difficult to not take it personally because a spouse’s behavior usually does affect us at a personal level.
I am not an advocate for people to leave their marriage because of masturbation, pornography, addiction, physical sexual infidelity or any other difficult problem they may be facing. Because marriage is a place where we usually face difficult problems. At the same time, I don’t want the main reason for a person to stay in a relationship to be underlying guilt (i.e. “I need to endure to the end no matter what, even if I’m being abused or disrespected on a chronic basis”).
I also want to be very clear that I see masturbation and pornography use as vastly different subjects. Although pornography use is usually accompanied with masturbation it is not the case the other way around. And I do not consider masturbation to be infidelity. I highly prefer, however, for both spouses to be aware of whether or not the other currently masturbates.
I agree that men (and believe it or not women) have a physical urge to have sex. And that need should be seriously taken into account within marriage (I speak on sexless marriage quite often on my blog). However, I want to clarify that in this case the wife was more than willing to have sexual encounters with her husband. This speaks to a myth that often underlies many perceptions re pornography use. That somehow the pornography user must not have an outlet for their sexual needs. Although this may be true for some, it usually is not the case in the majority of cases. Pornography use is a compulsion that occurs whether or not the person has a viable sexual outlet. It has little to do with how physically attracted they are to their spouse as well.
I also agree that obsessing about compulsive behavior usually makes the problem worse. A negative cycle begins that is difficult to break. And this is in part related to why religiously conservative cultures can be harmful when trying to be helpful. In my opinion, this is a conversation that needs to occur at a much deeper level within our LDS culture and I appreciate the comments that speak to this.
There are groups (like anon) that specifically cater to the spouses of sexual addiction. You can find more information on this on my blog.
I would also like to point out that this was a minimized version of the original post. If you want to read more go to my blog where the entire entry is posted. Thanks for the great discussion!! I want everyone to know that I welcome challenges, discussion, and comments. It’s how I grow as a therapist as well.
P.S. This is not a client of mine. This is an anonymous poster on my blog.
One last clarification:
I meant to say pornography addiction is compulsive not pornography use.
I’d like to hear what therapists have to say about the advice they hear that bishops give.
There was a survey I read on CNBC showing that the usage of pornography increased the more religious/ conservative a state was with Utah having the highest usage in America. Do any of you have any ideas why this is? I wonder whether it would also be high in Muslum countries.
It seems thst it is not at a consistent level so there must be cultural influences, what could they be. Can we change these to effect individuals and the collective?
Not familiar with that study, but here’s a thought about something that may not have been controlled for:
“Religious/conservative states,” IIRC, have higher birth rates, and therefore younger populations, than secular liberal states (full of two-income bourgeois bohemians with one designer child named Connor nested in his Pottery Barn-stocked room). I propose that a younger male population is more likely to look at porn than aging secularists whose eyes are dim and their natural force abated.
I agree with the above comments that losing weight is a personal issue. It is for YOU and no one else. I think you know better than anyone the reasons you would want to. Most of the reasons you have stated why you don’t want to will disappear if you can detach as the alanon program teaches. I have never taken a community alanon class, but I am doing a personal 12 step program to help with codependency. It is an LDS based system in that it refers to all the related scriptures available to us as members. The guide I am using is called He Did Deliver Me From Bondage by Colleen Harrison. I don’t claim to have any answers for you; all I know is that this has helped me. A lot.
Where did you get your information from? Because all the leading statistics now show that what you have attempted to argue is simply not true.The middle age and elderly are not giving up sex as you have implied. Indeed, there are higher the numbers support a higher than normal upgrade in sexually transmitted diseases amongst the middle age and retired populations mostly because they don’t believe themselves to be high risk. Simply not true But that is not what this OP is about.
I think Natasha’s argument or I should say response#31 is the most correct in the approach to how it should be viewed and handled.
Geoff of Australia – the study about Utah having the highest porn usage only compared pay-for-porn usage, not free porn. So another interpretation is that Mormons are more prone to pay for porn than other states, an interesting twist given the cheapskatery of the state.
As to the infidelity angle, a lot of articles have been published recently about the dangers of emotional affairs (as opposed to consummated physical affairs). Often an emotional affair with no sex can be more damaging to a marriage than a consummated “lust-only” affair.
Sounds to me as though both spouses in the above marriage have quite a bit of their own individual work to do before they can work together on the marriage.
I’m a porn addict. I haven’t looked at pornography for a couple months, but its been with me since I was 14 on and off, depending upon its availability. I’ve gone through a few periods when I have looked at porn every day, and I’ve also gone years without using. When it wasn’t available, sometimes it was hard, but mostly it didn’t bother me. When it has been available, I’ve mostly stayed away, but sometimes have not.
I agree with Natasha Parker that porn addiction is a form of infidelity to a spouse, who certainly didn’t sign up to have a husband (or wife) who repeatedly falls into a cycle of indulgence, secrecy, and shame, which drives a wedge of deception that blocks open communication and trust in a relationship. I’ve seen its effects in my own marriage, and it makes me disgusted with myself sometimes. (As an aside, I don’t think masturbation is wrong in and of itself, and I know there are many forms of pornography that are not exploitive, bestial, etc.; participation in these activities may be non-addictive to most, but for some they will lead to addiction. I am one of those people, and must manage my addiction in ways that might not be universally applicable)
But I wonder if some porn addiction in the Church might be tied to another form of marital infidelity: the loss of testimony. In counselling for my addiction, I became aware that my addiction to porn may be related to a sense of a lack of spiritual confirmation about basic truth claims of the Church in which I was brought up, made more acute by significant social pressure from my family and religious community to live up to standards and to demonstrate spirituality in word and deed. In one sense, porn may have been my secret way of responding to a life I didn’t feel I was choosing for myself. It may have been a self-destructive way of rebelling against something that I felt was dictating a future I wasn’t sure I wanted to live. I see some people use alcohol for the same reasons, or spending money, or eating. The substance offers a temporary escape from facing difficulties in one’s circumstances.
Although my wife of 8 years has known about my porn addiction for some time (and has gone to counselling with me and has been very supportive and patient as I’ve made progress and had setbacks), only recently have I had the courage to disclose my struggles with my testimony, and my feelings of oppression by the life we chose together to be part of the LDS Church. We met on our missions, got married in the temple, and have always attended church meetings, accepted and served in callings, held FHE and family scripture study, etc. This has been emotionally and spiritually devastating to both of us, because I don’t feel like I can continue to live with a belief system that I feel is incorrect despite all the good intentions of its members, while she feels like I am not the man she thought she married. She signed up for a man who faithfully exercised the priesthood and took leadership in the home and served enthusiastically in his callings, etc. Faced with a future of divergent spiritual paths (and the loss of the ideal goal of eternal marriage in a celestial kingdom), my wife feels like covenants have been violated.
I really have no answers to the problems we face right now. I recognize that the loss of my testimony is a form of infidelity to the marriage contract, and that I have wronged my wife (whom I love dearly). At the same time, I don’t know if I can _force_ myself to believe, especially without further spiritual witness to help me overcome my skepticism.
I offer this story to point out that one addiction might be a manifestation of another problem, which if not discovered and worked upon, could cause the addiction to keep creeping back time and again.
BTW, if anyone has any advice regarding working through one spouse’s loss of testimony, I’d love to hear it.
SilverRain, I didn’t make up my statement up out of whole cloth to personally annoy you, although that does have a certain charm; rather, it is the way actual men actually work. If you don’t like it, then avoid them. Men. Here’s a sample article on how masturbation lowers the risk of prostate cancer:http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/01January/Pages/Masturbationprostatecancer.aspx
Here’s another, from JAMA, one of the most prestigious medical journals out there: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/291/13/1578
There are roughly 100,000 similar articles on Google.
I don’t make this stuff up out of whole cloth; it’s clearly what the evidence shows.
While I’m insulting people, another anon, did your wife marry you or your religion? It sounds like the latter, I have no good ideas for you, just heartbreak.
djinn: I think she married me, but the religion was (a pretty big) part of the package. I don’t know if you are LDS or not, but from what I’ve read in your comments, you seem to know a fair amount about the LDS Church and its culture, even if it frustrates and baffles you (it baffles me too, regularly!). You surely have an understanding of the importance of the marriage covenant in LDS cosmology and theology. It is the very glue that binds everything we strive for in this life with a concept of a future life with God. For faithful LDS, marriage for eternity through the temple covenant is a promise sought after as the pinnacle of all of God’s promises to his children. As with other covenants in the LDS religion, it is incumbent on the individual’s ability to faithfully strive to live up to their end of the agreement.
In the case of eternal marriage, fidelity to one’s spouse, and faithfulness to God and His Kingdom (the Church) are required to be worthy to be able to live with our spouses and God in heaven for eternity. I personally find myself skeptical that a covenant must be performed in a temple by individuals in mortal bodies for such a bond to exist. If God sanctions marriage, why make it so difficult for his children to get and stay together? But my skepticism causes this covenant to be broken, through no fault of my wife’s; my attitudes and decisions will have an eternal impact upon her. In LDS theology, I not only damn myself for my loss of faith, but my wife will not be able to attain the highest heaven, nor be with me for eternity because of my decisions. She, of course, could divorce me and find another who will honor the marriage covenant, but she loves me and doesn’t want to be with someone else.
It is hard because the theology essentially asks her to choose between her love for me and her love of God. Selfishly, I want her to stay with me, but I recognize that such a decision would jeopardize her spiritual potential.
Re 41, 39– Get yourself to some (non-LDS) therapy. Yours is a fairly common situation. This doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. (I disagree that your wife is necessarily the wronged party in this situation.)
41 – Another Anon, your compassion for your wife is admirable, and that should also help you understand why she loves you. Eternity is a long time, and temple blessings will always be complicated, even in the best of families. While it is true that your marriage covenant included significant LDS weight, your marriage as it lives and breathes may indeed be strong enough to allow both of you to thrive.
I think #42’s recommendation to seek counseling is a good idea. Just as in the OP, you and your wife are where you are, regardless of how you got there. It’s true that once you’re able to express your situation honestly your spouse will have some choices to make, choices that you cannot control. But based on what you’ve written here, she has already demonstrated a desire to make the marriage work.
These things really are best dealt with one day at a time.
djinn—I know enough to take nothing you say personally. Just because there are people saying it and evidence supporting it does not make it necessarily true. Even if it is true that masturbation physically is beneficial for men, that doesn’t make it morally right, particularly in a marriage.
What I’m saying is that if the image of men you have painted—that they have every right to engage in activities that hurt their spouses and harm their marriage—is correct, I am disgusted by men.
There is plenty of evidence to show that women get greater sexual satisfaction (and increased fertility) from extramarital sexual partners. Does that mean that women have every right to indulge, simply because there is a physical and emotional benefit?
I’m already having a hard enough time keeping faith in the moral strength of men. I can’t believe that you are speaking for all men, everywhere. There have to be men in this world who don’t make temporal excuses for spiritually-damaging behavior.
SilverRain, djinn does not speak for all men.
SilverRain, djinn is full of crap. Men don’t need to view porn or masturbate. Married men especially. Married should develop the sexual relationship with their wife. They should stop just thinking about their own needs and learn to satisfy their wifes’ needs and both of the husband and wife will benefit greatly.
Good for you for coming out and talking about such a thing so openly. I can’t really offer any advice beyond what’s already been said, but no matter what you go through: God loves you. That’s all you need to remember.
Dblock, I always make sure of my factual assertions — even with something as bone-jarringly obvious as “sexual frequency decreases with age.” See graph at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~s2005.soc.134/134lecture20(feb25)bw.pdf.
#39: “I recognize that the loss of my testimony is a form of infidelity to the marriage contract, and that I have wronged my wife (whom I love dearly).”
I don’t buy this — at least not without additional facts. Maybe I’m just too corrupted with Zeezromish legal thinking, but “infidelity” surely requires some kind of culpable intent. Although it’s possible to “lose one’s testimony” by engaging in culpable conduct (lack of diligence, spiritual dishonesty, unrepentant sin), it’s clear to me that at least some people lose confidence in the Church because they are honestly convinced it is not what it claims to be. Personal integrity is never a fault. Your wife has not been “wronged” if you are acting in accordance with the dictates of your conscience. She has probably suffered — but not all suffering results from someone else’s wrong. (Clearly I’m not a plaintiff’s lawyer.) Some things just…happen. Assuming your good faith, your “loss of testimony” is the equivalent of an act of God — a disrupting event that happens without fault. Your duty to your wife is to shelter her as much as is consistent with truth from the effects of that event.
I see a slight difference in importance between “greater sexual satisfaction” and prostate cancer (and other avoidable prostate issues, too.) n
#40 djinn — this is a quotation from your JAMA article:
“Our results suggest that ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer.”
So what is your point?
Djinn apparently misread the statement that it’s not related to increased risk as meaning it actually decreases risk. That’s a very easy mistake to make when skimming an article.
“if anyone has any advice regarding working through one spouse’s loss of testimony, I’d love to hear it.” I have to agree with Thomas on this; I don’t see how loss of testimony is infidelity under any interpretation. If it leads to other forms of infidelity, then those things are the issue. Not all atheists kick puppies randomly. Jesus said that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse. But you asked for more discussion on this topic. Mormon Therapist has had these types of questions on her blog site many times – you should give that a look.
I thought part of the point of a marriage was sometimes we should have sex with our partner not just when we want it, but when they want it. Because needs aren’t always going to coincide. We should be willing to do this, even when we ourselves don’t want it – it’s a form of love. If we don’t do this, we are actually torturing our spouses, and depriving them of their natural needs.
And both sides should take good care of themselves physically and try and keep themselves appealing in all the various ways.
“if anyone has any advice regarding working through one spouse’s loss of testimony, I’d love to hear it.”
I think you are very worried about hurting your wife. I think that if you continue to tell her and show her that you value your marriage and her opinion and feelings, she will continue to be happy in the marriage. Marriage is ALL about accepting your partner and it can be very difficult. This is the case whether your husband has a testimony or not.
Don’t let yourself think that she is better off divorcing you and finding another guy.
I am 100% LDS but I do not think that if my husband loses his testimony that I screwed in the next life and he has damned me or even that I have to choose. I put my faith in the Lord for all judgements and there are plenty of confusing situations that I have faith he will work out to everyone’s benefit. That is why we believe in more than one heaven vs. hell type of situation.
“It has to do with neurochemicals in your husband’s brain that were in place way before he met you. It has to do with his own sexual and personal development.”
From what I’ve read, addiction to porn involves release of both testosterone and dopamine, which in combination have the effect of over-riding the priority control center of the brain, suddenly making viewing pornography more important that sleeping, eating, or even avoiding the possibility of getting caught.
For aging men with testosterone levels that are on the decline, the sexaul response to 24 years, even if the wife is a total hottie, isn’t going to be as quick as it was at the beginning. Therapists often recommend increased use of “manual stimulation” to take the pressure off of the husband to get ready. Men typically don’t like to admit they need this and can find it awkward asking their wife for it. And if the wife thinks the husband is asking for it because its something that was observed in porn and it makes her feel yucky, the whole thing is gonna flop. The testosterone/dopamine surge obtained from viewing porn can cruelly tempt a man to recapture his youthful quick response and provide reinforcement subconsciously that virility isn’t on the decline. A powerful and cruel snare…improving sexual communication between partners is so much better. I don’t recommend going to the Bishop to solve that one.
I agree that a loss of testimony is not a form of infidelity. This speaks to a personal journey or change of thought which is usually not intentional. We change our views as we grow, develop and have experiences. This is just part of life.
I also understand though, that it is difficult for a spouse who thought they signed up for a certain type of life is now realizing that those specific dreams, goals and expectations related to the religion in of itself are shattered, or at the very least need to be redefined. This pain should not be minimized. It is legitimate. Especially in a religion like ours where it affects many rituals, rites and parts of every day life. The main intervention that can be done here is to look for the common values – which are still usually many.
I agree with anom that addictions are usually symptoms of something deeper. In essence, addiction is a form of self-comfort. Self-comfort from what is what varies for different individuals. Thank you for sharing your story. I do recommend counseling as well. It should not matter if the counselor is LDS or not as long as you both feel safe and that the goal of therapy is not a re-conversion process for you. That is not what therapy should be about.
Thanks for all the comments, everyone. I’m willing to believe that perhaps the loss of my testimony isn’t a form of infidelity, but that doesn’t stop my wife from feeling betrayed by it all. My years of silence on the issue (for fear of letting her down in such a devastating way) is probably the bigger betrayal: I kept some of my most private thoughts from her for a very long time. I’m looking into finding a non-LDS therapist to work with in Utah County.
From the JAMA article: ” Most categories of ejaculation frequency were unrelated to risk of prostate cancer. However, high ejaculation frequency was related to decreased risk of total prostate cancer. The multivariate relative risks for men reporting 21 or more ejaculations per month compared with men reporting 4 to 7 ejaculations per month at ages 20 to 29 years were 0.89 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.73-1.10); ages 40 to 49 years, 0.68 (95% CI, 0.53-0.86); previous year, 0.49 (95% CI, 0.27-0.88); and averaged across a lifetime, 0.67 (95% CI, 0.51-0.89). Similar associations were observed for organ-confined prostate cancer. Ejaculation frequency was not statistically significantly associated with risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Let me highlight this part, whether you like it or not, this is the way men’s bodies actually work, as far as we know, “However, high ejaculation frequency was related to decreased risk of total prostate cancer. The multivariate relative risks for men reporting 21 or more ejaculations per month compared with men reporting 4 to 7 ejaculations per month at ages 20 to 29 years were 0.89 (95% confidence interval”. What does this mean? There is a statisically significant decrease in cases of prostate cancer among men who have “21 or more ejaculations per month” which indicates masturbation, to me. Lower sexual frequency doesn’t do anything. It just seems to be the way men’s bodies are made.
I’m not making this stuff up because I agree with it or disagree with it, I am reporting on an actual peer-reviewed article.
Good luck, another anon; just good luck. I cannot see how protecting your wife from the sadness she felt when you told her the truth and protecting yourself from divorce from a loved one can be seen by anyone with any compassion as betrayal. You were just trying to be a decent human being, And you succeeded. I grew up Mormon and hid my views on the religion from my family from the time I was about 11 until I was married and out of the house; and even then I told as little as possible. Does this mean I deceived them or does this mean that i didn’t feel it was a good idea to get thrown out on the street or end up in some reeducation camp; both observed possibilities. What was the worse evil? Keeping quiet or surviving?
You behaved nobly. You kept your mouth shut and your marriage together at cost only (really) to yourself. I’m sure you would have told your wife if you had any indication at all that she wouldn’t do what she did. Really, what choice did you have? Don’t beat yourself up; you’re obviously a deeply decent kind loving man. Your wife is lucky; and it seems from what you’ve written, that she knows it.
Perhaps you should read “Rough Stone Rolling’ with her, esp. the bits about Fanny Alger, Helen Marr Kimball, and the like to her. She may like you more afterwards.
Thank you, Paul, sandr, and Ray. It’s good to know that not all men think that way.
I think you missed my point, djinn, which is: what difference does it make? Even if that study is actually accurate, all it means is years of behavior which damages a marital relationship, MAY lead to a decreased risk of cancer. (And it is beside the point that from reading the way this study was conducted, I’m relatively unconvinced that it reports anything useful.)
Furthermore, why would I, as a woman, make all the sacrifices that marriage entails just to have my husband justify damaging behavior and blame it on me? Particularly when that behavior involves women outside of the marriage!
Both articles you referenced indicated they were early studies, requiring further review, and that the data collection was sketchy, at best (owing to the reliance on the memory of respondants over many years). And the conclusion I quoted from the JAMA article followed the statistical analysis which you quoted. Further, neither highlights the rarity of prostate cancer in the first place. Finally, one could achieve the same therapeutic results without lying about it to one’s spouse.
Also, djinn, there is a HUGE difference between “over 21” times and “4 to 7” times per month. Four to seven times is once or twice a week at most; 21 is almost every day. I hope most people fall somewhere in the middle of that range if they are married AND in their 20’s. (I know not all do, but I hope most do – especially if they are in their 20’s.)
Even if the study were totally reliable and accurate as you are characterizing it, which I just don’t see from the article itself, all that can be said about it objectively is that the risk of prostate cancer might be a little lower for men who are very sexually active in their 20’s than for those who have very little sex – that one extreme is better than the other. Since the LDS Church teaches its men to marry in that general age range, if possible, and since the LDS Church encourages sex within marriage (or certainly doesn’t discourage it), ysomeone might be justified in saying that it actually encourages practices that reduce the risk of prostate cancer in its men.
I’m not taking that stance completely, but I think it’s important to realize that it is as legitimate as a stance that says the LDS Church is raising the risk of prostate cancer by its belief that married men should not masturbate while watching porn. In this case, it really is all about how someone chooses to interpret the study.
True if the spouse isn’t encouraged to jump to the conclusion of “addiction” and “infidelity”. However, Mormonism makes it very difficult to be open about even occasional, porn-free masturbation.
You’ve assumed that masturbation is the only alternative.
In the OP, the spouse was willing to engage in sexual activity.
I’m not sure every LDS couple is as uptight as your comment suggests.
Honestly, as a very happily married woman who enjoys sex, I’d like to say that things never match up 100% even in a great relationship. I wouldn’t want “the spouse was willing to engage in sexual activity” to be the only possible release option — for me or for him. That’s a recipe for resentment.
#53 Hawkgrrrl: “Not all atheists kick puppies randomly.” True. Some are quite systematic in their puppy-kicking!
65- I agree! And this is part of my mission I guess. Helping couples start talking about things that are very personal and sacred to the individual. It is always interesting to me that we are willing to lie naked with someone and share our physical body – but it’s harder to share our soul, mind, beliefs or experiences. This is where I believe the heart of true intimacy lies. It is full of ambiguity, fear of rejection, and yet when we can accept each other regardless – that’s pretty powerful. That’s where another anon and his wife are headed if they can just hold on during the bumps of the ride.
67- This is the type of creativity and open communication that can lead to solutions that are up to the couple in question. They can include all types of ideas (i.e. masturbation while a spouse watches, quickies, masturbation that occurs privately but that is known by the spouse, oral sex, genital stimulation given by the spouse, phone sex, sexual contact that does not necessarily need to culminate in orgasm, etc.). None of these need include pornography – which has an effect on neurons that can affect arousal patterns in the future. Who wants to be in the situation where they must watch or think about porn in order to get turned on? I hope we can be more creative than that.
Research shows that sex/orgasm can help all kinds of ailments: stress, depression, prostate issues, menstrual cramps, anxiety, pain, etc.
Healthy sexuality is part of our overall health – on an individual basis and as a couple. I hope all couples can start having these types of discussions together and enjoy this wonderful aspect of being married.
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Once a person stops associating porn and masturbation with sin, guilt and shame, any “problems” or “addictions” to those behaviours pretty much disappear. The problem isn’t porn or masturbation, it’s Mormonism’s pathologisation of them that causes the problems. Once you step outside the Mormon world-view and can objective evaluate porn and masturbation, it becomes clear that they’re perfectly normal, healthy behaviours, which statistically have no effect on misogynistic or sexist ideas or actions, nor a statistically significant influence on unrealistic ideas about sex, nor are they inherently addictive. Many studies have shown this.
The problems come not from porn nor masturbation, but the feelings of shame and guilt and then consequent lying to the spouse. It’s a manufactured problem that need not exist. It’s sad that Mormonism, like so many other religions, controls people through their sexuality. When you have unrealistic expectations and beliefs about a normal biological function and need, it’ll inevitably lead to issues.
No spouse has the right to expect the other to abstain from masturbation, nor never view porn and more than a spouse has the right to forbid the other from watching TV or going to the washroom, or blowing their nose.
Craig, you nailed it!
My husband was in therapy for years to overcome what I thought (because the Church told me) was a horrible addiction! I was such an “abused” spouse because my husband wouldn’t honor his temple covenants. He might go for a month or even six without a problem, but inevitably it would happen again.
Fast forward to now, where we both decided that the Church wouldn’t dictate what is appropriate in our sexual lives. My husband and I watch porn whenever we want, without guilt, and it is normal behaviour. In fact, letting go of the “porn” issue saved our marriage. Watching porn can actually get me in the right frame of mind for sex. Or, if I’m not up for it, I just tell the hubby to take care of himself. So much pain and humiliation will leave if you stop looking at porn and men who look at porn like evil.
Once there was a middle-aged woman who had always wanted to travel, but she found herself married to a man who had no desire to travel and usually refused to accompany her. So she subscribed to a couple of travel magazines and found a couple of travel websites, and would lose herself in daydreams of travel and adventure is far-away places. Does that make her a bad person, because she used magazines and websites to daydream about something good that she could never have?
Change the story to a middle-aged man who always dreamed of a fulfilling sex life, but who married a woman who had no desire for it and usually refused to accompany him. Is he a bad person for using magazines or websites to daydream about something good that he can never have?
I am not trying to condone, or condemn, the use of pornography in my comments – just want to point some things out.
I believe that many LDS women, and men, have the view that whenever someone looks a pornography that they are lusting after those they look at, i.e. they are committing fornication/adultery in their minds. I don’t think that this is necessarily the case. To lust, there has to be more than looking and liking what they see. If we label anytime someone looks at pornography as lust, then I would submit that anytime someone looks at, and admires, fine clothing, food, etc… then they are lusting after these things.
To lust is more than looking and admiring. Lusting is more about where the heart is and resulting actions to bring about the end result of getting what they want. When a person lusts after power, they don’t just dream about what it would be like to be a CEO, or President, or…. they manipulate circumstances, people, or whatever they have to in order to achieve their desired outcome. They plot and plan their actions to bring about the desired thing that they lust after.
I think that most people look at pornography because it is arousing. Is this good? Not necessarily. But is it lusting after others? Not necessarily. There are dangers to viewing pornography, as we all know. It can become addicting and cause some people to escalate to deviant behaviors (S&M, Bestiality, Pedophilia, etc…), or to become unsatisfied with their existing or future sexual relationships. But to label any man that has a weakness of looking at pornography as being unfaithful to his wife, to me, is crazy. I would guess that most LDS men that are struggling with pornography sincerely love their wives, have never actually thought seriously of having an affair, and would turn down any advances that would come their way. Many of these men may be unfulfilled in their sex lives, but they still really love their wives.
Peeps in this thread need to take a more doctrinal approach to the problem of pornography. As someone who has graciously been spared (and I do indeed count myself as extremely blessed for being spared) from porn addiction I can tell you that an individual who is addicted to pornography or masturbation or both simply cannot have the Spirit with them. As a LDS having the Spirit to help me in my daily decisions is extremely important. From experience I know the difference in feeling between being addicted and not being addicted. When you are addicted you are spiritually deadened. You become selfish. You will go to great lengths to satisfy that craving just one more time. You make promises to yourself that you know you will break. You look forward to a dark room and privacy just to get your fill. Pornography kicks the Spirit out of your life. Time that could be spent actively pursuing the best things in life is wasted clicking your computer mouse away going from site to site. Watching porn is a sin – it’s one of the greatest evils of this modern era and Satan knows how to use it. If he could destroy an army of potentially mighty priesthood leaders with a shameful, guilty indulgence like porno he will and he is he the process of doing it. No wife deserves a husband who spends his idle time in front of a computer watching porn. I feel the pain of the original poster. Whatever you do don’t run from the problem – be confrontational and annoy your husband about it. He probably wants you to ignore it but don’t. Also be loving and tell him to go to his bishop. If he doesn’t want to go to the bishop tell him to pray to get the desire to go to the bishop. If he doesn’t want to pray tell him to pray for the desire to pray. There is only so much you can do because the final decision rest with the husband. He has to initiate the first move to repentance. Tell your husband he has to replace the bad things in his life with good things. The more Satan can waste his time the better. Tell him to read scriptures. He might fail multiple times but if he really tries and has a strong desire to change he will change. Just don’t excuse his behavior because your too fat or not good in bed. I know porn is a huge stumbling block for men in the church but they simply must decide to rise above it. They can’t do it on their own they need God’s help. Stop trying to explain things with science and realize it’s a spiritual matter and men simply cannot be effective LDS fathers and husbands if they are in bondage to porn.
No no no no no. As has been documented elsewhere, when porn becomes available sex crimes against women and children drom, sometimes astonishingly dramatically. Again, I’m just reporting how humans behave. Masturbation is not infidelity. Pornography does not lead to that list of horrors given above; the opposite, rather.
“Stop trying to explain things with science…”
That’s a very sad, disturbing attitude. Do you also not believe in evolution? Or a heliocentric solar system? Germ theory of disease? Do you think white people are superior to non-whites? All these things have to do with science telling us that certain religious doctrines are incorrect.
When religious doctrines contradict science, eventually science always wins. It always has, it always will.
Porn simply doesn’t cause the effects you attribute to it. Yes, science says so. Science = knowledge about the way the universe works.
“No wife deserves a husband who spends his idle time in front of a computer watching porn.”
No person deserves a spouse of any gender who judges them for doing what is natural, normal, and healthy.
You can call porn a sin all you want and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have your facts about porn wrong. Your claims are in error. The problem is not the porn, it’s the false guilt, shame and the lying. That’s the real problem. Once that goes away, the problem is solved. So says science. And if god can’t get his facts straight, he’s a pretty ineffectual god indeed. A hunch tells me though that it’s humans and their biases and prejudices that are the root problem here.
Silverrain, I have no idea what horrible things happened in your marriage, and I am very sorry for the abuse you suffered. Really. But if you think that catching your spouse masturbating equqals getting a divorce, perhaps you should warn your potential spouses beforehand.
ps. I know very little about actual porn, my studies are pretty much exclusively limited to monographs on the subject which I find fascinating. However, reading through several threads on this topic has convinced me that my own marriage that imploded in a very ugly way was based, at least in part, on my former husband’s viewing of porn. I don’t know that for sure, but I strongly suspect it. However, one point does not a scientific theory make. So, this is my pathetic and long-winded way of saying I’m much more sympathetic to yur plight than any given post of mine would indicate.
@emlew–“No wife deserves a husband who spends his idle time in front of a computer watching porn.”
Very true, but some husbands watch porn because much of the time that’s as close as they get to having sex… I believe that, in the vast majority of cases, if a wife is seductive, flirtatious, initiates sex regularly, and lets her husband know that she wants him sexually and loves having frequent sex, he won’t have the attraction to porn.
If you keep a man well fed, he won’t go elsewhere to eat. But if you keep him “hungry” all the time he will find a snack somewhere else eventually.
Wille- so not true. Married 25 years, sex of all kinds every 24-48 hours. Husband still looks at porn. He has off the charts libido. He will admit depression makes him want to look for comfort. He looks to be stimulated. High need for stimulation, depression and poor relationship with God. All while having sex and being pleasured consistently by a wife he loves.
mlew: welcome to Mormon Matters! I’m not sure if you’ve been here before, or if you’re a lurker, but thanks for having the courage to make a comment.
It seems clear that there are a multitude of perspectives on the subjects of masturbation and porn among the readership at MM, and although I have no data on the subject, I would be comfortable betting that there is an even bigger spectrum of opinions among the LDS populace. For me, the take-away lesson isn’t that my perspective is superior to others’; rather, its that we all care about each other enough to share ideas and strategies that have worked for us, or to commiserate when we have no answers to give. The greatest strength of MM is its willingness to encourage all voices in the discussion. As members of this community, we celebrate the diversity of our beliefs and opinions, and avoid using superlatives in relation to how something “must” be or not be, how one must believe or not believe, and how one must act or not act.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciate the discussion, and share in the struggle to understand and cope with my own sexuality in ways that are personally satisfying and spiritually uplifting. My views have changed as I’ve lived my life, and I expect they will change some more before I’m done here. Cheers.
“the time has come for any one of us who is so involved to pull himself out of the mire, to stand above this evil thing, to “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). We do not have to view salacious magazines. We do not have to read books laden with smut. We do not have to watch television that is beneath wholesome standards. We do not have to rent movies that depict that which is filthy. We do not have to sit at the computer and play with pornographic material found on the Internet.
I repeat, we can do better than this. We must do better than this. We are men of the priesthood. This is a most sacred and marvelous gift, worth more than all the dross of the world. But it will be amen to the effectiveness of that priesthood for anyone who engages in the practice of seeking out pornographic material.”
-President Gordon B. Hinckley
You can rationalize viewing porn all you want, I’m especially shocked at the comment that it is ok if it is done as a couple with both spouses aware of the practice. My mother-in-law happens to be a lesbian, she believes that the prophet is ok with this practice and will one day announce to the church that it is ok and good to be gay. Absurd, yes. but that is her rational.
At least for those of us who are LDS it comes down to the simple fact: do you believe Gods prophet or not. If you do then there is no grey area
Well, Bob, there’s more than one prophet, and the Mormon church has considerably hardened its’ stand on masturbation sincec the Kimball era. So even counting prophets, there’s wiggle room. NOt to mention that I had the pleasure of seeing one of the first ever photographs in a museum in England. I can’t even describe it, well, perhaps the words cute cirl and shetland pony will suffice. So, not a new phenomenon. Considering that those early photos required quite a period of stillness, anyway, there were blurry parts, but you got the picture. So to say.
adorable shirley-templed apple cheeked beauty obviously being left behind as the industrial revolution hit England full-bore. I have an almost-degree in anthropology and am very interested in woman’s issues; it’s estimated that about 10% (with somewhat wide error bars0 of females in the UK in the mid 1800’s were throwaway; hence such images. Better than starvation.
Stepahnie’s (post #72) experience is RATHER unconventional, but if it works for them…it’s still a glaring exception.
I agree that there’s nothing good about porn and any attempts to rationalize its indulgence are delusional. If indeed 60% of LDS are or have recently indulged in it, no wonder it’s the “topic du jour” at every Conference Priesthood session.
The Brethren are really “riding the tiger” on this issue. On the one hand, they come across as judgemental, pompous, and self-righteous…if they think they will bring about widespread repentance on this subject, they have deluded themselves as well. Likely this behavior is being driven further undergroud, to the detriment of all. OTOH…they HAVE to speak up! If the problem is THAT widespread the GAs would be derelict not to! So my issue is not that they’re decrying pornogpraphy but rather that “porn viewers and mastrubators” have been equated with child molesters, sellers of high military secrets to Al-Queda, etc. etc….brethren caught up in porn need to seek Christ and given encouragement to foresake the pathetic practice…it does seem that the good Lord intended that man and woman have a mutually satisfying sex life, and long before invention of the PC and the Internet.
BTW, as much as I revered the late SWK, his views on mastrubation were somewhat extreme…it’s not “good”, but saying that it leads to homosexualtiy is ridiculous. Nor is the youthful experimentation necessarily a perversion. Young lads brimming with hormones are naturally curious. Now, if a married man indulges in it frequently, there’s something terribly wrong. Especially if his wife is hot. But don’t give a curious boy a complex. Just tell him that it’s not unusual but it’s best that he discontinue the practice. Tell the kid he’ll develop “tennis elbow”!!! I wonder how many ebullient lads have been warped by some bishop or other priesthood leader making far more of a big deal of this thing than they should. Gentle adminition and postive reinforcement are far better than pompous posturing.
Like a lot of things, don’t ask “What’s WRONG with it?”, rather, ask, “What’s RIGHT with it?”…they’re ya go!
I’d like to come to Natasha Parker’s defense. Having any kind of sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse, even if that “relationship” is had vicariously through pornography, is a form of infidelity. I don’t know that pornography should inevitably lead to divorce in every case, but let’s not sugarcoat it by calling it anything other than what it is: infidelity.
Looking at a picture is not “any kind of sexual relatinship.” It just isn’t and it dimishes the actual destruction, heartache and pain tht go through their spouses having acutal sexual reltionships with peoople. It’s just a picture. It’s not a human. It seems to me this is the real boundary. Point 2; if you convince peopel that looking at pictues is a huge crime, than there’s not that big a step to actually moving into the realm o the human, and actual maarriage destroying tragedy. No no no no no; these two behaviours are not even close to equal. One is innocent, one is actualy a marrige killer. Equting a piece pf paper with an actuaql betryal is a good wy to increase betrayals, because once you’ve I ddon’t know, seen Samantha Fox in a bikini, your crime is almost as great as betrying your wife. This line of reasoning is insane! aND i Know it goes on. The slop is not that slipperyl Gee whiz.
djinn, dude, spell check and don’t post wasted.
I’m sorry I haven’t been checking and didn’t realize people were still commenting.
Yes, there is research that supports both sides of the equation on this issue. There is also one study I’m aware of that talks of sex crimes decreasing due to the outlet of pornography. However there are other studies that show that as people look at porn (esp violent porn) they can actually repeat the behaviors they see. There is a lot of disagreement even among the professionals on the effects of pornography. What I think is most powerful is the scientific data showing how the brain responds when porn is viewed (where subjects are hooked up to electro gadgets and responses are measured). They are also showing how the arousal templates can be altered. Addiction is by no means the only problem with porn.
I agree that shame and secrecy are the trumpers of the problem at large.
Regardless of what the issue is – when one spouse is uncomfortable with the behavior of the other the issue needs to be looked at for the sake of the relationship. Marriage is many times about concessions. These concessions will look differently for different couples.
As soon as I have time I’ll try and cite the latest research on these issues.
According to djinn’s argument: Walking in to a bank with a gun and demanding money is wrong because its “the real thing” but if I figure out how to steal money with forged checks and counterfeit dollars that’s ok “because its just paper” its not the real thing.
And I agree with #87 please try and get a least somewhat sober before posting
Men do not physically “need” to have frequent sex or release sperm. Extra sperm is naturally released in nocturnal emissions or absorbed back into the body, without any need of masturbation. Yes, hormones and emotions drive your desire, but nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t satisfy those urges. There are no physical problems that come from not having sex enough, like djinn alluded to. That idea is mostly made up from “boys will be boys” attitudes, and the justifications men make up to excuse their lack of self control.
Also, where are these “statistics” coming from about porn use and masturbation in the church? I highly doubt there is a source that has been able to correctly divine such information. If someone did a questionnaire on their blog, that doesn’t count. A post about masturbation and porn will naturally attract men who are engaging in these activities, and will be more likely to answer to try and justify their actions (not to mention their already proficient internet use). I think its horribly irresponsible to throw false numbers around to justify negative behaviors.
It comes down to self control and respect. Period. If his porn “problem” is to such a level that his temple recommend was taken away, and he couldn’t even get his act together long enough to baptize his OWN DAUGHTER, I think its safe to assume it is indeed, an addiction. Who puts their “right” to view porn over their responsibility to fulfill baptismal covenants for their children?! Have you all forgotten “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”? (Matthew 5:28)
I am shocked at the comments this post has received. I can’t believe how many people still vilify the women who isn’t “cool” enough to be okay with pornography. No, it wasn’t just some crazy obsession of Pres. Kimball’s. No, its not physically necessary. No, its not his wife’s fault for “letting herself go”. (she never even says if she *gained* the weight after marriage or if she’s always been heavier- and besides, we don’t know if the husband has gained weight or looks exactly the same as his marriage day. I’m willing to bet he DOESN’T.) And no, you can’t expect a man who has no prior education or experience in counseling or psychology to be able to give perfect advice for every situation (ie, the Bishop).
This woman has spent years being abused by her spouse, being guilted into doing sexual activities she is not comfortable with, lied to, and has had her marriage covenants broken. Her integrity and self worth are being degraded. This man is obviously not serious about giving up his addiction for his family. If he doesn’t value them, why should she spend the rest of her life in misery with him? Why should she risk having her children pulled down with him? You do not vow to stay with your spouse even if he abuses you.
Please source your claims.
Quoting scriptures isn’t a good way to counter scientific fact. Putting scare quotes around the word “statistics” shows to me that you don’t care what evidence you’re presented with, if it contradicts what you already believe, your mind is closed. That’s the quintessential definition of prejudice and bigotry. Reality doesn’t mould itself to your world-view. It exists whether you believe in it or not. I find your and other’s rejection of science to be very troubling and sad. Oh, and it is not ever safe to assume anything, ever. The only time it is “safe” to arrive at a conclusion is if it clearly evidenced with facts and reason.
Watching porn is not ever spousal abuse. That’s beyond absurd. She never was forced into any sexual act she didn’t want to do. She did it for bad reasons, certainly, but he didn’t abuse her. To equate kinky sexual positions and having a spouse who masturbates and looks at porn to abuse is to severely cheapen the seriousness actual abuse. I find the extreme prudishness exhibited here and in the church to be very disturbing. It is this self-righteous prudishness that is the cause of the problem.
Porn might not be physically necessary, but sexual release is. Not only is it necessary, but it is natural and normal. To label it as a “sin” is to daemonise one of the most basic functions of the human body. It is equivalent to making eating, breathing, or blowing your nose a sin. It is ridiculous and harmful. And for your information, nocturnal emissions aren’t experienced by all men, and even when they are, they’ve very infrequent and not ever enough to provide sufficient sexual release. Furthermore, research indicates that the more one masturbates, the healthier the prostate and other internal sexual organs, and lower the incidence of associated cancers.
“but nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t satisfy those urges.” Not only is that highly debatable, but it is scientific fact that nothing bad will happen do you if and when you do satisfy those urges.
*** Watching porn is not ever spousal abuse. ***
Depends on your definition of abuse, doesn’t it? If you define spousal abuse as the law defines abuse, then you are correct. If you define spousal abuse as “any violation of the marriage covenant”, then watching porn most definitely constitutes abuse.
*** I find the extreme prudishness exhibited here and in the church to be very disturbing. It is this self-righteous prudishness that is the cause of the problem. ***
On the contrary, it is the consumption of pornography that is the problem.
*** Porn might not be physically necessary, but sexual release is. Not only is it necessary, ***
I disbelieve this. Please cite your sources, as you requested of Olive. For thousands of years, men and women have lived celibate lives with no obvious ill effect on lifespan or health (except that they avoided getting STDs).
*** but it is natural and normal. ***
So is beating your neighbor to death in a rage and then raping his wife. That doesn’t make it right.
*** To label it as a “sin” is to daemonise one of the most basic functions of the human body. It is equivalent to making eating, breathing, or blowing your nose a sin. ***
Since a person can live a long, healthy life without ever engaging in any sexual activity (including masturbation), your comparison of sexual activity to eating and breathing is absurd hyperbole.
*** Not only is that highly debatable, but it is scientific fact that nothing bad will happen do you if and when you do satisfy those urges. ***
Do you understand what science is? What do you think constitutes a “scientific fact”?
I dunno, Craig. Blowing your nose is not a sin, but doing it in my face is poor judgment, rude, and gross. There are lots of natural body functions that are private.
I think you are mixing up the natural beauty of sex with the gross and irresponsible display of immoral actions in the porn industry.
Based on your logic, cheating on my wife is just natural. She should realize I’m just a man with needs and urges, and not get bent out of shape about it.
There is a right and wrong.
Porn is not cheating. Masturbating is not cheating. And who’s masturbating onto your face in public?
According to men we believe to speak for God, pornography usage is indeed a violation of marriage covenant. You need not believe them, of course, but you have no authority for your opinion other than your own desires, which few here are likely to recognize as authoritative.
I don’t want to loose weight for my husband but want him to not look at porn! Listen to yourself and consider why he does what he does.
I think this site is very helpful, and a great resource for individuals who are looking for help with their addictions. I have also found the following sites to be very helpful as well.www.lifestar.com – Addiction Counseling based in SLC, UT. Many of the affiliates are LDS.www.rowboatsandmarbles.org – LDS man in recovery that provides wonderful insights into addiction.www.salifeline.org – LDS couple in recovery who started a foundation to educate those that struggle with this addiction.www.outinthelight.com – Media driven, effort to assist women in the fight against pornography. Many if not all of the site contributors are LDS.www.combatingpornography.com – LDS churches site on Pornography.www.ldshopeandrecovery.com – Online Counseling for LDS members to recieve qualified Pornography / Sexual Addiction counseling.