This is part 2 in the series Marriage & Porn. We are very thankful to Paul Coughlin who has put these blogs together and allowed us to use them. Paul is the founder of The Protectors and has an amazing heart for people. You can find the original posting of his blog here.
- Brian & Darcy
A frustrated and grieving woman in her 20s writes to Focus on the Family: “I’m addicted to porn…It’s so frustrating to find all sorts of help out there, but only for men…Are there any articles or studies currently out there for people like me?” Her search is not fruitless, but it will not be as fruitful as a man’s search for answers. Currently, the reasons why husbands turn to porn are better known, discussed, and more public than why wives turn to pornography.
Of course the reasons overlap. Two are boredom and pain. Call it the seven-year-itch if you want, but eventually the home fires begin to dim in the best of marriages. We grow bored with each other’s strengths as well as weaknesses, and for some such familiarity breeds virtual infidelity. Pain causes both genders to look for quick and convenient sources to salve it, and the deeper the pain, the further we often reach to make it go away.
Loneliness strikes at the heart of both husbands and wives, but tends to plunge deeper into the emotional expanse of women. This is one reason why wives are seduced by “emo-porn,” virtual infidelity that is more emotionally satisfying before it physically pleases. But like salt water, it creates a worsening thirst. With emo-porn, fantasy men perform stunningly between the sheets of conversation, emotional understanding, and emotional dexterity. Most mortal men cannot deliver such behavior, the way men do in soap operas and romance novels. Just as wives rightly complain when compared to the artificially created women of Internet porn, men should complain when compared to the artificial men of daytime television. Interesting, isn’t it, how they have such exciting jobs—no Joe The Plumbers. In the real world where real men burn through a lot of emotional battery life to make a real living, being expected to behave like men who don’t exist is more than wrong. It’s cruel.
Emo-porn creates caricatures in the minds and hearts of wives. Most men just aren’t and cannot be that attentive, especially in marriage where responsibilities to provide weigh heavy upon them. Husbands are quietly deemed unresponsive and uncaring when compared to emotionally dexterous hunks of daytime lore, chat rooms, celebrity rags, and romance novels. Thus a secretive and snowballing form of marital discontent is born and nurtured.
One reason why pornography is more attractive to wives than husbands is its capacity for secretive retribution. Through concealed romps with other men, wives say they feel like they have “gotten back” at their husbands for hurting them for behaviors they committed or didn’t commit. It’s a passive-aggressive way of handling conflict without going through the difficult work of actually creating resolution.
Wifely virtual infidelity is less visible and more secretive, making it harder to expose and to heal. Some startling statistics to support this claim: Wives more than husbands are drawn to chat rooms and illicit relationships, rather than visual images of porn, though visual porn is still enticing (Nearly 30% of all visitors to porn sites are women). Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, even affairs. Seventy percent say they keep their cyber activities secret.
Emotional and physical pleasure through fantasy behave in the most primal ways upon our minds. And when they are associated with someone who is not your husband, it becomes more difficult for him to captivate you. Virtual infidelity does not free you toward greater connection with your husband, but dilutes this connection. And given the secretive nature of virtual infidelity and a man’s more limited ability to notice minute relational cues, he is likely to think that “Everything’s okay,” in his marriage when it’s not. Worse, he’s denied the very information he needs to play his role in mending it.