Alex:

I have a question, please. I have been dating a man for a couple of months. We are both older and previously married. The relationship seemed to be going much slower than I wanted, and he recently told me why: he is a recovered porn addict and wanted to tell me so I could make a decision as to whether or not to continue our relationship.

I have attended a couple of lectures on how pornography affects the addict and those around him/her, and understand it on the surface only. I even feel now (looking back) that that was what lead my ex-husband to him having extra-marital affairs. And my best friend’s marriage was destroyed by it, as well. So I am an advocate for recovery, if possible, but what I understood was that there were very few “good” professionals out there that could really help, and it was a very long process.

My question is, however, can one ever have a truly healthy sexual life again after that kind of addiction? Can he have ‘normal’ desires to be with a woman? Would a normal woman, whose body is old and saggy be attractive and desirable to a recovered addict? Certainly a healthy sexual relationship has more to do with commitment and love than attraction, but that plays an important role, too. I feel I still have a lot to offer physically, but maybe not so to a recovered porn addict.

I hope I have worded my questions in a way that you can understand what I really need to know. Do you have any research articles that you can point me to that will answer these questions? I would like to be as well-informed as I can before making a decision to continue in this discovery period of our relationship.

Many thanks.
Anon2012

Hi Anon2012,

Thank you for this beautiful question. I don’t have a well researched article to point you to, scientist are still debating whether to qualify overuse of pornography as an addiction, or as a subset of some other problem, and as a result the research in this field is very limited.

What I am going to say, I am going to say from my personal experience in recovery, and from observations that I’ve made up to this point. In my opinions recovering porn addicts make pretty good partners. Non of us are perfect, and a lot of  porn addicts that I’ve met were humble, honest, and often shy men at their core.

I think that fact, that he waited this long to tell you shows both his honesty, and his concern that you might reject him based on his condition. However, I would advise you not to hold his history against him, given that he now has some good record of recovery.

I  like to view porn addiction not as something black or white, but in terms of levels such as these proposed by Dr. Kevin B. Skinner in his book, “Treating Pornography Addiction” :

Level 1. Mild exposure – once or twice a year, no effect on regular life.
Level 2. Pornography use does not indicate addiction – occasionally looking at pornography with increased interest.
Level 3. Signs of trouble – person looks few times a month, usually tries to avoid it, but occasionally urges get so strong that it cannot be controlled, and person gives in.
Level 4. Individual notices increased sexual fantasies, and attempts to control them, which results in stronger withdrawal symptoms.
Level 5. Pornography impacting day to day living with significant portion of the day spent thinking about pornography.
Level 6. Pornography dominates most of the day to day life, affecting work, school, and personal relationships.
Level 7. Pornography and acting out consumes most of individuals time, leaving him feeling completely out of control.

I think if the men that you are referring to was able to stay bellow level 4 for at lest 6 months to a year up to this point, he is in a pretty good shape to start a relationship.

I agree with you, that there are not that many professionals that understand this issue well. If you are looking for a professional to further discuss this issue, I would highly recommend finding one certified via Certified Sex Addiction Therapist(CSAT) .

Additionally, I am a member of Sex Addicts Anonymous(SAA), and while I do not blindly endorse all aspect of 12 step programs, I am a strong believer in the community based recoveries.

One of the key points of SAA is that while we are working to stop some addictive sexual behaviors, such as viewing pornography, we don’t have to stop all the sexual behaviors, and we can and should learn to embrace and explore the healthy side of our sexuality.

There is also a group called Recovering Couples Anonymous, and most of partners there had dealt with sex addiction in one way or another. It might be beneficial for you to go there as a couple to see for yourself, that people do have very good, loving, and sexually satisfying relationships after they remove pornography out of their lives.

I also would like to add that I am 100% confident that a recovering porn addict, not only will be able to have a desire for a “normal woman” but would have a much stronger desire for it as compared to a regular Joe. Recovering porn addicts have to shelter themselves from a lot of sexually explicit messages that all members of our society are constantly bombarded with on a daily basis. As a result I believe our brains reach certain level of clarification that allows us to see the beauty and love the normal healthy bodies of our wives and partners.

If you haven’t seen the video series titled: “Your Brain on Porn” created by our friendly site http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/ I think it would be very beneficial, and would help you further understand that healthy sexual relationship is very much possible for a recovering porn addict.

As a last note, I would encourage you to give this relationship a shot. While I don’t know neither of you and it is possible that the things might not work out, I think you have a very good chance of making this work, and turning it into a loving, carrying and sexually fulfilling relationship that both of you are looking for.

Regards,
Alex

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