Published with permission. Written by an anonymous addict in South Africa
As I have indicated, my marriage has been severely affected by my addiction to pornography. But first some history. I had, by the time I met my wife-to-be, been heavily infatuated with a number of other women. All of these infatuations had come to naught, although I was careful to nurture friendships with them and not “go too far” (i.e., for me, that means I never really even dated any of them). Despite my infatuation with them, it became clear to me, each time, through the course of our friendship, that the feeling was not requited.
I did have earlier dating relationships, but that was before the more “pious” era of my life. And in two of those, as I have indicated, I did go too far on the physical side of things, with lots of French kissing and fondling and kissing those women’s breasts. Even now, thinking back to that fills me with a sense of shame. I wish I had never done it. I think, in large measure, my regrets over what I did in those two relationships formed a strong disincentive for me to get too physical in my later relationships, perhaps because I felt that I could not trust myself, but also in large measure because I subsequently came to believe (and still do) that it was wrong to get too physical.
When I met my wife, I was again infatuated with her. It quickly became clear, though, that this time the feeling was mutual. This filled me with joy and excitement. I was careful, at first, to build a strong friendship, and not to push the physical side of things. But she was so beautiful (she still is), and I so enjoyed being with her, that, one fateful day, I did what I think now was a mistake. If I could have done it again, I think I would have tried to speak to her about what I was feeling, to discuss what I wanted to do, and make a commitment that these would be the kinds of things we would do if ever we were to marry. I think there would have been reward and value in waiting. Nonetheless, what I did was kiss her. But not in the usual way, I think. Instead of getting close, creating a romantic atmosphere, and then trying to get lucky, I spent the evening talking to her, and when I felt the time was appropriate, simply asked her if I could kiss her. That, of course, opened to the door to regular and intense periods of French kissing over the next few months. Although I was careful not to fondle her, I would say that we definitely kissed so passionately that we moved into the area of foreplay, so much so that I even ejaculated on one occasion. How I wish now that we had rather waited then, and done more of it now! How I wish that I had rather used the time to build the friendship and the emotional intimacy. If only I had known how.
I did all of this, of course, even before I was certain that I wanted to marry her. Eventually, as I realised that it was getting more serious, I called off the kissing, and spent some time reflecting on the relationship. After this, I decided that I should either pursue the relationship to its logical conclusion—marriage—or call it off totally. Again, I asked her to marry me in an unconventional fashion. There was no engagement ring (although she had already indicated that she only wanted one ring), there was no romantic proposal. I simply sat on a couch and discussed our relationship with her and asked her if she would marry me. I really was not very romantic.
In our premarital counselling, the minister (who I dearly loved, but who I also thought was a bit too worldly) said that the sexual aspect would be one of the biggest issues to deal with in our marriage. I resented that, thinking that if we built a strong spiritual foundation, the sexual side of things would simply fall into place. I was so naïve. In a sense, I suppose, I was right, in that the quality of the sexual relationship is determined by other underlying factors, but I was foolish to think, firstly, that it would not be so important to me, nor, more importantly, to realise that my own failures in this area would wreak so much havoc in our relationship.
I had, of course, discussed my ongoing porn addiction with my wife-to-be. I did not call it an addiction, then. And it was relatively under control then, too—present, ever present, but infrequent, and not as dominating as it would become in later years. We believed that if we prayed, and worked together, we could overcome it. As is so often the case, the first few months of marital bliss meant that my porn habit was at a low ebb. But then reality set in. And porn came back with force. Over the years, I confessed several times to my wife (as the books about dealing with pornography which I was reading suggested), but that did not help. All it did was destroy our relationship (I must add that it was not the confessions that did the damage, but the repeated failures, even after confession). She lost her desire for me. She felt betrayed. She felt rejected. Our sex life died a painful death. She hated being touched by me, and she hated touching me. She felt claustrophobic if we touched, and doubly so if we kissed. Even now, I could probably kiss a family member like my sister more, and longer (without being at all inappropriate), than I kiss my wife. Again, this saddens me greatly to think of the mess I have made, of the damage I have done, and the hurt I have caused.
One other area of concern extends further—to our children. Another incident which fills me with shame is remembering how I once sat with my eldest son, still a baby, not even able to say his first word yet, on my lap, and watched a porn video clip on my computer. I feel so guilty about that. I have lived my life as a father in the constant dread that I might do to my sons what my father has done to me, that my porn would become a source of porn exposure to them. Unlike his, my porn is (was) on my computer, and, increasingly, in the cloud on my internet history—what if they got onto YouTube under my profile and happened to see a porn video in my history? I always imagined that I would be able to kick the porn habit, and be able to guide my sons to be men of integrity, men who fled from porn and who kept themselves sexually pure throughout their lives. Now, they are both already approaching puberty, and I am still as addicted to porn as ever. All I can show them, it seems, is what my father showed me—what not to do. I seem totally unable to demonstrate, in my own actions, what to do.
A new era: Internet pornography
I have, in a sense, run ahead of myself in this story. In telling about my intimacy disorder, I have moved through marriage and parenthood, but I have not discussed what happened to my porn addiction after its more dormant years when I was in a spiritually strong and supportive student group.
Several things happened. As was inevitable, we all finished our studies and moved our separate ways. We still have contact with each other to this day, but the closeness, the constant fellowship, the times of prayer, were gone. And I was unable to find a replacement fellowship of friends—a big mistake.
Then, also, I started working. At first, I was doing well in the fight against porn, and it went well at work. Those were also the early days of Internet access at work, and the connections (and computers) were slow. But then one day, I made a fatal (but probably inevitable) mistake. I had watched The Return of the Jedi and wanted to look again at Princess Leia’s bikini. That was the first time I searched for something which I found sexually stimulating on the Internet, and that also became my introduction to Internet porn. I suppose that this is part of my struggle which may differentiate it from that of many others—that seemingly simple things, things which others might not even consider pornographic, I find sexually stimulating, and constitute pornography to me. Very few people would consider Leia’s bikini pornographic, and yet, while I have, over time, moved on in terms of the relative degree of explicitness, it is pornographic to me. Even in my current state, I might not necessarily find it stimulating enough on its own, and would undoubtedly still search for more, but if I were to return to that very film scene, I would indeed find something to lust after.
Nonetheless, in searching for this picture, I had crossed several boundaries. If my exposure through friends and peers like those early school friends was the start of the problem, and the discovery of my dad’s stash of porn was the start of the addiction, then this was the point at which the addiction started to systematically make my life unmanageable, and progressively dismantle my whole life.
Firstly, I had again given porn a new avenue—now, I could access porn over the Internet. Secondly, I had done it at work. This would become a major problem to me in years to come—if only I had realised it then. At first, I only watched porn once every few days or weeks on the computer at work. Porn then was also mostly pictures, and even when taken from movies, consisted of screen caps—the connections were just too slow to allow anything else. But the Internet has changed since then. And my habits have changed with it. At its worst, there was a time, in an earlier job, when I would easily spend three hours of every five-hour workday looking at porn, sometimes for a week or more, before it would subside a bit, and then flare up again later. Also, what I have watched has changed from mostly pictures to mostly video. While pictures do stimulate me, there is something different about video. I think it goes about the interaction, about the woman wanting, desiring, what is happening—even though, in reality, she is just pretending. That is part of the problem—pornography presents a reality that is not real. The woman is an actor, and she would never really do any of that for me. But the video makes it look normal, appealing.
When I started with my current job, things went well at first. I was strong in the struggle against porn, I went for quite a while without a filter, and stayed away. When I did start again, I installed Covenant Eyes at work, and that again brought a long period of very little porn. But the problem was that keeping my porn habit in check was turning out to be much like stuffing an octopus into a bag—there were too many tentacles and I had too few arms. So if I could not find porn past the filter on my work PC, I would make other plans, like getting access to an unfiltered PC at a different place, or finding my way around it on my own PC (in those days, the university also blocked certain sites, like YouTube, in the interests of conserving bandwidth). But then two things happened which caused the addiction to burst into a wildfire—the university stopped blocking any and all sites, and the university made changes to the firewall which meant that Covenant Eyes could no longer block anything (nor, in fact, any other filter—I tried all that I could find). This was the start of another dark period, like the earlier one, during which I have downloaded and watched countless gigabytes of pornographic videos.
Huis van Seen: ‘n Plek van Aanvaarding en Waarheid
House of Blessing: A Place of Acceptance and Truth
Pastorale Terapeut/Pastoral Therapist
Pornografie en Seksuele Verslawingsterapeut
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
Sel/Cell. 076 165 1587
Kantore/Offices in: Pretoria en/and Krugersdorp, South Africa