By Eric Gomez, MS, LMFT, MHP
I am often faced with treating individuals and couples whose lives have been ravaged by the use of pornography and cybersex. As a family therapist, I frequently witness the sheer pain addicted individuals and their families experience as they seek to work through the utter damage caused by these sordid elements in our society. I am wholly convinced, based on this evidence and more, that pornography and cybersex are destructive and have become a pervasive phenomenon in America. I am therefore not surprised by the frequency of calls I receive from those seeking help to either break free of sexual addiction, or to obtain help in restoring their relationship with their spouse or dating partner. Their desire is to be free of the damage pornography and/or cybersex have done to their lives, to move beyond the grasp of sexual addiction, and to set their lives back on a trajectory of relational and emotional health. Furthermore, they know all too well the impact sexual addiction can have on the various aspects of one’s life.
The Traumatic Nature of Cyber-Sexual Infidelity
Whether married or dating, if your relationship has been impacted by your partner’s use of pornography or cybersex, you may have experienced the utter feelings of betrayal and the emotional trauma that often follow in these situations. Dr. Shirley Glass, in her book Not Just Friends, addresses these notions of betrayal and trauma in the context of infidelity. She describes how “betrayed” partners may experience irritability and aggression, numbing, obsessing, shifting emotions, and the need to interrogate their partner. She further explains how the “unfaithful” member may experience resentment, impatience, or grief after their partner learns of their infidelity (Glass, 2003).
I see this often in my practice, where the betrayed partner will desperately seek to know why their spouse was seeking sexual fulfillment outside of their marriage. They’ll ask questions like, “Am I not good enough?” or “How do I know you won’t do this again?” Unfaithful partners tend to become uncomfortable with such questions, possibly out of fear of speaking the truth and doing further damage, or because of powerful feelings of remorse, guilt, and shame. Either way, whether they respond reluctantly or openly, the damage is already done, and it will take a lot of time and work to make right that which is now broken.
Dr. Patrick Carnes (2001) provides a powerful illustration of a man addicted to Cybersex, who being the CEO of his company, was spending 30 hours a week having cybersex. On one occasion, he’d spent 6 hours having cybersex on the day his company was going public. His team thought he had been using that time to diligently prepare for the upcoming press conferences. The point is clear. He was lost in a cyber-sexual world and his addiction had diverted his attention away from important business matters (Carnes, 2001).
Sex addiction has a way of infiltrating one’s life and unraveling it from the inside out. As in this case, one’s occupation may not be excluded from this process. Ultimately, sex addiction affects the whole person. This is why it is so important to deal with the addiction right away. The aim is to prevent the addiction from doing further damage to one’s life.
Addressing the Addiction
Individuals caught in the grasp of sexual addiction may not know what steps to take to prevent it from destroying their lives and affecting others including their loved ones. Overcoming a sexual addiction is not easy, but seeking help early on from a professional trained in treating this type of addiction is a powerful means of putting an end to a seemingly endless cycle of hurt, guilt, and shame that often plague the lives of those who have fallen prey to the lure of pornography and cybersex. One must also keep in mind they don’t have to enter the recovery process alone. There is a heavenly Father who loves them, who is full of grace, and who will give them the strength to overcome the darkness of addiction with the light of his Word.
Eric Gomez, MS, LMFT, MHP
Marriage & Family Therapist
Seattle Christian Counseling
Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the shadows: Understanding sexual addiction. City Center, MN: Hazelden
Glass, S. P., & Coppock-Staeheli, J. (2003). Not just friends: Rebuilding trust and recovering your sanity after infidelity. New York, NY: Free Press