Tag Archives: sex in marriage

Q&A with J: “What Should We Call Persistent Porn Use?”

Usually on Thursdays, I answer a reader’s question. Today, I want y’all to answer my question. Here it is:

What should we call ongoing and persistent porn use? If you read various marriage blogs, you might have seen some recent discussion about porn “habit” vs. “addiction.” (You can see my post here.) Some say it’s a habit and calling it an addiction makes it harder to fight because that connotes that it’s outside their control. For others, it feels well beyond habit and calling it an addiction prods them to getting the help they need to overcome. 

While I understand that “addiction” isn’t quite the right word, “habit” doesn’t seem enough. At this point, I’m thinking maybe we need a better label. What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Title with text over black hole graphic background

I’ve honestly believed this argument over semantics isn’t nearly as important as just fighting off this evil. But after reading various comments on the subject, I’ve decided it matters to some to use the right words.

Calling it a habit gives some porn users the empowerment they need to gain victory, because then they feel like it’s a behavior they control. For others who have tried to quit, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, labeling it an addiction encourages them to seek the outside help they need to break free.

Honestly, I don’t want to cause problems for either group. I’d hate to think that my word choice inadvertently hindered anyone’s ultimate victory over this terrible temptation.

But what is persistent use of pornography?

Is porn use an addiction?

Substance addictions and persistent porn use have these similarities:

  • Someone else often offers you the first “hit”
  • You try it out of curiosity or intrigue
  • Your body delivers a natural chemical reward
  • You might seek out stronger forms of the substance to receive the same or a more intense effect
  • You experience a mix of good feelings and bad consequences
  • If you try to quit, you may experience resistance or a sense of loss

Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife wrote an excellent post on Is Porn Use an Addiction (and Does It Even Matter)? In that article, she also points out:

For a person who is trying to medicate emotional pain, the “high” they feel after using a substance is a respite from their pain. When the effects go away, they often feel worse emotionally—but they don’t know how else to address the pain, so they continue using, again and again.

I also believe many porn producers are like drug dealers, in the way they entice users, offer increasingly intense experiences, and ignore the damage they do users and those around them.

However, recent research studies have shown that persistent porn use doesn’t behave physiologically like an addiction. For instance, in one much-touted study, “subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images” (The Daily Beast: “Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real”; Journal of Biological Psychology: “Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with ‘porn addiction'”). Rather, some experts propose it’s more analogous to a compulsion (see American Psychological Association: “Is Pornography Addictive?”).

Moreover, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — the manual used by psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors to diagnose and treat clients — does not recognize a hypersexual disorder or porn addiction. The experts determined there was insufficient evidence to support these labels and the treatments that would follow.

Is porn use a habit?

Habits and persistent porn use share these similarities:

  • You form them through a system of cue/trigger, routine, and reward (see ABC News: “Science of habits: Understanding why we do what we do”)
  • You reinforce the habit through repetition
  • In anticipating the reward, you create a craving to engage in the routine
  • You link the habit to other environmental triggers (e.g., a certain room in your house or time of the day)
  • Even when the habit is clearly hurting you (or people you love), it’s an entrenched routine you tend to fall back on

According to researcher Dr. Wendy Wood, as you repeat behaviors in the same context, thus forming a habit, your brain shifts from processing in the decision-making center to a sensory motor loop that no longer retains information on the goal or outcome. The result, according to Wood, is “our minds don’t always integrate in the best way possible. Even when you know the right answer, you can’t make yourself change the habitual behavior” (Science Daily: “How we form habits, change existing ones”).

For example, in one interesting study on habits, 98 people watched movie trailers and were given popcorn to munch on, some of it fresh and some of it one week old. Those used to eating popcorn at movies ate the same amount of stale popcorn as fresh, because — even though stale popcorn is yuck — they had an entrenched habit triggered by the environment (LA Times: “People eat out of habit, a study finds, even when food is stale”). That sounds like the persistent porn user who — regardless of how yuck the porn is — feels compelled to watch, because it’s a triggered routine.

The habit argument is laid out well in “Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!” on Sheila Gregoire’s To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.

Yet, habits run the gamut in whether they’re good, neutral, or bad. Thus, when some hear the word “habit,” they’re more likely to think about how their kid puts his dirty shoes on the couch or their husband leaves the Worcestershire sauce on the wrong refrigerator shelf than someone taking up smoking or losing himself in hours and hours of porn. And calling it merely a habit sounds to some like you’re putting what is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:28) on the same level as consuming more coffee than you know you should.

Moreover, the suggested way to kick a habit is to change the trigger. But what if the craving is the trigger? Or what if the trigger is something you can’t control, like having a computer (that you need for work, home tasks, etc.) or being sexually refused by your spouse? (This is not blaming the spouse for porn use! That spouse is not responsible, but that action could be something the porn user has in his habit loop.)

Is porn use something else?

I asked on my Facebook page for alternative words, and here are some of the answers:

  • struggle
  • affair
  • sin
  • betrayal
  • self-control problem
  • virtual adultery
  • compulsion
  • bondage
  • trap
  • spiritual stronghold

Let me clarify one more thing. I’m not a licensed counselor, but I went through a graduate program that prepared me to become a counselor, including making diagnoses. I do not contend that porn use can be classified for medical treatment or insurance reimbursement as an addiction, because that is a specific definition in that context.

However, if someone writes me a question or a comment that refers to the person or spouse being “addicted to porn,” I’m not going to argue with them. When your co-worker says, “I’m addicted to coffee,” or your best friend says, “I’m addicted to superhero movies,” or Robert Palmer says, “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love,” we understand that they’re using “addicted” colloquially. I hope to use more precise language from now on, but quibbling over their terminology still seems far less important to me than providing insight, encouragement, answers, and hope.

Now I hope you’ll chime in! What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Q&A with J: How Do I Express What I Want in Bed?

Last week, we talked some about difficulty reaching orgasm, and we’re back at it again today. But it’s a different issue with this wife, who needs some specific tips. Read on:

Do you have any tips for communicating with your husband during intercourse? Hubby and I have been married less than two years, and with most of that entailing some pretty serious physical issues, let’s just say orgasms for me have been hard to come by. We’re finally getting back on track, but still struggling with getting me “across the finish line.” I know we’re supposed to give our husbands in-the-moment feedback, but I literally can’t even figure out how to use words to describe what I want! And what words I can come up with, just the act of thinking and then speaking completely derails any momentum we had going, so end up either frustrated or bored trying to figure out how quickly I can wrap things up! I have tried guiding hubby’s hands but that ends up being more awkward and cumbersome than trying to speak! We talk outside of the bedroom, and I still have a hard time conveying specifically what I might want. And when I tell DH to try changing things up or experimenting a little, he seems to just go back to exactly what he’s used to doing! i love my husband dearly, but it’s like if I don’t give him point by point (by point by point by point) instructions he will always default to the same non-effective thing. Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? (If you say yes I’ll believe you J 🙂 any tips for us?

Fessing up, I think communicating verbally during sex is one of the most awkward things I’ve done. Have you ever watched a lovemaking scene on-screen where someone said, “Hold on, I need you to move your hand a little to the left. Okay, there. Softer”? No. No, you have not. What do the scripts say? “I love you,” “You’re beautiful,” “You’re my soul mate,” etc.

And that’s all great. But sometimes you’re right in the throes of passion and intensity is building, and you know — just know — that if he could touch you differently, just a bit, you’d plunge into the orgasm pool with a great big aaaaah. So how do you help him know what brings you the greatest pleasure?

Let’s start with the last question this reader asked: Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? No, it’s not. Ideally, you figure out together what works best for you. For instance, even though I’ve encouraged women to explore their own sexual organs to see what feels good so they can then translate that knowledge into the marriage bed, your hand and his hand feel different. So you still have some discovery to do together.

This is actually pretty cool, the way God designed sex. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle, it’s an opportunity take a guided tour of your spouse’s body and explore this amazing territory. What happens when I touch you like this? Do you like it when I kiss you here? How about here? What are your most sensitive places? How can I stir your sensuality and satisfy your senses? What can I do to take you over the edge?

So how do you do experiment and find out what works? Because that’s the first step. You can’t tell somehow what you like if you’ve had no experience with what you like. And it sounds like you two are doing this in the midst of making love. Maybe you need to step back, put intercourse on the back burner for a bit, and actually have a session of exploration, experimentation, and experience.

When you’re not focused on having intercourse or reaching an orgasm, you can slow down, take your time, and see what feels good. If you can swing it, it might be worth you stripping down but him leaving on his clothes, so that the focus is totally on you and your pleasure. Do this once, twice, or a few times, and it might be rather eye-opening for you both.

But even when you’re in the middle of exploration or foreplay, how do you know what you want? Do you really want more pressure or less? To be touched higher or lower? To have him go slower or faster? This is a mindfulness exercise for us women. We have to be very focused on what’s happening with our bodies. We have to mentally concentrate on the sensations we’re feeling and then think, What might feel even better?

It’s often very intentional at first. You purposefully set out to think about what you’re feeling, what might feel good, ask for that, then adjust — moment by moment, touch by touch. But it’s like learning anything else: after a while, you get better and know more quickly and intuitively what you like. Also, most husbands begin to read their wives better, recognizing certain kinds of tension in her body or sounds she’s making indicate greater pleasure.

But what words do you use? It depends somewhat on your own communication style. But, like you, I’ve found that forming words during lovemaking can be difficult at times. So I think a limited vocabulary can help in getting what you want. Keep it to single words and short phrases you can quickly get out and he can quickly respond to. Like softer, harder, faster, slower, up, down, deeper, etc.

Mind you, you might have to use opposite words in a row. Like if you say harder and he gets too rough, you’ll need to say softer to get him to back off little. By the way, hubbies, this is not a critique of your sexual performance. We’re actually more impressed with your lovemaking when you’re willing to listen to our suggestions and help us figure out how we can experience the most pleasure. Good lovers listen and learn.

Good lovers listen and learn. Click To Tweet

What about your momentum? Yeah, it’s interrupted. Once again … at first. When you start talking during lovemaking, it feels awkward and can disrupt your flow. But trust the process. Just because you’re playing scales now doesn’t mean you won’t be mastering Bach tomorrow. In fact, you have to play the scales first.

So let it be awkward. Even be playful about it. Faster, slower, there — yeah, baby [insert giggle here]. Feeling free enough to be a little off-kilter in the moment with your spouse increases intimacy. Because you’re sharing in this discovery, these private moments, and your eventual success.

One final thought: It’s okay to add yourself to this mix. I have encouraged wives to simply move his hand where you want it (hard to ignore that signal). But you can also put your own hand where you want to be touched and say here. Or even take over the direct stimulation, so that he can do something else that arouses you — and together, you bring yourself to climax. Not only is that okay, some husbands find it exciting to see their wives touch themselves. It shows them how into it she is.

I believe you can make this work and experience intimate lovemaking and amazing climaxes. May God bless your efforts!

Two Truths and a Lie: A Treat for September

Have you heard of the party game Two Truths and a Lie? One player makes three statements about herself, and the other players try to guess which two statements are true and which statement is a lie. For instance, I might say:

  1. I live in the great State of Texas.
  2. I was born in Wyoming.
  3. I own four pairs of cowboy boots.

Which are true, and which is the lie? I was not born in Wyoming — rather, northwest Texas. (And, oh yeah, I own four sweet pairs of cowboy boots!)

But let’s play Two Truths and a Lie about my new book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design. See if you can spot the lie.Two Truths and a Lie: A Treat for September

  1. My book hit the New York Times Bestseller list.
  2. The flame, halo, and smile on the front cover are based on drawings my elementary son made.
  3. I’m hosting a giveaway in September focused around my book availability.

So what’s your guess? Ready for the answers?

♥   ♥   ♥

#1 – I wish my book had hit the NYT Bestseller list! Someday… But that one is the lie.

#2 – Yes, the flame, halo, and smile you see on my website were created on a computer drawing program by my then-10-year-old son. He noticed me struggling with the images, and since he got an art gene that seems to have skipped a generation with me, he offered to help. At that time, I didn’t say what it was for — just, “Can you draw me a flame, a halo, and a smile?” And he came up with the graphics I incorporated into my logo. That formed the basis of what you see on my book cover.

#3 – Aha! Did you see that word giveaway? That’s what I want to talk to you about today!

I’ve spotted my book in a few Barnes & Nobles here and there, and certainly online. However, I’d love to know where else Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design is making an appearance. So I’m enlisting y’all!

But I’m not just expecting you to go hunt down my book on bookshelves to assuage my curiosity. Rather, how about making it like a scavenger hunt with prizes? Or, because I’m a simple gal, one GRAND PRIZE.

How to Participate: The “Rules”

The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. (Sorry, international followers, I just can’t ship that far!)

Find copies of my book in your local bookstore. It’s usually shelved somewhere in Christian Life: Marriage.

To Enter Once: Snap a picture of yourself holding the book in the bookstore and email it to j [at] hotholyhumorous [dot] com, identifying where the photo was taken (bookstore, city, state).

To Enter Twice: Snap that picture, email it to me, and include express permission for me to post it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest). I will not include a name unless you want me to do so, but I would like to include location.

To Enter Three Times: Snap a picture of yourself buying the book at the cashier and holding the book and your purchase receipt, send it to me, and you’ll be entered three times.

That’s it. Send me the photo anytime in September, and I’ll randomly draw a winner the first week of October. I’m excited to see where my book has shown up and to give away a great prize to one lucky reader.

Now what does this GRAND PRIZE include? A few of my favorite books and some other goodies (total value, approximately $200!).Sept 2016 Giveaway 1

Sept 2016 Giveaway 2

What will you do with three copies of my book? That’s up to you. But I figured you could pass them out to friends, family members, or perplexed strangers you sit next to on the subway or bus who brought nothing to read (being a book lover, I never understand that). You could stick copies in your church library, or hand one to your pastor or marriage minister. You could give them as wedding shower gifts. You could, bold wife that you are, put one out on the coffee table for when you have your church small group over and just watch what happens. See the myriad of possibilities?!

One quick note about helping authors: If your bookstore doesn’t have a book you’re looking for (like mine), it’s awesome for you to request that they carry it. It is not awesome to harass bookstore employees to carry it, like calling over and over or taking a frustrated tone. Those buying decisions are almost never made by the person you deal with in the store, but they do pass on requests. Thanks for being the completely classy people I know you are!

And by the way, I’ll be here more in September. I was kind of spotty on my blog over the summer, but a few things have freed up this month, so I’m planning to make up for some of my absences. Looking forward to it!

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Some Days You Just Don’t Wanna (Have Sex)

It’s Thursday, and I should be writing a Q&A with J post, answering a reader question. I should be, but today I really don’t wanna.

It’s not that I don’t care about y’all — I definitely do. It’s not that I’ve lost my will to write on the subject of sex in marriage — I definitely have not. It’s not that I’m unable to put up a post — I definitely can (obviously).

But yesterday, the day I’d planned to actually write the post, was a particularly grueling day. Without too many details, a family member of mine unexpectedly ended up in the hospital and I spend my day there juggling medical issues, family dynamics, and a ball of worry. Things had greatly improved by the time I left last night, and I felt certain I’d wake up today ready to delve into a reader’s question.

However, my body and brain are tired, and I don’t know how helpful and insightful I can be today. I’d rather skip a week than toss something out that cheats the question and my readers.

Which brings me back around to my subject of sex in marriage — because yeah, I can still draw parallels to sex with all kinds of things in my environment. I’m not among those who believe that wives should be at the beck-and-call of their husband’s sexual urges. I completely understand the well-meaning behind those who advise women to always be available for sexual intimacy with their husbands. But you know, some days you just don’t wanna. And I get that too.

Some Days You Just Don't Wanna (Have Sex)Certainly, there are times when you cannot engage, due to illness, family obligations, etc. But there can be times when you’re simply not up for it, because you’ve been strung out to exhaustion by other things in your life. And I think that’s fine — if it’s not a pattern.

Ongoing refusal and gate-keeping are not merely unwise, but can rise to the level of sin. After all, we are commanded not to deprive one another and to become one flesh with our husbands. If making love in your marriage is the exception rather than the routine, then you need to take a good, hard look at what’s amiss in your lives. Are you too busy? Struggling with relationship issues? Ignoring physiological obstacles? Just being selfish? Whatever it is, you need to address it.

But in a healthy marriage, you’ve established that sexual intimacy is a given. Your husband knows you find him desirable, sees you prioritize physical intimacy, and understands that if you say not now, you have a good reason. You’ve also experienced for yourself the delight of sexual pleasure, the importance of this physical connection, and the satisfaction that comes from the one-flesh experience. So if you really don’t feel like it this one time, you also figure you have a good reason.

Maybe you can’t pinpoint exactly why, but you know it’s not disinterest or an unwillingness to engage sexually with your husband. You can explain that gently and lovingly to your husband. AND you should probably suggest a make-up session — a rain check on the not now.

You see, not now isn’t the same as no. Not now says this moment isn’t ideal, but you’ve got it high on your priority list for as soon as possible. But no leaves your husband hanging and wondering if and when your libido might come back around.

The hubbies I hear from who are upset about the lack of sexual intimacy in their marriage are almost always those who get rejected regularly and feel up-in-the-air about when the next encounter might happen. Or whether his wife will ever understand why he desires this kind of intimacy so much. The men who get a not now from time to time can deal with that. Especially when they know that they won’t have to wait long before she’s jumping back into his arms, preferably naked.*

I just wanted to let you know, wives, that I believe it’s okay to pass on sex now and again. You’re not there to be his booty call; rather, you are equal partners in creating and maintaining regular and satisfying sexual intimacy in your marriage. Make that your priority, your pattern, and your passion.

And you have my rain check on answering a reader question next week.

*Of course, a substantial percent of marriages have higher-drive wives who experience the opposite of this description. If you’re in that category, remember that you’re completely normal and I want your husband to understand these principles about prioritizing sex in your marriage. You have my compassion and my prayers.

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Two Important Aspects of Sexual Intimacy

I cite Song of Songs a lot on this blog. Because it’s the one book in the Bible devoted entirely to the romantic and sexual love between a husband and wife. It’s chock-full of fascinating passages that demonstrate God’s blessings for sexual intimacy in marriage. It also provide excellent examples of how husbands and wives should treat each other when it comes to sex.

Having read this book many times over now, I’ve come to have a few favorite verses. Easily in my top three is this statement from Song of Songs 7:10: I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.”

Marriage Memory Verse 6-25-16As I was pondering this simple verse today, wondering why I loved it so much, I homed in on two words that capture important aspects of sexual intimacy with my husband: belong and desire.

Merriam-Webster’s simply definition of belong is “used to say that someone or something should be in a particular place or situation.” When I’m in my husband’s arms in our marriage bed, I know that’s the particular place and situation where I should be — with him specifically, fitting together just so, sharing our pleasure.

Yes, of course I feel that sense of belonging at other times in our marriage, but this whole-body experience of making love involves a deep sense of belonging. There’s exclusivity, vulnerability, and intimacy in those moments. They bring to mind the sentiment that you are mine and I am yours.

Then there’s the concept of desire. Merriam-Webster’s first two simple definitions of desire are: “to want or wish for (something) : to feel desire for (something)” and “to want to have sex with (someone).” I believe that desire in a healthy marriage bed involves both wanting something and wanting to have sex with someone.

The thing we want is affection, connection, and devotion with our beloved. I want to know my husband at a deeper level than anyone else in the world does or can. And yes, I want to have sex. Because it feels good, because I have a natural drive for that release, and because it’s a bonding experience. I’m 99.9% certain my husband feels all of that about me.

Do you feel these two important aspects in your marriage too? Belonging and desire.

If you don’t, maybe it’s time to nurture those feelings, to invest in sexual intimacy as a priority, to express to your husband what would make you feel desired and connected. And maybe you can start by committing Song of Songs 7:10 to memory. Even recite it as a prayer.

LORD, HELP ME TO BELONG TO MY BELOVED, AND FOR HIM TO BELONG TO ME. AND GIVE US DESIRE FOR ONE ANOTHER. - AMEN

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