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Pornography and the False Promise of Intimacy



As we get into the Advent and Christmas seasons, I often see a spike in the number of men seeking help for pornography use.  The main reason for this, I believe, is loneliness, which increases during the holidays.  Many experts refer to sex addiction as an “intimacy disorder.”  This is because men really aren’t looking for sex.  If they were, their sexual acting out would satisfy them.  However, it rarely does.  While it may be exciting in the moment to view porn and masturbate, afterward, they are left feeling emptier than before.  This because what these men are really searching for is intimacy. 


Pornography promises intimacy; however, it’s a false promise.  The intimacy of porn is only an illusion.  This is because the pornography industry has duped men into believing that sex = intimacy.  This is a lie.  True intimacy is an emotional connection between two people.  It is a form of love.  In healthy marital relationships, sex is an outgrowth of that intimacy. However, in most relationships, intimacy has nothing to do with sex.  These include relationships between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, best friends, etc.  Pornography is not a substitute for love or intimacy.  It’s only a false “quick fix” that ultimately leads to despair. 


Many people believe that when a man becomes addicted to pornography, he is really searching for a sexual or romantic relationship.  While this may sometimes be true, I have found that in most cases, the man really isn’t looking for sex at all.  As stated before, he is lonely and craves intimacy.  At some point, he discovered that pornography, and its false promise of intimacy, temporarily eases his emotional pain.  So he keeps on going back to it to keep the pain at bay.  This is where he can become addicted.


Often the roots of this deep emotional pain go back to childhood.  Many of the men I have worked with did not have close-bonded relationships with one or both parents growing up.  They may have been raised with parents who were cold, unaffectionate, abusive, addicted or rejecting of their children.  Because they have experienced little or no intimacy with their parents, these men often have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with women.  This deepens their lack of loneliness.  Because of these family-of-origin wounds, pornography addicts often adopt five faulty core beliefs.  They are:


  1. I am unworthy of being loved
  2. If people really knew me, they would reject me
  3. I can’t count on anyone, including God, to meet my needs
  4. I must find something, that I can control, that will meet my needs, thus
  5. Pornography/sex is my greatest need and source of comfort.


It’s these deep emotional wounds and core beliefs that perpetuate the addiction.


A crucial part of the recovery process for pornography addicts is acknowledging these core beliefs and the deep emotional wounds that led to them.  This is why counseling is so important in the recovery process.  Unless these wounds are identified and healed, any sobriety will be a “white knuckle sobriety.”  When the root cause(s) of any addiction are identified and resolved, long-term sobriety is much easier to maintain.


The healing of these wounds often entails forgiving parents who did not meet their children’s emotional needs.  It is important for men to realize that their parents were also deeply wounded and were unable to be the parents they needed them to be.  Catholic spirituality also plays a great role in healing.  By developing devotions to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph as spiritual parents, men can realized that they have always been loved, cherished and affirmed.  This healing process is geared to ultimately help men change their core beliefs to the following healthier ones:


  1. I am loveable
  2. If people really knew me, they would love me more
  3. I can count on others, including God, to meet my needs
  4. I don’t need to find anything that I can control to meet me needs, because
  5. God and healthy relationships are my greatest need and source of comfort


With his emotional wounds healed, and a healthier set of core beliefs adopted, a man will have no need to self-medicate with pornography.  This will allow him to enjoy a successful recovery.


Along with counseling, men who are addicted to pornography need to work on developing healthy relationships.  Many don’t even have close friends.  With the help of a counselor, they are encouraged to work on relationships.  This can mean joining a club, getting involved at church or volunteering for a charity.  They need risk getting to know others and allowing others to get to know them.  Often they are surprised at how much others do love, accept and affirm them. 


For married men, marital therapy is often needed because, for as much as they love their wives, they are often lonely in their marriages.  In these cases, I have often found that wives also struggle with deep family-of-origin wounds.  This has also prevented them from being able to develop a healthy, intimate relationship with their husbands.  Thus, both are lonely in the marriage.  By working on healing their emotional wounds and growing in intimacy, they can have a healthier, happier marriage.   


By understanding that pornography addiction is really a search for intimacy, men can get to the real root cause(s) of their addiction.  It is in resolving these root causes that they can have happier, healthier, deeply intimate relationships.  This can erase the need to self-medicate with pornography, masturbation or any other substance.  .  If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography use, you help can be found at