Emerging from the Dark Tunnel of Porn

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Emerging from the Dark Tunnel of Porn

Choosing marriage over self

By Joel Tan* | 27 May 2020

The early days

I was going through a stressful time, and I did not realise it then that it would lead to a major depressive episode later on.

Porn seemed like a reasonable escape. It was a rather harmless way to stave off the depression, and it gave me the illusion that I was somehow keeping a lid on my mental health issues.

At that time, I was also experiencing discontent in my marriage, like battling a sense of diminished worth. I had the feeling that because I was putting in a lot of hours in my work, my wife was not supportive of what I did in life. While things looked good in the office, I would return home, feeling like a loser.

Because of the disapproval I sensed from my wife about my work and other life choices, I felt I could not communicate freely with her.

After a few heated arguments, I began to withdraw; I genuinely feared our next argument. It was easier to just lie low and let things be.

The quick and easy slide

At the cognitive level, I knew what I was doing was wrong. But as with many slides into addiction, I found it easy to justify my behaviour.

I reasoned that my actions did not physically hurt anyone and I rationalised that many stressed-out professionals entertained some vice or another.

This belief in porn as a 'respectable failure’, one that on the surface appeared less severe than others, warped my thinking to the point where I did not feel I needed help.

“Sure, it was wrong,” I thought to myself, “but then so is alcoholism, gambling and womanising – and aren't those worse?”

On hindsight, a vice is a vice – there is no such thing as a smaller or less harmful one.

The exposé

When Christine* discovered the links I had been browsing on my phone, she was livid. My immediate reaction was one of anger and shame. The latter fed the former.

For a moment, I felt it was unfair that I had been caught in resorting to porn to prop up the failures in my married life. I remember feeling a great deal of resentment (momentarily) that this one last form of escape would be taken away from me. Shortly after, I felt a crushing sense of guilt for having yet again failed in Christine’s eyes – this time, an even more thorough failure.

Before being discovered, I had believed Christine thought of me as a failure. After being discovered, I was sure I knew that she thought of me as a failure. I certainly felt like a complete failure at that point

The weaning off and recovery

Recovering from something like this is never easy. The feelings are just so raw. Everyone is just so upset. Any promises made are likely to be seen as spurious and desperate.

So I resolved to begin on the road to recovery, a journey which would take me the following few months. I had to regain Christine’s trust, which meant being more open about my perceptions and feelings. I had to regularly confess to her when I was feeling the urge to return to pornography. She would also check on me regularly to see if anything had happened to make me withdraw from her.

We worked on our sexual intimacy, as this is often a key indicator of a marriage's health. When I was distant or distracted, she would check on me to arrest my tendency to drift. Having open, direct conversations about sex also helped me to wean off the addiction as well.

Apart from that, I made sure I was more present in the lives of my children and also pursued interests that were meaningful and fulfilling.

Weaning off an addiction requires open conversation and accountability as well as a holistic approach – lest you replace one addiction with another.

Apart from the more regular and direct conversations about our sexual and emotional needs, we also devoted time to spend with each other just to catch up. We also tried to date each other regularly. (It's amazing what an hour of lunch without the kids around can do in revealing how much work your marriage needs.)

We also embarked on mini projects together, like taking time to cook a meal or doing a home improvement project. This helped us to re-connect and restart the process of getting to know each other better.

The lesson learnt

Finding ways to form new connections with your spouse is always a challenge. We need to consciously remind ourselves to do life together and seek to know each other more. To achieve this, communicate meaningfully and often.

Few marriages die suddenly. They only appear to do so because we ignore the signs that invite us to thoroughly inspect our marriage life.

* Pseudonyms were used in this article to protect the couple's identity.

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


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