The Trauma of Porn: Part 6

This is part six of a six part series on pornography, trauma, and intimacy. 

Once the brain has misunderstood what sex should be–a physical expression of a spiritual, mental, and emotional reality of who God is applied within a relationship He created and for which He sets the boundaries–can we do anything to fix it? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that with time, patience, and community we can begin to heal the brain. What does that look like?

First, we have to do the work mentally. We have to come to a better understanding of how sex is supposed to work. If it’s supposed to be an expression of the emotional intimacy that already exists in a marriage that means taking the time to recognize the ways we have misconstrued sex in our minds. This mental work is the purpose of this series of blog posts.  If we can mentally grasp how we ought to view sex, then we’re better able to make the spiritual, physical, and emotional changes needed to transform how we engage in it. Sex as an expression of the marriage relationship changes not only how we view sex, but it might also force us to change how we view marriage. If you feel you need help in continuing this mental work I strongly encourage you to reach out to a counselor. If you’re in my area I’d be happy to work with you myself, or if not I can refer you to someone in your area.

Secondly, we have to do the work spiritually.  At LifeWorks Resources we offer professional counseling from a biblical perspective. We want to take the very best psychological research that also aligns with a biblical worldview. That double filter means we believe there is an important Gospel element to a healthy sex life as well. We understand we’re fallen, sinful people, and we’ll continue to have to work through the failures of our brains and bodies to respond the way we want them to and also our own selfishness and sinfulness. A crucial element to spiritual intimacy is to apply the Gospel to one another in marriage every day.  

To accept that you’re both sinful people but pretend otherwise is harmful to truly seeing and accepting one another. In Romans 5:6-8 Paul explains “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”* Then in Ephesians 5 Paul paints a clear picture that Christian marriage is to be an example of this love–a love that applies Christ’s work not to a perfect spouse but to a desperate sinner. And this love chooses to see instead the righteousness of Christ.  This takes a great deal of faith, and if you need support in this area I strongly encourage you to seek out a local church and find godly older couples to mentor you. If you’re struggling to find a good church I encourage you to reach out to a counselor in your area to process these things. 

Thirdly, we have to do the work emotionally.  This is another area where therapists can be very helpful, but there are also some great curriculums and resources to help build emotional intimacy in relationships. Here’s a list of some of my top recommendations:

There are literally hundreds of resources I could recommend, but since this is a blog post I have limited them to the ones I can recommend without a lot of caveats. Sadly, many of the books that deal well with intimacy in one category may not deal well with it in another. When it comes to emotional intimacy the goal is that there should be nothing hidden in marriage. That doesn’t mean that every little unkind thought that passes through your head needs to be broadcast, but rather that you can talk openly and honestly with your spouse about how you’re doing.  So much could be said about this, but I’ll have to leave that up to a good therapist in your area.

In dealing with addiction to pornography directly I strongly suggest joining a Celebrate Recovery group in your area, enlisting the help of a therapist, and utilizing the resources at Covenant Eyes, especially their workbook Hobbies and Habits

Lastly, we have to do the work physically.  This means being patient with our bodies as they respond in awkward ways to our changing perspective on sex.  People who have sexual trauma or who have become addicted to pornography often experience unwanted sexual urges and/or cravings or a lack of sexual energy or desire. These can cause a lot of shame and awkwardness.  Add to that normal, everyday sexual temptations or health struggles, and it can make for a very frustrating experience.  Aligning sexual desires in a relationship becomes easier when we remember that sex is an expression of intimacy, not the intimacy itself. There are a multitude of ways to express that intimacy sexually without setting unreasonable expectations. It’s impossible to explain all the ways this might show up, so instead I’m just going to suggest that if your body (libido, sexual urges, performance, etc) feels misaligned with your spouse’s, talk to a therapist and your doctor about it. 

There is so much that could be said about these four areas of work, and they don’t always happen in a particular order. Anyone who is married should be working on them all.  If you have questions about how to seek help in these areas or would like further information please reach out to us at lifeworks@lifeworksresources.com

Footnotes:

*NIV

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