Sanctuary for the Abused
Friday, September 29, 2006
HOW TO AVOID LETTING A PLAYER PLAY WITH YOU
#1. If he sounds too good to be true, guess what, he's not !!
#2 Make sure your antennas are in good working order, and when they talk to you, LISTEN CLOSELY. Don't bypass any red flags or a rise of your antennas
#3 Don't center your life around this new friend. Fact of the matter is, he is just words on a screen. Keep up with friends in the real world
#4 If he tells you he loves you before meeting him face to face, don't believe him, they are only words to him; he doesn't feel them!!
#5. If he gives you a long sob story and always has a new crisis in his life. Run as fast as you can, and hide too. Would you truly want to live your life with one crisis after another?
#6. Before you go to IM's with a new friend, spend time in the chats with him and see how he interacts with other women, and continue to go to chats with him, even as the friendship progresses !!
#7. Stick pretty close to home. Someone who you could meet for lunch, think about it, could be up to as much as 3 hours away !!
#8. All players have a mean streak underneath all that mush. Given time it will surface and when it does, don't ignore it! Does he poof when you argue? Or when you're arguing, does he insist on staying on the puter when you try and phone. If you listen closely on the phone, you just may hear amusement in his voice!
#9. Seems that players move fast, quick with the: I love you's, this was meant to be, it is God's plan, you are my soul mate, we are building a foundation for our love, let's tear down walls and build bridges, etc. Face it, ladies, this happens only on rare occasions.
#10. Even if you KNOW him - if he pushes for quick sex, says he can't control himself, has to be with you - after not seeing or speaking to you for years - LOOK OUT!! This isn't the person you thought you know.
These men TARGET lonely women in bad marriages, who may be disabled, single mothers and so on!!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The Difference Between the Male and Female Brain
by Mark Kastleman
Significant differences exist between the male and female brains. Although what follows has been meticulously gathered from the research and writings of leading scientists and psychologists, it is by no means a hard and fast rule or description of every man and every woman. Every person is different and unique.
However, the facts clearly bear out that for nearly all men and women there are significant differences between the male and female brain. This means that in most cases, men and women do not behave, feel, think, or respond in the same ways, either on the inside or on the outside.
The male brain is highly specialized, using specific parts of one hemisphere or the other to accomplish specific tasks. The female brain is more diffused and utilizes significant portions of both hemispheres for a variety of tasks.
Men are able to focus on narrow issues and block out unrelated information and distractions. Women naturally see everyday things from a broader, “big-picture” vantage point.
Men can narrowly focus their brains on specific tasks or activities for long periods of time without tiring. Women are better equipped to divide their attention among multiple activities or tasks.
Men are able to separate information, stimulus, emotions, relationships, etc. into separate compartments in their brains, while women tend to link everything together.
Men see individual issues with parts of their brain, while women look at the holistic or multiple issues with their whole brain (both hemispheres).
Men have as much as 20 times more testosterone in their systems than do women. This makes men typically more aggressive, dominant and more narrowly focused on the physical aspects of sex.
In men, the dominant perceptual sense is vision, which is typically not the case with women. All of a woman’s senses are, in some respects, more finely tuned than those of a man.
Pornographers incorporate male/female differences into the design and marketing of their wares. Just because something might not appeal to a man doesn’t mean that a woman won’t be attracted to it and vice versa.
Perhaps the greatest impact of the male/female brain differences is how men and women view sexuality and intimacy. It is important to understand the differences in these views in order to comprehend the vulnerabilities men and women have to Internet pornography and cybersex chatrooms. Internet pornographers are cognizant of these differences and market differently to each set of potential customers.
Again, the insights that follow are not absolutes but represent what most therapists, psychologists, and scientists consider to be the majority of men and women. The facts are not listed in any particular order and are not intended to be a complete study. Rather, they are intended to help you understand the unique male and female views of sexual intimacy as a result of the differences in their respective brain structures.
Special Note: The descriptions that follow are the findings of professionals who have dedicated their lives to the study of male and female sexuality. You will note that some of the male descriptions are not very flattering; many paint a downright cold, animalistic picture. Unfortunately, the descriptions represent a large cross section of the male population in our society. And with Internet porn and cybersex in the forefront, these common attitudes are growing.
Let me clearly state that I do not believe that men (or women) are locked into these negative stereotypes. We each have the inner capacity, strength, and innate goodness to rise above animal/sexual instinct if we choose to. We are not dogs; we are not forced into the reactive-impulse mode from which the Internet pornographers profit. I believe that we are so much better than that. I believe that the potential of human intimacy is light-years ahead of what is portrayed on the sterile screen of Internet porn.
Women See Relationships, Men See Body Parts
Anne Moir and David Jessel, in their book Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women, write:
Women are not, in the main, turned on by pictures of nudes . . . Women may be aroused by pictures of couples coupling—because what they are seeing, in however sterile a sexual context, is a relationship in action. Women are not excited by a picture of male genitalia by itself . . . Men like female genital close-ups in porn magazines because it is a thing to which they can imagine doing things. Sex for men is vastly impersonal—pornography is simply meat for men. Do they ever wonder who the nude is? Not for a moment. They wonder what they would do to her.
Men want sex, and women want relationships. Men want flesh and women want love. Just as boys wanted balloons, toys, and carburetors, the girls have always wanted contact, and communion, and company.
The female mind is organized to place priority on relationship, the male on achievement. Men keep a tally of their sexual conquests. The female brain is not organized to keep sex in a separate compartment. This is a male model—as if his brain has a specific filing cabinet for sex, completely unrelated to emotion.
(This ability to compartmentalize is why a man can put his involvement with pornography in one compartment—or cellular-memory group—in his brain, and his relationship with his wife in another. He may consider the two to be completely unrelated. Many men can’t understand why their wife makes such a big emotional fuss when she finds out he has been viewing pornography.)
In her book The First Sex, Helen Fisher writes:
In a 1920s study of several hundred American men and women, 65 percent of the men said that they had done some peering through a bedroom window. Only 20 percent of the women had done any stealthy ogling. Men are more turned on by visual stimuli. They use pornographic materials of every kind more frequently than women do. When they fantasize, they conjure up more images of coitus and body parts, the explicit details of sex itself.
Women, too, are excited by visual erotica, although women are not as turned on by it as men are. Women are much more aroused than men by romantic words, images, and themes in films and stories. Women’s sexual fantasies include more affection and commitment. Women often dwell on their own emotional reactions. And they are more than twice as likely to think about a sex partner’s emotional characteristics. . . . Flowers, oils, candlelight, satin sheets, fluffy towels: when women fantasize about sex, they conjure up the textures, sounds, and smells, all of the ambience surrounding sex, more regularly than men. Women also like more kissing, hugging, stroking, and cuddling during sex. In short, women place the act of intercourse within a wider physical context.
“Men think having orgasm is having sex. That’s the difference,” remarked one woman in a recent survey. There is a kernel of truth in what she says. Female sexuality is nested in a broader lattice of emotions, a wider range of physical sensations, and a more extensive social and environmental context—all reflections of feminine web thinking. Men’s sex drive is far more focused on the act of copulation itself—yet another example of men’s propensity to compartmentalize the world around them and focus their attention on specific elements.
Diane Hales, in her book Just Like a Woman, quotes Beverly Whipple, president of the American Association of Sex Education Counselors and Therapists, and mixes in her own insights:
“Women have a variety of sexual responses, and not all fit in with the monolithic pattern described by Masters and Johnson,” says Whipple. “Female sexual response may be much more complex than anyone ever guessed.” Men, she notes, tend to view sex—like many other things—in a linear way. To them, a sexual encounter is like descending a staircase that leads step by step to only one endpoint: ejaculation. Woman’s sexuality, like our ways of taking in and thinking about the world, is more holistic.
“I see female sexual response in a circle, with every aspect of sexual interaction—touching, kissing, hugging—as a pleasurable endpoint in itself,” Whipple says. For women, the process of making love—the holding and the hugging and the tenderness—can be as emotionally gratifying as orgasm itself, and sometimes even more so.
When women experience sex not as a ten-nine-eight countdown to climax, not as quest or test, but in terms of sensing, knowing, and feeling what one poet calls “the song of life singing” through them, then Eros offers more than mere physical gratification. This may indeed be what sex was meant to be—an experience that touches the essence of who we are in ways not unlike a spiritual revelation.
The structure of the male brain vs. the female brain is very different. As a result, men and women and teenage boys and girls, do not react to nor view sexuality and intimacy the same ways. Pornographers approach the male and female markets differently. What seems harmless, uninteresting, or meaningless to a woman may be extremely powerful and addictive to a man or vice versa. We must be aware of what materials, stimuli, and circumstances make men and women and teenage boys and girls, most vulnerable and at greatest risk when it comes to pornography, chatrooms, movies, TV programs, etc.
In another article I will discuss how Internet pornographers, knowing male and female brain differences, use different techniques to attract male and female customers. I will also discuss one of the most important concepts you will ever learn regarding the impact of pornography on the human brain: The Funnel of Sexual Intimacy.
Mark B. Kastleman is the author of the revolutionary new book titled The Drug of the New Millennium—the Science of How Internet Pornography Radically Alters the Human Brain and Body—A Guide for Parents, Spouses, Clergy and Counselors. Many leading scientists, psychologists, therapists and religious leaders consider this book to be one of the most important works ever written on this subject, and a must-read for parents, spouses, clergy and counselors.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Serotonin is released in response to pain, and reduces pain, both physical and emotional. Serotonergic cell bodies in the brain stem send fibers to all areas of the brain and spinal cord. In the spinal cord, serotonin inhibits the production of substance P, thereby reducing pain. In the brain, emotional pain is reduced by both increase in serotonin level and inhibition of substance P.
There are at least 15 subtypes of serotonin receptors in the brain that serve different functions in different locations. The relations of these receptors to pain and aggression are very complex. At the level of the spinal cord, serotonin inhibits physical pain, and withdrawal from physical pain. At the level of the brain, serotonin inhibits emotional pain, and withdrawal from emotional pain. Both actions, at least in part, involve inhibition of substance P. Emotional pain and withdrawal characterize depression.
Aggression and withdrawal, having origins in the reaction to pain and in the fight-or-flight response are part of a single process (Germine, 1998). Emotions are, most fundamentally, conscious perceptions of states of the inner gray matter of the brain by the outer gray matter of the brain, the cerebral cortex. The response of affective aggression is perceived as a cluster of emotions that include fear, anxiety, nervousness, anger, and depression, and euphoria.
The inner gray matter of the brain is closely linked with the autonomic nervous system, giving emotions the visceral quality of feelings of the heart and gut. Autonomic feelings are the core of our emotional constitutions, and it is at this level that we are most receptive to the feelings of others. The cerebral cortex is socially conditioned to suppress our receptivity to autonomic feelings, leading to the emotional or internal disconnection of people and groups of people. In the place of the organic unity that is the proper condition of human social health, social conditioning of the outer brain works on social reward and punishment, generating greed and fear as the principles of social engagement.
The cerebral cortex modulates emotions primarily through inhibition of emotional states in the inner gray matter. Inhibition by the cortex involves directed attention. States that are not inhibited are said to be disinhibited. For our adolescents in pain, anger and uncontrolled aggression are the result of a normal physiological mechanism, affective aggression, and the failure of the cerebral cortex to inhibit that aggression. This failure of inhibition occurs when the response of affective aggression is too strong to be inhibited. Part of the problem of uncontrolled aggression relates to relative deficiencies in directed attention or inhibition. Many drugs, especially alcohol, decrease directed attention and therefore inhibition. Most fundamentally, however, deficiencies in directed attention are related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related syndromes.
Untreated ADHD Leading to Adult Psychopathy
ADHD is primarily a phenomenon of the "tail end of the bell curve" of the population’s capacity to direct attention. It involves certain polymorphisms of dopamine receptor genes, which decrease the activation of the frontal cerebral cortex in response to dopamine. Methylphenidate, the most popular treatment for ADHD, increases dopamine activity in the frontal cortex.
Conduct disorder involves uncontrolled affective aggression. Conduct disorder is a syndrome related to ADHD that shares certain genetic polymorphisms with ADHD, but also involves polymorphisms in serotonin receptor genes. The polymorphisms are called susceptibility genes, and the actually occurrence of the disorders involves multiple susceptibility genes (genotypic expression) together with environmental factors (phenotypic expression).
There appear to be two types of conduct disorder. Type 1 is characterized by uncontrolled affective aggression, and involves depression and prominent abnormalities in the function of the serotonin system. These adolescents are typically worried or troubled, and share features of generalized anxiety disorder. Type 2 is characterized by predation. Individuals with the second type are typically relatively unemotional and unexcited when engaging in aggressive acts, and derive reinforcement from aggressive acts. These types are conceptual categories that are not sharply separated. Type 1 conduct disorder is the most common, and has a better prognosis than Type 2. Type 2 more often progresses to adult antisocial personality disorder. Here we will be focusing on treatment of anger and aggression in Type 1.
There is a particular subtype of serotonin (5-HT) receptor, 5-HT2C, which appears to be active in the disinhibition of anger and aggression in certain groups of individuals (Germine and others, 1992). This action is thought to be mediated through stimulation of inhibitory GABA interneurons in the frontal cortex, which decreases the inhibitory action of the frontal cortex. Depression and uncontrolled aggression are both related to relative deficiencies in serotonin in the cerebral cortex, or a reduction in serotonergic tone, leading to a hypersensitivity of serotonergic receptors, including 5-HT2C. The decreased hormonal response to serotonin stimulation in depressed, anxious, and angry individuals seems to be the result of habituation (Germine and others, 1994), rather than serotonin hyposensitivity. This may explain why there is a reversal from increased hormonal response to decreased hormonal response to serotonergic agents between adolescence and adulthood is individuals with uncontrolled anger and aggression.
Affective aggression involves a sudden pulse of serotonin from the dorsal raphe nucleus of the brainstem to the frontal cortex. This is phasic as opposed to tonic stimulation. The effects of phasic serotonergic stimulation are greater in individuals with low serotonergic tone, due to hypersensitivity of serotonin receptors. In the case of 5-HT2C, and, perhaps, other receptors, including as 5-HT1B/1D, 5-HT2A, and 5-HT2B, this hypersensitivity can lead to both facilitation of the response of affective aggression and disinhibition of cortical control.
LSD is an agonist or stimulant of 5-HT2A and 2C (i.e. disinhibition of cortical control). Its hallucinogenic activity is thought to relate primarily to its 2A agonism. Atypical antispychotics such as clozaril, risperidone, and olanzapine are antagonists at 5-HT2A. The antidepressants nefazodone, trazodone, and mirtazapine are antagonists at 5-HT2A, but do no appear to have antipsychotic activity. The antidepressant mirtazapine and certain antipsychotics including clozaril and loxapine are antagonists at 5-HT2C.
Studies involving intravenous (IV) administration of MCPP, which stimulates 5-HT2C receptors, show a marked self-rated anger response in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This response is highly correlated with baseline (pre-administration) levels of self-rated anger, indicating that disinhibition of anger is involved (Germine and others, 1992a; 1992c). This anger response seems relatively specific to GAD patients (Germine and others, 1992b), and is highly-correlated with later response to buspirone, a serotonergic antianxiety agent (Germine and others, 1992c).
All groups of subjects, including normal controls, have a prominent increase of autonomic activity and self-rated anxiety after administration of sufficient doses of MCPP. The autonomic activity includes increases in heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and a variety of panic attack symptoms. A "high" feeling or euphoria is commonly observed in all groups of subjects, including normal controls (Germine and others, 1994). The euphoria associated with 5-HT2C-induced affective aggression is particularly problematic, in that it leads to reinforcement of aggressive behavior.
Overall, uncontrolled violent behavior seems to be associated with low serotonergic tone and hypersensitivity of serotonin receptors, with a prominent anger and/or euphoric response to 5-HT2C stimulation. Therefore mirtazapine, a compound that increases serotonergic tone and blocks 5-HT2C, would be a good candidate for use in individuals with uncontrolled anger and/or habitual aggressive behavior.
Currently, the most widely used compounds in the treatment of conduct disorder are lithium, valproate, clonidine, and methylphenidate. All of these agents decrease impulsivity, and thus tend to reduce impulsive aggression without having much of an effect on uncontrolled anger. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline, are also widely used. They are effective in depression, but their effects on uncontrolled anger and aggression are modest and highly variable. In some cases, they increase irritability, anger, and aggression. There is clearly a need for other options in the treatment of conduct disorder that specifically reduce the extreme anger that is characteristic of many adolescents.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
SEXUAL ABUSE: Any means use to get the partner to do any sexual act including intercourse, against partner's will. Making you do anything SEXUAL AGAINST YOUR WILL!! (this includes using verbal and/or emotional coercion to get you to do sexual things, i.e. "I love you, won't you just" or "I want to share this with you because you are so special")
Any physical touch or attack (includes verbal) on the sexual parts of your body that are not wanted
Treating you like a sex object--talking to you as though you are only good for sex (this includes turning conversations to sexual talk or sexual activity)
Any kind of sexual activity that is done to you while:
(Emotionally brainwashed or coerced)
Telling friends what he did to you sexuality, bragging
Putting you down for being sexual with him
Forcing you to have sex with other people, encouraging you to have sex with other people
Forcing you to have sex with an animal
Hitting, pinching, or any other action that causes you pain during any sexual activity
Demanding sex after physically abusing you
Tying you and then having sex with you
Forcing you to watch pornography (or coercing you, i.e. "I wish we could do this...") or giving it to you under false pretenses (i.e. "I love you so much I want to do this to you")
Calling you names such as whore or slut, etc.
Telling dirty jokes or jokes that degrade women
Your sexual partner knowingly giving you a sexually transmitted disease from someone else
Having sex with other people when you've agreed that you won't and not allowing you to do the same, or telling you about it.
(** additional comments from site owner)
Thanks to HOLLY for bringing this to my attention!
Monday, September 11, 2006
Smart Women, Dangerous Choices
Some women are attracted to bad boys. They may be alcoholics, married men, or men with an attitude like Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, or James Dean in A Rebel Without a Cause. The worst type of bad boy is a convict or an ex-con and sad to say, there are many women who fall for these men. Why is that?
It may be that a woman likes an element of danger in her relationship. Some women like the idea of taming the beast. They choose a man who’s rough and tough, or brags about his infidelities because they believe that they are going to be the one woman who will make a difference in his life. They will be the one who will make him faithful. They will be the one who gets him sober. They will be the one to change him.
That kind of thinking can be very dangerous. An acquaintance of mine fell in love with a prisoner. She was a member of my David Milgaard support group. While the rest of us were working to free David Milgaard, a man who had been wrongly convicted of murder, my friend, Louise Ellis, worked tirelessly to get a guilty man out of prison.
Louise met Brett Morgan at Milgaard's Supreme Court hearing in 1992. Morgan was a "jailhouse snitch"; he claimed that he shared a cell with a man who confessed to killing a woman that someone else was doing the time for. Louise admired Brett for coming forward. His motives seemed altruistic at the time, so she introduced herself to him after the hearing. They exchanged addresses and began a correspondence, which culminated in a passionate affair.
Brett was in jail for killing a woman in Edmonton. He had been charged with manslaughter and only served eight years out of his 10 year sentence, thanks to Louise spending her hard-earned money to get him the best lawyers in town. How did he repay her? Brett went to live with Louise when he was released from prison. Nine months later, she went missing. I was part of a search team that went looking for her. Her remains were discovered in Wakefield, Québec three months following her disappearance. Morgan had strangled her after she intimated that she wanted to leave him. He was convicted of first-degree murder, but he never served out his term because he died of hepatitis C in prison.
Was Louise Ellis a fool to have taken a chance on Brett Morgan? Some people think so but I disagree. Louise was a 46-year-old freelance journalist. She was bright, pretty, spunky and spiritual. She was a dynamic person and a social activist. Louise gave Brett a second chance in life. She believed in him and he was convincing -- I know because I met him. Louise wanted to save Brett. She tried to play Florence Nightingale and it cost her her life.
What can we do about this tragedy without blaming the victim or judging these women for their actions? We can all encourage the women that we know and love to take a good hard look at the men that they’ve chosen as partners. Do these men have a temper? Have they ever struck a woman physically? Are your female friends constantly choosing men who have glaring flaws, hoping and believing that they can change them? No one changes another person. The only time that anyone ever changes is if he or she decides to do that for their own reasons.
We all have daughters, sisters or colleagues who might benefit from our advice, even if they don't want to hear it at the time. Women who are consistently attracted to the wrong men may need counseling. Or maybe they just need to know how valuable they really are, and that it’s not worth the risk to be involved with a bad boy.
If we manage to save one life by speaking up, it's worth it. I'm sorry that I didn't voice my disapproval about Brett Morgan more emphatically to Louise Ellis. Perhaps if I did, she might be here with us today. By the time that she considered leaving him, it was already too late because that is precisely when certain men become dangerous. Think of Nicole Brown Simpson. Neither Nicole nor Louise realized that they needed police protection after they told their spouses goodbye. (site owner's note: Nicole Brown realized it - only far too late)
On a larger scale, women's magazines and Hollywood movies need to recast their male heroes. There's nothing sexy or romantic about an ex-con or a tough guy. A goofy, kindhearted man like Ray Romano on Everyone Loves Raymond is a lot more attractive than Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. If we can get that message out globally, we could save some women and their families a lot of heartache.
Sigrid Macdonald is a longtime feminist and social activist. She is an editor, book coach and the author of two books including D'Amour Road, which is dedicated to Louise Ellis.
Visit her HERE
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Psychopathy and Consumerism
Two Illnesses That Need And Feed Each Other
A psychopath or partial psychopath has an impaired capacity to form intimate, trusting mutually satisfying relationships with other human beings as a result of impaired attachment in the earliest years. Unable to find pleasure and satisfaction from others, the psychopath or partial psychopath must turn to things -- goods and services (drugs, sex, gambling, etc), toys and travel -- to fill the emptiness within.
The emptiness of the hollow man must be filled, and consumerism has learned how.
It is said that a culture creates the kind of people it needs. Maybe we're into frequent separations and changing, shared, paid caregivers in the first three years of the lives of our children so they will grow up with an insatiable need to shop till they drop.
If you're unable to obtain satisfaction from BEING, which is based on love and the pleasure of sharing, then the HAVING MODE, as Eric Fromm put it, is your only choice. "The HAVING MODE, concentrates on material possession, acquisitiveness, power, and aggression and is the basis of such universal evils as greed, envy, and violence..."
Psychopathy: What is it?
Introduction: An Interview with Dr. BarkerThe Mask of SanityThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
Incomplete Manifestations of the DisorderThe Partial PsychopathIf We Could Measure this Two Part Empathy
Psychopathy: What Causes It?
The Organic Red HerringHow to Succeed in the Business of Creating Psychopaths How and Why Changing Caregivers Damage a Young Child
Measuring AttachmentThe Diseases of Non-AttachmentEmpathic Care: A Definition of "Care"The Infant's Need for Empathic CareDeprivation of Empathic Care During Infancy
Psychopathy: What's Wrong With It?
Is There a Critical Mass for Psychopathy?The Psychopath's Favourite Playground
Consumerism: What Is It?
Consumerism: What's Wrong With It?
The Way Out of Mimicking HappinessNirvana and Vance PackardConsumerism, Materialism and Cruelty to ChildrenTo Have or to Be?Big Brother Couldn't Foresee the Big C -- ConsumerismYou Can Never Get Enough ... The Poverty of a Rich SocietyIs This a Culture We Can Afford to be Complacent About
The Link Between Consumerism and PsychopathyThe Brave New World of ChildcareConsumerism, Arbitrary Male Dominance and Daycare
4. IS DAYCARE REALLY A NECESSITY?
The Real CulpritsWomen's Liberation and Cruelty to ChildrenSexism: A Dangerous DelusionKiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye
The Feminine Utopia
Accepting the Existing Reality
The Real Quislings in AmericaDo Not AskMass Media
The Socializing Mode of Childrearing
From Socializing to Helping Mode of ChildrearingThe Evolution of Child-Rearing ModesGuidance: A Plea for Abandonment
Social Science as Propoganda
Social ScienceOver-reliance on Social Science for ProofThe Role of ResearchA Dangerous Possibility
Our Defense Mechanisms
Our Defense MechanismsThe Problem of Professional AnxietyJohn: A Distressing Film About Separation
5. WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Substituting Conserver Values for Consumer ValuesThe Tendency to Confuse Difference with EqualityA Return to the Roots of FeminismThe Challenge Before UsA Sense of CommunionThe Politics of Meaning
End of Introductory Interview with Dr. Barker
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The New ‘Elephant in the Living Room’: Effects of
Compulsive Cybersex Behaviors on the Spouse
By Jennifer P. Schneider
A chapter published in the book Sex and the Internet, 2002
In addiction treatment, the ‘elephant is the living room’ refers to a situation in which the addictive use of alcohol (or other drug) by a family member significantly impacts the remainder of the family, yet no one talks about it. The apparent blindness to the presence of a behavior which adversely affects the user and the family results from a variable combination of true unawareness by the spouse and/or children, along with some element of denial, disbelief, and/or covering up by the family. Effective family treatment of addictive disorders includes bringing to light the dysfunctional behaviors of both the addict and family members, addressing the associated shame, and developing strategies (1) for the addict to stop addictive use of the substance (alcohol, cocaine, etc.) or behavior (gambling, sex, risk-taking, etc.), and (2) for spouses or partners to focus on their own needs rather than on the addict’s behavior and to become empowered to set boundaries for what is acceptable in the home and in the relationship.
With the increasing presence of computers in the home, a growing number of users neglect family, social, and work obligations, as well as their own health and wellbeing, in order to spend many hours per week viewing the computer screen in search of sexual gratification. As Cooper and his colleagues (Cooper et al, 1999; Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg, 2000) have shown, most people who access the Internet for sex are "recreational users," analogous to recreational drinkers or gamblers, yet at the same time a significant proportion have pre-existing sexual compulsions and addictions which are now finding a new outlet. For others, with no such history, cybersex is the first expression of an addictive sexual disorder, one that lends itself to rapid progression, similar to the effect of crack cocaine on the previously occasional cocaine user. Regardless of the user’s diagnosis, when cybersex begins to take precedence over a committed relationship, the partner suffers. 0
The internet has several characteristics which make it the ideal medium for sexual involvement (Cooper, 1999). It is widely accessible, inexpensive, legal, available in the privacy of one's own home, anonymous, and does not put the user at direct risk of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease. It is also particularly suited for hiding the activities from others because it does not leave obvious evidence of the sexual encounter. It often takes some computer knowledge on the part of the spouse to retrace the user's online adventures.
There is still some disagreement in the fields of psychiatry and addiction medicine about appropriate terminology for this disorder. Carnes (1983) was the first to apply the addiction paradigm to out-of-control sexual disorders. In this chapter the terms sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behaviors will be used interchangeably. However, I prefer the term sexual addiction because compulsive cybersex use fits the criteria formulated by Schneider & Irons (1996) for all addictions: The compulsive cybersex user experiences (1) loss of control (2) continuation despite adverse consequences, and (3) preoccupation or obsession with obtaining and using the substance or behavior. These criteria were adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , 4th Edition (1996). Although some clients who are compulsively sexual have been successfully treated with a developmental and psychotherapeutic approach, in the author’s experience and research, many persons have not been able to stop their behaviors until they approached the problem from an addiction paradigm. Addiction-model treatment, which includes cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention strategies along with attendance at self-help groups modeled after AA and its offshoot, Al-Anon, is also helpful for cybersex addicts and their partners (Schneider, 2000a; Hecht-Orzack & Ross, 2000; Schneider & Weiss,2001; Carnes, Delmonico, & Griffin, 2001).
Compulsive cybersex use, like all addictive sexual disorders, significantly impacts the couple relationship (Schneider, 2000a; Schneider, 2000b). Children may also be adversely affected (Freeman-Longo, 2000). Early involvement of the family in treatment of compulsive sexual behavior is an important ingredient to a successful treatment outcome. (Carnes, personal communication). Unfortunately, in the treatment of cybersex-related problems, the effect on the spouse or partner is all too often ignored, as attention is focused solely on the user.
To summarize the types of behaviors involved, the viewing of pornography while masturbating is nearly universal among male cybersex addicts, and also found among some female cybersex users, although women often prefer relational activities such as chat rooms to strictly visual activities (Schneider, 2000b, Cooper et al., 2000). Other behaviors are reading and writing sexually explicit letters and stories, e-mailing to set up personal meetings with someone, placing ads to meet sexual partners, visiting sexually oriented chat rooms, and engaging in interactive online affairs with same- or opposite-sex people, which may include real-time viewing of each other's bodies using electronic cameras connected to the computer. Related activities include phone-sex with people met online, and online affairs that progress to skin-to-skin sex.. A preliminary study suggests that a higher percentage of women cybersex addicts (80%, versus 30% of men) progress to offline sexual encounters (Schneider, 2000b). Some cybersex users participate in illegal or paraphilic online activities such as sadomasochism and domination/bondage, bestiality, viewing child pornography and pornographic pictures of teenagers , and having sex with underage persons.
To assist the clinician in formulating a treatment approach that includes the significant other, this chapter will describe the reactions of the partner to discovery of the compulsive cybersex use, the stages of “pre-recovery” of the partner, and elements of an effective therapeutic plan.
One Woman’s Story
When no offline sexual interactions have occurred, therapists may underestimate the impact on the partner, likening it to having a spouse who enjoys perusing “Playboy” or “Penthouse.” The following description may make the distinction clearer. A 38-year old woman, now in the process of ending her 15-year marriage , wrote,
I knew my husband was masturbating all the time, but I thought it was my fault. He would blame me when I would catch him masturbating at the computer. He would not do any chores when I was out. When I returned, he would quickly clear the computer screen. He’d keep looking at his pants to see if I could tell he had an erection. He would run out of the bedroom like he was just changing. At other times he would call me and say he was coming right home at 4 o’clock, and not show up until three hours later. He’d say he was working really hard and not to give him a hard time.
I knew he’d be masturbating if I left the house. I never said no to sex unless I was not feeling well, or I was working. I believed if I had sex more often, or if I were better at sex, he would not masturbate as much. I surveyed my friends to see if they'd caught their husbands masturbating, to see how often they thought it was normal to masturbate, to see what kind of sex they had with their husbands and how often.
I thought I was not good enough because I did not look like the girls in the pictures. I thought if I dressed and looked good it would keep him interested. I gave up competing with his masturbating and chose not to have sex with him
If the kids and I were coming home from somewhere and his car was there, I would run into the house first and be loud so the kids wouldn’t walk in on him. I found semen on my office chair and lubricant next to the keyboard. I stopped making dinner because I would not know when he'd be coming home. I tried to talk with him about masturbation and how often he wanted to have sex.
My husband does not believe he has an addiction. He doesn't think it's a big deal because he says he was never with anyone else. He thinks all he needs is a more loving wife.
One man’s story
A 44 year old man had been married for 24 years when his wife became hooked on the Internet (Schneider, 2001). He explained that she wrote and read erotic stories and e-mails, participated in sexually-oriented chat rooms, became involved in a dominance/submission, sadomasochism (BDSM) online community, and participated in both online and real-life sexual encounters with various men. She spent thousands of dollars on airplane tickets and phone calls, and eventually lost her job because of her online activities. She stopped paying bills or doing housework. She stopped going on family outings, locked the kids out of her room, and ignored them.
The whole family is still suffering the consequences of my wife’s sex addiction. The kids are still hurting, and one of them is being treated for depression. I’ve been depressed too, and am still on medication. She exposed me to sexually transmitted diseases.
I began to doubt my masculinity. At first we had sex more than ever as I desperately tried to prove myself. Then the sex with her made me sick – I’d get strong pictures in my head of what she did and lusted after, and I’d feel repelled and bad. When we were making love, she was thinking of her online partners. She reported all our personal sexual activities to her online partners. I used to see sex as a very intimate loving thing. Now I can’t be intimate or vulnerable – sex now is more recreational or just out of need.
Why am I still with her? I feel if I divorce her she will end up dead in a hotel room somewhere or bring perverted people into my children’s lives. I’m still very codependent and I feel I have to protect her. I also don’t want anyone to find out about her.
With this introduction to the feelings of the partner, we will turn to a broad overview of the stages partners go through when living with ‘the elephant in the living room.’ This will be followed by discussion of specific aspects of the relationship which are of interest to therapists: the effects of cybersex on the partner and the relationship –and specifically on the couple’s sexual relationship; partners’ perceptions of what constitutes ‘adultery’; specific issues for male partners of female cybersex addicts; gay relationships; and finally, various implications for therapists.
The stages of prerecovery of the cybersex user’s partner
Addictionists speak of ‘recovery’ as the process of healing from addictive disorders, both for users and for family members. Recovery begins with recognition that one needs help for oneself. Partners of cybersex addicts go through a sequence of responses to the user’s ongoing involvement with online sex (Schneider, 2000a)
Stage 1: Ignorance/denial
In contrast to the more traditional forms of sexual acting out, cybersex use happens in the user’s own home. Paradoxically, it is therefore easier to conceal. There are no telltale receipts, lipstick stains, or unaccounted-for absences. Instead , the user is simply “working at the computer” in the home office or study. When the user withdraws emotionally and/or physically from the marriage, the partner recognizes there is a problem in the relationship, but is unaware of the contribution of cybersex to the problem. The partner believes the user's denials, explanations, and promises. She (or he –we will use the female pronoun for simplicity) tends to ignore and explain away her own concerns, and may blame herself for sexual problems that are commonly present. The compulsive cybersex user is often uninterested in marital sex; in response the partner may try to enhance her own attractiveness to him/her.
Stage 2: Shock/Discovery of the cybersex activities
At some point the partner learns of the cybersex user's activities, either accidentally (because the partner comes upon the activities in progress, or turns on the computer and discovers a cache of pornographic pictures), or as a result of deliberate investigations. In either case, the partner's ignorance and denial are over.
Discovery often results in shock, betrayal, anger, pain, hopelessness, confusion, and shame. Because the pull of the computer is so strong and its availability in the home and at work is so great, there is a great tendency for the user to return to cybersex activities even after discovery by the spouse, no matter how sincere the initial intention to quit. A common result is a cycle of discoveries, promises made and broken, and additional discoveries and promises.
Feelings of shame, self-blame, and embarrassment often accompany the early days of dealing with a partner's cybersex addiction. The cybersex user often minimizes the significance of the behavior (“What’s the big deal –I’m not cheating after all”) and may even suggest that the real problem is the partner’s anti-pornography attitude (“All men like to look at pictures -- you’re just too uptight about these things.”) The partner may wonder if indeed she might be the only problem. These feelings may prevent the partner from talking with others and appealing for help, and the resultant isolation worsens the situation.
Covering up for the user is part of this stage:
We have only told our therapists about this problem. It's so hard to go to family events where everyone thinks we're doing great. I don't want to tell them because I don't want this to be all that they think of when they think of my husband. And we don't feel like we can trust any of our friends with our "secret." So we're dealing with this alone and that hurts. [25-year old woman, married 2 years, just recently discovered the cybersex addiction.]
Stage 3: Problem-solving attempts
The partner now begins to take action to resolve the problem, which is perceived as the cybersex behaviors. If real-life sexual activities have in fact occurred in addition to online sex, then the spouse’s feelings and behaviors will be familiar to therapists who have counseled couples regarding a traditional affair. However, when the behaviors have been limited to the computer, the reaction is likely to be somewhat different: The computer has become such a staple in many homes that the partner is more likely to try to control the addict’s use rather than eliminate it. This would be analogous to the alcoholic’s wife who believes that if the alcoholic drinks only under her direct supervision at home, the problem would disappear.
At this stage behaviors typical of “codependency” peak -- snooping, bargaining, controlling access to the computer, giving ultimatums, asking for full disclosure after every episode, obtaining information for the user on sex addiction and addiction recovery, and (early in this stage) increasing the frequency and repertory of sexual activities with the user in hopes of decreasing his desire for cybersex.
A sexual solution to the sexual problem seems to make sense in this stage. Partners may agree to sexual practices with which they are not comfortable, have sex even when tired, and think about improving their appearance by undergoing breast enhancement surgery or liposuction. For the cybersex user, none of these methods are likely to diminish the lure of the internet.
The partner at this stage believes that additional information will enhance her or his ability to manage the situation. This leads to snooping or "detective" behaviors. Partners who are computer-savvy learn how to trace the user's activities, and in some cases may even try to entice him by logging on into the same chat rooms themselves under false names.
The couple often comes to some agreement to try to limit the addict's use of the computer. This may consist simply of promises not to use it, or to restrict usage to legitimate needs. The partner or the couple may purchase filtering software (e.g. CyberPatrol or Net Nanny) which prevents access to sexually-oriented sites. Often, the partner, with the user's agreement or at least knowledge, assumes control of the access. This type of agreement rarely works for long. It provides a measure of comfort for the wife to know what is going on and gives her the illusion of control. But the result is to establish a parent-child dynamic between the couple and engenders resentment in the cybersex user The user will begin or increase cybersex activities on the work computer, or find ways to defeat blocking software at home, and will simply become more skilled at deception. Until the user is motivated to stop the cybersex activities, relying on external controls via the spouse or partner is effective at best temporarily.
In describing the phases of prerecovery of partners of sex addicts (coaddicts) in the pre-cybersex era, Milrad (1999) found the end of the prerecovery phase and the beginning of recovery to be an awareness that they are in crisis and need help. Similarly, partners of cybersex addicts enter the crisis stage when they realize that their problem-solving efforts have been unsuccessful and when the costs of remaining in the status quo become intolerable - depressive symptoms, isolation, loss of libido, a "dead" marriage, their own dysfunctional behaviors in some cases (affairs, excessive drinking, violence), as well as awareness of the effects on the children of the family dysfunction. This is the stage when the partner seeks help for herself/himself rather than in order to “fix” the cybersex user. Once the partner is in therapy and getting help, the equilibrium of the system is disrupted, forcing some type of real change. Either the problematic behavior will change as the cybersex user too becomes engaged in treatment , or the relationship will end.
Effect of cybersex on the partner and the relationship
Some of the most troubling effects of a person's compulsive cybersex involvement result from the large amount of time spent on the computer. Cooper et al (1999) reported that compulsive sex use on the internet occupies an average of 11 hours/week, time which clearly decreases the user's availability to the family. Partners of compulsive cybersex users feel lonely, ignored, unimportant, neglected, or angry as a result of the user’s spending so much time on the net.
However, there are additional consequences for the partner which result specifically from the sexual content of the user's internet addiction. When the partner perceives that the user prefers a computer construct to the real-life committed partner, her self-esteem often suffers and she feels she cannot compete with the fantasy person on the computer. Most partners experience some combination of devastation, hurt, betrayal, loss of self-esteem, abandonment, mistrust, suspicion, fear, and a decreased level of intimacy in their primary relationship. Some partners, including females, become physically abusive to their spouses. Some men and women engage in extramarital affairs or encounters, either to shore up their own self-esteem or else to get revenge on their cybersex-using spouses. Other reactions include feeling sexually inadequate, unattractive; doubting one's judgment and even sanity; severe depression, and in extreme cases attempting suicide. The loss of trust felt by most partners is at least as harmful to the relationship as the sexual activities themselves. Despite the user's promises, the behaviors and the lies often continue, which leads to further erosion of trust.
Compulsive cybersex use elicits partners' deepest insecurities about their ability to measure up to the fantasy online men and women. The need to compete with interactive sex online pressures them into unwanted sexual activities. A 34 year old woman, married 14 years to a minister, said,
He's never been physically unfaithful, but nonetheless I feel cheated. I never know who or what he is thinking of when we are intimate. How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, in his head? When he says something sexual to me in bed, I wonder if he has said it to others, or if it is even his original thought. Now our bed is crowded with countless faceless strangers, where once we were intimate. With all this deception, how do I know he has quit, or isn't moving into other behaviors?
On the internet it is possible to find groups of people who are interested in all kinds of unusual, paraphilic, and/or degrading sexual practices. Interacting with these people online desensitizes the cybersex user to such activities and "normalizes" them. Some cybersex users eventually come to blame their partners for being unwilling to engage in these behaviors.
The therapist who treats a cybersex user’s spouse can validate the client’s sense of betrayal resulting from her spouse’s cybersex activities and can support her feelings as typical of others who have had similar experiences. In working with such couples, the therapist can help cybersex users become more empathetic to their spouse’s feelings by reviewing with the users how they felt about the same activities before beginning to view them online. Another useful approach is to consider unusual or deviant sexual practices which the cybersex user has not viewed and normalized to himself, and ask him to imagine his reaction if his spouse were to pressure him to engage in these activities.
The significant consequences of cybersex on the partner and the relationship can be summarized as follows:
Many users lie repeatedly about the sexual activities; in response, their partners feel distrust and betrayal.
The devastating emotional impact of a cybersex affair is described by many partners as similar if not the same as that of a real affair. The partner's self-esteem may be damaged; strong feelings of hurt, betrayal, abandonment, devastation, loneliness, shame, isolation, humiliation, and jealousy are evoked.
The couple's sexual relationship suffers, not only generally because the user spends so much time alone on the computer, , but specifically because the spouse (and often the user) compares her body and her sexual performance to that of the on-line women, and believes she can't measure up.
Online sexual activities may be followed by physical contact with others; rather than confronting the behavior directly, withdrawing, or becoming depressed, the partner may retaliate or seek solace in extramarital affairs.
Effect on the sexual relationship
Compulsive cybersex use by one member of a couple usually has significant adverse effects on the conjugal sexual relationship. Sexual and other energies taken away from the relationship cheat both partners of addressing issues of self-development and deepening their sexual and relational connection. In the author’s study of partners of cybersex addicts (Schneider, 2000a), two-thirds of the 94 respondents (68%) described sexual problems in the couple relationship, usually coinciding with the beginning of the cybersex activities. Fifty-two percent of the cybersex users had decreased interest in relational sex, as had one-third of the spouses. In some of these cases (18%), both partners had a decreased interest. In only 32 percent of the couples were both partners still interested in sex with each other.
Spouses who lose interest in sex with the cybersex user report being repulsed by the user’s sexual activities with cybersex, phone sex, live encounters, etc.. This generally does not cause a problem for the cybersex user, who has already substituted cybersex for sex with spouse. On the other hand, when it is the user who loses interest in sex with spouse, this is definitely a problem for the spouse, who feels angry, hurt, rejected, and often sexually unfulfilled.
Recurrent themes among such couples are:
The user makes excuses to avoid sex with partner (not in the mood, too tired, working too hard, has already climaxed and doesn't want sex, the children might hear, his back hurts too much).
The partner feels hurt, angry, sexually rejected, inadequate, and unable to compete with computer images and sexy online women (or men) who are willing to do “anything.”
During relational sex, the cybersex user appears distant, emotionally detached, and interested only in his/her own pleasure
The partner ends up doing most or all of the initiating, either to get her/his own needs met, or else in an attempt to get the user to decrease the online activities.
The user blames the partner for their sexual problems.
The user wants the partner to participate in sexual activities which she/he finds objectionable.
A 33-year man, partner of a male cybersex user wrote,
e.Currently we have sex once every three months, usually only after I blow my stack and I suppose he feels obligated. Although I know that I am bright and attractive, emotionally I feel ugly, worthless, and unwanted by him or anybody else. For me the issue has not been the difference between him having e-mail sex or actual physical contact, it is that someone else is receiving his attention and I am not. I do many mental gymnastics in order to cope with this. In order to prevent becoming irritated with my partner because he rejects my sexual advances, I masturbate daily with the hope that it will prevent me from becoming "horny." Sometimes it works. I would not care at all if he masturbated online with a host of others, as long as I was an active part of his sex life.
In a small minority of cases (16% in Schneider’s [2000a] study), the cybersex user maintains his/her desire for sex with the partner, but the partner is less interested. In some cases the partner refuses to have sex; in others, the partner doesn't want to, but continues out of fear of driving the user further into online activities. Major themes in such relationships are:
The partner initially increases the sexual activities in order to "win back" the addict. This early response is only temporary.
The partner feels repelled and disgusted by the addict's online or real sexual activities and no longer wants to have relationship sex.
The partner can no longer tolerate the addict's detachment and lack of emotional connection during sex.
The partner's anger over the addict's denial of the problem interferes with her/his sexual interest.
In reply to pressure or requests by the addict to dress in certain ways or perform new sexual acts, the partner feels angry, repelled, used, objectified, or like a prostitute.
The partner fears catching a disease from the user, or already caught one.
Comparison with online sexual partners
The knowledge that the addict's head is full of cybersex images inevitably produces in the partner a comparison between the spouse and the fantasy woman in terms of appearance, desirability, and repertory of sexual behaviors. The partner feels she/he is competing with the computer images and people. ("If only I was perfect like his porn, then he would want the real thing and love me.") The result is often confusion -- on the one hand, desire to emulate and better the computer woman (or man), on the other revulsion at the lack of intimacy and mechanical nature of the sex. Some people vacillate between these two polarities:
His cybersex activities made me angry. They made me want to be more sexy and desirable, then at other times made me not want to have anything to do with him. It made me feel that when we were having sex and he closed his eyes, he was viewing some other person's body and therefore was not really "with" me. [48 year old woman, married 4 years]
What Constitutes Adultery?
When one partner has some sexual involvement outside the marriage, there is often disagreement by the couple on what constitutes adultery. The reason is that there is still disagreement about what constitutes sexual relations. For example, in a study reported in 1999 [Sanders & Reinisch, 1999], 59 percent of college students surveyed believed that oral sex does not constitute “having sex,” and 19 percent believed that even penile penetration of the anus did not constitutes “having sex.” There is now a similar disagreement about the meaning of the varieties of computer sex. When the cybersex user engages in real-time online sex with another person, most partners react as though skin-to-skin adultery has taken place. According to one distraught woman,
My husband is using sexual energy that should be used with me. The person on the other end of that computer is live and is participating in a sexual activity with him. They are doing it together and are responding to each other. It is one thing to masturbate to a two-dimensional screen image. But to engage in an interactive sexual encounter means that you are being sexual with another person, and that is cheating.
To effectively counsel partners of cybersex addicts, therapists must understand and be able to validate the intensity of their feelings that this is indeed a significant betrayal of the relationship. The main reasons reported by partners include:
Having interactive sex with another person is adultery, whether or not they have skin-to-skin contact.
Cybersex results in lying, hiding one's activities, and covering up, and the lies are often the most painful part of an affair.
The spouse feels betrayed, devalued, deceived, "less than," abandoned --- same as with a real affair.
Cybersex takes away from the sexual relationship of the couple. As one woman wrote, "I may not be getting a disease from him, but I'm not getting anything else either!"
A real-life person cannot compete with fantasy. The cybersex addict loses interest in his spouse because he has "ideal" relationships where there is no hassle.
Cybersex takes the addict away from his partner --in terms of time and emotions. It results in emotional detachment from the marriage.
Implications for Therapists
Online addiction in general vs. cybersex addiction
Although some of the most troubling effects of a person's compulsive cybersex involvement result from the large amount of time spent on the computer, the sexual content of the material can have an huge impact on the person and the partner. Accordingly, it would be a mistake to focus in therapy primarily on the time element of computer use without specifically considering the sexual content of the activities. It is crucial to spend enough time getting a thorough sexual history of the client and of the couple’s sexual relationship, as well as details of the computer user’s activities online (and by extension, offline).
Sexual anorexia and cybersex addiction/compulsivity
Some compulsive cybersex users and/or their partners have erroneously been labeled by their therapists as suffering “ sexual anorexia” or a sexual aversion disorder (DSMIV, 1994, p. 499). It is a mistake to apply this label to person simply because he or she is uninterested in sex in one particular context (e.g. within the couple relationship). Cybersex addicts do not avoid sex; on the contrary, they engage in sex compulsively. However, they often redirect their sexual interest away from the spouse and towards the computer. It is crucial for the therapist to get a thorough sexual history, and, especially, to inquire at length about the presence of online sexual activity in the life of a client who appears not to be interested in sex with the partner. Similarly, the cybersex user’s partner who feels unconnected, ignored, and betrayed and who therefore loses sexual interest in the cybersex addict, is not suffering from sexual anorexia, but rather may be reacting with integrity and autonomy to a situation in which (s)he does not feel valued. As Schnarch, (1997, p. 127) wrote, “Healthy people don’t want sex when it’s not worth wanting.”
Understanding sexual compulsivity
Schneider (2000a and 2000b) reported that several people in her study consulted counselors or psychotherapists who apparently failed to obtain an adequate history and therefore missed the diagnosis of sexual compulsivity. Some counselors urged the partner to initiate sex more frequently. Some had never heard of sexual addiction/compulsivity, or failed to understand how a person could be threatened by the use of a computer or other inanimate object. Others were so committed to being nonjudgmental that they missed the big picture: One young woman reported that her pastor had dismissed her concerns about her fiance’s online preference for young girls, telling her that “once we were married, my husband's curiosity would be filled by me. Now that we are married, and I find that he has continued his acting out, and lied to me so much, I am afraid of what could happen if we have children and one is a girl.”
A client's complaints about her spouse's cybersex use may simply reflect her own discomfort with pornography, but it also may be a sign of a significant cybersex problem in the family; each of these requires a different treatment approach. Therapists who wish to treat cybersex problems effectively need a basic understanding of addictive sexual disorders so that they can determine if this problem exists in the client and, if so, institute appropriate treatment or refer out. Compulsive behavior is by definition out of control. Suggesting to the client that he access cybersex only 1 hour per day instead of 4 is likely to be as effective as suggesting to an alcoholic to cut down his consumption of alcoholic beverages from 15 to 4 per day.
Mistakes to avoid
Where compulsive cybersex use is in fact present, potential mistakes by the uninformed counselor are:
to underestimate the adverse consequences of the behavior, for both the user and the family
to fail to make it a priority for the cybersex addict to stop illegal or dangerous behaviors
to omit the partner or spouse, if one exists, from the treatment process
to diagnose the couple's problem as poor communication, the partner’s frigidity, or a need by the partner of greater acceptance of the internet user's activities,
to diagnose the compulsive user's problem or that of his partner as sexual anorexia, and
to recommend that the cybersex user limit the time devoted to cybersex activities to some predetermined number of hours, or to have the partner join in the addict's cybersex activities.
How to avoid mistakes: Begin with a thorough assessment
The first step for the counselor is to gather information, preferably from both partners. Ask specific questions -- what is a typical day in the life of each partner, hour by hour? Are there large chunks of time that are unaccounted for? Have there been changes in the couple's sexual relationship? In the amount of time the family spends together? In the time spent with children? Is there evidence of cybersex involvement? Is there a history of other compulsive sexual behaviors? Ask about the partner’s beliefs regarding sex, pornography, and masturbation. Obtain a thorough sexual history from both partners, and a history of their sexual relationship with each other.
If cybersex addiction is indeed present, some psychotherapists report success using cognitive-behavioral and developmental approaches. Many patients are best helped using the same principles of treatment of any other form of sex addiction or compulsivity: Initially, the user needs to be helped to break through the denial that a problem exists and to recognize the impact of the behaviors on the partner and family; to stop the behaviors and associated lying; to stop blaming the partner; to learn problem-solving in ways other than escape through cybersex activities; to develop strategies for dealing with sexual urges, Support through membership in 12-step programs such as Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), Sexaholics Anonymous (SA), or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) is as useful as with any other addiction. Strategies specific to the computer are discussed in other chapters in this book and include limitations on use of the computer, acquisition of blocking software, and avoidance of the internet.
Treating the cybersex user’s partner: begin with validation
For the spouse or partner, the negative consequences detailed in this chapter constitute a lengthy list of issues to explore in therapy. Early on, partners need validation of their belief that a real problem does exist, and of their perception that cybersex addiction can be as damaging to the relationship as more traditional sexual affairs. They need to feel "heard" by the counselor, and encouraged to state their needs. Other early goals of therapy are to help clients accept that they did not cause the problem, cannot control it, and cannot cure it, and that the belief that having enough information will allow control of the situation is an illusion. The focus needs to be moved from fixing the other person to working on oneself, especially one's damaged self-esteem, and learning to pay attention to one's own needs and desires. Education about appropriate boundaries is useful, along with development of appropriate boundaries regarding the presence of the computer in the home and conditions for its use. Except perhaps very temporarily, however, it is not useful to have the partner be the "keeper" of the computer or to control the cybersex user’s involvement with it; this is better left to the user's therapist or 12-step sponsor. Like the cybersex addict, the partner can be greatly helped and supported by membership in a 12-step program such as S-Anon, COSA, or Al-Anon.
Male partners of cybersex addicts
There is very little written thus far in the professional literature about male partners of cybersex addicts. Gay men often have sexually inclusive relationships, and monogamy is less of an issue than in heterosexual relationships. However,
isolated first-person accounts (Schneider,2000a,2000b) suggest that themes of loss of esteem and feelings of abandonment and betrayal are common to both male and female partners. Like most women, one gay man felt very hurt by his partner’s loss of interest in relational sex with him, but unlike most women, he claimed not to be bothered by his partner’s involvement with other men online. Whether the relationship is heterosexual or homosexual, compulsive sexual energy takes away from one’s relationship with oneself and would be a relational problem as well.
An earlier study of husbands of women sex addicts, written before cybersex existed (Schneider & Schneider, 1990) found that husbands who were not themselves recovering from chemical or behavioral addictions had difficulty accepting that their wives’ behavior was an addiction, were more likely than women to react with rage and wishes to dispatch the “other man,” experienced more shame than did women, and were less willing to get involved in treatment or self-help groups which focused on themselves rather than on “fixing” their spouses. They tended to excuse the wife’s behavior as a symptom of illness or stress, and were very ready to believe that the problem had solved itself at the first sign of progress.
Research in the marriage and family therapy literature (Glass [need reference] about extramarital affairs shows that men are more upset than women when there has been actual sexual contact without loving feelings, whereas women are more upset than men when there has been a strong emotional connection but no sexual contact. One may hypothesize that in the case of cybersex activities where there has not been offline sexual contact, men would be more likely than women to minimize the significance of the activities. More research is clearly needed in this area.
When recreational cybersex use becomes compulsive, therapists need to consider the impact on the partner. Rather than simply encouraging the partner to be more understanding and more supportive of the user’s enjoyment of the internet, therapists need to understand and validate the partner’s distress and the impact of the compulsive cybersex use on the partner’s emotions and self-esteem, as well as on the couple’s sexual relationship, level of emotional intimacy, and family time together. Therapy with the partner includes
1) validating the partner’s feelings,
2) helping the partner understand that it is futile to try to compete with fantasy online sex partners,
3) empowering the partner so that (s)he is in a position to make real choices regarding the relationship,
4) helping the partner to set appropriate boundaries for herself or himself regarding the user’s sexual behavior online and off (for example, “I can’t control what you do all day, but is too painful for me to have this going on in my home; the computer has got to go,” or “I am not comfortable having sexual relations with you if you are having real-time sex with women online,”) and
5) informing the partner about the availability of support groups where (s)he can share experiences, feelings, and solutions with others who have lived through similar situations.
As with other issues affecting couples, the prognosis is better if both members of the couple recognize that there is a problem and are willing to work to resolve it.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
By Antonia Vann
The Lord is my light and my salvation– Whom shall I fear?….for in the day of trouble He will keep me safe…...
while still lying on the kitchen floor, the paramedics placed a big, white, dog collar of a brace around my neck to stabilize my head. Next they rolled me onto a long narrow, brown, hard board. I was flat on my back when one of the officers noticed blood on the front of my nightgown. They lifted my gown once again, and there was another gunshot wound in my upper, left thigh. Oh Lord, four bullets! Her by shot me four times!
Lavon Morris-Grant descriptively shares her personal journey and roles, including that of an African American woman who is a battered wife. Telling it like it is or “keeping it real” makes for a real-life rollercoaster ride. This story is gripping. At times you cry, and in the midst of your tears, she has you laughing as her story is exquisitely written and a must-read for not only other women on this same pathway struggling to survive, or finding themselves, but also for practitioners, researchers, law enforcement, members of the judiciary, social service providers, ministers, and human rights activists – anyone who provides services for African-American women. A trial of triumph! She survived, trusting in herself and reaching what was inside of her all along. Her faith was the vehicle. Her hero, is not of this Earth.
...I was so embarrassed that I tried thinking about something else while they looked at my big, black butt. It was confirmed. I was shot in the butt! A part of me wanted to laugh, but I heard them saying, I was shot in the left foot, too.
Whom Shall I Fear is poignant and rhythmic. Grant is a sassy, sad, courageous, strong, educated and tough black woman who fell victim to abuse. It immediately taps into the emotions and hearts of women who have experienced abuse at the hands of a partner and those of family and friends who love them. The disclosure of self in the book weaves you through the seemingly methodical cycle of abuse, of power and of control. Grant’s near fatal experiences of abuse and violence paint scenarios clearly and chillingly at times of the complex, yet basic dynamics intrinsic in spousal abuse.
... As I look back on that day, the look on my husband’s face should have been a sign to me that this wasn’t the same Herb who had just come to my apartment two weeks ago and said, “I love you.” But, I was tired of Herb’s attitude. I was tired of being hurt. I was tired of being the one to leave when I did nothing wrong. I was tired and just didn’t care anymore.
Grant clearly describes the trauma of pain, fear, and confusion many abused woman experience while attempting to leave her abuser. Her book gives the reader, (particularly those who can’t understand why a woman stays), a first-hand view of the fear and isolation a woman experiences, and her feeling as though she has been “trapped” with no clear way out. She also clearly conveys what she saw as comforting in the midst of her storm.
... After a few minutes of searching through my hair, the black woman paramedic found the entry wound. The fact that she was a woman and was black relieved some of my internal fears. She had a warm, friendly face that communicated to me that I was safe, and she wasn’t going to let anything else happen to me.
Whom Shall I Fear tells of her growth and change and of the abuser’s unwillingness to accept her change for fear of losing the one he had complete control over. This book speaks of her path to healing – of how her growth and self development affected how she was able to examine not only her inner-self and spirit, but also her true life with her abuser. This process was a direct threat to the survival of himself, his control.
Whom Shall I Fear takes us through a journey of a battered woman, who is not the typical battered woman. She gave up all she had known and was accustomed to: her home, her husband and her children to free herself from psychological and physical abuse, punctuated by multiple threats upon her life. Grant takes you step by step in her shoes through the trials faced by abused woman, as they are even further victimized by the “system.” Living in a shelter, the cold treatment of the “welfare bureau”.
Challenge after challenge. Finding employment, paying her bills, and attempting to pay for adequate childcare. She tells the story of many such women, explaining how her abuser refused to send money to support his children in hopes that life would be unbearable for her, and she would return to him. Through it all, she testifies to maintaining her faith and trust in God! When her husband actually did make his threats a reality, she continued to hold on to her faith and trust in God. Her faith in God sustained and comforted her. Grant’s experiences are unforgettable, poignant, and disturbing. A compelling read of pain, survival, joy and triumph. God Bless You Lavon Morris Grant!
Antonia Vann is the executive director of Asha Family Services in Milwaukee, Wis .