I'm addicted to porn - should I be open to dating?

I’m 30 year old man, and I’ve been addicted to porn/masturbation since I was about 14. I go to confession and mass regularly, and about 6 months ago I began going to a weekly men’s support group through the Church specifically for this problem.

I love the Church and the meetings have helped, but unfortunately, I’m still right smack in the middle of the addiction. I’ve had some success, but ultimately I’ve had a frustrating time getting on the horse and staying on it. I want to be able to respect women to the fullest and hopefully have a wife and family some day.

My question is, should I achieve a length of sobriety before dating? If there’s a woman I’m interested in, is it okay for me to go out with her?

I have not dated much since high school, partly no doubt because of the fear and shame associated with this addiction.

Thank you for your thoughts. I also appreciate any prayers!

I would say yes, if you share this knowledge with her – if she becomes your girlfriend – and you work together to overcome this addiction. She could even be your accountability partner and your go-to contact person when you are feeling tempted.

I don’t see sense in waiting for some degree of perfection before dating. You simply need the ability to date, i.e. good communication skills, etc.

Isolation encourages the vice, by the way. So you need to be building relationships. Just FYI, the longer you go without sexual activity, the easier it will become to flirt with women (I mean make eye contact, approach, speak with, etc).

As a fellow sufferer, I’d say that it might be good for you. The thing is, you have to be upfront about it and let her know that you are working on it. I hid my addiction from my wife when we started dating, and it wasn’t pleasant once she found out. I’m fortunate that she is a very forgiving person. Since she found out she’s been trying to help me as best she can. She doesn’t like to talk about it, but when I do need help she’s there for me.

Isolation is one of the greatest threats when it comes to this addiction. When I’m alone, or when I feel alone, the urges get exponentially greater. I’m sure it’s the same with you. I’ve never experienced as much success as when I’m pouring myself into my relationship.

Will it be easy? No. Will being in a relationship magically cure you? No. I’ve been married for five years and am still struggling. But having that person, and knowing that you need to do better for her, is an excellent motivator. Just be honest, and be careful how you approach the subject. I wouldn’t open with it, but if you find your relationship becoming a deep one then she deserves to know.

Hi dangerousdyls,

I know of three good Catholic men who have confessed their struggle with porn addiction to me and one of them is married. The other two do date.

Here’s the deal - no matter what you’re going to have issues you struggle with just like the girl you’re dating is going to have issues she struggles with. How you reveal these issues is between the two of you. I would only hold that she should probably know before you propose to her.

Another thing to consider - dating can sometimes help you get over your addiction. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t use another person to conquer your issues, but part of dating is discovering the opposite sex. And realizing the dignity of women can help you beat this issue. Studies show that viewing pornography is very common in younger men, it does tend to go down as they settle down and get married. Marriage helps to keep you away from that (although pornography use can destroy a marriage as well).

Here’s some information you can look up on that if you’re curious: citizenlink.com/2012/01/27/all-men-look-at-pornography-right/

So in short - yes, you can still date.

As for some general tips to help you beat the addiction, here’s some friendly advice:

Before you get on the internet, make a list of things you want to do, after you have completed those things, get off the internet, shut down the computer and pack it away. Don’t touch it again until you have another list.

Also - light penances can help. Maybe take a cold shower, sleep on the floor, give up something to eat, etc. And most importantly frequent confession, frequent communion and praying the rosary daily. Marian devotion is great for beating lustful addictions because it helps to focus on the dignity of women.

Hope you find that helpful! May the Blessed Mother protect you from this addiction and keep you safe!

Dangerousdyls:

I don’t know what part of the country you are in, but being 30 years old, one thing I strongly suggest is finding a good Young Adult type-group. This would be a place where you can make friends with the opposite sex, and work on face-to-face socialization. This will help you leave the comfort of your residence, avoid the bar scene, and get to know a few people.

Here’s another suggestion: if you have sisters around your age (say between 25 and 32), maybe one of your sisters can invite you to some of kind of a get-together (such as a dinner party or a games night or even a night out dancing) for a social event. This would help you develop some comfort in socializing.

As a young man, I was involved mostly with “guy things”, so I was really out of my comfort zone when I would go to a dance, and it took me a long time to develop some courage to say hello to a girl and find some things to talk about. It wasn’t until I was in college that I began to develop some relationships with women.

By the way, most women appreciate “gentlemanly conduct”, such as opening a door, saying hello, and making eye contact. I sometimes find if I can make a girl laugh a little, that’s a good sign. Most women appreciate a sense of humor, and a clean mouth.

Good luck!

On one hand, if you’re still not free from acts of impurity, this can and will obstruct your judgement in dating. Keep that in mind.

On the other hand, one of the most effective tools in the world - short of receiving graces from prayer - is to “humanize” the female sex that you have lustful thoughts towards. It is not possible to achieve this through intellectual exercise. That’s not how human beings work. It must be experiential. The more contact you have with women in a friendly & wholesome way, the less foothold lust is going to have over you. Charity and lust are polemic. If you have one, by default, you lose the other.

You should also bear in mind that you will never at any point in your life be in a state where you are perfectly fit for dating & marriage. Even if acts of impurity are removed from your life, you will still be an imperfect man. Among the purposes of marriage, one of them is for the two people to become better people as a result of being together. So… don’t be too demanding to “be ready” before dating & marriage, since in the strictest sense, nobody ever really is.

Addicts do a variety of things that don’t work out so well for their close friends and family. I wouldn’t expose a future spouse to that. I’d wait until I had some sobriety.

That said, I’d go for socialization and friendships, both male and female.

Let’s cut the chase: are you suffering from porn-induced erectile dysfunction? (Nothing to be ashamed of, any heavy porn user is!) If yes, then dating would not be a wise idea for obvious reasons, and a period of cleanliness (or, as we call this in the porn addict community, a reboot) will be necessary for your sexual responses to return to normal.

For overcoming the addition start reading here: yourbrainonporn.com/node/79 If you want to get support from fellow recovering addicts, then we have a forum at yourbrainrebalanced.com/ and/or you can check out reddit.com/r/nofap .

Please start by perusing the sites above, because to successfully kick the habit you need to understand the physiological mechanism behind your addiction. In short, you are not really addicted to porn. You are addicted to dopamine release during masturbation while looking at porn. The lizard part of your brain demands now demands its daily shot of dopamine, and you have learned that you can achieve the dopamine high by looking at porn. So the dopamine hunger comes, and you open porn. However, it’s the dopamine your brain is actually after, so if you can get the dopamine high in another way, you have no need for porn. Two safe ways to get a daily dose of dopamine other way are physical activity (see below) and music (if a particular piece of music gives you thrills – that’s the dopamine rush). Sex of course is also a good source of dopamine, except it’s going to be quite problematic in your situation, so forget about it for now. Two things you should definitely stay away from are online dating and gambling, because both involve random releases of dopamine (when you are messaged by a lady / when you win something), so you will end up substituting one addiction for another.

So - start running. C25K ( c25k.com/ ) is a training program designed to go from a couch potato to someone running 5 km in 9 weeks. (I’ve done it, it works). Running will do three things:

(1) You get the dopamine kick without porn

(2) Your confidence increases because you demonstrate to yourself that you can achieve a new goal each week. Confidence is critical, because you cannot kick a habit until you believe that you can do it.

(3) Your hormones should rebalance. Remember, you have evolved to run around African plains chasing animals, not sit at your desk and watch porn.

A nice bonus is that you will become more fit, which will increase your dating chances.

That should get you started. There are some more useful tricks which you can find on the websites I have linked above.

Good luck :slight_smile:

Sorry, no. You have lustful thought when you want to have sex with a woman. A porn addict, on the other hand, does not crave sex – he craves more porn. Thus, trying to beat porn addiction by beating lust simply misses the point.

Porn addiction is basically craving for more dopamine. During normal sex, dopamine is released during orgasm, and drops quickly thereafter. However, the dopamine levels will increase again if another partner becomes available (Coolidge effect). This does not usually happen in life :wink: but with internet porn, all you need to do is open another video with another woman in it, and your dopamine goes back up. The result is that you are binge-watching porn for hours, while constantly tripping on high dopamine levels:

Persistently high dopamine levels cause you to develop dopamine tolerance (i.e. dopamine receptor count drops). After some time, response to dopamine becomes inhibited enough that one no longer craves normal sex, because it cannot provide the requisite amounts of dopamine; it simply becomes uninteresting. The only thing which can provide the sought-after dopamine rush is an ever-increasing amount of ever-more-extreme porn.

In turn, constantly watching porn (specifically more… exotic kinds of porn, which each and every porn addict eventually gets to in never-ending quest for novelty) results in building alternate neural pathways, i.e. developing sexual response to originally non-sexual stimuli. If someone is already at the stage that they have developed sexual response to high-heeled shoes (a very common thing), then telling them to stop objectifying women completely misses the point, because it’s not the women they crave after, it’s the shoes. Or, more specifically, a never-ending stream of images of shoes (again, Coolidge effect). (By the way, do you know what is the single most evil website out there? Tumblr. You should by now understand why). Believe it or not, but when a normal person dreams about having sex, a porn addict dreams about watching porn.

A porn addict who lusts after actual women is either not yet deeply addicted, or halfway on the road to recovery.

Technically speaking, rosary is a form of mantra, which is a meditation technique. (Why this simple fact is not taught the the laity is beyond me, but that’s another discussion). And meditation in one form or another is generally recommended during addiction recovery.

About what?

You have lustful thought when you want to have sex with a woman.

What does that have to do with lust? If you’re a male that isn’t homosexual, hasn’t been castrated, or doesn’t have a severe medical problem, then you want to have sex with a woman.

A porn addict, on the other hand, does not crave sex – he craves more porn. Thus, trying to beat porn addiction by beating lust simply misses the point.

Porn addiction is basically craving for more dopamine. During normal sex, dopamine is released during orgasm, and drops quickly thereafter. However, the dopamine levels will increase again if another partner becomes available (Coolidge effect). This does not usually happen in life :wink: but with internet porn, all you need to do is open another video with another woman in it, and your dopamine goes back up. The result is that you are binge-watching porn for hours, while constantly tripping on high dopamine levels:

Persistently high dopamine levels cause you to develop dopamine tolerance (i.e. dopamine receptor count drops). After some time, response to dopamine becomes inhibited enough that one no longer craves normal sex, because it cannot provide the requisite amounts of dopamine; it simply becomes uninteresting. The only thing which can provide the sought-after dopamine rush is an ever-increasing amount of ever-more-extreme porn.

In turn, constantly watching porn (specifically more… exotic kinds of porn, which each and every porn addict eventually gets to in never-ending quest for novelty) results in building alternate neural pathways, i.e. developing sexual response to originally non-sexual stimuli. If someone is already at the stage that they have developed sexual response to high-heeled shoes (a very common thing), then telling them to stop objectifying women completely misses the point, because it’s not the women they crave after, it’s the shoes. Or, more specifically, a never-ending stream of images of shoes (again, Coolidge effect). (By the way, do you know what is the single most evil website out there? Tumblr. You should by now understand why). Believe it or not, but when a normal person dreams about having sex, a porn addict dreams about watching porn.

A porn addict who lusts after actual women is either not yet deeply addicted, or halfway on the road to recovery.

I didn’t go down the rabbit hole as deeply as some men, but if it’s solely the high heels (one fetish among many) that they crave, then why not visit sears.com instead of a porn site? Don’t you think you’re oversimplifying the complexity of people’s appetites? A person’s tastes shift as they attempt to find new ways to re-excite the experience they had when they were first introduced to the world of porn, but the focus almost universally remains around women (or people).

Porn addiction is also harmful because of how it kills the social life. If you’re watching porn 6+ hours in a day, then it’s fair to say that you’re not spending much time with family, friends, and the community, which goes back to the point that exposing yourself to real world female friends is going to help the porn addiction. Do you disagree?

Unless you have already managed to create alternate neural pathways for sexual release and are dreaming of watching porn instead of having sex with women. (This also manifests as porn-induced erectile dysfunction). So a porn addict does not really want to date, and even if he goes out and tries, he will revert back to porn binge after the first rejection. Dating is tough business. Again, it all boils down to the fact that craving for sex is craving for dopamine, and if you can get more dopamine in another way, then sex is kinda pointless, particularly if it must be preceded by several days of mating dance. Get back home, open up porn, done.

Since the OP claims to have 15 years of porn experience and no real experience with women, then I’d wager that his conditioning to respond to porn is definitely stronger than natural sex drive. So it’s not that the OP shouldn’t date until he kicks the habit – it’s that he will simply not find dating worth the trouble until he kicks the habit, or at least understands that his troubles dating come from the porn addiction.

I will also wager that the OP’s Catholic upbringing has contributed to his porn addiction, and I’m speaking from experience here. If someone takes the view that sex should be saved until marriage seriously, but they have a normal sex drive, there’s a good chance that they will start using porn “as a substitute” until marriage. Problem is, with porn, the substitute is better than the real thing (dopamine-wise), and they descent into the depth of addiction without even realizing it. Then they wake up around 30 and ask “why cannot I date anyone?”. Because you’ve become a creepy porn addict, and no woman will date one – that’s why!

High heels were an example without getting too explicit. To answer your question – yes, an addict sufficiently down the hole will masturbate to a content which is technically not porn. (Actually, a lot of fetish porn does not qualify as porn by normal definition, because it will not cause arousal in a person without prior porn history!). Where one gets the content from is secondary. So yes, there probably are people out there who are binge-browsing sears.com, and worse of all, they are deceiving themselves that they are not really addicted to porn. It’s the neural pathway that matters, not classification of content.

Again: porn addiction creates an alternate neural pathway to sexual release which starts evolving independently, and will ultimately have nothing to do with the person’s pre-porn tastes. Since it looks like you need an explicit example, here is one: a lot of porn addicts who are straight ultimately get to the stage of watching gay porn. I will not list here how exactly they get to this stage, but you can find many testimonials on the forums I have linked above. If porn were simply a form of lust, then it would not be happening.

Only deactivating the alternate neural pathway (by withdrawal of stimulus, i.e. stopping porn) allows the original sex drive neural pathway to reactivate, and that happens only after a period of withdrawal with nasty symptoms. Good news is that it can be done by yourself most of the time.

It is a good advice, but it ignores that a porn addict has a specific vibe around himself, which women will immediately detect, label the guy as creepy and promptly reject him, and no amount of gentlemanly manners will overcome that (it’s a conditioned survival response on their part). Therefore success in dating requires first quitting the addiction and hitting the gym. There’s no way around it, sorry.

The OP can (or even should) start taking dancing classes for example, because it’s an environment where a woman cannot really refuse a dance with him, which will boost his confidence – but he should be aware that, at least initially, any after-class advances will be rejected.

To the OP, please, please, please come to the porn addict forum. Your case is very typical and we have a lot of guys who have been where you are now.

Thank you all for your thoughts, suggestions, and encouragement! I’ve found it very helpful to read through these posts. :thumbsup:

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