Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Porn Used to Numb His Need for Her

It’s a thing of beauty to see a man who has been addicted to porn finally let his wife in emotionally. When he does, she can finally see how much he needs her.

I wish I had a plan that predictably helped couples get there. Then again, maybe that would detract from the miracle of it.

In Trent and Stella’s case, a little reading went a long way. I encouraged Trent to read Terrance Real’s book, I Don’t Want to Talk About It: The Hidden Legacy of Male Depression.”

“I was a basket case all week,” he reported at the beginning of our next session. “I read and cried, read and cried.”

Stella nodded. “After I held and comforted him one night, I had to turn my pillow over before I could go to sleep. It was soaked with his tears.”

This was different for Trent. He didn’t usually cry. In fact, he didn’t usually feel. At least he thought he didn’t. Underneath his calm exterior he had always been feeling. Feeling so regularly, in fact, that he had to go to porn to escape what he would otherwise have had to keep feeling.

For a week he had been feeling and voicing it instead.

It was helpful for both Trent and Stella to see some of the history behind his habit of escaping feelings rather than reaching out when he was in need.

That had been a part of those crying sessions throughout the previous week. Trent had talked about his dad leaving their little family when he was four. And he had cried. Trent had talked about banging on the door to try to interrupt the arguing and slaps and knocks he heard coming from behind his mom and step-dad’s bedroom door. Telling Stella about it, he had cried and yelled and pulled at his hair and wrenched into a fetal curl.

Trent had talked about “horrors” and his “nightmares.” Like the kid who waited to beat him up as he walked home from school in fifth grade. Taking a different route some days, running really fast some days. And then there were the days when his buttons got torn from his shirt and the raspberry streak on his face stung from being ground in the dirt and his ribs ached from being kicked. He hid in his room instead of coming out for dinner because he was ashamed that he’d gotten beat up.

Trent talked about feeling alone through all that, but now he wasn’t alone. This was the first time he’d let these things out in anyone’s presence. It was the first time he’d cried like this in front of anyone.

By the time they were back in my office, the tears had dried. He had started calling the bullying “a stupid little thing” that had happened to him. He’d been bothered by hearing mom in her room with strange men, but now he said “funny little things like that got to me back then.”

“I know you want to shut off that pain and put those things back in the box they’ve been in all these years,” I said. “But you don’t have to. You don’t need to minimize it anymore. Being real about your pain makes you more real to Stella. To be able to stay with you, she needs you to stay real.”

His sexual addiction has been so bad, Stella sometimes considered leaving. That week, she said, she’d found an apartment that might work.

Her own apartment?! Dang! didn’t she see that Trent was doing better? Wasn’t she feeling closer?

“How did it feel to you when Trent opened up about what he feels. When he allowed himself to talk to you about the pain he’s been through and cry with you?”

“I felt so sad for him. Intimate and close--not sexually, but emotionally. When he talks to me, I feel at ease. It’s when he closes off that I feel my rage over what he’s done.

“When he cried and I held him, it was amazing. Like nothing could get in our way. Like we’re going to get through this and I can be here for him. It even felt like we’ll be able to get the passion back. We could have fun being around each other and doing things together again. If I had my way we’d talk like that all the time.”

“And yet, as close as that felt, you hurt so much that you’re still thinking about leaving.”

“I told Trent I’d found a place that might work, but it won’t be ready for a couple months. Do you know what he said? ‘I’ll try to help you.’ I don’t need his financial help! I don’t want him to help me pack! I just need to know whether he even wants me to stay, whether he really wants me.”

“Trent, what happened inside when she said she’d found a place?”

“Oh, it killed me. But I know it’s because I’ve hurt her so badly. I have nothing to whine about. It’s my own fault.”

“But what happened inside? Where did you feel it in your body?

“Oh, my gut. Sick. Ugh. I can feel it now.”

“You’re sick about the idea of losing this woman who means so much to you. But you couldn’t tell her that.”

Trent shook his head. His eyes were getting wet.

“You felt sick, but frozen by it and like you deserved it and the best you can do is help make her move easier. You couldn’t tell her what you were feeling inside. Can you tell her now?”

“Not without bawling.”

Trent laughed. I could see the realization in his eyes as he remembered what Stella had just said about his tears and they way they had drawn her to him and how much closer she felt when he let her see that he was in need.

He reached out and patted her hand, then gripped it. It took him a while to speak. I could see his knuckles whitening. “Don’t…” Without letting go of her hand Trent bent all the way forward like he might be about to get sick. He sat back again, took a breath, and turned to look at Stella. His tight throat barely let his voice rasp through. “I don’t…” He wiped is eyes with his other hand. “I hope…” A few more breaths. “I‘m not...”

He hadn’t made any sense at all. Stella knew exactly what he meant. She stepped over and bent down and embraced him.

1 comment:

  1. I can relate completely. Thanks for the article.

    ReplyDelete