While I agreed with Paul that he should be careful not to get too complacent, I was even more interested in what had enabled him to get to this point where he wasn't battling the urge for porn on a regular basis, as he had been for so long.
As we explored how things were going in Paul's life, we eventually arrived at the topic of his relationship with his wife, Susan. "There's more connection and empathy there. I more often think about what she does on a day-to-day basis. When I consider the sacrifices she makes for our kids and our family, it really warms my heart. Sometimes I'll call her or write her a note just to say I appreciate her or check on how her day's going.
"In the evenings after the kids are in bed we might read a book together. Sometimes we just sit by each other and watch a show. But we try not to fall in to the routine of just watching TV. Sometimes we play Scrabble. One night we played Cranium, even though we had to make our own rules since it was just the two of us. Another time we tried to build a house of cards, which is more challenging than it sounds. It was fun to do something out of the ordinary."
Paul had recently launched a business of his own and he and Susan were raising three young children, so I knew that there was no less stress in his life than before. And yet it was becoming easier for him to avoid porn. "You're connection with Susan is really making a difference, isn't it. And it sounds like the closer the two of you feel, the more empathy you have for her."
"I do find it easier to let in her feelings," he acknowledged. "The other night she said, 'Today my anxiety is back in full force.' I sat down by her on the couch and said, 'Oh Honey, I'm so sorry' and caressed her for a while.
"She has told me that feels more emotionally safe now. And I see the effects of it. She's not continually asking if I've been having problems with porn. She's also more confident. She seems to connect with me better. We work together better to get stuff done around the house. If we've had a little spat about money or how one of us handled something with the kids, we come back together and apologize. I feel closer to her than I have in a long time.
"She's less likely to snap at me if she has a problem with what I'm doing. The other day she was upset that I yelled so loud at my son's soccer game. We talked it through in the car afterwards and later it didn't feel like we were still at odds with each other. These days we come together pretty quickly like that.
"She did lose her temper at me one weekend when I was leaving everything around the house for her to do while I sat and watched a golf tournament. But then I got my butt up off the couch and pitched in more. She came back around pretty quickly. We could both joke about it later."
I thought about all of Paul and Susan's interactions. They spent time together having fun. They shared experiences winding down at the end of the day. They worked through "ruptures" in their attachment and came back together quickly. A sense of good will permeated the relationship.
From all I could tell, they were dosing up regularly on oxytocin with each other's help. Oxytocin is the relationship chemical, the cuddle chemical, the biological superglue that bonds us to each other. In lab animals it's been shown to reduce cravings for all kinds of addictive substances and behaviors. It increases a sense of contentment.
Plus, oxytocin helps us stay true and faithful. It's the chemical that shows up in animals that are monogamous and mate for life. Consider that: this elixir can insures even a prairie dogs, with all the self-control of its fellow rodents, life a lifetime of fidelity to one sexual partner. It enables one to continue to find a current mate irresistible, crowding out the hankerings to flirt with and lust for other partners.
Unlike rodents, we don't have to accept the current level of oxytocin that we are blessed or cursed with. By operating as Paul and Susan are, we can foster it's production--and then sit back and enjoy its wonderful effects.