Husbands Who Watch Porn: Wives are asking, “What’s wrong with me?”

What do Christie Brinkley and Tea Leoni have in common? Both of them are high profile celebrities and have international notoriety for their physical beauty.

Both of them have also been married to alleged porn addicts.

Often the wives of men who regularly look at porn will write to us and ask “What’s wrong with me?” This is a cutting question that is difficult to answer in the midst of a highly emotional situation. Often these women are convinced that if they were simply prettier or met a certain physical standard, their husbands wouldn’t be drawn to porn. Often women get these impressions directly from their husbands.

But the stories of these celebrities demonstrate otherwise. Peter Cook, Brinkley’s ex-husband, spent $3000 on his Internet porn addiction. Recently, actor David Duchovny, Leoni’s husband, has checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic for his Internet porn addiction.

Marrying the next top model will not entice a man away from his porn addiction. This is because a fixation on pornography is not merely a fixation on a certain type of physical beauty. To be sure: pornography does condition a man (or woman) to objectify others, to rate them according to the size, shape, and harmony of their body parts. But pornography addiction is a multi-layered problem:

1. A Fixation on Variety and Novelty

The human brain loves novelty. When we experience a new pleasing image or sensation, our bodies release an extra dose of pleasure-producing chemicals. This is a built-in mechanism that encourages us to experience and explore new things. The other side of the coin is that most stimuli become less attractive to us as they become familiar or predictable. We know this from experience in all areas of life.

Pornography is cleverly packaged and presented sexual novelty—especially Internet pornography. Each new picture or video clip promises a new sensation. Each link presents a virtually endless road marked with thousands of women in thousands of pornographic scenarios. People who have gone down the road of Internet porn and found themselves trapped are not just drawn to the images, but they are also drawn to the variety of images.

Think about it this way: Why don’t most guys just log on, find one image of a woman they find appealing, and be done with it? Why keep searching and searching? Why spend hours online? Because it’s not just about finding something that sexually stimulates: it’s about the search; it’s about the options. They’ve just walked into a virtual brothel where they have their pick of the litter. Those addicted to Internet porn can confess to this: when they log on, they aren’t looking for sexual release right away. They will prolong the searching as long as they can.

2. A Fixation on Fantasy

The human brain is also wired for relationships. When a mother first holds her newborn baby or when lovers first hold hands, the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin are released. These serve as social bonding hormones.

When a man views pornography these same hormones are released (along with a soup of other pleasure chemicals, such as testosterone, dopamine and serotonin). In other words, the brain is tricked into thinking it is having a sexual encounter and doesn’t know the difference. As a result, the man begins to literally “bond” to the pornographic images rather than to another person.

When a man has spent considerable time in the world of Internet pornography, he has essentially trained his body to respond to fantasy images instead of bonding and connecting with real people (such as his wife). It is an easy road to start down. Relationships can be complicated: they involve truly knowing, caring for, and serving another person at the expense of our own desires. Even when a man shares a pleasurable sex-life with his wife, the offer of pornography can still be appealing because it offers a shortcut to sexual release without the hassle of interaction.

Pornography offers a man a world of fantasy rather than interaction, pixels rather than a heart-to-heart connection with another person.

Related: What Your Sexual Fantasies (Might) Say About You

3. A Fixation on Self

Ultimately, any addiction is a fixation on self—something that drives a person to throw away things and relationships that are otherwise important to him in order to have the desired sensation.

For some men pornography is an endless search for ego-fulfillment. Somewhere in their minds they believe the age-old lie that a man is only worth the beautiful women he can win. The pornographic images provide a canvas for him to paint his personal fantasies: he can picture himself as the one enticing these picture-perfect women. Underneath his porn addiction is a deeper addiction: his perceived need to be validated by these women.

For some men pornography is like a medication they take to cope with unresolved emotional pain: Loneliness, failure and fear; and when a man doesn’t want to face these emotions with raw honesty, he will seek to drown them in other activities or experiences. More than likely, he isn’t even aware of these deep-seeded emotions, but the sexually stimulating rush of watching pornography can provide a powerful escape.

No matter the underlying motive, the draw of pornography is caused by a fixation on self: a perceived need to always “feel good” or comforted, to feel important or attractive, or wanted or rewarded.

All in His Head

If you are a woman married to a man who compulsively uses pornography, one of the best things you can do for yourself is acknowledge that you are not the root of the problem. One of the best things he can do for himself and for his marriage is to start getting to the real the roots of the problem.

Porn and Your Husband: Free E-Book

The book Porn and Your Husband issues an important reminder to wives:

During sex, natural opiates are released, along with dopamine, creating a pleasurable experience. However, repeated stimulation, particularly through porn and masturbation, eventually builds up a resistance. It’s like a drug; the more he gets, the more he needs.

In simple terms, you’re “not enough” because his repeated porn use has vastly accelerated his tolerance for these chemical rushes, far beyond the levels of monogamous sex with you. In particular, pornography has trained him to be turned on by variety, which no single woman can provide. It also explains why he may have turned to harder porn or acted out through an affair—he’s looking for the rush that you, through no fault of your own, can never provide.

DOWNLOAD “PORN AND YOUR HUSBAND”

In reality, his porn addiction is only a symptom of a much deeper problem. There are no quick fixes. Turning from a long-term addiction will involve (1) realizing and confessing deeper sins, and (2) resolving to root out these issues for the long haul.