I subscribe to a listserv that documents abuse and exploitation around the world. Recently, I received notice of an article in the National Review (by an anonymous psychologist) entitled, “Getting Serious about Pornography”. The writer documents the known impact of pornography on men (i.e., the objectification of women) and at the same time tells of her own experience of being abandoned by her husband due to his porn addiction. I include her first paragraph. Click the link above for the essay on the original website.
Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue $97 billion worldwide in 2006 than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.
According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn’t come in pill form. It can’t be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain arousal, satiation, and fantasy that makes it “the pièce de résistance among the addictions.”
For more click the link above. It is well worth the effort.
Recently presented on the matter of marital conflict. On the way home I had a vigorous (and fun!) political debate with a colleague. I came to the realization that there are many similarities between both conflicts. Conflict is almost always about power with the particular issues (or the content of the conflict) a very distant second. We take positions because we see the dangerousness of the other person’s position or direction (and our loss of power). For example, if we follow our spouse’s financial behaviors, we’ll end up in the poor house. If we allow Obama to make decisions, he’ll ruin America. And just like in marital conflicts, we ascribe intent–he WANTS to destroy us all.
What I notice is that while we barely admit our own failings, we love to play out the failings of our opponent/spouse. Obama is taking advantage of a financial crisis to get some of his interests cared for (which of course fails to acknowledge that Bush got the Patriot Act because of a crisis). We could easily say the same in reverse.
My colleague and I most definitely agree on some things–that most politicians are narcissists, that they are more interested in winning than cooperating for the greater good. Truth be told, marital conflict has some similarities. Being heard, getting the other to acknowledge our points may be more important to us than finding a common bond.
It should surprise us that these similarities exist. Since Eden, we’ve been fighting for position and power.
One last nugget from the book Madness on the impact of serious illness on the marriage relationships. Marya explores the impact of her bipolar disorder on her second marriage and her very devoted husband who spent two years entirely focused on caring for her. When she begins to recover, she notices that he is rather a shell of himself.
In some ways it is simpler to be married to someone who is all need and no give. It’s an enormous drain. But there is benefit too: you become the hero, the center of someone else’s existence. You are the saint. You have, in this sense, a great deal of power. You tell this person what to do, and she does it. You feed her. You hold her, You are her mother, her father, her husband, her priest. And you are never required to her on an adult level. There is never anything wrong with you; any problem is caused by her, her illness, her meds not working, her malfunctioning mind. …
You relish your role and resent it enormously at the same time. And when your role is upset–when the patient climbs out of bed and walks on her own, makes her own food, drives her own car…–you see she now does everything wrong….And–who does she think she is?–She doesn’t always agree with you…she doesn’t need you anymore. This is unacceptable. This won’t work. (222-3)
What she describes is oh so true. Whether mental illness, disease of some other organ, or impact of an affair, one spouse picks up the slack to make life work. And so it does for a time. But when the sick one gets better, when the alcoholic gives up the bottle, when the adulterer gives up the affair and wants to renew a partnership again, the “strong” spouse often then experiences rages, resentment, distance, etc. At the just the time when a partnership is possible–the thing that the strong spouse most desired and fantasized about, they find it now difficult to allow or participate in such a partnership.
Why is this? In part it is due to comfort in one’s role and the dislike for change. It is a changed belief that the “sick” spouse is now incapable of really being a partner. In part it is due to the the hidden belief of the unfairness of the previous imbalanced relationship and the desire for some level of payback.
If you have ever met with a couple in conflict (either together or separate), you immediately realize how difficult it is to know the truth about what happened and who did what first. Come to think of it, that is true with sibling fights as well. Each party has their own opinion of what they did and did not do. They also have a very strong opinion as to how the conflict began and why their spouse is the bigger problem. It can drive you crazy if you try to sort out who did what.
This problem exists with conflicting people groups as well. Case in point: Rwanda. We’re all familiar that a genocide tgook place there in 1994. The minority Tutsis and the majority Hutus. We’d like to say one side was the victim and the other the offender. But it is not that clear, especially since both parties have a history of aggressing against the other.
Yesterday, I read a commentary by Paul Rusesabagina (the man portrayed in Hotel Rwanda) who charges the Tutsi led government, led by President Paul Kagame, with systematic destruction of the Hutu people by imprisoning them as genocide suspects–without care for the truth. On the other side, the government charges Rusesabagina with stirring up ethnic hatred.
Who do you believe?
When you are stymied (because you aren’t there to see for yourself) what happens to you? For me, the temptation is to turn my back and throw my hands up in the air–to give up and ignore the problem, laying blame at both feet.
How do we overcome being stymied? As a therapist I attempt to get both parties to look only at themselves. But that goes against our nature, whether we are 5 or 55 years old.