For most men, viewing pornography is really a search for intimacy.  In fact, some experts have referred to pornography addiction as an intimacy disorder (Laaser, 2004).  Many addicted people did not have secure emotional attachments to their parents, siblings, friends, etc. as young children.  Deep down they crave an intimate attachment; but because they’ve never experience such, they live with a deep, painful loneliness.  Some people avoid intimacy because they’ve been hurt by others in the past.  So they turn to pornography as the drug that eases their pain and loneliness.  The women in porn promise all the intimacy a man could ever want; however, it’s a false promise, an illusion.  While it eases the pain for a short while, they ultimately feel lonelier.  Pornography never satisfies.

Because of the influence of mass media, many people equate intimacy with sex.  However, intimacy is not sex.  Sex is but one expression of the intimate love between a husband and his wife.  True intimacy, though, is the emotional connection between two people.  It is where each person knows the other completely.  There are no secrets.  With this knowledge, they feel totally safe with one another.   They can share anything and not feel afraid.  This type of intimacy can be experienced in many different kinds of relationships.  It can be experienced in marriage between a husband and wife, close friendships, siblings, and between a parent and child.

God’s greatest desire is to have an intimate relationship with each and every one of us.  When we have a healthy image of God and understand his great love for us, it’s easy to feel safe with Him.  We can then open ourselves up to receive his love.  Having such a healthy relationship can also help us feel safe enough to develop healthy relationships with other people.  If you’re having difficulty developing a healthy, intimate relationship with God, I recommend seeking the help of a good spiritual director.  He can help you feel safe with God.

For those of you in recovery, learning to develop healthy intimate relationships with other people can begin with your support system, particularly with your therapist, spiritual director, accountability partners, and support group.  With these people you can feel safe.  They will not judge, shame, humiliate or ridicule you.  Instead, they will love and accept you.  Through this experience, you will have the opportunity to love others and receive their love.

The intimacy you experience with your support system can then be carried over into other relationships, such as marriage, family, and friendships.  Here I want to focus on healthy intimacy in friendships.  In my next article, I will focus on healthy intimacy in marriage.

  • Intimacy in Friendships

The intimacy in friendship can be very special.  Many of us can remember our best friends in elementary school.  There are some things you can only share with a best friend.  However, as we grow older, we often forget about the importance of friendships.  We get too wrapped up in our marriages, families and careers.

Developing healthy friendships can be particularly difficult for men.  We are not as naturally geared toward relationships as women are.    So how can men develop healthy friendships?  The answer is simple – through shared activities.  For women, bonding can come from simply calling each other up to chat.  However, men just don’t do that.  When was the last time a guy called you just to “chat” (LOL)?  Men need shared activities to bond with each other.  This is why we enjoy sporting events, golfing, fishing, bowling, etc.  For Catholic men this can include men’s ministry groups.   It is during these activities that men bond with each other.  Now you won’t be sharing your deepest struggles with every friend, but knowing that there is at least one close friend who is always there to love and affirm you can ease much loneliness, a key trigger and root cause of pornography use.

Here I want to challenge you.  This week contact some of the men in your support system and invite them to join you in a fun, healthy recreational activity.  Then, make a point to get together regularly with good Catholic men for informal recreation and fellowship.  For more information on how to develop healthy friendships, read Genuine Friendship (2008) by Fr. Philip Halfacre.  In this book, you will learn more about how to develop healthy friendships and how to be a loyal friend.  In my next article, I will discuss intimacy in marriage.

06 08 2016
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  • Jack

    While I agree with everything said here, I believe it falls short. Indeed, most use of pornography is due to a desire for intimacy and a great way to break that habit is to transplant that need in healthy intimate interactions with friends and family members. However, what also needs to be recognized is that there are many varying degrees and types of intimacy. Because of this, the intimacy shared during sex cannot be completely replaced by intimacy that is shared experiences of a good friend. They simply aren't the same. There is a reason why consummation is required to seal the sacrament of marriage and why the Church sees sex as the greatest sign of the heavenly reality and that of the Trinity.

    Ultimately, I'm not disagreeing with Dr. Kleponis but simply stating that these other forms of intimacy will not fully replace the intimacy of the marital act nor completely fill that void and desire for intimacy of men who struggle with pornography. It certainly will help break the addiction but it won't fully fill that desire.

    • monscarmeli

      You're right to the point you make; the completion of the thought is that only a correlating intimacy - that of consummating union with our Redeemer in the Holy Eucharist - can begin to "fully replace" the intimacy of the marital union.

  • Justin

    And the good Doctor said Amen! Thanks a mil, doc, that's one thing that drives me crazy about our society is how little focus is placed on friendship. A three- or four-person nuclear family is just not a healthy sense of community. It is not a bad thing to crave more diversity in who you depend on.

  • Maris

    I disagree with men turning to porn fir intimacy. That notion is harmful and denies many truths about the persons integrity