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.