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Love Addiction In A Pornographic Age And Its Effect On Women

Written by: Gary McFarlane, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Gary McFarlane

Love Addiction is not in search of love at all. It is all about filling an Insecure Attachment void, usually set up during the early childhood development stages. It is more about seeking connection and acceptance, which interaction with others, provides a sense of belonging, wanted, held and being a part of…

couple chained hands

It temporarily and very fleetingly, seems to ameliorate and fills a lack, a void; but it does not keep its promise. Like a watering can with holes in the bottom, lots may be going in through the top, but it is quickly dissipating through the bottom. That requires repeated attempts to refill the void; and by the way, a nearest and dearest filling the can through the top with plenty of lavished upon love and affection, just won’t do it – for long; just won’t keep the depleting void filled up for long.

Ladies, a glass of wine and a nice romantic novel might be doing great damage to how you are doing your partner relationships; but the adverse impact can’t be seen.

Men and porn – tut, tut; Women and romantic novels – what’s the problem!

Self-soothing is what Compulsive and Addictive patterns are all about; all about escape. There was an increased prevalent in this unprecedented period of COVID-19 lockdown. Domestic violence levels also increased and was described as shocking in statistics released by the then Home Secretary; as likely to lead to a breakdown of relationships, leading to divorce applications; which is what China witnessed. There is a similar trend that the UK witness each Christmas period of enforced time together in the home.

Porn and Romantic novels are “go-to” soothers that many will turn to at a time of uncertainty, fears, anxiety, stress, tension and worry. At the time when porn viewing increased exponentially worldwide during the COVID-19 lockdown, reading romantic novels (with extras) may also have increased and become a compulsive behaviour aimed at managing mental health. What do you think? Think so?

This unprecedent event (ofCOVID-19 prolonged periods of lockdown) meant separation from people and was impactful. It caused many to throw caution to the wind, put aside reservations and exercise disinhibition. They dipped their toes in and tried patterns of activities which use to be outside of their personal values and/or boundaries.

The brain liked them. Repetition caused the development of neural pathways and pay-off came from the potent biochemicals of Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and other self-manufactures biochemicals in the body.

Definition of sex addiction

A pattern of sexual behaviours which pre-occupy your thoughts and are out of control. You cannot stay stopped for a sustainable period or consistently and it has harmful consequences and the behaviour serves a function in your life and it is used primarily to anaesthetize some negative feeling state. (The important criteria which makes it an addiction, rather than a love of sex, is that it serves a function).

There is a difference between a Compulsion and an Addiction, even if the journey to recovery is the same. Here is a link to my whiteboard video to help better understand that that distinction.

Then consider this definition of Love addiction.

Homeostasis exercise: All about trying to recalibrate and get back stability. Stand on one leg. There is a, tendency to automatically use outstretched arms to regain balance. That is what the brain is endeavouring to do to regain equilibrium and homeostasis; but the problem is in the choice of negative affect state behaviours that have got set up and become a neural pathway of repetitive habits.

We all want love and affection and to feel special to at least one person. We need attachment and we instinctively seek connection, especially romantic connection. There is nothing dysfunctional about wanting love, affection and connection.

Love addiction, however, is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. During infatuation we believe we have that security, only to be disappointed and feel empty again once the intensity fades. The negative consequences can be severe and yet the love addict continues to hang on to the belief that true love will fix everything”.

Therefore they get back up after the hurt of rejection and try the chase again and again, even when genuine love from at least one other, is in front of them. Caused by “Attachment”, mostly set up in childhood, it seeks to fill a perceived void, which will never actually be filled.

Imagine this News Headline:

“Mother of three under 7’s left them in a squalid state as she fed them beans on toast for weeks so that she could spend 12 hours per day, every day, of “screen time” on social media platforms interacting with males”.

It isn’t yet true (or isn’t it)! Such a news story or its variant, is sure to break.

Remember that some in society may say “Tut, tut, tut” about males watching porn images for many hours per day, but see no issues arising from females reading erotic literature and seeking social media interaction for longer hours per day. There is no challenge to women to look again at their compulsive, perhaps addictive sexual behaviours, because it is more low key and seems to be less prevalent, such that it is normalized – unless someone gets hurt – like children. These are contradictions that society (which is us!) has bought into.

Mills & Boons, romantic and erotic literature

Mills & Boons, romantic and erotic literature poster

“No harm. Just my bit of space for a wind down and a little self indulgence. Anyway it isn’t porn. Just light reading. What on earth could be the matter with these novels”

Fifty shades of Grey – “Most women have read it. No stigma about reading it on the bus and the beach. It isn’t porn after all!”

Fifty shades of Grey posters

Yes, it is porn ladies. All the write-ups confirm it. It does defile and pollute the couple’s bed. (I guess that statement could be seen as moralising – but there really is at least three or more of you in the bed). Just like men and porn viewing, there is now more than two persons in the bed.

The Kairos centre personnel undertake an extensive History Taking Questionnaire with each client, to build insight and greater understanding of the individual and how they came by the compulsive behaviours – typically in a form, back there in childhood development as a coping, mood management practice. One of the questions asked is “Have there been any affairs in during the relationship?” The answer may usually be “NO”.

The guidance offered is that in all cases the answer should be “Yes”. Affairs are most often now committed in cyberworld; in other words – with “Mrs Porn” or “Mr Romantic novel”. They are very real; very difficult to fight and not available to go down the road and scratch her eyes out or punch him – telling them to “leave my partner alone; go get your own”.

The impacted partners that I support and work with, often wish there were a real person they could see and be able to vent or fight. It is painful. Some relationships do not survive that assault. They are “Pinches” & “Crunches”, which undermine the relationship.

Men mostly are not interested in reading the books. There aren’t any pictures. Men are mostly visually stimulated. Men may go to the cinema to watch the screen version of the spicey novel made into a movie, because there are pictorial images; sleep through the romantic bits and suddenly awake when the visual titillating bits are visible; then back to sleep! Women prefer being romanced through reading or the spoken words. There is a difference between the sexes.

“Acting out” is any type of sexual behaviour outside of the couple’s sexual relationship. For example, Porn, Masturbation, Sexting, Webcam, Massage parlours, Prostitutes, Escorts, Public toilet activities, Voyeurism, Exhibitionism, Up-skirting and many others. They mostly happen after a trigger or intense and intrusive, uncontrolled thoughts. Thinking will always lead to behaviours. Change begins with managing ones thinking/cognition – not trying to change behaviours.

Why can’t I just stop?

Sex, romantic novels, erotic literature and Love addiction chase for endorsement, is being used for stress relief, tension, anger, loneliness, escapism from the routines of life or reward and to manage emotions. At its root, tends to be something called Insecure Attachment styles.

Love addiction is a symptom of an underlying problem. Love is not the problem. Chasing it is an outlet. It is a chase to get connection, which creates a false sense of feeling wanted and accepted. We all want to be accepted after-all. It is for self-soothing more than it is for pure pleasure. Love Addiction is not about sex. The pattern of repeated activities become an addiction to those biochemicals which will be described. The chase for love, affection and acceptance is the equivalent of the needle to get the drugs/biochemicals (self- manufactured in the brain), into the body. It is an attempt to self-regulate the worse excesses of life’s issues.

The brain and its involvement in sex addiction

We do have control over our thought life if we choose to exercise that control, but those very potent biochemicals of Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, Oxytocin, Norephephrine, make it very difficult indeed. They are at work in the Limbic part of the emotional/feeling brain. The Cerebral Cortex in the frontal part of the brain (the logical reasoning part of the brain) goes off-line as the potent biochemical are being secreted.

Major decisions are being made in the limbic system (emotional/feeling part of the brain), whist the logical reasoning brain is off-line. No real thought is given to adverse consequences and repercussion, until the activity is over, the bubble bursts and the Cerebral Cortex immediately comes back online.

Uttering a question directed at the Cerebral Cortex for an answer, will quickly yield a response – “Why are you asking us; we were off-line when all that was going on!”

MRI scan of the brain of a person who has injected illegal drugs, compared to those who have only done “acting out behaviours” and therefore only the self-manufactured biochemicals in their brain, show the same intense euphoric experience. The same areas of the brain are lit up show the euphoric experience registered in the brain is the same for both usages. Put simply, the brain reacts the same to illegal drugs, as it does to the biochemicals from acting out. The addiction, compulsion or strong craving to repeat the high, is the same in both scenario.

All about the chase, more than the outcome. The chase and anticipation of what the next page of the novel holds, is the equivalent of the needle to get the fix. All about the chase, not the outcome – to get the biochemical high. No longer about the images or the sex. It is all about getting and keeping, the lushness of those chemicals in the body. It is escape into a false intimacy world. It promises more than what is in the real world. Fantasy world promises greater rewards and pay-outs.

Logic, cognitive reasoning goes off-line and emotions, sensations and pleasure in the limbic part of the brain rule the day and take over the decision-making behaviour process. We do not see with our eyes, but with our brains.

You do not choose the type of addiction or compulsion. It choses you.

Shame + Narcissism = Love compulsion/addiction

Say more about these? Big subjects to unwrap here! Take a look at this link at what Brene Brown has to say about Shame.

The presence of shame is a particularly powerful driver for sex/porn/love addiction. Shame means “to hide” and is a hidden companion of Narcissism. Shame is the painful feeling of being unacceptable. It is a feeling of being inferior. It is “a wound made from the inside by an unseen hand”. There is something about ‘Attachment’ issues and what happened as a child with the main caregivers in the earliest stages of childhood development and the evolving sexual development that sets up our sexual preferences in our sexual templates. Those sexual templates crystalise at puberty, based on what exposure (good and not so good) have gone into them in those formative developmental early years up to puberty. Too simplistic? Yep – I accept that.

Narcissism is the way we conceptualise how we will look after ourselves. In its pathological form, it refers to people who seem incapable of acknowledging or taking sufficient account of the reality of other people and their separate existence. Narcissistic Personality Disorder describes those who exemplify an extreme form of this characteristic.

The primary purpose of Narcissism is to compensate for experience, usually in early childhood, when ordinary expectable needs were not met adequately. The Narcissist denies dependence on others and denies even that others exist except as players in the Narcissist’s drama. Other people are required to meet the narcissist’s needs for recognition and value, but without relationship being reciprocated.

The narcissist gives nothing, but demands others give everything. Therefore the original horrific experience of unmet need and the shame and vulnerability that goes with it, is denied and defended against. These are the extreme traits.

Other traits include being the centre of attention; little interest in others, craves recognition and praise. They are performers and want others to keep on clapping and not stop. Controls and dominates interaction with others, has to be right, cannot admit to ever being wrong and never apologises. Insists on things being done their way, always makes the choices and decisions. Reliance on another is not acknowledged. (Upon first reading, many will disown the description and struggle to identify self in any part of the description. I get it!).

This jump from reading romantic novels to talking about sex addiction feels untenable, doesn’t it? Let’s do an audit trail.

To use an old term – “raunchy novels”, need to get more spicey and juicy for the brain to stay interested. Just like porn use.

The romantic novel, now made into a movie, later becomes a “must watch” to draw comparison with the book. (This is justifying – if it were needed!) Just like porn use.

The movie is at the cinema or on Netflix, Sky, Amazon Prime or Apple TV. (Did I miss any – as I need to be fair in my advertisement!). Therefore, it becomes “normalised” viewing and not crossing any boundaries. Just like porn viewing.

Try an experiment. Put the word “Romance” in the search term of those players (like Netflix) and check out the titles of those “relaxation” movies that are thrown up; which become a source of binging on, over many weeks. And you do; but you don’t see it or recognise the slippery slope from whence you have travelled – hving digested ten such movies in as many days.

Her are just a few to binge on for fun (not too serious); for relaxation and light-hearted entertainment – most evenings: Fatal Attraction, Sex Life, The Next 365 Days, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed, Brigerton, Unfaithful, Obsession, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (hang on – that’s not fair. That is below the belt. That is definitely English Literature. I studied it for A-levels). That’s the point. The hook that took you into the novels, can no longer be seen!

Mills & Boons, Jackie Collins books, eat your heart out. You soon graduate from those movies into Anime. The world is before you with fantasy, only limited by the capacity of your imagination. The imagination is enhanced by Intimacy Directors.

Why do those movies need a Sex Scene Choreographer (otherwise known as an Intimacy Director)? Here is how Wikipedia describes such personnel: “An intimacy coordinator, sometimes called an intimacy director, is a member of a film or television crew who ensures the well-being of actors and actresses who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes in theater, film and television production”.

It is hard to see the slippery slope from where one started. It becomes harder to recognise the issues driving the behaviour patterns over the years. It is hard to own the escalation. It is hard to see a problem. There may not be a problem. It only becomes an issue, if it is an issue to you. It is hard to know what to do, even if a problem is acknowledged. It is hard to know what first step to take.

Change has begun when an issue is acknowledged.

What I Wish I'd Known Before Watching Porn – An article by Lauren Dubinsky: Founder of the ‘Good Women Project’

“…I wish that 10 years ago someone had educated me on pornography. What it is, what it does and what it reaches in and destroys in the hearts, minds and bodies of men and women.

I wish that someone would have told me that researchers have suggested it sabotages your sex life.

I wish someone would have explained how dopamine, the chemical that is released every time you experience pleasure, drives you to return to what provided that feeling before.

I wish someone would have told me that the kind of pornography you're most turned on by is usually linked to a corresponding hurtful event in your life, further injuring your brokenness.

I wish someone would have told me pornography would normalize things. I wasn't emotionally or physically ready to handle in my relationships with men, making me feel like I had no options or control over my sex life, filling me with much regret and physical pain.

I wish someone would have told me I would begin to objectify men, build up images in my mind and think of sex day in and day out, to the point where I couldn't remain focused on anything else.

I wish someone would have told me it would make me feel less valuable to men and bring up insecurities for years in the bedroom.

I wish someone would have pointed out pornography can establish your sexuality completely apart from real-life relationships, causing huge problems in your intimacy with real significant others.

I wish someone would have explained what "sexual anorexia" was and that countless young men are unable to get erections because they've been watching porn since they were around 14 years old.

I wish someone would have told all the men I've dated that the porn they are watching is keeping them from being turned on by me, ultimately destroying our relationship…”

Compromise of Core Emotional needs and trashing Values

Perhaps over 90% of the couples in conflict that The Kairos Centre works with, is over attempts to get “Core Emotional Needs” met. Such things as a depleted sense of Approval, Comfort, Security, Respect and others. Not necessarily sexual needs at all.

Some “Values” that are significantly important to us, include such things as Competence, Creativity, Esteem, Integrity, Status, Strong Convictions and the likes. Amazing how we would never contemplate compromising our Values and would likely do “fight” with someone who causes compromise of our Values. Yet, when “Acting out” (including reading erotic novels) beckons, the very fact that the acting out is done, must mean effectively “trashing”, “compromising” and “tearing up” those values on every occasion of the Acting out!

Change may need a helping hand from The Kairos Centre.

A Poem by Portia Nelson: Published in her book: There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk The Romance of Self-Discovery

Verse 1 I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost... I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Verse 2 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Verse 3 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there.

I still fall in... it’s a habit... but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Verse 4

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Verse 5

I walk down another street.

A Goodbye Letter to Sex Addiction by a female “Love addiction” client

Dear Sex and Love Addiction,

It’s time for us to part, forever. Goodbye, so long, be gone, don’t look round I’m not wavering, cheerio, it is done. It is finished; I understand you, I see you for what you are, I don’t need or want you.

We can no longer be friends because you are a tedious distraction and a liar. You might offer some saturation in happy woozy oozy feelings, but right next to that you bring confusion, isolation, longing, pining, which can never be met.

You remind me of what I seek – unity with the Divine and then snatch that from me, into the embrace of want and lust. If I have to part from the dizzy wooziness so be it, no regrets. It comes with too big a price.

You have wasted so much of my time, damaged my body...I have behaved like an unfeeling, all consumed, callous bitch. Nothing else mattered. I tricked and conned people, I stole their hearts, I lied, I hurt them and honestly sometimes I didn’t care. When I did care it was unbearable. Crippling guilt – you forgot to mention that would be an outcome!...

I am in control of my life not you. I feel free, I feel like I get to choose. My love for people is bigger not smaller, my capacity is not diminished. I give up the soothing and stroking you offered because they were poor coping methods. They created problems and they held in feelings of anxiety that were ready to leave me. Goodbye anxiety.

Goodbye shame and narcissism too, you can all move out together. I know there was a tender little girl that was seeking for a need to be met and I honour her efforts. This addiction saw me through some harsh times, it provided fun and humour, risk and adventure.

All these things are still in my capacity and I hold on to the good stuff...”.

"The difference between you and what you see, is based on what you hear; What you hear, is based on who you listen to; who you listen to, determines what you hear; what you hear determines what you see; what you see, determines how you respond; how you respond, determines what you experience. So, if you want to change your experiences, you have to shift your sources." – Tauren Wells

Gary McFarlane developed The Kairos Centre with the intention of coming alongside individuals to enable them to be the best that they can be – bringing colour back to life – without shame.

The Kairos Centre is a private counselling practice. Kairos means “…your appointed time”.

Gary has created what may be the world’s first comprehensive Online webinar love Compulsivity/addiction Video-on-Demand Recovery Programme, being used by many clients throughout the world. His Podcast is “The Sex Porn and Love Addiction Podcast”, with over 36K downloads in just two years.

In July 2023 he launched a comprehensive Video-on-Demand Online Course (for Singles Pre-Married prep, Partnerships, Couples, Marrieds, long, long time Marrieds/Partners) bring together is experience with hundreds of Singles and couples over 19 years and a few books written on the subjects. See the website.

His Video-on-Demand Training for Therapists who want to add Sex, Porn, Love Addiction to their Private Therapy is available for purchase on his website.

The Kairos Centre qr codes
The Kairos Centre qr codes

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube, or visit my website for more info! Read more from Gary!

Gary McFarlane Brainz Magazine

Gary McFarlane, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Gary is a Relate trained and experienced Relationship counsellor, Mediator and undertakes Sex Therapy & Sex Addiction treatment all of which are undertaken by various secure online modes including webcam such as zoom and Bilateralbase, with clients from all parts of the country and abroad. Gary has been working Online for some 11 years and holds a certificate in Online Therapy. He is also a member of the National Counselling Society, the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity (ATSAC) and an Accredited member of the Assoc of Christian Counsellors and is a member of stopSO. He also practices EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). AI-EMDR, G-TEP, R-TEP and The Advanced Flash Technique, for Trauma/Complex Trauma and unprocessed issues from the past or current.

Gary has created what may be the world’s first comprehensive Online webinar Sex/porn/love addiction Video-on-Demand Recovery Programme, being used by many clients throughout the world.

In the next few months of 2023 he will launch a comprehensive Video-on-Demand Online Course (for Singles Pre-Married prep, Partnerships, Couples, Marrieds, long, long time Marrieds/Partners) bringing together his experience with hundreds of Singles and couples over 19 years and a few books written on the subjects.



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