Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Emotional Pornography

(Sometimes I just have to write a painful and honest post. There may not be another person on the planet who can relate, but if there is, if my post is of any encouragement at all to somebody who has struggled with the same thing and has felt so alone, then I count my vulnerability  worth it. If you cannot relate, well then perhaps one day, somewhere, you may come across somebody else for whom this is a significant topic in their life. And you can say, "I know somebody else who has struggled with that." Think of this as continuing education of sorts.)

I was boy crazy from as early as I can remember. I cannot remember ever a time in my childhood where I commented, either out loud or in my mind, "YUCK! BOYS!" Boys were never yuck to me.

I married my best friend. Ours was not a terribly romantic relationship, as per the movies and all . . . no stars in our eyes and fireworks in our hearts, ours was more of an "I trust you more than anybody on the planet and I cannot imagine a day without you" sort of relationship.

I learned about love from the movies. I learned about marriage from nobody. You can imagine my horror when, a few months into our marriage, I got a crush on another guy. I didn't know this was possible. I didn't know what to do.

I didn't understand why, when I was married to my best friend and a wonderful man by any account, I could have a heart that longed for somebody else and for something more.

It was when my husband began working long, long hours that my fantasy world really kicked into gear.

You hear so much about pornography, the huge number of boys and men addicted to it, and also now the huge number of women who find it strangely enticing. This is not the kind of fantasy I am talking about. There was nothing sexual to this.

I was tired and worn out physically, emotionally, spiritually. My heart was empty. I wanted to be rescued by my Knight in Shining Armor. That couldn't happen because I was married. But it didn't mean I couldn't dream.

I didn't get into those Christian romance novels. I didn't need to. My imagination was good enough on its own. But romantic movies would floor me. One story line, one scene, and I would find myself longing for the person on the screen rather than the person by my side.

A few years later I heard the term "emotional pornography." It had a name.

Like sexual pornography, emotional pornography is based on a lie. It distracts from the here and now to convince you of something that doesn't even exist in real life. It promises to quench your thirst for love, all the while making you thirstier than before.

I was in the thick of it one day, begging God to fill that hole in my heart that had me longing for something more when I had a glimpse of insight. It didn't explain the whole problem and did not absolve me of responsibility, but it made sense as to why I was so darn vulnerable.

Back when I was in counseling for my eating disorder, the counselor asked me who the men were in my life. Nobody, I said. He was shocked. Did I have a relationship with my father? No. Grandfathers? No, they were dead anyway. Uncles? No. Both my parents were only children. Family friends? None. He was actually a bit shocked and said that every girl needs a father or father-type figure in her life to give her validation. Who knew? Nothing more was ever said.

Fast forward to middle age and my male-hungry heart. I realized that I had never had a reasonably close relationship with a male that did not have the potential for romance attached. I had no idea what it was like to be loved and respected by a male, with no ulterior motive whatsoever. Not a clue.

I began to understand how huge the hole in my heart was and how pathetic my attempts at filling that hole had been. Like pouring teacups in the Grand Canyon. I realized that that hole in my life can never be filled by anyone other than God. It was unfair for me to expect even my husband to be able to do the job that he was never created to do.

Eventually I realized something else, another hideous similarity between sexual pornography and emotional pornography. Just as we cry out against sexual pornography and how it turns women into nothing but objects meant to satisfy, if only for a moment, the insatiable appetites of sex-hungry men, emotional pornography was turning men into objects to satisfy my ever present hunger for love and affection.

Just as sexual pornography distorts the view of sex in real life, emotional pornography distorts real life as well.

Just as sexual pornography becomes an all consuming, self-centered addiction, so emotional pornography turns in on itself, pulling you away from the people who love you most and from the people who you are called to love.

I am not saying I have licked the problem. I am sure the temptation will always be there. I now know what I can and cannot watch and when I am falling into the trap immortalized in my favorite line from Sleepless in Seattle: "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie."

I now have to talk myself through the lie of fantasy that is the romantic comedy or chick flick. But now I know it is a lie . . . like all kinds of pornography—a lie.

Most of all, I have to rely on God to fill my Grand Canyon of a heart so that I can turn and love the man God has called me to live my life with, my best friend and husband.


  1. WOW! I didn't even realize it...I can relate and I understand exactly what you are describing. I understand it all the way down to my core!!! Thank you for your honesty and thank you for bringing me encouragement.

  2. Wow. From the eating disorder to the lack of emotionally validating men in my childhood, to a rape that left me feeling men only wanted one thing, you painted a picture that I have stepped right out of. And your struggles with emotional pornography echo my own. I always have felt such confusion and self loathing over my apparent lack of gratitude for my wonderful, supportive best friend/husband. And this explains it. I am expecting him to fill the hole in me when no man on earth could at this point. Me earthly father left that hole and my Heavenly Father is the only one who can fill it. Thank you!