This couple calls me from overseas. People call me from around the world for my advice on sexual addictions such as pornography addiction, masturbation addiction, massage parlors, prostitutes, infidelity, etc. When this couple first called, they were on the verge of breaking up. She also had doubts about whether she wanted a relationship with anyone. In his desperation to hold on to her he stumbled across my website.
He was wrapped up in a porn addiction and a masturbation addiction. He had also been cheating on her by going to erotic massage parlors.
She was willing to forgive him but she wasn't sure she could trust him. Trust is the issue when it comes to healing a relationship coping with sexual addiction. It took time, but we were able to restore trust and I was able to get him to stop being unfaithful to her.
However, a masturbation and/or porn addiction is not stopped right away, so we were still working on dealing with pornography and addictive masturbation when the issue of mismatched underwear came up.
In previous discussions with her I realized that she had addictions to alcohol and pot. These addictions were affecting her ability to make decisions about commitment. Of course, not everyone addicted to alcohol and pot has commitment problems. After I helped her break free of her pot and alcohol addictions, she was ready to talk to me about commitment. I made it clear that wanting a commitment and wanting a commitment with him should be approached separately. This distinction was important to her.
She decided that she was willing to work towards building a relationship with him. So, when she brought up the problem of underwear that didn't match, I knew she was bringing it up to save the relationship.
He had told her that he wanted her to start wearing matching underwear. He was so upset about her mismatched underwear that he had threatened to not let her into his place if her underwear didn't match.
In sexual addiction counseling you must always respect what a client says even if you think it is absolutely absurd. In fact, when confronted with a ridiculously absurd statement you need to treat it more cautiously because the client will most likely defend it to the bitter end. So, I started a neutral discussion about the underwear issue. His rationalizations about the importance of matching underwear were:
-It meant that she had her life organized.
-It meant that she respected herself.
-It meant that she was serious about achieving her goals in life.
-It meant that she was proud of her body.
From the tone of his voice I knew I could not talk him out of his rationalizations, just yet. I also knew why he was willing to risk the relationship over this ridiculous issue. Then he mentioned that he was ashamed to be in a restaurant with her when she wears underwear that doesn't match. So, I said,
"Do you actually believe that people can see her underwear in a restaurant?"
He replied, "No." He explained that he was embarrassed because she didn't seem confident in public. He argued that if she wore matching underwear it would improve her self-confidence.
I asked him if he had any more reasons why he wanted her to wear matching underwear. He replied, "Isn't that enough?"
One of the arts in counseling that can be developed only after many years of experience is knowing when to challenge a client. If you challenge too soon, you're a poor listener. If you challenge too late, you missed your opportunity. I decided the time was right. I said, "All your reasons are nonsense. Shall I tell you the real reason you want her to wear matching underwear?"
He replied, "What is it?"
I answered. "You're caught up in a fantasy world of porn addiction. You want her to compete with your fantasies. When you said that she doesn't respect her body what you were really saying was that you don't respect her. You're comparing her to your pornography addiction fantasies."
He wanted an explanation.
I replied, "What you're saying is that any idiot who wears matching underwear has self respect and confidence. You're also saying that anyone who doesn't give a damn if their underwear matches lacks confidence. Do you realize that by your standards underwear is more important than character values and achievement?"
There was a silent pause. She and I waited for his answer. He said, "You're right."
I replied, "Let me show you what you're really up to. Sometimes people hide their intentions by saying 'I'm doing it all for you.' For instance, the husband who puts pressure on his wife to lose weight. He'll say he wants her to do it for herself. But that's not true. He wants her to do it for him. You said you want her to wear matching underwear so that she would have respect for herself. That's a load of bull. You want her to wear matching underwear because you have a problem with respecting her for who she is. You're so wrapped up in your porn addiction that you're focusing on the image her underwear projects rather than on the person she is."
At first he was defensive about it. But when I asked her how she felt about it, she said, "I'm deeply hurt."
He replied, "I didn't know I was hurting her."
I always tell people that when you enter sex addiction counseling, make sure you find a counselor who knows what it takes to build a loving relationship. It was clear to me from his statement that he really did care for her. I said, "How do you feel about hurting her?"
He replied, "I don't want to hurt her."
Now it was time to go back and talk again about his absurd rationalizations and porn addiction. I knew his love for her was more important to him than defending his pornography addiction. As we went through his rationalizations, he realized how foolish he had been. I asked her if she would forgive him. She did graciously.
At the end of the session, he said, "How could I have been so stupid?"
I replied, "Everyone makes stupid mistakes. You, me, everyone. What's important is whether or not you learn from them. You're learning from yours. That's what counts."
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