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Is watching porn the same as cheating on your spouse?

Whether it is or not isn’t actually the issue. The trouble is we let our definitions of words and actions cloud our emotions and wreak havoc in our relationships.

In today’s episode, I’m talking about this taboo topic and why you need to change the way you think about pornography to save your relationships.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • Porn’s dirty little secret for controlling your life (1:54)
  • The case for looking at pornography in a positive light (11:47)
  • How pornography seeps into your soul and poisons every facet of your life (17:24)
  • The unlikely way pornography saves marriages (16:10)
  • The cold, hard truth about why you’re ruining your marriage over lights on a screen (18:43)
  • The sneaky way you’re demolishing your self-esteem while thinking you’re doing good (25:49)

If you or somebody you know is looking to drop the ‘F’ Bomb of freedom in your life and break free from addiction, depression, anxiety or anything that’s making you feel flat-out stuck, head over to www.liberateaman.com and book a call where we can look at your unique situation and give you the roadmap you’ve been missing.

Read Full Transcript

It's time to rip the cover off what really works to ditch addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, and all other kinds of human suffering. No, not sobriety. We're talking the F-word here: Freedom. We'll share, straight from the trenches, what we have learned from leaving our own addictions behind, and coaching hundreds of others to do the same—and since it's such a heavy topic, we might as well have a good time while we're at it.

Bob: Welcome back to the Alive and Free Podcast. Today, we're going to touch a very taboo topic in the auspices of discussing how you define something and how that affects your behavior around it, your feelings around it, and how much control it has over you.

The thing we're going to define today is porn, and, specifically, with the question: is porn actually cheating?

Now, let's give some background on this. What do we mean by “cheating”? We mean being unfaithful inside of a relationship, whether you're a guy or a girl, and a lot of the context behind this conversation comes from many, many clients of ours whose significant other, spouse [has a porn addiction]. It's usually the wife. The guy is usually the one that's in the porn addiction, for the people that come to us. It doesn't mean it's ubiquitous across the world that way. That's just the people that have come to us so far. [01:18.4]

We do have women clients who come to us. We do have clients who come to us for not porn stuff, some for business stuff and other things. But a lot of them, especially in the beginning were for porn addiction and, specifically, the guy.

And so, we have this scenario going on where the wife believes it's cheating and believes it's being unfaithful for a number of different reasons, and where the husband does or doesn't, and they're being controlled in some way, shape or form by this situation.

We want to explore today what porn actually is. Is it cheating? Is it not? What is the best way to look at it, so that it no longer controls your life and you're actually free from being controlled by it? That's the most important thing, and I'm pretty sure that all the wives, all the husbands, all the significant others and partners, and everybody else would agree that the main goal is not to define it a certain way, but to be free from its influence. [02:13.3]

With that as the background, we get to dive in. Just today, I had a conversation with a client of ours who himself has been [a porn addict] and it has now been months since his desire for looking at pornography has disappeared, since his urges to look at it have gone away, and everything else has been clean and clear. He and his wife have been living a good life. He and his wife are fine, but then she had a dream or she saw something, or something happened that brought it up in her mind, and then they had another conversation about it.

Now, keep in mind, it's been months since anything has happened of any sort and we're talking a lot of months. We're talking six months or more, and to where there are no urges, no desires, no nothing, and he hasn't been engaged in it at all and he'd been doing really well, and his life radically changed. [03:00.4]

But she got up and they started having a conversation, and she believes that porn is cheating and he doesn't look at it that way. He sees it differently, but he still doesn't want it in his life, but he just defines it differently. She's having trouble with him because she believes that, if he doesn't see porn as cheating, then she can't feel safe inside that relationship.

So, we have a situation where you have one person—and it could be the guy or the girl. It doesn't matter who it is—who says, Look, I defined things a certain way. This is what makes me feel safe, and unless you define it that way, too, then I can't feel safe around you.

What I want you to see is that this is a really, really problematic situation, because what you're trying to do is say, Other people have to think the way I do or I can't feel safe.

That's really problematic for two reasons.

The first reason why it's problematic is there's no way you can control what other people think. Let's say, for instance, that he does believe that it's cheating and then, one day, all of a sudden, he doesn't anymore. She's not in control of that, and that means her safety is literally in other people's hands and she has given away the control of her own feeling of safety. [04:11.6]
Now, keep in mind, nothing has been happening for months. The relationship has been amazing. Things have turned around for him in huge ways and he's not actually engaged in it. He's totally free of both the desire and the compulsion to go looking for pornography at all. Yet, she doesn't feel safe because of a definition thing. Now, that's problematic.

The second reason that it's problematic is how is she going to be able to trust him? See, if he turned around tonight, some magical thing happened where he suddenly woke up tomorrow morning and was like, You know what? Porn is cheating, and he had this revelation, would she trust him? How would she know that was still thinking that way? How long would it take for her to believe that that's the case versus believe that he's just saying that to appease her? And there's all of those types of situations as well, right? [05:02.6]

So, we have a general distrust that that usually happens, if someone says something and they suddenly flip opinions on you, and then it’s like, You're just saying that to make me happy. You don't really believe that. And then, there is the overall outsourcing of your own ability to feel safe and at ease in the world to events that are completely outside of your control. This is problematic inside of a relationship.

As I was speaking with his client, I told him, “Look, here's the deal. Let's say that you don't believe that pornography is evil. Let's say, you believe that pornography is what it is, that this stuff is going on, that it's literally porno-graphy—meaning drawings with skin—and that that's literally all that's going on and that it's neither good nor bad or evil or whatever. But you seriously have no desire for it in your life. You don't want it. You find better things that life is way more fulfilling in different ways, and then that's that, right? That's one scenario. Let's say, also there's another scenario where you do believe that pornography is evil. It's a plague on mankind. It is the worst, most horrible thing that's ever happened, but you have no desire for it, no urges for it, no compulsion or whatever.” [06:10.9]
In both cases—in both cases—the person is free.

But the definition of it—the definition of it—is generating a different emotional reaction to it. If you're, by definition, having an emotional revulsion or reaction to something, what you're doing is, literally, giving your freedom away. You may be free from the desire to engage in it, but you're not free from its control over you.

If you define a thing in such a way that, whenever it shows up, it creates a reaction in you, it means that you're not in control and you're not a hundred percent free of it.

What’s most important in defining anything, whether that’s pornography, whether that's drugs, because there's a lot of interesting research on the use of psychedelics with regard to treating depression these days, and they've seen some really profound results, but if you have a definition of drugs as bad, of psychedelics as bad, then it's going to create some kind of reaction in you. That means you're not, literally, creating your own life experience or, rather, you did by defining it a certain way and now it's running its course. [07:18.6]

So, when we're defining pornography and we're asking whether or not it is, in fact, adultery or cheating, it's important to understand that how you define something makes or breaks your freedom from it, and that “the” most powerful way to define a thing is simply to define it as itself. To see all of the things that it does, all of the consequences that come from engaging with it or not engaging with it, all of the stuff that is pleasurable, all of the stuff that is painful, all of the stuff that causes effects in other people's lives, everything, to just simply see it for what it is, without making it into some Shakespearean rhapsodic poetry.
I don't even know if Shakespeare did rhapsodic poetry, so I'm making that up, and that sounds like a musical term, so I'm really making it up—but making it into some poetic, vilified propaganda in your mind or whether that's downplaying it saying, Oh, it's no big deal. Going either way is a lie that you're creating for yourself, and anytime you lie, you end up losing control and power over your life. [08:23.5]

A lie, literally, takes you to a place of hell on occasion, almost instantly because you lose your ability to see what's really going on, and that means something else has control over you.

So, when we're defining pornography today, what we want to do is define it for all of the good that it does, for all of the negative than it does, for all of the extra collateral damage that comes from it, for all of the extra collateral good, if there is any, that come from it, and so on and so forth. We want to see it for all that it is, to be able to really ask, Is it cheating? Is it bad? We want to really ask, What is it? Instead. And with that gaze, now we can look at it and see it for what it is, and then we'll be able to actually enable our own choice in the matter, because we're seeing the whole picture. [09:09.7]

The reason people choose something that is negative for them is they, literally, can't see the whole picture. It doesn’t mean you haven't told them about the whole picture. It means that they can't see the whole picture and, unless they can see it, then it's not going to have a motivating power in them, even if you're telling them all of the same facts. I mean, it's annoying as parents when your kids come and they tell you some grand epiphany they’ve had that you have been spouting at them for a year or more, and they come in and they're like, I just figured this out, and you're just like, Well … It's because they saw it. They realized it for themselves, not because somebody was shouting it at them.

I think this is important. If you want to free yourself from anything, including pornography, you have to see the whole picture. You have to get rid of all the attachments and associations you have with it that are myopic views of the whole thing.

There's a story of several blind men that go in—and I'm sure most of you have heard this—and each of them runs into this elephant. One of them is at the tail and he’s talking about this. Oh, an elephant, yeah, it's a hairy beast, a skinny, hairy beast with a smell like whatever—because he’s near the tail, right?—and it feels like a horse's mane. [10:18.1]

Another one is grabbing the wrinkled skin and saying that it's like an old person, and another one is grabbing the big ears and saying it's a big … and one of them is grabbing the trunk and saying something else. Each of them has one small picture of the elephant, and because they only have a small picture, their assumptions about it are really off-base and how they behave around it might put them in trouble and might cause danger. The guy around the tail is like, Oh, this is all that an elephant is, and then he gets stepped on. Not going to be helpful, right?

Seeing an elephant for what it is, is the thing that allows you to behave around it in a way that keeps you safe, especially if it has a tusk. Right? So we want to define the elephant in the room, otherwise known as pornography, understanding that, yes, some people have defined it for you in the past. [11:03.9]

People may have read scriptures at you, where Jesus says, if a man looks at another woman to lust after her in his heart, that he has already committed adultery in his heart, right? You might have heard that and, in your mind, you said, “See, he looked at her and he lusted, so he committed adultery in his heart.”

You may have been taught that and that's wonderful for a Sunday school discussion, a wonderful thing to explore in terms of living to higher and higher levels of understanding of what's controlling you, in a certain way. But that's not helpful inside of a relationship or an accusation to be like, Look, you lusted and, therefore, this.
And there's one other factor in this that we'll get to at the end.

So, let's look at this and we're going to start with the good. What good does pornography do in the world? And you may already be like, That's the dumbest question in the world, Bob. Pornography doesn't do any good, whatever. But let's look at it. [12:00.0]

We have to see it for what it is. If you can't give yourself permission to see it from a different angle than the one you hold to be true, then you will never understand the people that do and you will constantly find yourself in conflict from it. Nobody says you have to change your opinion, but we need a bigger perspective.

If you or someone you know is looking to drop the F-bomb of “Freedom” in your life, whether that's from addiction or depression and anxiety, or just anything that's making you feel flat-out stuck, but you have no clue how to shake it and just want help doing it, head on over to LiberateAMan.com and book a call, where we can look at your unique situation and give you the roadmap you've been missing.

There are people in the world that find it good for just general let down, release, kind of fun at the end of a school day or graduate school or something, or at the end of a workday, and they get together with their buddies and they find it amazing to engage in viewing pornography, because it is a stress relief for them. [13:04.9]

It's exciting to them when the rest of their day is not so exciting, and they find it a wonderful enterprise, and they only use porn that they declare is not child porn or other kinds of stuff like this. They're conscientious about their use of it and the kind that they look for, and that's that. Right?

So, for them, the good that they see in it is that it's just a way to chill with the guys, a way to be a man and a way to honor their sexual impulses without having to put that burden on their wife. Okay?

For people who are massively depressed and struggling, engaging in pornography is a way for them to step aside from the depression, anxiety and frustrations, and the responsibilities and maybe even poverty that they're finding themselves in in their life. It gives them a few moments, hours, minutes or whatever it is of total reprieve. This was how I operated around it. It allowed me to escape from depression and anxiety, and responsibilities of all kinds, so it became a really powerful escape to when I couldn't handle my life. This allowed me to handle it. [14:07.3]

Now let's look at the chemical level about what's happening. When you're engaging in that type of visualization, fantasy and whatnot, aided by lights on a screen—and that's an important distinction—all of the work is going on in the mind of the person. The stuff has just lights on a screen, right? I think that's important, an important distinction to have. So, what's happening in the mind of the person? They're using these lights on a screen or ink on a page to create a chemical situation inside themselves and experience of pleasure.

A lot of people will say men are wired for pornography, but that's not true. People are wired for anything that brings them pleasure. It doesn't matter whether it's porn, whether it's food, whether it's adventures, whether it's roller coasters, whether it's waterfalls and nature, whether it's money. Whatever it is, whatever brings a person more pleasure than they're currently having in their life, whatever gives them a payoff, however small, they're wired to want it. [15:02.6]

Only a person with a big enough perspective to know what really gives them a payoff in the biggest end will eliminate other things that are smaller payoffs, and only a person living at a higher level will not be allured by things that give them lesser payoffs.

These are important things to understand.

A person who is chemically in a spot where their body is poisoning them and the organs are starting to not function as well, and muscle tension patterns and circulation are being affected, and breathing is being affected, is, literally, losing their conscious control of their system, and their body is going to go in an override and immediately desire anything that gets them back to a chemical status quo.

Pornography is a really fast way to do that. There are a number of other ones that don't involve pornography. Some of the ones we teach our clients individually, things like emotional ninjutsu, breath switch, certain practices of breathing and movement, and other types of things that are specifically designed to move your pH in a certain way, and we teach them these. But what porn has done for them, the good it's done for them has prevented them from going down a tube where they're being poisoned more and more, getting angrier and angrier, and lashing out more and more. Maybe they’d go to suicide. Maybe they’d go somewhere else. [16:09.0]

I've seen instances of where pornography is something that husband and wife like to engage in because it actually helps them in the relationship that they want. There is good in that for them. I've seen instances where the wife has just got so much sexual trauma around certain things that she wants the husband to go and use pornography, so she's not burdened with having to do certain things in that arena.

So, there are a lot of ways that pornography has become very useful for people. There are ways that it has become useful for people to make money. There are ways that it has become useful for people to find fame and acceptance, and all kinds of stuff like that. There are ways than it has allowed people to explore their own sexuality and get out of a long-held repression that has been poisoning them as well.

These are all ways that people see pornography as positive, and you can argue with them and say, But, Bob, or but whoever, that's still bad because in the long run it's not going to work. I get it. They are short-term payoffs. They are not long-term solutions to anything. You and I both know that, but still there is a short-term payoff and you have to acknowledge that it feels good for a person to engage in viewing pornography, interacting with it and fantasizing about it. It really does feel good, in the moment. Afterwards, there may come guilt and shame and, everything else, and now we get to talk about the negatives. [17:25.0]

Let's talk about the guilt and the shame, and the embarrassment, which is poisoning your system even more than it was before.

Let's talk about how it trains your mind to see people, situations and events in a certain way.

Let's talk about the amount of focus that it forces your mind into to where you can't actually concentrate on other elements of life.

Let's talk about how it takes what is 2.17 percent of your genetic code and your anatomy, of one-46th of your chromosomes, and let's turn that into something that takes up 20 or 30 percent or 50 percent of your waking life and how it distorts everything in your life by focusing on one small fraction of what it means to be human. [18:06.3]

We could talk about the sex trafficking industry and how much pain that has caused because people have such an appetite for it that they can't stop, and now they're engaging children in this.

Let's talk about the people whose lives are ruined because they got stuck in pornography, but then other people have started to manipulate them and get them into a hole to where now they can't get out, and they're literally slaves inside of it, even though they went in voluntarily.

Let's talk about the number of people whose internal self-worth is completely damaged, or the amount of drugs that go on, involved for a person to be able to continue to operate in that side of it, inside that industry. Not every single one, no, but a lot of them.

We could talk about the marriages that are put on the rocks because both people inside that relationship have different feelings about it.

Let's talk about eternal stuff with regard to spirituality and how that affects your capacity to have spiritual experiences. At times it does. In fact, I'd say, from my experience, a lot of times it does because it gets me so focused on the body and body sensations that I can't actually open my mind to more spiritual dimensions, and that was a struggle for a number of years. [19:08.6]

We could talk about so many.

Let's talk about how kids feel around you when you're in that lustful space.
Let's talk about how your wife feels around you when you're in that space, even if they don't know what's going on.
We could talk about the kinds of conversations people are having and what that's focused around, and what other possibilities in your life could be there and already functioning, if you weren't so controlled by pornography itself.
There's so many negatives to it, but there are also positives to it.

What is pornography then?

It is what it is. It is literally people that have disrobed and are engaging in intimate relations on a screen, in an image, on a page or something like that, specifically, designed for other people to view it. Some wives do things like this for their husbands alone, so it's just for the husband to view. There are a number of different reasons and motives why people do this. That's all it is, though. That's what it is. [20:05.7]

Engaging in it, for some people, has been a powerful experience. Engaging in it, for other people, I'd say, for the vast majority of people, has created a lot of negatives in life and it has also created an industry that is creating trauma and unwilling trauma in children around the world, and there's prostitution, sex trafficking and things like that, so that there are a lot of other consequences that have come from it. You have to see it on all sides.

It is what it is. Simply lights on a screen. Simply ink on a page. If I'm going to call that cheating, what I'm going to do is I'm taking it beyond what it is and I'm confusing myself about what it is, and so now I'm making it into something that it's not.

If you really talk to any husband who is engaged in pornography and you listen to their views about it, especially somebody if they don't want to be doing it, not a single one of them is viewing it as cheating. Not a single one of them is using it, so that they can cheat on their wife. Not a single one of them is doing it. That thought does not enter the man's mind, unless and there are a few instances where a guy will do this out of just pure spite. [21:17.3]

What does enter the man's mind is, one, I have an urge and I can't stop it, or another one, I really want to feel good and I need a release. It could be frustration at home where they feel, Oh man, my wife is never interested at the times that I'm interested, and so on. And so they go. They go to this place, I wonder what this looks like, or it's pure curiosity about things anatomical and other things.

These are the thoughts entering their mind and I have not met a single one who is looking to go cheat on his wife in that regard and using pornography to do it. That's not the intent behind the usage, and the problem with defining it as cheating is that you're defining the usage by an assumed intent, and that's where we get into trouble. [22:04.3]

If you're the person using it, I think using Jesus’ words is a good way to start to assess what's going on. Are you actually lusting after this person because you really just want to be with them in that moment? Wonderful.

If you're the person that's not viewing it and you're in the relationship, every time you look at it that way, what you're causing is pain to yourself. You're not causing any help in the situation. If you're defining it as cheating and you need another person to see it that way for you to be safe, what you're doing is creating pain inside yourself and not a solution. You're actually making the situation worse.

If you need them to define it that way, what you're going to create in them is a fear, either of you and your retaliation or of pornography itself, which means that now the fear is in them and they are more controlled by it than they were before.
So, how you define something is really, really critical, and when we're looking at pornography, defining it as good or bad is not going to be very helpful. You need to ask yourself simply, What is it? And then, the follow-up question is, Is it working? Is it actually creating better and better results in my life? And those are the two places to go from. [23:16.2]

The last piece that I wanted to address here just as we're closing up is this. If a person has stopped using it, then what you're actually doing is turning a present situation, where you are totally free of the scenario, into a moment where you're recreating a scenario in your own mind and then causing yourself more misery about it, something that doesn't exist and isn't actually happening in this moment.

Too many men and, I would probably hazard a guess, women in relationships are being held hostage by a past that is no longer operating, because another person in that relationship hasn't figured out how to let it go, and that's a real issue—and learning to let things like that go, and to step into your life and go create something powerful like we talked about in a couple episodes, is definitely a journey, for sure. [24:04.3]

It's definitely a powerful journey to take and one that's absolutely necessary, but if it's not actually happening, why do you need to define it in the first place? It's not even in your life anymore. Now we're playing an intellectual game and causing ourselves misery.

It's like a political discussion. You don't have any power to actually affect the political stuff that's going on, but it's sure fun to talk about because people can get incensed about it, or it's like talking to people about flat earth versus rounder stuff. You can get a lot of people up in an emotional kerfuffle over something that none of you really have any say over and isn't materially affecting your life in any way, shape or form. But you can ruin your life by it.

So, as we're closing up in this discussion around, What is porn? Is it bad? Is it cheating? Is it anything? just remember, to define something, whether it's porn or whatever else you're dealing with, what is it actually? What?

And then, Is it working? What are the effects it's bringing in my life? so that you can finally go, Cool. Am I curious about continuing to pursue relationship? Do I want to change that? What do I want in my life and what do I need to do to shift that? [25:07.3]

And, of course, if you need help with that, we're around. We do some really cool stuff to help people shift this in a hurry, really fast, instead of having to take a long time to turn it around.

But I don't want you controlled by your definitions. Money is money. Porn is porn. Right? Anger is anger. Anything above and beyond or anything less than, no big deal. It is a big deal to some people, so to say, Oh, it's no big deal, is you're just brushing aside and not looking at the truth. But, at the same time, going overboard and saying the person is cheating also, you're no longer looking at the truth. And, in both cases, you can set yourself up for some really negative experiences going down the road.

I'm just mentioning this here. Hopefully, this has been helpful. I'm not trying to define this in a way to ruffle feathers, but to help people find a way to finally be free of their definitions of a thing, so that their life isn't controlled by it.

My definitions of pornography wrecked me. I had believed it was something akin to just shy of murder, and I mentioned that in a previous episode. Because of that, I beat myself up so badly that I had such negative self-esteem. I destroyed so many elements in my life because of my definition of what a thing was, so much that I couldn't even free myself from it, and I don't want that for you. [26:21.5]

I want you and your partners, and your children, all to be free of anything that is causing you to live at a lower level. We want you to be fully alive and fully free.

And that's it for today's “Alive and Free Podcast.” If you enjoyed this show and want some more freedom bombs landing in your ear buds, subscribe right now at wherever you get your podcasts from. And, while you're at it, give us a rating and a review. It'll help us keep delivering great stuff to you. Plus, it's just nice to be nice.

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