Category The Porn Trap

Celebrating True Freedom. and Fulfillment

Much of this book has been focused on the difficulties and pain that a life consumed with porn can create. What starts off for many as an exciting and highly sexually arousing habit can ultimately compromise everything—self-respect, sexuality, intimate relationships, family, friend­ships, livelihood, freedom. And the journey away from porn and out of the trap can be long and tumultuous, filled with denial, rationalizations, and relapses.

But as we’ve seen from the stories of former porn users who made it through the struggle, leaving porn behind leads to something far better than even the false promises of porn—Freedom. We don’t mean free­dom in the adolescent definition of being able to do whatever, whenever. True freedom is being able to make choices regarding your behavior that enable you to live your healthiest, happiest life. It is a freedom that only someone who has known what it is like to be completely under the con­trol of a powerful substance like porn can fully understand.

True freedom allows you to be open and honest about the life you are living. It gives you the opportunity to live in a way that is consistent with your life goals, your mission, your values, and your dreams. It is the freedom to form meaningful relationships with others, to experience love, respect, and a sense of dignity. And it is the freedom to heal your sexuality and be needed, accepted, and affirmed as a sexual being.

Former porn user Brad understands true freedom. He told us, “Before I had no choice. I was a slave to my addiction. I was such a slave that I didn’t even understand that freedom existed. Now because I’m able to say no to porn, I am free to choose the course of my life.” Mitch also knows what both slavery and freedom feel like. “I feel a lot better about myself. Night and day. I’m so blessed. I’m so much better. When I was using porn I was in bondage. Now if I’m tempted by porn, I have free will to make a choice. I’m free and able to express who I am deep down in my soul.”

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inding a way out of the porn trap is never easy. But we hope that by breaking the silence that has surrounded this huge problem so many men and women face today—either as porn users or their loved ones—you’ve begun to address vital issues and see that change is pos – sible. We are confident that with the tools we’ve offered in this book, you can move forward into successfully healing your sexuality, your emo­tional wounds, your relationships, and your life. And that once you’ve traveled far enough down the road of recovery, you’ll realize the rewards are immensely gratifying and truly worth the effort.

The journey out of the porn trap is one from ignorance to knowl­edge, from avoidance to taking action, from deception to honesty, from shame to integrity, and from self-centeredness to loving and being loved by others. As the people whose stories we’ve told throughout this book have shown us, if you’ve been harmed by porn, you can reclaim your life, heal from the wounds, and free yourself from porn’s influence forever.

[1] Many of the exercises presented in this chapter are adaptations of exercises originally devel­oped by Wendy Maltz and described in her book, The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Sur­vivors of Sexual Abuse. Sensitive demonstrations of the exercises are provided in Wendy’s video, “Relearning Touch: Healing Techniques for Couples.” For more information on the book and video, see the Resources section or visit our Web site at www. HealthySex. com.

How to Decrease the Likelihood Your Child. Will Develop a Problem with Porn

The following list identifies things you can do to help protect your child from the negative impact of pornography. We suggest that you follow these recommendations throughout the course of your child’s life, changing the sophistication of your approach and the level of detail to coincide with what is age appropriate for your child.

__ Maintain a porn-free home environment.

__ Develop an emotionally sensitive, attentive, and caring relation­ship with your child.

__ Have regular, supportive conversations about your child’s con­cerns, challenges, and problems.

__ Promote healthy sexual attitudes and boundaries in the family.

__ Validate your child’s curiosity and desire for information about sex.

__ Encourage your child to talk with you about sexually explicit ma­terials he or she encounters.

__ Respond to your child’s questions, concerns, and disclosures about

sexual matters in a calm, productive, and non-shaming manner. Educate your child about the inaccurate, misleading, and harm­ful messages in porn.

__ Educate your child about the reality of porn addiction and other

negative repercussions of porn use.

__ Openly discuss sexual concerns that exist in our society, such as

sexual abuse, sexual addiction, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancy.

__ Help your child access community resources for sex education

and counseling as needed.

If, by chance, your child is inadvertently exposed to porn or intention­ally seeks it out, you can be instrumental in helping to prevent him or her from developing a problem with porn. One father told us about what he did when he discovered his teenage son up in the middle of the night looking at sexy pictures on the Internet. “I used it as a teachable moment when I could have just yelled at him and gone back to bed,” he said. “I sat down and talked with my son about where porn comes from, who puts it up there, and why. I explained how porn is designed to turn people on, get people hooked, and get their money. I wanted him to understand and think critically about what he had seen so he can know the difference between fantasy and reality. At one point, I asked him how many people he knows look or act that way in real life. We discussed how being sexual with porn can be addictive, like taking drugs, and how it could end up lowering his self-esteem. I helped him to see how porn isn’t going to help him tomorrow when he’s talking to a girl at school. We talked about what skills he needs to actually have a relationship with a young woman—and, had a good laugh at how that’s very different from moving a mouse around for a computer!” As awkward and emotionally charged as discovering a child’s porn use can be, it’s important to find a way to respond with understanding and information. A parent’s ability to promote healthy and responsible attitudes about sex can go a long way in helping his or her child safely navigate through today’s porn-saturated world.

An Interest in Protecting Children

Many former porn users are deeply concerned with wanting to protect children from getting involved with porn. They know how easy it is to be exposed to porn at an early age and develop a serious problem in the absence of appropriate information and guidance. It can be very healing to come out of the porn trap and then direct your energies to protecting children from having to experience the negative consequences of porn.

Laura is passionately concerned with keeping kids safe from porn. She told us, “It’s very upsetting to think that at this very moment some innocent little boy or girl is being exposed to porn. I wish our culture would wake up to the fact that it’s a contaminating influence that robs children of the opportunity to learn about sex in healthy ways and cul­tivate their own sexual imaginings. Unless we change something fast, today’s kids won’t stand a chance against it. We need to be protecting our children from porn. We need to teach them that the human body is beautiful and divine, that everybody deserves respect, and that wonder­ful sex is a product of deep intimacy. Kids need to know that like drugs, porn may seem exciting, but it’s a dead end and doesn’t lead to real sexual satisfaction.”

Many former porn users are aware of how pervasive pornography is in our culture and, as a result, how vulnerable children are to get­ting involved with it. Jack believes it would be irresponsible for parents to ignore educating their children about the dangers of pornography. “It’s tough for children today,” Jack said. “They live in a society that both encourages and condemns porn use. When I have kids I plan to initiate a dialogue with them about pornography. It would be unreal­istic to assume they won’t be exposed to it. If my parents had at least gone over some of the problems with pornography—the way women are made to look, the misogyny, the misinformation—it would have been comforting to know that it was not real life, was not how sex works, and was not how to have an appropriate relationship with a significant other.”

If you are a parent, one of the most important and empowering things you can do in conjunction with your own recovery is to protect your children from exposure to, and developing an involvement with, porn. In addition to doing what you can to limit their contact with porn, it’s also wise to maintain an emotionally close and healthy relationship with your children, discuss the serious problems porn use can cause, and pro­vide resources about healthy sexual behavior and intimate relationships. With a comprehensive approach, you can help make sure a problem with pornography doesn’t get passed down from one generation to the next (see box on the following page).

Utilizing Your Success to Help Others

Becoming more aware of how significantly porn use harmed their lives— often from an early age—leads many former porn users to want to do something to help and protect others from experiencing the same prob­lems with porn that they encountered. Once their own recovery feels secure, they often become involved in educating others about the dan­gers of pornography and in providing direct support to people who are in the early stages of their healing journeys.

After completing five years of his own healing work in Sex Addicts Anonymous, Victor began giving inspirational presentations to groups of men who are also in recovery. “I remember how helpful it was for me to work though the first step with my sponsor and identify very specifi­cally how I was powerless over my addiction and how it rendered my life unmanageable. Now, it’s rewarding to focus my active imagination and energy on projects that not only restore my spirit but also pro­duce something that is worthwhile in the world and beneficial to other people’s lives.”

Although it’s been more than seven years since Nick stopped using pornography and over six years since he had a relapse, he remains active in attending faith-based recovery group meetings through his church. He said, “I have compassion for the men in our group who are caught in the grip of porn. Now that I’ve become healthier, I’m able to offer them ideas and information on how to fight it. I help them by sharing my experiences—how I stand up against porn’s temptations and how I’m no longer ashamed of my sexual behavior. Participating in this way gives me a feeling of being needed, useful, accepted, and complete.”

Tom hasn’t forgotten how alone and powerless he felt when he was trapped in a porn addiction. Now he makes a conscious effort to be alert to signs that someone else might be suffering in a similar way and reach out to him. “I’m not shy about talking with my friends about sexual issues in general,” he said. “If a friend of mine is depressed or isolating, I’ll ask him if he is struggling with pornography and compulsive mas­turbation. I go out of my way to try to break the cycle of sexual shame and addiction and give somebody the kind of help I needed when I was caught in it.”

Some former porn users channel their desire to help others by get­ting actively involved in supporting organizations that provide services to people with sexual addictions and other pornography-related prob­lems. They donate money or volunteer their time to help administer and run resources such as toll-free hotlines, informational Web sites, national treatment provider associations, faith-based services, and local twelve – step recovery programs (see “Organizations, Programs, and Web Sites” in the Resources section). Their behind-the-scenes contributions are building a critically important network of services for men and women seeking to overcome problems caused by pornography.

Another avenue that former porn users take to help others is through getting involved in work that helps to prevent pornography problems. They take seriously the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Corey, for instance, told us that he feels motivated to work with other people to get public service announcements in the media and on Web sites informing people about the dangers of pornog­raphy use. He explained, “Think about how helpful it would be if all porn sites, like cigarette packs and medicines, had to post warning labels about the possible negative side effects of using porn. The problem with pornography is not just an individual problem. It’s a social and cultural problem. We need more awareness and open social discussion about its impact. We need to remove the shame and start talking about what’s wrong with Internet pornography—how it can make a train wreck out of your life. In my whole life, I spent less than ten dollars on porn and ended up in jail. I want to spare others this kind of pain.”

Ed speaks to local service groups and classrooms in his commu­nity about the hazards of becoming hooked on porn. “My involvement with porn was harmful to myself and others. I’m active in educating the public, because it helps overcome our society’s denial and makes me feel good. Talking with others reminds me to continue in my commitment to abstain from porn, and it serves as a way for me to make amends to those I’ve hurt as a result of my porn use in the past.”

Laura feels strongly motivated to break the silence that exists about the serious problems females are encountering with porn. “Now that I have found healing and help from the harm pornography has done in my life, I am reaching out and educating other women,” she said. “My advice to young women who are getting involved with porn is a strong DON’T DO IT! Using porn is progressive. It’s easy to become addicted. You can think you are only experimenting with it, and then suddenly find yourself sliding into behaviors that compromise your physical, spiri­tual, and emotional health.”

The Personal Rewards Are Gratifying

Many areas of your life can improve when you make a lifelong commit­ment to stay away from porn. Hank told us, “For thirty years, from the time I began using porn compulsively until I hit bottom with it in my mid-forties, I was completely unsatisfied, undeveloped, and unhappy as a human being. Since I quit porn three years ago, my whole life has changed. Now I feel I’m finally an adult. My life is exciting, wonderful, and stimulating. I’m able to express my true self. This is really me.”

The process of quitting porn develops and strengthens skills that can contribute to you feeling more responsible and more in charge of your life. Recovery teaches you to recognize feelings when they happen, toler­ate emotional distress, and delay gratification. You come to know your­self better—know what is really important to you and why. Rather than succumbing to your impulses, you are able to cope with them through taking care of yourself in life-affirming ways. “Now I’m able to focus my time and energy and get things done that are important to me,” Bill said. “I’m more alert and able to enjoy what I’m doing in the moment with­out being distracted by unwanted fantasies and old adolescent feelings of anger, fear, and defensiveness. Porn was a big diversion. I like being more productive.”

One of the major rewards for giving up porn is improving rela­tionships with other people. As we’ve discussed, porn use often results in a person becoming isolated, socially out of touch, and dishonest. By contrast, when you follow the steps in recovery you develop the ability to reach out for support, empathize with others, and be more responsive to the important people in your life, such as your intimate partner, family, friends, and coworkers. “I feel really good about who I am and how I relate with others now,” George told us eagerly. “I can wholeheartedly look at a woman I know with caring and support, and appreciate her heart and her unique being. Because I’m no longer in­volved in pornography, I am becoming the trustworthy man I always wanted to be.”

Even though it’s taken him many years to make significant changes, Rob is grateful that he has stayed with his porn recovery process because it has allowed him to finally be honest with himself and with others. “My addiction to Internet porn got me arrested and cost me my marriage, kids, and job,” he said. “As challenging as it’s been, quitting porn has given me my life back. For the first time I’m truly connecting with other people. I’m no longer experiencing the pain of living a double life, living a lie. I’m now a more complete, whole person. Whatever I was trying to get from pornography doesn’t even come close to the benefits and value of what I experience in my life today.”

Developing honest relationships with other people has the additional advantage of increasing self-esteem and integrity. Mitch said, “I feel spiritually renewed. My life is no longer a contradiction. It is in line with my moral values and spiritual beliefs. I’m honest about who I really am. I tell people the truth now, whereas before I would measure the truth. My marriage is better now. Our physical relationship is rewarding and satisfying and has more depth than ever before. I’m living a principled life of integrity, and this reward for being free is much greater than the shallow world of porn.”

Like many other former porn users, Nick described his sex life as much better now. “It’s just me and my wife in bed now, instead of me and my wife and some pornographic fantasy figure that I was replacing her with. Our sexual relating is not a sham and there’s no guilt about it. It’s a long-term high that makes me feel good about myself twenty – four seven. For the first time in my life I feel complete and sexually healthy.”

Hank summarized the many advantages of living porn free this way: “I’m more of a human being than I ever was when I was using pornog­raphy. I am present and much less detached from other people. I feel more a complete adult, because I am not sexually objectifying people and things anymore. I’m alive with my current partner in a way that I was never alive before when I was intimately involved with a woman. Now, free from porn, I feel like I’ve been given a wonderful gift, not just of my own consciousness, but of my own humanity.”

Freedom Is About. Making Choices Every Day

As we’ve mentioned before, the world is filled with porn and porn-like images, and it’s impossible to avoid them completely. So every former porn user will find him – or herself having to make frequent choices to reaffirm the commitment to stay away from porn. It’s a lifelong process, but the feeling of accomplishment you can get from being able to keep porn out of your life can be an amazingly powerful experience. Randy feels stronger now that he’s taken on the ongoing challenge of quitting porn for life. “I was duped by the porn industry and taken for a ride. Now that I know what real sexuality and real passion are I feel bad that I invested all that time and wasted so many years preoccupied with a product that did me no good and nearly got me addicted to it for life. But I’ve got my life back now and I’m in control. I make the choices, not porn. That makes me feel good. Porn is a powerful enemy and I’m beat­ing it every day.”

Alex also talked about making daily choices and how much pride he takes in being able to stay committed to staying away from porn. He told us, “When I was using porn I had this dirty little secret that I constantly had to keep hidden. I felt constant shame about it and held myself back from others. I was enslaved. Now every time I make a choice not to use porn, I feel a real sense of freedom and community. I get to make deci­sions and be open and upfront about them. Sure it can be hard having to turn down porn every time, but I love the feeling I get when I do.”

Recovery Gets Easier with Time

One thing you can look forward to as you recover from porn is that the journey will eventually get easier. Bill told us that after several years of attending meetings and talking with a counselor, he is now more self­assured in his ability to stay away from pornography for good. “The first six months of my recovery were the most difficult. I had to face the fact that my thinking was all wrong. All the assumptions I made about porn—that it was no big deal, that no one was getting hurt, that it was actually just harmless fun—were wrong. Now that I know these things,

I am more relaxed in my recovery. It’s not a constant struggle to keep away from porn.”

Similarly, Marie, who has spent the last five years involved in recov­ery work, says, “I feel good about what I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve come a long ways from where I was that day the youth pastor found the porn on my computer. Group work and counseling have helped me face my issues and be able to deal with my emotions when I’m under stress. At this point in time, I’m confident in my ability to choose to remain porn free.”

As time goes by, many former porn users develop an expertise in being able to keep porn out of their lives. When porn pops up unexpect­edly, they stay conscious of their commitment to avoid it and take action steps to not use it. Porn no longer throws them off course, and they are able to remain true to their values and goals. Corey proudly told us he was recently able to smoothly and effectively handle a potential relapse situation. “I was on the Internet looking for a utility for an operating system I was working with, and it directed me to this Web site that ended up being an archive for some pornography newsgroups. A little thought ran through my head: Hey, click of the mouse, it’s right there, but I didn’t act on it. I just smiled and calmly clicked my way out of there. I have enough life experience now to know that regardless of porn’s momentary allure, it doesn’t offer satisfaction.”

Recovery can also become easier with time as you gain new insights that reinforce the fact that porn is harmful to you and can no longer be considered an option. “I’ve recently accepted that pornography is something that is just not for me,” Logan said. “Some people are casual drinkers. I don’t know if a person can be a casual porn user. I do know that I cannot. Just like people say, ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alco­holic,’ I feel that way about being a porn addict. I am one. I can’t go near porn if I want to stay healthy.” When former porn users finally accept the fact that they must avoid porn for the rest of their lives, they experience a decrease in the frequency and intensity of cravings for porn. As Logan added, “I stopped compulsively thinking about using porn when I finally admitted to myself that using it again is simply out of the question.”

True Freedom and. Fulfillment

Yes, I’ve been through a lot in my recovery. But I finally feel normal, like a regular person. I feel like it’s spring—it’s spring and I’ve gone outside and the air feels clean and good.

—Bill

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s tough as it may be to finally get there, life is good outside the porn trap. Almost everyone we’ve spoken with who has severed a relationship with pornography has been eager to share how much better they now feel about themselves, their relationships, their sexuality, and their future. Passion and optimism shine through their stories of accomplishment as they told us of their newfound sense of happiness and self-satisfaction.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of quitting porn—thinking about quitting, taking the first steps, wrestling with relapse, or well on your way to being porn free—we hope you find the stories of former porn users in this chapter inspiring and helpful. You’ll recognize many of the names from other chapters—now you get to read about how these people have moved beyond their struggle with porn and emerged into personal free­dom and fulfillment.

You’ll find that although everyone’s path has been different, most former porn users end up feeling more positive about life, relaxed, and generally more emotionally balanced once they quit porn for good. They are more comfortable being around other people now that they’re able to relate with mutual respect, concern, and consideration. This is especially true in their intimate relationships, where reestablished communication and trust lead to strengthening of the bonds that hold people together.

Clearly, whether physically, sexually, emotionally, or interpersonally, every part of life can improve once you’ve successfully climbed out of the porn trap.

Of course, in spite of the tangible, positive results gained from quit­ting porn, there are times former users may feel a little sad about what they’ve given up. That’s understandable. Quitting porn involves saying good-bye to something that they relied on to feel good. But, while some of the former porn users we spoke to talked about feelings of loss, they were quick to emphasize that their lives are much better now without porn. Laura, for example, said that she missed porn’s “friendship.” She told us, “Before I quit, I had been involved with porn for more than thirty years. The fantasies were like a friend, offering me comfort in times of stress. But, those same porn fantasies also led me into dangerous sexual experiences that could have killed me. I don’t have to worry about that now. That’s a big relief!” Ethan said, “I miss porn like I miss the high of getting stoned on marijuana. But now I’m with a wonderful woman who is nurturing and honest. That’s what I value. I never would have had that if I hadn’t made the choice to stop using porn.”

In this chapter we present stories that illustrate what you are likely to experience as a result of committing to the porn recovery process we have outlined in this book. You’ll find out how, once you are out of the porn trap, you can take your life in new directions to build upon your successes and reach new heights in your recovery. This is the story of freedom and celebration. These former porn users made it. You can too.

Hand on Heart Anchoring

Purpose: To develop and experience a connection between loving feelings and sensation in your genital area.

Suggested Time: 5 to 10 minutes

Wear soft, loose-fitting clothing. Sit back or lie down in a private space, such as your bedroom. Place one hand over your heart. Breathe deeply, relax, and feel your hand rise and fall with each breath. Consciously soften the muscles in your chest and abdomen as you breathe fully. Smile into your heart with appreciation for its steady beat and life-giving energy. Open or close your eyes de­pending on what helps you feel present, relaxed, and more com­fortable.

With your hand over your heart, focus on what you like and ap­preciate about yourself. Recall things you have done in the past that you feel good about and traits that you admire in yourself. If you are in an intimate relationship think about your partner—what you love and admire about her and your relationship.

Keeping one hand on your heart, place your other hand on or near your genital area in a position that feels comfortable to you. Continue to breathe and relax. Notice the link you are forming with your two hands between your heart and your genitals. Become aware of what it is like to touch both your heart and your genitals simul­taneously, and feel sensations from both areas at the same time. Focus on the positive things your genitals have brought to your life. As you breathe, shift your consciousness back and forth between an awareness of your heart and genitals, and the energy connection your hands help them form. If your mind begins to wander gently bring it back to your relaxed breathing. Maintain this position for several minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable to you. When you feel ready to stop, remove both hands and breathe deeply for a few more minutes, reflecting on the experience.

Variations:

1. Practice the exercise without clothing.

2. If you are in a relationship and your partner is willing, practice the exercise at the same time in each other’s presence. Include gazing and smiling at each other from time to time. When you both feel ready, switch the hand that was resting on your own genitals to rest gently over your partner’s genital area. Continue to breathe and relax. Pat or rub with the hand that is over your heart as needed from time to time to stay connected to feelings of love toward yourself and your partner.

3. Practice this heart anchoring exercise prior to any kind of sexual experience.

4. When you are engaged in sexual activity, take a moment to touch your heart or your partner’s heart to activate or stay connected to feelings of caring and love.

There are many ways of expressing loving feelings during sex. You might try using some of the following techniques that apply skills dis­cussed earlier in this chapter, such as:

• Take time to smile and make loving eye contact with your part­ner.

• Temporarily shift your awareness from your genital arousal to the attributes you most admire and appreciate about your partner.

• Take time to verbally express your feelings of affection to your partner.

• Touch in loving and affectionate ways that you have learned will be valued and appreciated by your partner.

As important as it is to express your love in sex, remember that making love is a two-way exchange of positive feelings. You also need to receive the admiration, caring, and love that your partner expresses toward you. Pay attention to your partner’s tender words, touch, movements, and facial expressions and imagine them traveling into your heart. Let your­self feel how satisfying it is to be with someone who loves you and truly enjoys being with you. You might even ask your partner to touch your heart at times during sex as a nonverbal way of expressing love and re­minding you to receive it.

The time you spend with your partner after sex presents another valuable opportunity for intimate sharing. Once the sexual heat is off, it’s a good idea to continue relating in loving ways, such as by holding each other, talking affectionately, taking turns listening to each other’s heart beat, taking a shower together, or even falling asleep in each other’s arms. Being actively intimate following sex through touching, talking, and spending quality time together can begin a new courtship cycle and prime the pump for the next sexual encounter.

You can also take time following sex to reflect and be grateful for the intimate encounter you experienced. By consciously thinking about the pleasure you have in intimacy with your partner, you can reprogram your erotic imagination. Memories and fantasies about real-life sex with your partner can replace porn imagery as your primary fuel for sexual desire and arousal.

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ntimacy-oriented sex involves connecting to your partner with your body, your senses, your mind, and most of all, your heart. The seven skills we have described in this chapter work together to help you create a stronger, more lasting, and more fulfilling sexual relationship with a partner. This approach to sex can also result in profound healing not only for former porn users but also for their intimate partners. Karen, whose sexuality had been filled with sadness and disconnection be­cause of her husband Johnny’s porn use, felt a huge burden had been lifted when he not only stopped using porn, but changed from “making porn” to “making love.” She told us, “Now that porn is out of the pic­ture and we’ve been approaching sex differently, I trust Johnny and feel freer being sexual with him. I don’t have to hold back as a protective measure. I’m open and expressive with him, and I naturally want to please him.”

Relearning how to be a sexual being in a way that forms deep bonds with another person and is emotionally as well as physically rewarding, can provide you with deep feelings of satisfaction you may never have known before. George, whose porn habit started in his twenties, said it best: “My goal used to be hot, hot, hot sex. That basically is all that por­nography is about. But I’ve found there is so much more in sex beyond that, such as being flirtatious, playful, loving, gentle, and caring. Here I am at fifty-six years old, and I’m having richer and more enjoyable sexual experiences than I’ve ever had before. I used to think that really intense sex would result in true intimacy with my partner. But I had that completely backward. Physical intensity doesn’t guarantee emotional closeness. It’s the other way around. The foundation for a really good sexual experience is a genuinely loving relationship.”