Can You Be Happy and Sad At the Same Time? Ask Yisro.

Find happiness by discovering and understanding your sadness, too.

A heartwarming reunion took place in Parshas Yisro. Moshe led the Jews out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to a miraculous survival in the barren desert. On their way, they met Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, who had been in Midyan and didn’t experience the Exodus.

When Moshe saw Yisro, they warmly embraced. In vivid detail, Moshe related the miracles of the Exodus and the splitting of the Red Sea to Yisro. Yisro was spellbound as Moshe enraptured him with descriptions of the plagues in Egypt, the miracles at the Yam Suf, and the victory in the ensuing war with Amalek.

The Torah describes Yisro’s reaction. ויחד יתרו – and Yisro had “Chad.” Rashi explains that the word Chad is like “Chedva,” jubilant rejoicing. Yisro was elated to hear about the miracles and the salvation that the Jews experienced. Not only were the Jews saved, his own family was involved and experienced it. Yisro had חדוה. 

Rashi then quotes the Gemara that interprets it differently. Yisro’s skin broke out. He was upset to hear Moshe’s description of the vanquish of the Egyptians. The word “Chad” means “sharp” and refers to חידודין – goosebumps, hives or skin irritation. Yisro was so disturbed at the downfall of the Egyptians that he had a severe dermatological reaction.

Despite Yisro’s identification with the Jews, He felt an emotional connection to the other side. He used to be a heathen and an advisor to Pharaoh in Egypt. He was forced to relocate to Midyan after he gave Pharaoh advice that Pharoah didn’t like. Some time later, Yisro embraced monotheism and Judaism.

When Yisro heard about the total defeat of the Egyptians, he couldn’t help but react negatively. He knew them and felt bad for them. Their suffering resonated with him so deeply that his skin showed it.

Does the contrast between the two meanings of “Chad” strike you as strange? On the one hand, it means that he was exuberant. On the other hand, he was crestfallen. Which one is it?

Yisro experienced true ambivalence.

In common speech, we use the term ambivalent to mean that we have mixed feelings. We are unsure and feel pulled – our feelings are ambiguous. Here’s an example:

“Do you want ice cream?”

”I am ambivalent. On the one hand, I love the taste, on the other hand, I don’t like the calories and fat.”

 I have a mix of feelings and I am unsure which one I should follow. I am ambivalent. The decision can be hard to make and I might feel frustrated.

Freud used ambivalence in a much deeper way. He saw ambivalence as experiencing two absolutely opposing feelings about something at the same time. It is a uniquely human ability to have both positive and negative feelings simultaneously . We can harbor both love and hate for something, or for someone. This awareness calls to attention things we sometimes don’t want to admit, or don’t want to feel.

For example, in a true sense, parents can love and hate their children. They can deeply adore their kids and find that life would be meaningless and unfulfilled without them. At the same time, they can hate them. They eat up their time, energy, money, and resources. It doesn’t sound nice or politically correct, but I might be the truest expression of deep human emotions. In the search for emes within oneself, it can be helpful to give words to that and acknowledge it. We are humans and Hashem gave us the ability to hold two completely opposite feelings at once. 

Rashi is telling us that Yisro has Freudian ambivalence. He was deeply happy to hear about the miracles of the Exodus. At the same time, he was deeply pained by it. Yisro had both, and Rashi calls attention to that complexity.

We can have ambivalence about the things that are most dear to us or most important in life. Rashi pointed it out about Yisro. Often, no one will point it out to us. Ambivalence is still there, but it’s hiding.

Can you allow yourself to be in touch with ambivalence about people and things in your life? If you do, it can make you happier, healthier, and more successful. It can also allow you to live life with a sense of truth.

Are you ready…or are you ambivalent?

Can You Celebrate Your Own Religious Personality?

What does Brachos 17 say about who you are?

Today’s daf (Berachos 17), delineates beautiful, personal prayers that the Amoraim davened at the end of their tefillah. These elaborate requests of the heart describe the struggles of deeply religious people navigating this world and request Divine Providence, assistance and connection.

Did you notice that none of the prayers resemble each other at all? Each one has its own verbiage, foci and imagery.

Why did the Talmud spend the better part of a page repeating these prayers?

The resounding message of the Gemara is that each of the Amoraim had a unique personality.  They were all devout people that shared absolute dedication to the same laws, values, and ideals. Simultaneously, that cadre encouraged personal expression and welcomed different foci on life. Each Amora’s tefilla is unique because each Amora had a different personality, way of seeing life’s vicissitudes, and way of connecting to Hashem.

Can you celebrate your uniqueness while you adhere steadfastly to your religious beliefs?

4 Ways To Build Your Self Esteem

Build your self esteem with these 4 essential steps.

Self-help books, positive videos, and motivational memes are all over the place. Nevertheless, the pernicious thoughts of low self esteem and self criticism still plague most people.

What can you do build your own self esteem? Here are four meaningful ways that can impact your self esteem and silence your inner critic.

1) Think what you gain from being hard on yourself

Before you build your self esteem and fight self criticism, think about this: Part of your self critical thoughts are helpful to you. Self-defeating perspectives and feelings of worthlessness are painful, damaging, detrimental…and beneficial. That might be why your mind keeps them around. Your brain won’t let those ideas disappear. It thinks that there is too much to lose! Until you contemplate what you gain from self-effacing thoughts, they will linger and grow, despite efforts that you make to dissolve them.

The self critical beliefs that you are unable to achieve your goals or that you are “not good enough” have a silver lining. They can prod you to do more, maximize your time and energy, or be more productive. As you make efforts to escape those negative thoughts, they simultaneously work in your favor! When you barrage yourself with thoughts of worthlessness, you are also motivated to prove your value to yourself and the world. This push might help you rise up the corporate ladder, garner societal prestige, or increase your income. Your mind notices that your adverse thoughts also have a very positive side. Since they have such benefits, it is highly unlikely that your brain will let go of those negative cognitions.

How can you solve that? Think about what you gain by thinking negatively about yourself. Does it help you work more, feel more secure, or maximize your time? When you realize that your mind is drawn to self critical thoughts because of the redemptive value they have, it is the first step to letting them evaporate.

2) Allow yourself to be an adult

We grow up with our behavior being evaluated by our parents. They observe our actions and attitudes and try to teach us what to do. Eventually, parental discipline and guidance is something we incorporate into our own minds. We learn to differentiate right from wrong, obey laws, and maintain order in our lives. Often, when we internalize our parents’ voices, we can still hear our parents as disciplining us and being critical of us.

Since the critical thoughts we have originated from our parents, they can be very hard to get rid of. Ironically, those thoughts help us feel connected to them.

How can we overcome that? We need to allow ourselves to emotionally and psychologically mature. As adults, we usually have an internal compass that does a pretty good job navigating us out of trouble. We can free ourselves to feel linked to the positive parts of our parents without needing to preserve their criticism. We can think of our parents in many ways – hopefully positively. We don’t need to foster their critical voice in order to allow us to associate with them.

3) Practice self care

The ספר החינוך famously remarks that אדם נפעל כפי פעולותיו and אחרי הפעולות נמשכים הלבבות – a person’s behavior is molded by his actions. He explains that we can behave our way into feeling the way we want to feel. Emotions follow actions. (Several schools of psychology are based on similar assumptions.)

This can be very helpful to us in improving our self esteem and softening our inner critic. We can take care of ourselves more than we have been. That internalizes the message that we have intrinsic worth and value. The more we do that, the more we can begin to believe it.

What does self care look like? It can include actions like eating healthier, exercising more, and making time for socializing. Even though we might feel that there is no way we can organize our schedule to include self care, the payoff is immeasurable. We will feel better about ourselves and our relationships. Interestingly, that will make us more productive, too.

4) Find someone who believes in you

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski can be credited for making the Jewish community more aware of how prevalent low self esteem is. He penned over eighty books, most of them on mental health. He often comments with a twinkle in his eye that he really only wrote one book, just in eighty different ways. That book is about low self esteem.

In Dr. Twerski’s multitude of publications, he discusses low self esteem at length and suggests that it is the cause of many mental disorders. Yet, he talks little of how to raise self esteem. Several months ago, I asked Dr. Twerski what the cure for low self esteem is. How can a therapist help his clients solve this pervasive issue? He answered with a smile that the best way to do it is for the therapist to believe that his client has value. That sincere belief can raise someone’s self esteem. He emphasized, “you have to really believe it.” He was succinctly, sagaciously summarizing the beauty and elegance of an authentic and deep psychotherapeutic relationship.

A relationship of truth and acceptance with a therapist who is sincere and genuine and senses your intrinsic value can be a gorgeous gift. It is a manifestation of the words of Pirkei Avos, קנה לך חבר, purchase a friend for yourself. Psychotherapy with an earnest, sterling therapist, can do wonders for your sense of self.

 

Our self esteem can be viewed like a mountain that we are constantly climbing. We can reach new heights, but there is still more to grow. Consequently, these four steps can be worked on and revisited as you ascend the rungs on that ladder. Use them to help yourself grow and increase your self esteem regularly.

Marcheshvan Has Left. Where Did It Leave You?

What sweetness can you extract from a month with an unsavory reputation?

Would Marcheshvan by any other name be just as bitter?

Marcheshvan is the Hebrew month that has just concluded. It is popularly seen as the doldrums of the Jewish year. Marcheshvan immediately follows the holiday-packed month of Tishrei, but does not have a singular celebratory day. The name of the month is a slight modification of “Marach Sheman” which means “the eighth month” (see here.) Yet, some see the month as possessing a prefix “Mar” – which can mean bitter, to connote the month’s existence as the epitome of ordinary. The feeling of plainness sometimes pervades the atmosphere of the month. The shofar or Rosh Hashana has long been silenced, the intensity and joy of Yom Kippur seem like a distant memory, and the Sukkah is stored away.

It is common for people to look forward to the next month, Kislev, as a beacon in the perceived gloominess of fall and winter. Chanukah begins in the end of Kislev, so Kislev itself is the harbinger of the Festival of Lights, providing respite from the lethargy of Marcheshvan.

However, you might appreciate an important and essential uniqueness that Marcheshvan has. The holidays of Tishrei are celebratory and exciting, but they also serve another purpose. They distract us from ourselves. When we are focusing on a goal of repentance before Yom Kippur or constructing a Sukkah before Sukkos, we can focus less on the simplicity of our own existence. Holidays serve as diversion from thinking about who we are and our own sense of self. When they end, we need to face ourselves and the complexities of our own personality strengths and weaknesses, our self-esteem or lack of it, and our perhaps underdeveloped self-understanding. The day to day cycle of Marcheshvan and its possible monotony can prompt us to focus on who we are.

Yet, it is sometimes difficult and distressing to turn inward and think about ourselves. It is much easier to be distracted. The bitterness of Marcheshvan is not only because of lack of holidays, but because of the discomfort that sometimes comes from within.

Consequently, the light at the end of the tunnel of Marcheshvan is not only Chanukah, with its happiness and festivity at the very end of the month. A brighter light might come from looking within and examining and exploring our own struggles and strengths, foibles and fortitude, and vulnerability and valiance. There is pleasure not only in lighting – as in Chanukah candles, but from being enlightened – with self-understanding.

Society has allowed us access to many distractions that can fool ourselves into being at peace with not looking inward. These can be very palliative in Marcheshvan-type parts of the year; when we feel uncertain, unsettled, or in pain. Perhaps those situations are better addressed by exploring and trying to understand ourselves rather than diverting our attention.

Kislev is thought of as paving the way toward the glorious days of the Chanukah miracles. Yet, the three and a half ordinary weeks before Chanukah can also stimulate us to spend time with, discover, and try to understand ourselves. There is a sweet opportunity on the heels of a month with a bitter reputation. Greater self-awareness and self-understanding might shed light on our lives, in Marcheshvan-type days, Chanukah-type holidays, and through all the days of the year.

You Are Your Harshest Critic (You Don’t Have To Be)

You can control how you interpret setbacks.

A farmer in a small village was lucky enough to have a horse. His fellow villagers considered him wealthy and prominent because he possessed that luxury. He didn’t need to exert himself as much as they did. The horse carried burdens, transported the farmer, and plowed with him. The villagers used to comment, “you are so lucky that you have a horse.” The farmer always responded in the same way, “maybe.”

One day the horse ran away. The villagers passed by the farmer and tried to console him on his tragedy. “What misfortune!” they said. Curiously, the farmer responded in a similar way, “maybe.”

Several days later, the runaway horse returned. He brought several wild horses with him. The villagers were astonished at their neighbor’s fortune. “Wow!,” they exclaimed. “You are now so wealthy. You must be so happy at your good luck!” The farmer’s response was surprisingly the same. “Maybe,” he replied.

A few days later, the farmer’s son was taming one of the wild horses. He was thrown off and he broke his leg. The villagers were now dumbstruck. They felt so bad for the farmer. They congregated around the boy’s bed and told his father how terrible it was. “Maybe,” he answered.

Soon, soldiers came to the town to gather boys for their war effort. The boys of the town were taken away, except for the farmer’s son. The villagers all told the farmer how lucky he was that his son broke his leg. In consonance, the farmer responded, “maybe.”

Is one approach more meaningful to you than the other? The villagers gave interpretations of misfortune and blessing to the farmer’s vicissitudes. The farmer reserved his judgement. Perhaps both sides have their benefits. On the one hand, the villagers were able to appreciate the thrill of victory, but they also saw the agony of defeat. On the other hand, the farmer’s even keeled approach did not focus on the excitement of the highs, or the disappointments of the lows.

It might be most helpful not to see this tale as championing either specific side, but as highlighting a truism. Life’s events are not monochromatic. Few of your experiences and events are completely positive or negative. The meaning you give to your experiences can be more potent than those situations themselves.

Hamlet was onto something when he declared, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” (II, 2). Some things are objectively worse than others. But the “thinking” is the most significant part that “makes it so.” The meaning that you give your circumstances can allow you to either surf storm waves or just barely tread water.

You might even take your search for meaning a step further. Did you notice that you interpret many of your unfortunate life experiences with self-criticism? Life throws you challenges, difficulties, and setbacks. The most painful thing about those hurdles is that you take them personally and interpret them as teaching you something negative about yourself. Here are some examples of responses that you might have had to some recent disappointments:

“I am such a pushover.”

“No one else would have made that mistake. They know what to do.”

“I am not so likable.”

“I am incompetent.”

“This is so typical of my life.”

“I am not capable.”

“How could I let that happen to me.”

“Why did I make that choice? I am so silly!”

“Here I go again.”

“This always happens to me.”

“It’s a cruel world.”

“The world is so unfair.”

“I always get stuck in these situations.”

“Sigh. I don’t know how to manage this altogether.”

“I am such a loser!.”

If you use those responses, you are choosing to take a self-critical message from an already disappointing event. The self-defeating lesson that you take about yourself doesn’t follow automatically. It is a response you are selecting to make.

You don’t have to do that. One of life’s greatest growth spurts comes when you allow yourself to see negative events as happening around you, even if you were partially involved in the outcome. Mistakes, bad decisions, and getting stuck in traffic are all components of existence. They are part of your being human. When negative things occur, even if you are partially responsible for them, you can choose how to react. You can allow yourself to see them as part of the great canvas of life, or choose to hear a message that teaches you something negative about yourself. The meaning you give them as demonstrating that you are defeated, incompetent, or silly comes from your interpretation. It is your choice. You can also choose to see it as part of life’s ups and downs, and an element of being human.

Sometimes you can follow the farmer’s example and take a step back when adversity hits. Are you so sure it is a downturn? Even if you think it is, do you need to hear resounding self-criticism from that situation?

You are not be able to control every outcome. When something that seems negative happens, you can opt to listen to the self-criticism it breeds. You can also choose not to. Perhaps even our farmer would agree. Maybe.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Go For Therapy

You’re not going to believe this tech savvy update to traditional therapy!

There are many really good reasons not to go for psychotherapy. These are legitimate, true considerations that make a lot of sense. It might be best to simply stay home.

On the other hand, therapy can help you be happier, make more money, and feel less lonely. It can allow you to conquer anxiety, shake negative moods, and reach your potential.

Here are the top 5 reasons to think about staying away from psychotherapy (with some answers):

1) Therapy is expensive!

Yes. It is. Psychotherapy with a licensed, experienced therapist can easily run $300 a session. Since most therapy consists of more than one meeting, you have to multiply that cost by the number of sessions. In addition, many of the best therapists are “out of network,” which means that insurance companies don’t cover therapy or only reimburse a bit for each session.

Psychotherapists invest a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy in their education, developing their expertise, and working with their clients. They might deserve the money they charge and it is often well spent. At the same time, price can be a bar that holds many back from therapy.

The answer: Lisning.com. Lisning.com is a new website I designed that provides text message therapy the way it is supposed to be. I created and developed Lisning to give people the best therapeutic experience possible. It features expert therapists and coaches that are caring, honest, and sincere. The price barrier to entry is extremely low. Sessions with an expert start at $29 a week! You can’t beat that price. Even if you think you can’t afford that, pass on a few lattes and you’re good to go.

I am sure you will love therapy on Lisning.com. But…if you don’t, you can get a full refund. No questions asked. It’s win – win – win!

2) Therapy takes so much time

Right again. The average psychotherapy session lasts 45 – 50 minutes, once a week. There are times that one meets more frequently, and sometimes less often. It’s a commitment. Then you have to include the time it takes to get there and back. If you’re meeting your therapist week after week it takes a lot of time. If you are working, you need to find someone right near your office, or open at night or on the weekend. It’s not so easy.

Answer again? Lisning.com is text message therapy, all online. It uses a different model. Instead of meeting with a therapist at a scheduled time, you write as much as you want, as often as you want. Your therapist responds to you frequently, on a reliable schedule. You can write on your own time, read on your own time, and think on your own time. It’s like taking the 45 minutes of a session and spreading it throughout the week. Not only can you fit it into your schedule, it actually helps the therapeutic relationship develop quickly. The frequent, smaller doses of therapy are consistent and dependable. They work to help you create a deep, caring, connecting relationship. Think about it. Which would you prefer…one huge latte once a week, or several delicious ones throughout each day?

3) I can’t find a good therapist near me

It is hard. Therapy is both an art and a science. There are many therapists out there. Not every licensed therapist is going to “get you.” You have your own rhythm and tune and your therapist needs to be in sync with that. If you are restricted by your location…agghh! How can you find someone to work with? That’s why many people find therapists by referral. Even so, it can be hard to find a referral source that understands what you need. What worked for your friend or family member, or the name that your doctor or clergy person knows, might not work for you.

Here’s the answer: You guessed it…Lisning.com. When I designed Lisning, I looked around. I noticed that there are some platforms that claim to offer text message therapy. There’s a big, big problem with them. They operate like the CIA and NSA – shrouded in secrecy. You can’t choose your therapist. You merely fill out a form and they match you with someone. The best they offer is that if you’re not satisfied, they’ll pair you with a different therapist. I couldn’t believe it! It sounds like George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty Four, where everyone is under constant surveillance by a supreme agency known as “Big Brother.”Why can’t everyone choose their own therapist?

I understood that it worked for those companies’ business model. They want to be able to make sure all the therapists on their site have clients. So they take charge of assigning people evenly to different therapists. It might work for business – but it doesn’t work for therapy. How can they take away the power of choice? In fact, those sites are run by businessmen, trying to make a profit from the therapy. I was determined to create something very different.

On Lisning.com, each therapist fills out a detailed profile. You get to know them and see their training, education, and expertise. You can sense their personality and feel if you would like to work with them. I believe that a relationship should be based on honesty, openness, and truth. You decide…not Big Brother! Also, therapists on Lisning get paid fairly, while keeping therapy economical for clients. This is therapy the way it should be.

4) I don’t feel comfortable going for therapy

How true! How could you? Therapy often brings up discussions you don’t want to have. Some deep part of you might ache to talk about them, but often they are not pleasant or easy to bring up. When you are sitting with another person, no matter how good of a therapist they are, it can be challenging to talk about uncomfortable things. For some people, even the act of going to a therapist’s office can be shameful. As a society, we have made major leaps in normalizing therapy. It no longer is the taboo that it used to be. Still, it can be hard to bring yourself to go. Once you’re there, it can be hard to have conversations about difficult topics.

The answer: Lisning.com anonymity. Your therapist does not need to know anything about you. You send messages with complete confidentiality. You can choose an alias and not share anything about yourself you don’t want to. As the therapy progresses, you might want to tell your therapist more about yourself. You are welcome to, but you don’t have to. You discuss it on your own time, when you feel comfortable. Perhaps all therapy should be that way…your name is no different than other personal information. Share it when you want to. It is unusual for in person therapy, but it’s the way we work on Lisning.com. Share when you care.

5) I’m not sure if I need therapy or life coaching

That’s tough. For many decades, psychology focused on curing mental disease. In the US, most government spending on psychology also was in that direction. More recently, psychologists and therapists began taking techniques that focused on mental illness and using them to help people maximize themselves. This is sometimes known as positive psychology. (It was discussed in detail in the January 2000 edition of American Psychologist and introduced by this famous article, Positive Psychology: An Introduction). Life coaching is on that spectrum between psychotherapy for a disorder and to be the best you can be. It helps people find techniques and ways of accomplishing their goals.

Accordingly, you can view mental health as a continuum. Some people have a more pronounced mental health issue which encourages them to seek therapy right away. Others have the same issue, but less intensely. It still prevents them from reaching their potential, but the urge to see therapy isn’t the same. Both people can benefit from therapy or coaching.

Let’s take anxiety as an example. If anxiety severely hampers a person’s functioning, she might be pressed and seek therapy right away. If someone has low levels of anxiety, it is probably hampering her ability to achieve financial success, have a more connected relationship, and maximize her potential. She is still functioning pretty well. So well that she is convinced that she doesn’t need therapy. Yet, if she would, she could make more money, have even better relationships, and be happier. Isn’t it a crime for her not to go for therapy?

Often, whether you call it “therapy” or “coaching,” the difference in name only. Many experienced psychotherapists can intervene for a mental health disorder, practice positive psychology, or be life coaches. On Lisning.com, we call all our experts coaches. They are there to provide life coaching, help with a mental health condition, and everything in between. We use the term “coach” for all our experts because it gives them the freedom to be there for whatever you need from them.

One last thing. On those Big Brother sites, they tout the fact that they have “licensed therapists.” Did you know that no psychology, social work, or counseling license covers text message therapy? Licensure covers in-person therapy and sometimes has something to say about video therapy. Text therapy is completely not governed by licensure, in any state. Advertising that therapists are licensed for text therapy is like an airline saying all their pilots have driver’s licenses!

Lisning.com is truthful and honest. You can plainly see each coach’s education, degree and licensure. It is open and free to see. Our whole platform is based, and built, on honesty, truthfulness, and real relationships. We don’t use false marketing to pretend licensing applies where it doesn’t.

Come Aboard!

In my private practice, I favor deep, insightful discussions that explore who a person is. At first, i was resistant to the idea of message therapy. Then I thought a lot about it. I noticed that the linchpin of meaningful psychotherapeutic work is the relationship between a client and his therapist. This is often called the therapeutic alliance. I wanted to find a way to bottle the power of that therapeutic alliance and with access to therapists beyond one’s locale, at a price that was both fair for therapists and very much affordable for clients. I designed Lisning based on the integrity, sincerity and focus on relationships that I use in my in-person therapy practice. I aim to bring those principles to a wide audience, using technology, talented experts, at an affordable price. How could you resist joining?!

Come explore Lisning.com. Get to know our stellar coaches. Browse their extensive profiles. Sign up and take a giant step forward to your happiest, richest, and most fulfilling life. Your best self is waiting to meet you!

Shmuel Maybruch, LCSW is the Clinical Director of Lisning.com and a psychotherapist in private practice.

3 Myths About Pornography Use In Couples You Might Still Believe

Pornography use in committed relationships is on the rise. It has become a fixture even in relationships that appear blissful and idyllic. With the ease of technological access to porn constantly increasing, its use has become a significant issue for many couples. Whether you are are in a committed relationship or thinking about one, or you are a counselor, member of the clergy, or a therapist, here are 3 myths about pornography use among couples you need to know:

1 – If We Had More Sex, We Would Have Less Porn

This sounds like it makes sense. People can have strong sexual drives. If a couple is not having sex enough to satisfy both partners, a spouse might turn to pornography to satisfy his desires. As likely as this sounds, logic, research, and my clinical experience demonstrate that it is usually not true.

Firstly, many couples, if not most, are not able to have enough intimate moments to satisfy their desires for each other. Stresses vie for most couples’ attention. These include career related pressures, childrearing demands, domestic responsibilities, relationship issues, financial burdens, and social callings. Obligations make many couples feel overwhelmed and not able to devote enough time to each other, let alone share meaningful sexual experiences. Simply stated, many couples feel that they are not having “enough sex.” If so, almost all contemporary couples should be driven to pornography. As much of a fixture as pornography is, it isn’t universal. Clearly “not enough sex” does not necessarily lead to pornography use.

Secondly, research in the field of pornography use in committed relationships has not found a connection between sexual desire and porn use. As researchers found, “desire did not seem to discriminate between males who use and males who do not use.” Committed or married men can be comparable on the scale of sexual desire and some will use pornography, while others won’t.

This is buttressed by my professional experience. Pornography use is not usually connected to a couple’s frequency of intimate experiences. Often couples are very sexually active with each other, while one of them still resorts to pornography use privately. More sex does not mean less porn.

2 – Religious Couples Don’t Have Porn

Another common belief is that religious people, whether single or married, use pornography less, or not at all. This is patently not true. In my practice, I see individuals both in relationships and not committed that are devoutly religious and struggle with pornography use.

This is borne out by an astounding study. A group of researchers analyzed Google search terms on a state by state basis. They found a clear trend. States that are generally identified as more religious and fundamentalist had a higher prevalence of pornographic search terms on Google. Think about that: the more a state identified as religious, the greater amount of sexual terms were searched for. Another group of researchers was incredulous, so they independently replicated the same study – and found the same results.

The first researchers then found something else even more amazing. They anonymously surveyed citizens of the states that demonstrated high pornography use. Although the respondents were anonymous, most people replied that they did not use pornography. Imagine that! In the states that were clearly using porn, people did not admit it, even anonymously. It seems to indicate that religious communities see two things with regards to online pornography: increased use and decreased honesty about it.

Clearly, increased religiosity does not indicated less pornography use. It appears to sometimes indicate the opposite.

3 – Pornography Use Is a Spouse’s Private Business

It would be so nice if this were true. One spouse uses porn. The other ignores it and they have an exciting, committed, and passionate relationship.

In most situations, a spouse sees partner porn use as a form of infidelity. To most spouses, it makes little difference whether their partner is committing an affair with another person or through watching porn. A partner whose spouse watches will feel deep anger, resentment, and question their relationship. They will also experience their own self doubt, question their ability to trust their partner, and feel depressed mood. This is such a common pattern of behavior that I adopted a term for it in my practice: virtual infidelity. Although pornography use is usually online, with no relationship or connection, a spouse feels just as shunned. She questions herself, her relationship, and her spouse. Although virtual infidelity seems very different than an affair with another, the effects on one’s spouse, and one’s relationship, are very similar.

Researchers recently studied a large group of married couples for almost a decade. They examined the effects of porn use on the marriages. Not surprisingly, they found that, “the probability of divorce roughly doubled for married Americans who began pornography use.” Often, therapy for both spouses, as well as the couple as a unit, is the most effective way to assist their recovery from virtual infidelity. Therapy can be with a therapist in an office, or through a recognized, effective online platform such as Lisning.com, which hosts experts in individual therapy, couples therapy, sexuality, and therapy for porn use.

It is important for first responders, such as clergy and educators, as well as therapists, to expect strong reactions from a spouse and make room for those reactions. It is advisable for clinicians to center a large part of their work with couples recovering from a spouse’s use to addressing those spousal feelings and rebuilding the spouse’s world after the cataclysmic blow it sustained.

Pornography use among couples is the new frontier in relationship development and enhancement. Individuals, couples, responders, and therapists have to be are aware of the truths about pornography use in relationships. The more knowledge people have about pornography among couples, the greater ability they have to understand its impact.

Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch, LCSW is a psychotherapist with a practice focus  on individual and couple relationships. He is an expert on pornography use and its relational impact. He can be reached via this site, ShmuelMaybruch.com.