The Love Addicted Woman, Pornography and Healing the True Pain

In this day of instant gratification, ambiguous boundaries, and confusing sexual signals, the love addicted woman may feel even more disconnected and adrift than in previous generations. With social media, dating site hook-ups, and willing co-worker’s, today’s love addicted woman hardly gets time to catch her breath. There is always something new and attractive lurking in her peripheral vision, and past “love” connections die hard. Those connections make for repeated attempts at getting needs met from the same partner, maybe multiple co-addicted lovers, repeating themselves in rapid succession. It is exhausting, and she desperately needs a break from the intensity. No problem, society has a solution for that. Enter, Pornography. 

Porn doesn’t make demands, it doesn’t give her STIs, and it certainly doesn’t ask for a commitment. Porn knows she will be back. She can’t help it. After all, her deepest needs, hopes, and dreams of love are still being neglected. She has no idea what these are, but porn does, it gives her an intoxicating substitute that almost makes her feel her needs were met. Well, until tomorrow morning, when the hole just feels bigger and hurts more. 

What can she do, though? How can she break out of this never-ending, ever-escalating cycle of loneliness, using, feeling better, and waking up with regret? It’s almost as bad as her one-night stands or the shame of pretending she was with someone besides her husband when they made love. Her heart breaks, calling out louder and louder to have her real needs met, but she only knows how to gather counterfeits and increasingly painful emotional hangovers. 

There is hope. There is a way out for her. It may not be easy, and it certainly won’t be quick. But if she can hang in there, a few critical steps may help her give up the porn, the men, and her self-defeating relationship patterns.  

  1. Acknowledge the hurt. No woman was born compulsively seeking love and connection. Infants naturally know what they need, and ask for it openly with tears, whimpers, or coos. The love addicted woman was no different. In early childhood, however, her needs were somehow overlooked, left unmet. Perhaps a dysfunctional family dynamic, unattached parent, or any other host of neglects or abuses left her feeling alone and unloved. Whatever happened, those early needs for intimate, healthy connection from caregivers went unmet, or underserved. That causes pain. If she will admit that pain, have it witnessed by others, and allow herself to feel it as it comes, her heart will begin to heal. She must first witness it for herself. 
  2. Ugly cry. This comes naturally with the acknowledgment of hurt. As women, we often feel we need to be put together all the time. Not so. Ugly cry involves sobs, loads of tears, using a whole box of tissues, and often includes some snot and exclamations of the hurt. A woman willing to let the pain come out however it needs to is a brave soul. There might be dry heaves, maybe literal vomiting. She’ll need at least a few of these sessions. When they are over, rehydration and a good nap do wonder for the soul. Just like that lonely infant inside her, sleep recharges and makes everything just a little more bearable. And she just might need to cry again when she wakes up. If she lets herself, she will only deepen the healing. 
  3. Name the need. Pain needs a name, and needs will demand to be met, even superficially, like with pornography or risky sex. A woman doesn’t need serious childhood abuse to feel deeply traumatized. Unmet emotional needs traumatize without any other trauma needing to be present. She must name the need, give it a color, at the texture, a space in her body. Then she will be able to articulate it to others and see it outside of herself, where she can work on it more objectively. 
  4. Ask for help. There is no shame in needing another person to witness pain. With her visualization and a new language, she can talk to a trusted female friend, therapist, sponsor, or other responsible, empathetic support person. It may even be a healthy family member. Asking for help, acknowledging the existence of pain to another, is incredibly powerful. Hearing that pain is a sacred trust. She will likely need more than one person to hear her multiple times as her ability to talk about it and recognize it increases. She’s healing. Consider each conversation a bandage change after major surgery. It may be painful, but for proper healing, it is also necessary. 
  5. She needs to learn to trust herself again. Many women who get into pornography, with or without the accompanying love, romance, or sexually compulsive behaviors, learned to ignore their feelings in childhood. They shut off for the greater good or sheer survival. It was not safe to need love in an environment where parents are in their own deep pain. Try as they might, these parents cannot give what they do not have. When the natural trust from growing up in a nurturing home isn’t developed, it must be learned in adulthood. This is no easy task. It is doable, however. It starts small, as she learns to identify her needs then seeks to meet them in healthy, non-sexual ways.  

As odd as it sounds, her cravings for sex, sexual connection, romance, even “love” the way she is getting it, have nothing to do with sex or romance. They are about unmet emotional intimacy and healthy connection needs. By finding the underlying, core need, then meeting it for herself, wither through emotional healing, or getting the support she needs, the rest starts to resolve itself. That doesn’t mean the carvings or withdrawals from compulsive, even addicted behaviors won’t still happen, they certainly will. Once she can see them for what they are, then seek to meet the true need, even those pulls toward acting out with flirting, sex, pornography, or relationship hopping will begin to subside. 

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Written by Lacy Bentley

Lacy Bentley is founder and president of the non-profit organization, Women United Recovery Coalition (@WURCTogether). She is also a life coach and public speaker on the harmful effects of pornography addiction, unhealthy relationship dynamics, and overcoming perfectionism. She seeks to empower women to stand up and be counted in the war on the harmful messages all forms of sexualized media sent to the rising generation.