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Codependence & Pornography

Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society

In today’s show we discuss the psychological dangers of involving yourself in someone else’s porn addiction.

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STEVE:  Hi and welcome to “Our Narcissistic & Codependent Society”.  In our last episode, we put forward the idea that our society is not only financially in debt, but also emotionally in debt and this debt is caused by a narcissistic and codependent society. 

KIM:  The narcissistic pattern is to take without giving.

STEVE:  And the codependent pattern is to give without taking. 

KIM:  We spoke in that last episode about narcissism and porn, and today we will be speaking about codependence and porn. 

STEVE:  But first, a little more about codependence . . .  Kim? 

KIM:  Well, codependence, Steve, is a term that psychologists use that they first came up with when they discovered the people living with addicts had a lot of things in common. 

It wasn’t really something that they noticed on its own; it was something that was like a partner disorder.  So, this is a person who basically tends to take care of, or form relationships with, people who are very needy, and people who—as you mentioned before — that their partners take too much.  So the codependent person becomes somebody who is giving and giving and giving, and doesn’t necessarily know how to ask for what they need, follow their own goals, or set boundaries for themselves. 

STEVE:  So a codependent person is really looking for other needy people — even though they are needy themselves.

KIM:  Yeah, that’s right. Because underneath all of this giving, there is this very unhealthy contract, which is ‘If I take care of you,  then you are in debt to me emotionally’.  But they form this contract with people who are actually very unlikely to repay that debt.

STEVE:  Well, I’m not sure if this is really true, Kim (and I can’t remember who was telling us this), but I believe codependency used to be listed as a personality disorder in the DSM, until it was discovered that most people in the psychiatric and psychological world and community services were all suffering from the traits of Codependency Personality Disorder . . .  that there was some neediness or emotional contract that was unhealthy. 

KIM:  (Laughing.)  Yes, well, it would be great if anyone listening can actually fill us in on whether that is actually true or not.  Because really, I guess the whole thing we are presenting here is that these patterns of behavior are very common, and they are a lot easier to spot in other people than they are to spot in ourselves.  We believe that Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or those symptoms, are really probably much more common than what is suspected. I would say at the very least most of us in Western society are suffering from at least some narcissistic traits and tendencies.

STEVE:  Well, I think just to keep further exploring the idea of codependence, Kim, it’s really important to know that everybody has some of it.  It’s like you just mentioned that everyone has a bit of narcissism, or some kind of narcissistic trait in them.  Everyone has at least a bit of codependence as well.  We really are trying to build a discussion around how we deal with our emotions.  And we are all emotionally injured in some way.  I think it’s really important to start with that, because neediness is born from an emotional imbalance. 

So we are all trying to be fulfilled emotionally on some level.  Without going into all of the variables, I think we all want to be loved, and we all want to feel like there is some kind of give and take.  Deep down, we all know there is a nice balance between giving and taking, and that’s what a good relationship is based on.  Deep down, we all know that, but it’s very difficult sometimes to make that match.  Sometimes we let our insecurities get the better of us and we fly into ego, and we fly into blame. 

KIM:  Mmm. 

STEVE:  But all of that builds an unhealthy atmosphere that means in our relationships we can feel a little bit . . .  needy — for lack of a better word I keep using that, but I think that’s where we are going with codependence and porn.  There is a neediness.

KIM:  Mmm.  And especially in our society, where these dysfunctional patterns of behavior are just so stereotyped and so prevalent, and so encouraged in popular culture—in songs, in movie scripts, in everything we see around us:

“I’m crazy for you, baby.”

“Your love is going to heal me.” 

“I’d be nothing without you.”

These are all very codependent attitudes toward love.  And they are really quite unhealthy.  They are extremely unhealthy.  We really can’t depend on love to save us.  We really need to actually understand how to regulate and take care of our own emotions, how to self-soothe, how to follow the wisdom of what our emotional signaling is telling us. It may be telling us we need to set boundaries, or it may be helping direct us in all different, various ways in our life.  That is more about what we teach in our work. 

But, getting back onto our subject of codependence and porn: I think we are skirting the issue a little here, because we are about to blow the lid off something rather big, I feel. 

STEVE:  (Laughing.)

KIM:  And it’s something I don’t think is being talked about at all, when the issue of porn is being discussed. 

So, to get this started let’s do this:  I mentioned before that codependence was first discovered as a problem (it was even considered a personality disorder at one stage) by looking at people who were living with addicts. So, a lot of these people were drug addicts and alcoholics. And then they found that these people that lived with drug addicts and who lived with alcoholics had a lot of things in common. So much so, that they came up with this term to describe this pattern of behavior.

So this is the real danger when we start talking about porn, because there are a lot of people now who are living with porn addicts. If someone is an alcoholic and you are living with them, or someone is a drug addict and you are living with them, I think it’s a little bit easier to separate yourself out of the problem. You may still have a lot of people pleasing behavior where you are in denial and you are just enabling the person’s problem, but I think you are less likely to really get enmeshed or really personally involved in their problem.

I think when porn is — well, I know that when porn is an issue in a marriage or in a relationship, it can be very difficult for the other person to extricate themselves from that and actually really see that their partner has a problem. Instead, they will find themselves getting jealous. They will find themselves comparing themselves with the images the person is watching, and they will really worry that maybe it’s something that is inadequate about themselves that is causing the problem. They may even try and compete with what their partner is watching to get their partner’s attention. 

All of these things really can be incredibly destructive to a person’s self-esteem, can be incredibly destructive to their status in the relationship, can really lead to a spiral of abuse that really can become very ugly.

Now, I want to just talk a little bit longer, Steve, and then I want to get your thoughts on this, because we are entering into pretty yucky territory here. But, I will just say look, this problem wasn’t just born with online porn being so readily available. Codependency in a sexual relationship was always a dangerous area. And there is where you see a partner who is maybe prepared to allow their boundaries to be crossed and offer sexual services to their partner that they really are not comfortable with, in an attempt to give too much, expecting that by doing that they are going to get something in return. What do you think, Steve, do you think that makes men feel more connected or in love with a woman that they have a sexual relationship with? 

STEVE:  The short answer is no.  But, the longer answer goes a bit like this:  I think it’s really important that I mentioned neediness two or three times before we started talking about this, Kim. The other side of codependence, as you just so rightly explained, is about being too pleasing. There are kind of opposing forces at work — being too needy/being too pleasing — so that creates a bit of confusion.  But in the situation with porn, Kim, it’s very important to understand that men don’t necessarily have a great idea about what is going to make them happy a lot of the time.  But there is one thing that we do know.  Most of us — I’m talking for most of the men that I talk to — they really want an honest, good, solid relationship with a woman: with their girlfriend, with their partners, with their wives. That is really deep down what most guys I know really want. Now the guys that don’t want that, I am not even going to talk to them. I’m not even going to pretend to talk about them, because I know the vast majority of men really want something deep.    

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  And when we are talking about porn, porn is not deep. Porn is very shallow.  And for somebody to be too pleasing in that sexual relationship — so okay, we are talking about a sexual relationship. We are talking about your partner trying to be too pleasing in bed — that creates a scenario where you feel like there is a debt, or you feel like there is a game, or you feel like there is some kind of manipulation happening. 

Now, it’s very difficult for men to say no to sex full stop. 

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  We want to be close to our wives (laughing) and girlfriends.

KIM:  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  We want to be very, very, very close. 

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  But that manipulation can be very uneasy. Now, on the surface it may not come out at the time — oh, why are you manipulating me? Why are you trying to be so pleasing? Oh, what have I done so right that I’m being so overly pleased? Deep down, guys don’t really want that because a lot of guys know that love is a long contract — it goes on for years. We need to build very good-quality, interpersonal relationships on many levels, not just a sexual level with our partner, with our wives. It’s very important that we have a good friendship, that we understand each other, that we can look into each other’s eyes and say a lot of things without actually using any words. 

So that depth of connection comes with an understanding where we are responsive to one another. And see, porn doesn’t offer that. 

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  Porn doesn’t offer any response whatsoever. It’s a very flat, two-dimensional experience.

KIM: Mmm.

STEVE:  So guys are really wanting to have that, but they don’t necessarily always know how to create the circumstances. I know some guys who are really good at it. They are very good at buying their wives flowers and booking holidays that are appropriate and doing all the right things, and being attentive when the time is right, and all of these things. There are a lot of men who are very good at all of that. And I try to be like that a much as I can.  (Laughing.)

KIM:  (Laughing.) 

STEVE:  So, we all have different levels of skills and different levels of ability to create those deep connections, but the more we talk about it the more we can help create it for other people, Kim. I think everything we do with the Narcissistic-Codependent Society radio segments is to allow that conversation to begin. 

KIM:  Mmm.  Well, you know when it comes down to it, Steve, I don’t know of any way you can build status faster with a man than by saying no to him. I think being able to say no is really very attractive to men.

STEVE:  You’ve let the secret out, Kim. 

KIM:  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  (Laughing.)

KIM:  Definitely. And being someone who is allowing yourself to get involved in things where you are competing with porn or trying to make yourself like the images you have seen on the screen, this is really very demeaning. I mean, what are you competing with?  You are competing with a two-dimensional image and you are a real person, so if you feel like you need to compete with a two-dimensional image — really, if you think about it, I guess that’s pretty sad. 

And I think there is another aspect to it as well, if we will just go a little bit deeper into the brain science and neurochemistry of this. 

STEVE:  Mm-hmm.

KIM:  We’ve got a couple of different brain chemicals — and this is a very simplified idea of what’s going on — but we have a brain chemical called oxytocin, which has been found to be responsible for bonding and creating that long-term sort of feeling of love and connection between people.  It’s the brain chemical that women’s bodies produce when they have children, in childbirth. It really has to do with forming that connection with their child. Then there is another brain chemical called dopamine. It is a very different chemical. It’s the sort of chemical you get when you are going on some kind of adventure or you are going on a roller coaster ride or something. These are two very different brain chemicals. Either of them — or a mixture of both of them, but often one or the other of them — can be involved in sex. So to just think that sex is automatically something which is going to form a connection with somebody else is a really big mistake. Because the kind of spills and thrills — you know,  fetish-y kind of sex — that people often get involved with when they are looking at porn, is very much dopamine based, and dopamine wants variety.  Dopamine doesn’t want to go back and look at the same pictures again today that you looked at yesterday — it is always looking for variety.  Where, oxytocin is very different. It is something which really promotes faithfulness and promotes that connection and that bond.

A silly example that I give sometimes, but I think it gives this idea quite clearly, is you get oxytocin when you look at You Tube videos of babies laughing, puppies, and kittens, and stuff.  And that’s why you have those movies that end up getting millions and millions and millions of views, because if something produces oxytocin, you want to go back and you want to view it again. You don’t want to look for a different laughing baby, you want to actually go back and see the same laughing baby that made you feel really good when you watched it.

And I think this is something to really think about in terms of how we approach our sex life if we are in a committed relationship, and that’s the kind of bond we want to build.  Now, that kind of oxytocin sort of sex is really challenging, because there is a lot of vulnerability involved in that, there is a lot of trust that need to be built, and those kinds of experiences can’t really be forced. But at the same time, I think it is really important to understand that involving yourself in behavior where you are maybe competing with porn to get your partner’s attention is really going to just be counterproductive in the end anyway, because what are you doing?  You are just trying to create a dopamine-based experience, which is only going to just continue that addiction to that brain chemical associated with that kind of sex — which really is just looking for variety rather than actually looking for commitment. 

STEVE:  Hmm. That’s so important, Kim. It’s a really important distinction. And I just think it’s really important that porn obviously has had an exponential rise the last 20 years or so, on a visual level. So a lot of people are worried and there are a lot of reports talking about young people that are just becoming sexual — young people starting out in their sexual lives — having a lot of problems, not knowing how to relate on all the other levels where we can respond to each other’s audio cues . . . you know, groaning and soft breathing, and smell — where we smell each other and there is a connection — all the other senses are getting lost.  The dominant dopamine experience is beginning to take over. 

KIM:  Mmm.

STEVE:  And there is a real concern there. Now, how does that relate back to codependence? Well, what it means is that the rise in porn has led to this idea that women— and young girls — particularly feel they need to compete with porn on a visual level.  That is a very big concern. Because it doesn’t create the kind of connections that deep down everyone is really looking for, so we are losing that whole conversation where we don’t understand what we are looking for. We think we want this, but we actually don’t.

KIM:  Mmm. And I know you talk about women out in social settings who are dressing in way that is very provocative, and that it actually makes you feel uncomfortable, or actually makes men feel uncomfortable about approaching them and talking to them. 

STEVE:  It does. You know, there are two sides to that. I understand where women want to make themselves beautiful, and I think that’s a fantastic thing. But obviously, there is a limit and there is a point where it makes men uncomfortable. 

I mean, it’s very difficult to know how to conduct yourself appropriately around someone who is not dressed properly .

KIM:  (Laughing.)

STEVE:  (Laughing.)  I mean, it’s just — okay there might be a cultural cringe there or something — I’m not sure.  But it just is very difficult and men don’t necessarily really like it.  And the men that do like it, well maybe they are the kind of guys that you maybe are not looking for a long relationship with anyway.

KIM:  Mmm.  Because I think the truth is that men can be very insecure about sex as well. And while they are attracted by all this imagery and a lot of it is really hard for them to say no to, as you were mentioning before, deep down, what they really are looking for is a deeper connection with somebody who knows them and someone they feel comfortable with, and someone they feel like they have rapport with and there can be that natural flow of give and take.

STEVE:  And men can feel very insecure about being honest about that — let’s face it. So it’s very difficult. 

So, Kim, you have written a report titled, Conducting a Sexual Relationship That Gets Better Over Time, which is part of our Love Safety Net Love Boat Cruise

KIM:  Yes, this is a 13-part multimedia tour of the emotions, which basically takes you through a sort of crash course in understanding your emotions, understanding love and jealous, and all the various emotions, what these things are signaling to us, how to best regulate and manage these emotions, and what they mean in terms of directing our lives.  We talk more about porn in that series, and why men by the thousands are choosing to turn away from it.

STEVE:  Well, thank for tuning in.  Our next episode, we will be discussing narcissism and bullying.  Check out the links below, and sign up for the Love Safety Net Love Boat Cruise, or follow our Narcissistic-Codependent Society on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

Subscribe to Our Love Boat Cruise and Receive Kim’s Report:…
Sign Up For Our Free Introductory Tutorial:… –

Please follow Our Narcissistic/Codependent Society on the following platforms and help us get a conversation started around this subject:

Twitter –

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Facebook –

Kim Cooper

Kim is the author of seven books on the topic of relationships and emotional intelligence.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows,
movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', and 'The Love Safety Net'.

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