Like an earthquake, addictions arise with little warning, and can be just as destructive. While addicts become paralyzed by their cravings, their loved ones are consumed with fear, anger and frustration. Unfortunately, addictions to pornography, tobacco and drinking are often the vices that pry couples apart. As young students pile on the work and worry, having a dependency can break a relationship out of the honeymoon stage and quickly into a dismal ending.
Porn Is The Relationship
Brad Pease, a fifth year Software Engineering major considers his three to four porn viewing sessions a week a moderate addiction. “I would quit if I had a steady relationship because then I wouldn’t need it anymore.” The stimulation of porn may be to blame for the fact that he has never been in a committed relationship. Pease admits, “It definitely kills your sex drive, it makes you less likely to actually want to go out and find a girl.” However, he believes that porn hasn’t affected any of his personal relationships. Pease confessed that he would probably be “angry and pissed off” without open access to porn, and he finds porn to be a good way to learn about sex.
His outlet for porn exploration stemmed from magazines and soon grew with the internet. Surprising, considering Pease did not have web access in his home until his junior year of high school. Despite this, he thinks, “Porn becomes a part of every guy’s life, unless you’re completely sheltered and locked in.” Coming to RIT immersed Pease in a digital world he was unfamiliar with. It was his freshmen year, Pease recalls, when he watched the most porn.
With the challenges of fitting in, finding friends and the pressures of a fast-paced 10-week quarter, Pease sunk further into his interest in porn. “It’s definitely a good stress reliever. I’m not afraid to admit that,” he continued, “If I’m ever pissed off. I’ll just go look at some porn and it helps; it cheers you up.”
Inevitably, porn users grow more curious as time goes on. “There’s tons of fucked up shit on the internet, and if you just browse, you’re bound to come across stuff that blows your mind,” said Pease.
Some “pornos” go mainstream. When this happens, some of the negative stigma placed on watching porn is removed. Popular films like Pirates, become more like a punch line than an embarrassing addiction. “I have some messed up friends who send me ridiculous X-rated things. And every now and then, I’ll stumble across something similar in my travels and send it to them.” Because you can’t always anticipate where a porn link will bring you; sometimes the outcome can be scary.
While Pease believes he wouldn’t be an avid porn-viewer if he had a girlfriend, fellow student, Steve Charbonnier, a forth year New Media Publishing major thinks that porn is the glue holding his long distance relationship together.
His girlfriend attends Emmanuel College in Boston. They have been in an on-and-off again relationship for five years. Charbonnier thinks porn has made his relationship last. In the same way porn decreases Pease’s sex drive, porn helps Charbonnier stay faithful by quenching his desire for other girls. He attributes the continuity of his relationship to porn.
Although the couple has never viewed porn together, he would like to try it as a way to explore deeper into the sexual side of their relationship. “She would never agree to it. She doesn’t watch porn,” he said.
Porn is the theme of many recurring fights in the relationships of college aged couples. Sometimes girls in college feel a weird sense of jealousy if they know their boyfriend is watching porn. If this was the situation for Charbonnier, “I would ask her why, first of all, and then if she couldn’t give me a good answer, I would just say, then I’m not going to stop watching it.”
Oddly enough, the topic never comes up between the two. He thinks this is because he doesn’t let the two times a week he watches porn interfere with other aspects of his life. He feels that because his girlfriend doesn’t confront him about it, he doesn’t have a problem. Charbonnier believes that a problem starts when someone watches porn more than once a day. “If you’re putting more than an hour of your day into porn, I think you have an issue.”
An Addictive Escape
In contrast to Charbonnier’s definition of addiction, Dan Amos, a fifth year Computer Science major said, “I’m not really addicted at all,” after admitting he watches porn everyday, sometimes twice. “In a typical morning, I wake up, probably check email, probably watch porn, and probably play with myself,” said Amos.
His longest relationship lasted roughly a year and a half and ended about a year and half ago. “When I’m with someone, it’s about them; it’s centered on them,” said Amos. “Because I’m selfless in that regard, it doesn’t matter if I get off because I can just go home and do it,” explained Amos.
The thought of viewing porn with his former girlfriend never crossed his mind as he considered sex and porn to be separate. “Porn is a ‘me’ thing,” said Amos. “You know how to get yourself off the best,” he said laughing. “The funny thing is I’ve never encountered a girl that could do it.”
Amos is generally interested in watching pornography that is based around foreplay, but he doesn’t feel that he has enough access to it. “Most porn is directed toward men, so it doesn’t have the foreplay,” he said. So, this makes finding good porn pretty hard for Amos.
Porn serves another purpose for Amos. It is almost like a retreat from real world women. He said, “As far as females go at RIT, they are hit on at parties by a lot of creepy guys. I don’t want to be a creepy guy.” Porn is a way for Amos to avoid becoming someone he doesn’t want to be. He also implied porn will not take the place of a relationship in his life forever, but he hopes to find a girl in the future. The only catch is that the girl he would date must not be offended by porn.
Porn is just one addiction among many that can affect a relationship. A reliance on tobacco products can negatively impact a couple. “I smoked because everybody else did, and then I smoked because I was addicted,” said Jessica Adams, a senior and general studies major at Monroe Community College. At the age of 14, Adams began to pick up her mother’s smoking habit. By the age of 16, she was smoking about a pack and a half per day. Amazingly, at the age of 20, she kicked the habit entirely.
Shortly after quitting, she entered a serious relationship. The couple spoke of marriage, but her boyfriend’s tobacco addiction quickly changed Adams’ mind about what the future might hold for them. Although he promised to quit smoking after they started dating, those promises were put on hold when he realized that quitting was not an easy task. “He just didn’t want me to tell him what to do. He kept on trying to quit and kept on failing,” said Adams. He tried gum, the patch, lollipops, and quitting cold turkey; nothing seemed to work. “I quit smoking cold turkey, I was just done,” said Adams. “I was like, ‘I just don’t ever want to smoke again,’ so I didn’t.”
Tobacco addiction was an issue for Adams for a number of reasons. “Kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray,” said Adams, admitting the cliché saying was correct. “I didn’t want it around me because I didn’t want to smoke, and you smell disgusting when you smoke.”
Like many people in a situation like this, the rules were that he wasn’t allowed to kiss her without brushing his teeth or using mouthwash. “That’s pretty much all we fought about, his smoking,” said Adams. “Our relationship was really healthy other than that.” Most of these fights turned into “screaming matches … I was concerned about his health because I really cared about him,” recalls Adams.
Despite the seriousness of their relationship, tobacco proved an insurmountable obstacle. “It was a mutual thing because we both knew it wouldn’t work unless he quit smoking,” said Adams. “It was a big factor in why we broke up.”
What’s Your Poison?
Unlike tobacco and porn, alcoholism is considered more taboo to college students. The reality of alcoholism played a large role in shaping the relationship between David Leeds, a fifth year Computer Engineering major, and his former girlfriend. “She always had self confidence issues and the alcohol was an escape for that,” said Leeds.
His relationship lasted just over a year, and Leeds thought of himself as, “The strong person who was there for her when she needed company.” Although she accepted her drinking problem, she still allowed the addiction to take over in uncomfortable situations. “If she went out to a restaurant, she would be fine, but if she went to a social setting where she felt insecure, she drank a lot,” said Leeds.
“She was very affectionate which was great, because everyone likes to feel like they’re needed, and I felt like she needed me,” explained Leeds. “But on the flip side, she would let you down and disappoint you. Because she was insecure, she couldn’t be happy with what she had,” he said.
As Leeds moved on and pursued other women, he saw that there was potential for other relationships, but still missed the bond they shared. He admitted, “It was tough but at the same time it was exciting, and that’s why it lasted so long, as screwed up as that was,” said Leeds.
“She overreacted considerably when she was under the influence.” The fight that ended their relationship occurred because of that. Leeds admits that he is still mildly curious as to what his ex has been doing with her life since they ended. He would consider a possible friendship in the future, but he assures, “I never want to be attached to her again.” She participated in therapy, but never attended any formal alcoholic treatment to Leeds’s knowledge.
End of the Road
Addiction can be easier to notice after the addict is thrown into the real world, no longer justified by the notion of “the college life.” That’s not to say that the habits formed while in school aren’t threatening and persistent.
Although a porn addiction is more often made into a joke than a serious problem, it truly can be hurtful in a relationship. Many people value making love as opposed to just having sex, and when one side of the relationship indulges in viewing porn, it makes having sex less personal.
Also, if the topic of addiction isn’t addressed in a current relationship, when should it be addressed? Waiting until a marriage is potentially ruined is not the right thing to do. As soon as you notice a problem, you should act. Respecting addicts’ decisions to smoke and drink can be difficult, but it sometimes is unavoidable. The problem begins when smokers and drinkers won’t respect the words or accept advice, especially when someone who is affected by the addict’s habit gives it.
What all of these students had in common was the desire to help their relationship take a turn for the better. It wasn’t about changing the one they loved to better fit an ideal mold, but instead, asking them to make better choices. Students from both sides of the argument are learning that understanding the process of loving an addict is more difficult than understanding the feelings affection toward the ones