Genuine sexual needs and relationships


I was chatting to one of my therapists earlier, and trying to explain a particular situation that sometimes leads me to relapse. What I described was a scenario where, over a number of days, I’ve had regular, persistent, sexual thoughts and a desire to use porn, that I haven’t been able to shift.

Not a trigger…

In these situations, I had a clear head and wasn’t being triggered. The environment, time of day and my mood would change, but still the sexual thoughts would return again and again, regardless of what I did to counter them.

The best way I could describe it was that I missed my use of porn. It wasn’t that I needed it, but I felt that there was a hole where it had left me and nothing else had filled the space.

“How are you meeting your sexual needs?”

My therapist asked whether I had a healthy outlet for my sexual desires. I said that I did not, as my wife and I aren’t currently sexually active. The therapist responded by pointing out something that I think is forgotten a lot of the time in the way the Nofap debate is discussed on this forum:

"Everyone has genuine sexual needs that they must meet. If you aren’t meeting them in a healthy way, can you really blame yourself if you keep returning to porn?"

I had to confess that I hadn’t really considered this before. So tied up in the battle to give up porn was I, that I hadn’t stopped to consider what to replace it with.

What is real?

I’ve been a porn addict for so long that I can’t easily say what counts as my actual sex drive, which all humans have, and what is the habit caused by my addiction. Up until now, I’ve been treating all urges as bad, but, just as a dieter still needs to eat, a porn addict still needs some sort of sexual fulfilment in life.

In the therapy session we concluded that if I am able to rule out any triggers (mood, emotions, environment etc) and any other unmet needs (Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness), and if the desires don’t disappear when rational thought is applied, it’s reasonable to assume that what I’m feeling is a genuine sexual need that I need to act on.

Meeting my needs

Regardless of how genuine the need is, I don’t wish to meet it with porn, if I can avoid it. I don’t feel good about using porn and I don’t think it’s helpful in allowing my brain to rewire itself. Masturbation is a better option, but I can’t really do it without feeling guilty and ashamed. That leaves me with only one good option: sex.

I know that most people on this forum are young, and often, single. I wonder though if anyone here has found themselves in long term relationships where their porn addiction has effectively killed their sex lives? Has anyone managed to successfully re-engage with their partner and form and loving and healthy sexual relationship to replace porn?

In my own case, I love my wife dearly, and she’s exactly my type, physically, but I’m so used to flitting from one fantasy woman to another, always looking for something new, that I find it difficult to focus on her and pay her the attention she deserves. How to pour all one’s sexual energy into one woman, when one is used to splitting it a thousand ways? And how to encourage that woman to begin to reengage with you, sexually, when your habit has killed her sex drive, as well as yours?


Thank you!
Pointing out an important issue!

I didn’t have a lot of sex with my gf the past three years that we’ve been in a relationship. We had sex about once a month.
When I quit porn last December the first week I was basically sexually dead, but as soon as my flatline disappeared I was starting to have sex with her a lot again. Luckily she didn’t question and was all for it. I think in the beginning I used the sex with her as a valve for the mixture of urges and the growing sexual needs that porn used to take care of.
In the beginning (day 0-30) I couldn’t really differentiate what is what, but I believe sex with a woman trains you to experience a different kind of sexual pleasure than what porn gives you. (Actually I was about to write a diary entry about this exact topic.)
During sex you need to interact, be caring - it’s not just chasing one pleasure spike after another, you have to put her desires before yours. It takes time and practice to develop these feelings again though, so patience and persistence is important.
Important as well: This sexual pleasure is actually a fullfilling one once you (re)discover it and for me this insight helped a lot to reduce my urges and the desire for porn and ‘novelty’, with which I had a lot of trouble in the past.

About re-engaging with your wife. What have you tried already? How is your relationship besides the sex?
Maybe some non-sexual caring things will spark interest again (a present, a dinner, a massage), or maybe talking about the topic directly will help?

  1. You can ask these questions to your therapist
  2. You can involve your wife in your recovery
  3. Don’t blame yourself excessively for the relationship problems. As long as you two are married all challenges are shared equally between you and her (it is still up to her how much she wants to help though). Particularly with regard to interest in sex, it is important that you are able to feel relaxed around her and feel comfortable with setting the pace and having a good time yourself. You won’t get very far if you start treating sex as an onerous responsibility towards her or a test to be passed.
  4. With regard to answering your therapist’s question, I would say that the sexual drive is eventually a creative drive. If it feels right, you can answer that you are learning to channel your creative energies through nofap, and temporary giving it outlet through other productive, satisfying pursuits (provided you’re actually doing that, that is). In due time it can get manifested as overt sexual interest in someone you feel a connection with (hopefully your wife).
  5. “if the desires don’t disappear when rational thought is applied, it’s reasonable to assume that what I’m feeling is a genuine sexual need that I need to act on.” Not sure how I feel about it. When has desire ever disappeared by applying rational thought? Or by acting on it for that matter? I am not saying you should be hard on yourself, but acting on a desire only feeds that desire, especially when it is an acquired need (e.g. sex for the sake of quenching an urge) rather than a true desire of yours (e.g. desire for connection and intimacy).
  6. Keep the focus on becoming your best version and loving yourself, and it will eventually get reflected in the world around you, including relationships.

Thank you @BorisKw and @adequatemonty for your thoughts, you’ve given me plenty to think about.

I shall need to tread carefully for both of us. My own attitude to sex has been completely poisoned by porn, and it will take time to see it as a positive part of my life. My wife and I will also need to rebuild the trust that has been damaged by my porn usage.

For now I think I will concentrate on small gestures and non-sexual intimacy. Working out to do about my own sexual needs will be difficult. Even if the end goal is intimacy and connection, I think that that’s so far away from where I am at the moment that I’ll need to work out the intermediate steps to make that transformation in my views.