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Improving marital intimacy when overcoming pornography - The Secret to Intimacy Series: Chapter 3 of 5
Episode 12813th February 2022 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:24:14

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The concept of validation is not a complicated one, but it is a huge part of how we show up in our lives and how we can understand how to better feel the love that we want for ourselves.  

The way we seek validation will also help us understand how pornography has been playing a part in our self soothing process. 

I am going to lean on Dr. David Schnarch’s book “Passionate Marriage” for the definitions of these two concepts and then we are going to talk about what they mean in the context of pornography and marriage. 

Other-validated intimacy involves the expectation of acceptance, empathy, validation, or reciprocal disclosure from our partner.  

Self validated intimacy relies on a person maintaining their own sense of identity and self-worth when disclosing, with no expectation of acceptance or reciprocity from their partner.  our capacity for self-validated intimacy is directly related to our level of our ability to maintain a clear sense of ourselves when our loved ones are pressuring us to conform to their views, wants, or expressed desires.  It is the tangible product of our relationship with ourself.  

So, let’s talk about other-validated intimacy and how that might be keeping you from being successful in eliminating a pornography habit. 

When we expect our partner to give back to us as much or more than we are giving them, we are engaging in what Dr. David Glover calls in his book, “No more Mr. Nice Guy” a covert contract. 

This is our way of trying to get our partner to tell us that we are enough for them. 

I used to do this all the time with foot rubs and back rubs for Darcy.  When I wanted her to reciprocate with sex or love I would do things for her to make it so she was supposed to give back to me. 

I also did this with things like house work.  I would do everything so I could take off her plate any excuses she might have for saying no to me later.  

I did this so she would validate me with sex.  

This covert contract was about expecting something from her that she was not offering freely because she wanted to give it. 

D – and when he would do this I would …. Tell your feelings about this here. 

D – Give an example of how you would seek validation from me.  –  we never talk – this was a regular refrain, even when we had spent all day together the previous day.  I was seeking for Zach to tell me I was enough, accepted. 

What we are doing when we seek other-validated intimacy is asking our partner to manage our sense of whether or not we are OK.  

One of the reasons, that I believe men and women turn to pornography is that there is nothing we can’t ask for that won’t be given in that space.  It is almost a total free for all.  It is self-gratifying and other-validating, even when those others are not present physically, mentally, or even willingly.  

This is just an idea that occurs to me, but it makes sense, at least from one position.  Pornography validates us regardless of how we feel and regardless of whether we are acting with integrity.  When we deal with real people, in real time, over real issues, we are constantly at risk of being rejected.  

This is one of the central things that I believe makes pornography so appealing on a different level than just aroused by it.  Pornography never rejects us.  It never says that what we want is not available.  It never says, “I’m not comfortable doing that” or “I’m tired, can we just snuggle” or “I’m upset with the way you treated me”

This is a counterfeit other-validation that is available at the tips of our fingers at all hours of the day and night.  

Whereas, to be self-validated and to have self-validated intimacy, we must be able to maintain our own sense of identity without requiring others to affirm it.  We must be willing to disclose who we are when we are alone with ourselves without requiring that others reciprocate.  

This is a fine line.  Be clear.  If we go off into the land of “I don’t care what anyone thinks and I’m gonna do what I want because I’m never wrong” that’s not a healthy place and not what I’m talking about here.  Please don’t mistake what I’m saying here. 

Self-validated intimacy is about being able to choose closeness with our partner or others, while simultaneously maintaining our sense of self.  

This is a dance of being in relation to others because we want to while being solid in ourselves.  

The most clear example of this that I can give to pornography viewers who are in relationships is from my own life.  

When Darcy would come to me and ask me, have you been clean and I would answer yes, and she would follow up with, well how do I know.  I could see that she wanted me to validate her.  

In past times, I might have tried to convince her or just fold into her insecurities by working extra hard to prove that I was a good husband.  

But as I became clear that I was doing what was right and that I didn’t need to prove it to her, in fact, that I couldn’t prove it to her, it became clear that my answers needed to be about me.  

Instead of saying things to manage her emotions and try to prove my innocence, I would instead say, “I can’t prove it to you. I just know that I am doing the right things.”

It was an unsatisfying answer for her and for me.  

It lived in ambiguity.  Which is one of the reasons why I think true intimacy, the kind that lives in self-validation and the choice to be near our partner can sometimes elude us.  

Those of us who want true intimacy in our lives are going to need to get comfortable in this place of uncomfortable ambiguity.  Where we chose to understand that our sense of self is essential to our relationships with others.  

Next week we are going to talk more about this when we talk about differentiation and enmeshment.  

But for this week, if I can give you one thing to take away from this conversation it would be to look at how often you are looking outside yourself to determine if who you are, what you are doing, and how you are relating to the world around you is ok.  

For example, I had one client say, “I try to think about everything I’m saying in a way that it will make it so my wife takes it in the best possible light, so as not to upset her or create a bigger argument”. 

Everything that client is doing is to gain validation from his partner while simultaneously he is losing himself in her view of the world.  

A self-validated person would speak honestly and clearly about what he believes to be true, while holding space open for meaningful dialogue around what might be better than what he believes to be true. He would be choosing closeness, not sameness or conformity.  He would be choosing honest discussion, not shying away from meaningful disagreement. 

As Dr. Schnarch says in Passionate Marriage, Intimacy is the two-prong process of confronting yourself, (which we talked about last week) and self-disclosing to your partner from a position of working to be self-   validated