Laurie Hall's husband, Jack, began an "innocent" fascination with softcore pornography that later led to frequent attendance at strip clubs and visits to prostitutes. After more than 18 years of marriage, Laurie discovered Jack's behavior and wrote a book telling her story and exploring how infidelity of the mind is linked to infidelity of the body.

Excerpted with permission from "An Affair of the Mind."

Running rampant in our society is one of the greatest causative agents of the alienation of affections ever devised--pornography. Pornography says the marriage bed is elastic enough to stretch to accommodate more than two people. The whole purpose of pornography is to elicit a sexual response. Whether it's a video, a magazine, or "adult" entertainment, the goal is to arouse the sexual passions of the viewers. When our sexual passions are aroused by someone other than our spouse, it's only human nature to compare our spouse's "sexiness" to the "sexiness" of the one we're attracted to. So, what happens to our view of our spouse when we can "enjoy" a firm, beautifully made-up, air-brushed centerfold? Studies show the spouse loses. A case in point is a study done by Dolf Zillman of the University of Indiana and Jennings Bryant of the University of Houston. For six weeks, Zillman and Bryant had college students spend one hour each week viewing either nonviolent pornography or inoffensive situation comedies. They found that exposure to pornography strongly impacted how the students felt about their sexual experiences. The study further revealed that repeated exposure to pornography results in a decreased satisfaction with one's sexual partner, with the partner's sexuality, and with the partner's sexual curiosity. There was a decrease in the valuation of faithfulness and a major increase in the importance of sex without attachment.
The startling thing about Zillman and Bryant's study is that it shows that just six hours of exposure to softcore pornography is enough to destroy the viewer's satisfaction with his or her spouse. Interesting, isn't it, how modern social scientists have confirmed by research what the ancients knew by common sense: The best way to destroy a marriage is to excite the sexual passions of one of the spouses. In my own situation, although I was careful with my clothes and figure, I found that my husband was increasingly critical of the way I looked. Even when friends and acquaintances told me I was an attractive woman, I wasn't attractive enough to compete with eternally young, surgically altered models. Jack also expressed irritation when I was uncomfortable with some of the sexual practices he'd seen in pornographic magazines. In the end, he lost all interest in me as a sexual partner. This had a devastating impact on my view of my worth as a woman. It created such despair in me that I began to let my appearance go. At last, I looked the way his rejection made me feel--totally unlovely. Then I received the picture of me in my wedding dress. Shocked at how far I had deteriorated, I promised myself I'd do whatever was necessary to reclaim the girl in the photograph. Over the years, I've spoken with other women who have had similar experiences. They tried extra hard to be attractive to their husbands; but the year-after-year battering of constant comparisons with other women and the continual attack on their desirability as a sexual partner wounded their spirits to such a point that they gave up and became the exact opposite of the firm, gorgeous, beautifully made-up women their husbands kept trying to force them to become. Ironic, isn't it, how pornography creates the exact opposite in real life of what it promises in fantasy life?
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