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PORN HABIT IS A THREAT TO MARRIAGE

Q: I've been married a little over a year, and my husband spends a few hours each evening on our computer. This morning, I went to get my e-mails and found he had not closed out a porn site. This is not a new issue, and I feel degraded and betrayed. He says all the guys do it and it's no big deal. How do I handle this?

-- P., Long Island

A: There are so many spiritual, psychological and social problems associated with pornography that we don't know where to begin. The one thing we can say is that what's going on is not just a little problem. You need to address it lovingly and forcefully with your husband so you can understand the reasons for his need to view pornography.

The most damaging aspect of porn is that it separates love and sex. It makes sex just a bodily function, like burping or scratching an itch, rather than a deep spiritual, physical and loving gift. Pornography also demeans and degrades women by turning them into sex objects. It's hard to figure how your husband can reconcile the image of women he sees on the porn Web sites with the image of you he should carry in his heart. His comparison of you to the women on the sites and himself to the men must inevitably produce difficulties in your marital relations.

Pornography is also highly addictive, so even if you can convince your husband that not "all the guys do it" he may have trouble breaking his habit. Viewing porn can also lead viewers to porn chat rooms, and eventually into adultery. The worst aspect of your situation is that your husband feels no shame.

We don't want to sound like prudes, but we believe strongly that there's nothing spiritually redeeming about porn, even though it's a hugely popular cultural cancer. It's a huge source of income for hotel chains and a major reason for the growth of the Internet. Still, you have a right to feel degraded and betrayed. You should demand a meeting with a trusted counselor to explore your husband's need for porn and affirm your need for love and trust. Q: My son started watching television tournaments of no limit Texas Hold Em and developed a liking for poker. He's now playing with his buddies and losing between $300 and $500 a week. When he first started meeting his friends to play cards, I thought it would be good for him. But now the amount of money bet has increased to the point where he's borrowing from me to pay for gas for his car. I'm worried that he's developing a gambling problem. What should I do?

-- M., Seaford

A: Your son may well have an addiction to gambling. If he's not already addicted, he may be well on his way, and you're right to be worried. The evidence of any addictive behavior is that the person is powerless to end it and the habit begins to destroy his or her ability to live a normal, productive life. Gambling doesn't always cause addiction, but you can't be sure and your son's losses have already reached a troubling level.

You need to get your son some help (though he may resist your offer). Look to a trusted counselor or a 12-step program for groups of recovering addicts, such as Gam-anon, to help him see the truth of his self-destructive behavior. Addiction is not a game.

You son may say you're crazy and refuse to go into such a program. And you may be tempted to believe that the fault is yours, or that you're over-reacting (this is not the case). Don't give up. You and other family members might attend Gam-anon meetings yourselves. You'll encounter people who still love their children yet have been saddened by the grip of gambling addiction. They will welcome you into the family of those who want to live where the odds of love are always in their favor.

Monsignor Tom Hartman and Rabbi Marc Gellman are happy to try to answer your religious, personal or ethical questions. Contact the God Squad, c/o Telecare, 1200 Glenn Curtiss Blvd., Uniondale, NY 11553 or e-mail godsquad@telecaretv.org.