I just found myself looking for a hit of chocolate, after having been reminded of its lusciousness by a recent serving of my wife’s decadent dark chocolate cake. Studies show 15 percent of men join me in this occasional craving, and a full four out of ten women.

Willpower Over Deficiency?

But the hankering for chocolate may not just be a desire for a small pleasure. Nutritionists point out that behind it can be a need for more magnesium, which is abundant in dark chocolate. So a chocoholic trying to cut down on his favorite treat may be fighting a powerful bodily need, while he believes it is only a matter of willpower. Between his willpower and his constitutional magnesium deficiency, which do you think will win?

Porn of course is a little like chocolate. We know that masturbation releases oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, that gives a temporary simulation of the feelings associated with care and affection. That plus all the affirming signals that porn sends—the actors looking at us through the camera with “you’re hot!” eyes and eager to have sex, the privileged access to what would normally be private—helps to feed our most potent need for love and acceptance.

Someone has said that an addiction is as strong as the need it is replacing. We can’t really expect to give up an addiction until we meet the primary need it serves.

Redirect the Craving

When people get enough magnesium, they reportedly lose most of their craving for chocolate. We can get much more magnesium—and other essential nutrients—from nuts and leafy greens and other foods that aren’t quite as much fun or convenient as chocolate. It takes a little more self-discipline and delayed gratification to meet our needs that way, but it makes us healthier and stronger in the end.  And we might learn to crave those veggies and other healthy foods, too!

So it is with porn. What’s the clue inside a craving for porn? Our deepest need—warm and satisfying relationships with other people and God. It takes time, work and unselfishness, but we not only gain gratifying experiences of giving and receiving love, but in addition we find ourselves becoming the people we really want to be.

A young man who remained a virgin until he married at age 32 said whenever he got sexual thoughts, it was a signal to recall the special people in his life and he would pray for them one by one, and then reach out to someone if need be.  He knew his real need was people, not porn.

Connections and real intimacy heal the deficiency

It is a happy irony that as we reach out to others, including fellow strugglers, and share our challenges and weaknesses, we can make the closest friendships—closer than we might otherwise. And we can have the clearest encounters with unconditional love.

Such love and connection means that our cravings for porn naturally weaken, and they yield much more readily to willpower and simple strategies to reduce temptation.

We learn to crave quality connections and emotional intimacy with other people, and when married, with our spouses. Certainly nothing is more delicious than snuggling and sharing an inside joke with our partner—and maybe even a chocolate bar.