This Post Was Written By Diana Baldwin, LCSW, A Licensed Therapist With Elevated Recovery. It has been edited by FTND for content.

As pornography continues to become a normalized part of our media and culture, more and more consumers and partners are starting to realize the harmful impact porn can have on their relationships. Out of the thousands of emails and social media messages we receive throughout the year, the most common—and usually the most heartbreaking—are those of relationships that have been broken in large part due to porn’s effects.

Many partners report feeling betrayed and devastated after finding out the depth of a significant other’s issues, and that is a totally normal reaction. These stories are often followed by questions like, “Am I overreacting?” or, “Is it okay that I don’t want my partner to watch porn?”

Related: 5 Ways You Can Support Your Partner As They Kick Their Porn Habit

Often, many parts of a relationship that’s been impacted by porn are probably great, while the struggle with a problem takes a toll on things below the surface. And unfortunately, like other addictions, an intense pornography problem does not just hurt the person struggling with it, it can hurt those close to them in life. The likelihood that their partner has suffered betrayal and even trauma from this problem is more common than you might believe, given the prevalence of porn in our society.

Not sure if your partner is struggling? Or maybe you’ve had a suspicion for a while? The truth is there’s no magic way to tell if porn is a factor in the relationship, except through honest communication. The best way to find out if porn is a problem is to try and talk about it as openly and in a non-judgmental way as possible. (Check out this blog and this blog for tips on how to start those conversations, and what to say.)

And aside from that, there are also subtle ways you can recognize the behavior of your partner. It’s important to know that any of these things or a combination of them could mean something entirely unrelated to porn, but here are six possible signs that pornography may be negatively affecting your relationship:

1. Your sex life might be suffering.

Your sex life is diminished or gone away entirely. When you do have sex, the emotional connection is not there, and your partner does not seem present. For men, this may show up as erectile dysfunction or a struggle to perform like before. For women, this could mean trouble getting aroused by the things they used to. This often leaves partners wondering what they are doing wrong. They often start questioning themselves and whether they are attractive enough, skinny or muscular enough, adventurous enough, and so on.

Related: How Porn Damages Consumers’ Sex Lives

2. Their tastes may have changed.

Porn may be a factor if they have developed different attractions to things that they were not interested in before. These may be things that you are uncomfortable with or are not interested in. They may be more demanding, aggressive, humiliating, painful, or rough.

Related: Why Consuming Porn Is An Escalating Behavior

3. They can be more emotionally withdrawn and socially detached.

In general, you feel that they are emotionally withdrawing and they isolate themselves. The spark you once had is greatly extinguished, and it feels like they are detached and distant. This is an emotionally painful issue for a partner to handle, and can be even more painful because it’s hard to put your finger on and describe when someone is being detached. This disconnect may happen because, often, frequent porn consumption can cause viewers to feel anxious, lonely, or depressed.

Related: Why Porn Leaves You Feeling Lonelier Than Before

4. They can be more critical of you.

This may be most noticed in terms of sexuality, but can likely happen in general as well. Heavily involved porn consumers can tend to objectify their partners and can be much more critical of their bodies and sexual performance, and their overall attitude and personality. This leaves you feeling bad about yourself and feeling that nothing you do or try is good enough. This is very damaging to a person’s psyche and self-esteem.

Related: How Porn Hurts A Consumer’s Partner

5. They can be more secretive and spend more time online.

You find that your partner is spending way more time online, especially late at night or at odd times. They are not sitting next to you and doing this, but are isolating themselves and spending a lot of time alone, in private places. All this can feel like a partner is keeping a huge secret, in a way that

You notice that your partner is very protective and secretive with their devices and is careful not to leave anything open or unguarded. You may be catching them in more lies and they may become very defensive when confronted, even about seemingly small things.

Related: Dallin’s Story – My Lifelong Addiction To Porn, Webcams, and Cyber Sex

6. They can be more aggressive.

Research has demonstrated how popular aggressive and violent porn is, and it’s not secret how accessible this material is. With frequent porn viewing and a total obsession with violent pornographic material, studies show that consumers can become more aggressive and angry in their lives. For example, study after study has shown that consumers of violent and nonviolent porn are more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to coerce individuals into sex.

RelatedHow Consuming Porn Can Lead To Violence

So, now what?

What are the next steps after you discover your partner has been struggling with porn? You know your partner most likely has a problem, and you’re starting to see the ways that it negatively impacts your relationship. So what do you do?

First thing is to not panic. Take a deep breath, and understand that people all over the world are dealing with the same exact issues in their relationship. You are not alone. And there is hope.

If you haven’t already, try to have an open and honest conversation that comes from a place of love and wanting the best for your partner and the relationship. Porn can be a serious issue and should be treated as such, but even with someone you trust, it’s not an easy or comfortable conversation to have. That’s okay. The first steps can be the most difficult when confronting this, head-on.

Here are some tips on how to broach the subject of porn with your partner, and open the door for future conversations. These can work with non-romantic relationships, too!

– Try your best not to judge or shame your loved one.

This conversation may not go so well if your significant other feels blamed or shamed. Shame can propel a consumer into hiding, and more porn, while honest and open conversation can bring this issue to light and inspire change. After all, love is stronger than shame. Instead, keep the conversation open and honest. Try not to say accusatory things like, “Do you have a problem with porn?” because this could put the partner on the defensive. Instead, ask more exploratory questions like, “When was the last time you watched porn?” And, “Do you think porn affects or harms us as a couple?”

– Give your partner a chance to explain before jumping to conclusions.

Because of the proliferation of internet porn, many men and women today have been exposed to porn from an early age, and some have possibly been watching porn since grade school. The start of their porn habit is not always their fault, and don’t assume that your partner knows about all the harms of porn or knows that their habit hurts you. And don’t assume that his or her porn habit hasn’t been a struggle before, or that they haven’t tried to stop. Porn is appealing because humans are sexual, it’s as simple as that. It’s hard for people to protect themselves from the natural lure of porn, so hear them out, and be respectful of what they have to say. Actually listen. Keep your mind open to listening to their experiences or perspective—you may learn something new about them.

– Be clear about your views on porn when it comes to your life and relationship.

If you strongly believe porn has no place in the relationship, it’s not necessary to be harsh or unloving in order to make your stance known. While it’s important to let your partner know that you understand the struggle to avoid porn, leave no room for confusion when you explain how you feel about porn and what that means for your relationship. Before you bring the issue up, be sure you take time to think through why you feel the way you do about porn, and how to explain it in a loving way that takes both of your feelings into consideration.

RelatedIs It A Good Idea To Date Someone Who Watches Porn?

This means educating yourself about the harms of porn beforehand, and then you can use the conversation as an opportunity talk your significant other through the facts.

– Check in every now and then.

Porn thrives in secrecy, and the nature of porn leaves consumers feeling ashamed and alone. Provide an open environment for communicating with your loved one about it, so they don’t retreat and try to deal with a porn problem by themselves. One way to check in without coming across as accusatory or suspicious is to ask something like, “Is it ever hard for you to resist porn when we are apart?” Or “What are some ways we could work together to protect our relationship from porn?” This gives your partner an opportunity to reach out to you for support if they are struggling with porn or to assure you that they are doing okay.

And if it’s better for you both not to talk through the issue directly too often, because you feel uncomfortable and they feel untrusted, suggest an accountability partner system where they can talk with someone who’s walked through the same issue and you’re part of a secondary check-in system.

Related3 Reasons Why Recovering Porn Addicts Can Still Make Great Partners

Having the porn conversation is a must in a society where the most addictive and accessible hardcore porn has become so accepted and mainstream. Be open and non-shaming with your partner when talking about porn, because they probably feel enough guilt on their own. Odds are, they have a past with it to some degree, so try your best not to make it a big deal.

Solid relationships are built on communication and the ability to talk about things that matter to both parties. Talk with your significant other about porn. Even if it’s difficult, we believe you’ll be glad you did.

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About the Author

Diana Baldwin is a licensed clinical therapist specializing in relationships and sexually compulsive issues. She has worked in treatment centers and clinics all over the world and is passionate about helping people live a happier and more fulfilled life.

You can find her work at www.elevatedrecovery.org and check out her YouTube channel.

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