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17 Ways My Partner’s Porn Habit Secretly Tears Me Apart

"He doesn't know that every time we are intimate, I can only think about how he's probably wishing I looked like the girls in porn and doing things that they do."

By September 26, 2022No Comments
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Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

We received a story that shows how porn can tear apart a relationship and hurt partners in the process. In the end, a porn habit can deeply hurt not only the consumer, but also their partner.

Hey FTND,

I’ve been considering sharing this story for some time. I’m not sure why the hesitation. Perhaps some part of me thought if I kept it all in, I could pretend everything was okay. And it’s not.

I’d like to stay anonymous if this gets shared, but I do want to share.

Exposed to porn so early in life

I don’t recall any lessons on pornography taking place growing up. I was told “it’s not okay” and that’s probably about it. No lessons on being attracted to porn, or how to deal with someone struggling that may be close to you. So first and foremost, thank you for educating people. It makes a world of difference.

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

Of course, as a pre-teen and teen, I came across pornography. I never cared for it, until I began dating.

It seemed like most of the guys I came across were into it, though I don’t know that they ever admitted it. Pornographic, explicit pics would just pop up on their computers and they’d claim it was just a virus. I was never with any of them long, so maybe that’s why it didn’t seem to bother me.

Then I met my husband.

We were friends for quite some time. We were very open and honest with each other, and that’s a huge part of what made me start to like him. He openly told me about his past and current struggles with pornography, and I appreciated his honesty.

I have a tendency to deal with harsh news well when I’m being told about it from the get-go, thankfully. We both had our own issues we were dealing with at the time that we opened up about—mine was eating disorders.

Related: 7 Things You Can Do If You’re a Victim of Deepfakes or Revenge Porn

The hope of a new start

A little time passed, and it seemed like for the first time in my life, I felt confident. I was overcoming many of my issues. And at the same time, he was doing better and had told me he had stopped viewing pornography. So, we began to date, and the first few months were fine. Not perfect, but fine.

I don’t open up to people well and I hadn’t dated anyone for a while, so I was having to learn how to be a “good” girlfriend and try not to be too closed-off. But there were times when we were hanging out and something would feel…off.

I felt like he was one of the good guys, but at the same time, I felt like he was hiding something. I kept brushing it off until one night when we were out on a date, I cut it short and told him I wanted to go home.

Related: How Porn Can Harm Consumers’ Sex Lives

I just could not shake that feeling that he wasn’t himself when he was with me. He took me home and came inside for a few minutes. I kept trying to get him to admit whatever it was he could be hiding, and I did. He admitted he’d still been struggling with pornography for about as long as we had been dating, and at that moment, I felt like my body and soul had cracked and shattered into a million tiny pieces.

Initially, I wasn’t hurt because I thought, “I’m good enough, how could he watch things like that?” No, the feelings and thoughts of hurt came later.

I felt so betrayed because the whole time I was with him those few months, I asked him several times a week if he had wanted to go back to it, or needed to talk. I told him over and over that if he starts to want to watch it, I wanted him to reach out to me. Just as I told him if I wanted to fall back into my eating disorders, I would reach out to him. And I did…but he never reached out to me.

And when I asked him, he would tell me all was well and he wasn’t struggling.

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The lying hurt the most

I felt so hurt that someone I thought was honest, someone I thought could talk to me about anything especially when I never hid even my worst secrets, would lie.

I felt like I wasn’t important to him if he had to lie to me, though I know he was scared to open up. But it really was the lying that hurt the most, and it is not fair to lie to someone just to keep them in a relationship. That’s not love.

I had been giving him all of me, the good and bad. I had done the hardest thing for myself by competently opening up, and yet, I hadn’t gotten that in return.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

There were many tears on both ends that night. There were thousands more on my part for the weeks to come. In fact, I broke things off with him for a little bit, but not long. Maybe a few weeks to get my head where it should be. I know relationships are not perfect. And you don’t break them off if people make mistakes. You don’t wait until they have zero problems to be with them because the fact is, we all have problems, always.

I think I just needed honesty and I hadn’t been getting it. He said he was never going to look at pornography again, but I felt like he wasn’t taking the problem as seriously as he should.

I didn’t want him to be perfect, I wanted him to let me be a part of his support system. But he kept unrealistically promising it would never happen again.

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The things he doesn’t know

Flash forward to now. We have been married for three years, and he still tells me to this day that he only occasionally wants to view pornography but has never given in.

And he only tells me this when I ask how he is doing with it, otherwise, it doesn’t get brought up. I don’t know if it’s true or not, although I hope it is. But there are some things that he doesn’t know.

Related: How Porn Can Negatively Impact Love and Intimacy

1. He doesn’t know that the reason I work out isn’t to be fit or to be healthy, it’s to feel “good enough.”

2. He doesn’t know I try to change my hair and buy new clothes so he doesn’t get bored of me.

3. He doesn’t know that every time we go out, all that is on my mind is how he probably isn’t attracted to me.

4. He doesn’t know that every time we watch a movie, I think that he wants the girls on the screen rather than me.

5. He doesn’t know that every time we are intimate, I can only think about how he’s probably wishing I looked like the girls in porn and doing things that they do.

6. He doesn’t know that my low self-confidence stems from his past addiction and the deceit that came with it.

7. He doesn’t know that since he told me he’d been struggling I had viewed some porn myself just for the sake of seeing what it is he likes so I can be that way, even though I know how twisted that is.

8. He doesn’t know he is the reason I constantly think about getting plastic surgery.

Related: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: What Partners of Porn Consumers Want You to Know

9. He doesn’t know that since he has proven to be such a good liar, that I never believe him when he says I’m the only girl on his mind and he loves everything about me.

10. He doesn’t know just how much time I’ve put into checking his phone and computer, again, even though I know how unhealthy that is. (FTND note: we do not recommend partners spy or snoop on their significant other.)

11. He doesn’t know that every time he goes to the bathroom, I worry he is actually watching porn.

12. He doesn’t know that even if he never watches it again, what he has already seen affects me.

13. He doesn’t know that since the amount of times we are intimate within a month keeps decreasing, I worry it is because I’m not like what he has seen.

14. He doesn’t know how often I question this marriage, even though I feel I love him.

15. I don’t think he knows that the effects of pornography don’t end as soon as you close the video.

16. He doesn’t know my depression partly stems from this very issue.

17. He doesn’t know how much it has consumed and broken me.

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How can we move forward?

Three and a half years, and here I am, still feeling so broken.

I don’t know if I will ever find healing, but I just hope when all is said and done, marrying him and making him happy is worth all the happiness I’ve lost. All because of pornography and how it makes even a quality man keep secrets.

I hope that sharing my heartache with the world can somehow make someone feel less alone, and maybe even prevent someone from getting in too deep in the first place.

P.

Communication is key

It’s important to know that regardless of what your reaction to a partner’s porn habit might be, research has also clearly demonstrated it is harmful to relationshipsIt’s okay to not be okay with your partner’s porn habit. It’s also best not to shame your partner, regardless of what your or their feelings about porn may be.

While anyone of any gender can develop a pornography habit, studies indicate that many women—even if they believe that pornography consumption is okay for other people—see no acceptable role for porn within their own committed relationship.Olmstead, S. B., Negash, S., Pasley, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Emerging Adults’ Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Romantic Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 625-635. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9986-7Copy 

It’s also common for people to find out that their partner has been consuming porn when they were not aware, or that their partner is consuming types of porn that they are not comfortable with. When this happens, partners can feel a whole range of negative emotions including rejection, loneliness, anger, and shame.Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784Copy 

Even if they don’t believe that porn is the same as cheating, they can often feel a deep sense of betrayal and mistrust.Szymanski, D. M., Feltman, C. E., & Dunn, T. L. (2015). Male partners’ perceived pornography use and Women’s relational and psychological health: The roles of trust, attitudes, and investment. Sex Roles, 73(5), 187-199. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0518-5Copy Tylka, T. L., & Kroon Van Diest, A. M. (2015). You Looking at Her “Hot” Body May Not be “Cool” for Me: Integrating Male Partners’ Pornography Use into Objectification Theory for Women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39(1), 67–84. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684314521784Copy  The secrecy, shame, isolation, and mistrust that can be introduced into a relationship by porn consumption can then snowball into all kinds of problems.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. doi:10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4Copy 

Much of the harm comes from porn fostering unrealistic expectations that partners feel they can never live up to in a real relationship. In porn, the performers always look their best. They are forever young, surgically enhanced, airbrushed, and Photoshopped to perfection.Hilton, D. L., (2013). Pornography addiction—a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3:20767. doi:10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767Copy  So it’s not difficult to see why, according to a national poll, six out of seven women believe that porn has changed men’s expectations of how women should look.Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In Stoner, J. Stoner & Hughes, D. (Eds.), The Social Cost of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3-20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute.Copy 

The research is clear—porn is not a harmless pastime, especially when it’s hurting a romantic partner. But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.Copy 

According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182Copy 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

To love someone is to focus—to see the good and the bad and love them anyway. Focusing your time, your energy, and your love on someone who focuses back on you is one of the best feelings in the world. Too often, however, porn breaks that focus. Let’s refocus on love.

Fortify

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

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Help for partners

If your partner is struggling with porn, you are not alone—know that there is hope, and there is help. As you navigate this difficult situation, there are supportive communities and resources available to you. Below is a non-exhaustive list of several resources for those experiencing hurt because of their partner's porn consumption. Note that this isn’t a complete resource list.

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Disclaimer: For those who may find themselves involved in this sensitive situation, their responses can differ. This is why resources need to fit the specific needs of whoever is seeking them. Some of these resources are gender-specific, others are religiously-affiliated, others use a variety of approaches. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization hoping to provide access to resources that are helpful to those who need support. Including this list of recommendations does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug.

If this article inspired you to have a conversation with your partner or someone else about porn, check out our step-by-step interactive conversation guide, Let’s Talk About Porn, for tips.

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