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Does Watching Porn Lessen Your Relationship Satisfaction and Quality?

By February 25, 2019 No Comments

Disclaimer: While this article talks about heterosexual relationships, the same principles can be applied to relationships involving any gender.

If ever the topic of how porn harms relationships comes up in conversation—which is the norm for us—there’s an assumption that, for heterosexual relationships, the man watches and the woman suffers. Her pain for his porn. Or, in relationships where the woman struggles, his pain for her porn.

It’s worth pointing out one key point we’ve been missing for the majority of couples who struggle—it’s not just her pain, but the relationship’s. In truth, both people in a partnership could be watching porn, not just the guy. Whatever combination of consumption it may be, research continually shows that porn hurts both partners in a romantic relationship.

Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn is bad news for long term relationships. It negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one.

Related: Does Porn With Your Partner Help Your Relationship In The Long-Run?

As porn becomes more normalized, we want to be a source of information pointing out that porn is not harmless. This isn’t a moral argument. This comes down to you and your personal relationships, and the opportunity to make an informed decision about what will make them indefinitely thrive.

Can’t get no satisfaction

Porn has been shown to reduce satisfaction in a person’s romantic relationships. Not just sexually, but in all aspects of a relationship.

Back in 2012, a study reported that individuals who didn’t consume porn had higher relationship quality on every measure, including commitment, compared with those who consumed explicit material in private.

A new study published in 2017 examined the impact of couples where one partner consumes more porn than the other, which is a pretty common pattern. The researchers concluded, “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like a winning love-making combination. And of course, porn does affect sexual satisfaction as well.

Two highly respected pornography researchers from the University of Alabama, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann, studied the effects of porn and media for more than 30 years. Their findings conclude that consuming pornography can make an individual less satisfied with their partner’s physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection. What’s more, some individuals felt not just dissatisfied, but critical of these aspects of their partner.

Related: Why Pornography Prevents Sexual Satisfaction Instead Of Promoting It

Let’s not forget that a person’s porn consumption isn’t all about them. Partners who feel that their loved one watching porn is problematic can suffer with lower self-esteem, poorer relationship quality, and lower satisfaction.

The solution here isn’t to suggest that partners shouldn’t care if their boyfriend or girlfriend is excessively consuming porn. Instead, let’s look critically at this product that promises mind-blowing sex while actually devastating relationships.

Withdrawing from loved ones

If the first impact of continued porn consumption is decreased satisfaction, then it is followed closely by a slow withdraw. Unfortunately, we don’t mean withdrawing from porn, but from romantic relationships. There are many reasons why and how this happens.

One reason is because porn consumption causes the brain to rewire itself connecting strong feelings of sexual arousal with porn’s fake fantasies. Watching porn creates the perfect conditions to trigger the release of the right chemicals to alter the brain, meaning a consumer’s craving for more porn could overpower their natural desire for real intimacy.

RelatedRenowned Relationship Therapists Drs. Julie & John Gottman Release “Open Letter On Porn”

Relationship experts, Doctors John and Julie Gottman, explain it this way, “When one person becomes accustomed to [being aroused] to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction.”

Another reason a person may retreat is what researchers call a pattern of “self-concealment.” When a person does something they aren’t proud of and then keep doing it, they may try to keep their behavior secret. This tactic usually doesn’t work out so well. It can lead to increased secrecy, less intimacy, and even depression, not to mention a partner’s feelings of betrayal when they find out.

In it for the long haul

Stuck on ideas for date night? Many popular magazines recommend watching porn as a couple to spark novelty. This idea has some backing in a few studies that showed couples reported higher sexual satisfaction after watching an explicit video together.

This is not surprising because porn wouldn’t be porn if it didn’t get your motor running. But these kinds of studies only focus on the short term. What does porn do to relationships over the years?

In one of the few studies to follow married couples and their pornography consumption for several years, researchers found that porn did in fact harm relationship quality and satisfaction. The researchers concluded:

“In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012… Pornography’s effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, the frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012”.

Related: Millennial Sex Is The Worst, And Porn Is Partly To Blame

In other words, how often a partner (specifically, husbands in this study) consumed porn negatively affected the relationship quality, and even more interesting, the study discussed that porn was not a cover-up for some other marital issue. It was the source of the problem.

Again from the Gottmans, they explain, “When watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control… the relationship goal of intimate connection is confounded and ultimately lost.”

The truth is, in healthy relationships, you can’t have it both ways. Studies show consumers can’t have the instant gratification of thousands of virtual sex partners and a satisfying long-term relationship.

Just think for a minute about what it might mean for a relationship when a couple turns to porn for sexual excitement instead of each other?

Relationships are all about being in love with an entire 3D person, not a tailored image or influencer. Sure, a partner will not always be up for sex like in porn, but real connection and real intimacy offer so much more. It’s a risk, yes, to be vulnerable with another person. Sometimes even frustrating, as no partnership is perfect. But where porn is easy, relationships are rewarding.

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