Originally published on Whimn by Carolyn Tate and republished here with permission.

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.

This personal experience shows how porn can drive a serious wedge between partners in a relationship. Watching is never worth it.


I can’t say it came as a massive surprise, finding the porn on my husband Ben’s* (name has been changed) phone. Things had been weird between us for a while. He’d lost interest in sex since our twin daughters were born six years ago.

I assumed he just didn’t fancy me anymore. Once you’ve seen a woman breastfeeding twins while watching The Bachelor in a pair of stained tracksuit pants, some of the romance has to die, doesn’t it? I hadn’t felt sexy for years, and I assumed it showed.

Other than that, Ben and I got along great. We worked together well as a parenting team, we shared the household chores and enjoyed hanging out together whenever we got some spare time away from the girls. We laughed a lot and we liked each other.

We just didn’t have sex anymore.

The day everything changed

We were on holidays at the beach when I grabbed his phone to change the music he was playing. I could see it in his face straight away that there was something he didn’t want me to see.

Related: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay: What Partners Of Porn Consumers Want You To Know

It didn’t take me long to find out what it was. App after app of a variety of different types of porn. It wasn’t even the porn that upset me, it was the fact that I had assumed he wasn’t interested in sex, yet here he was proving me wrong. He just wasn’t interested in sex with me.

My worst fears realized

Still holding his phone, I told him I wasn’t worried about the porn. He’d been into that stuff when we met and I didn’t mind if he looked at porn occasionally. It’s just that it seemed like he’d started preferring porn to me. What are you meant to do when your husband starts preferring porn to you?

I expected him to tell me I was crazy, and that of course he still fancied me, but that’s when my worst fears were realized.

He came clean

He said it was true. My size 12 body didn’t do it for him anymore. To get an erection, he needs to see fake boobs, shaved and bleached body parts, and overacted fake orgasms.

That’s the only way he could get aroused now, apparently.

That’s never been me

I’m real. I’m mouthy and opinionated, I expect to have a real orgasm during sex, and as a size 12, I am built like a regular woman.

He told me he’s addicted and doesn’t know how to stop. He’s looking at porn every day and I just don’t do it for him.

I’ve never been one to quit, and with all the love we had in our marriage outside the bedroom, I told Ben I was willing to work at our marriage if he was. If he’d get help for this addiction, and start putting some of that sexual attention back into our relationship.

RelatedTrauma & Betrayal: The Science Behind Why A Partner’s Porn Habit Is Hurtful

He agreed at first to counseling, but I noticed him pulling further away. He insisted on going to counseling on his own because he said it was his issue to work out.

Something else was brewing

I started to suspect he wasn’t just talking about the porn addiction when he went to see his counselor because whenever I asked him how a session went, he was really vague. He didn’t want to talk about it. I tried to put it down to his being embarrassed, but underneath I knew something else was brewing.

Things didn’t get better even after the confrontation about the porn.

I was starting to feel desperate to know what was going on. Nothing seemed to be happening at home. The more he pulled away, the more I grasped at him, and at the remnants of our relationship—demanding to know where he was all the time, and who he was with.

RelatedPIED 101: The Science Behind Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

I was turning into an insecure, clingy wife; something I’d never been before, and something I hated.

The bombshell

Then one day Ben invited me to come along to his counseling session, and that’s the day my whole world came crashing down. My husband sat in that room, with this counselor I’d never met before, and told me he wanted a divorce.

It was only five weeks after I discovered porn on his phone—when I thought we were happily married.

I was stunned.

I argued that it was still early days, that I was willing to stand by him while he continued to get help for his problem. But he shook his head and looked at me like I was a stranger. In his mind, our relationship had been over for ages.

I felt like I pulled at a thread and now the entire fabric of our marriage had come undone.

I was utterly devastated

I was in this marriage for the rest of my life, and now I’m a single mom—starting all over again at the age of 44. It’s something I never thought would happen. But as painful as it has been, I’m glad I picked up my husband’s phone that day. It forced us to face the truth about our marriage.

Related: Even After My Divorce, I Don’t Believe Porn Is A Dating Deal-Breaker

Although it hurts now, I know that once I’ve licked my wounds and settled into my new life, I’ll have the chance to find someone who doesn’t need porn—someone who finds me attractive as I am and wants to build real intimacy.

In the long run, Ben has done me a massive favor. It’s a chance at a new life, and as soon as I’m ready, I’m planning on grabbing it with both hands.

______________________

Why this matters

Sometimes, a struggle with porn can bring a couple closer together when they decide to mutually fight for their love, together. And sometimes, the relationship won’t outlast the porn struggle. Either way, couples need to decide what’s best for themselves—to move on together, or apart. There’s no “right” way to do it, if each partner is making the healthiest possible choice for each other and them self.

That being said, research shows how porn doesn’t make relationships any healthier or easier.

Two of the most respected pornography researchers, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama, studied the effects of porn and media for more than 30 years. They found that consuming pornography makes many individuals less satisfied with their own partners’ physical appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and affection. [1] They also found that, over time, many porn users grow more callous toward females in general, less likely to value monogamy and marriage, and more likely to develop distorted perceptions of sexuality. [2] Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn consumers tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, [3] less committed in their relationships, [4] less satisfied with their romantic and sex lives, [5] and more likely to cheat on their partners. [6]

That doesn’t bode well for any relationship where one partner is consuming porn, especially since most of us want and expect our intimate relationships to be built on trust, respect, commitment, honesty, and love. But for anyone who is struggling and wants help, there is hope.

Bottom line:

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Citations

[1] Zillman, D. & Bryant, J. (1988) Pornography’s Impact On Sexual Satisfaction. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438-453. Doi: 10.1111/J.1559-1816.1988.Tb00027.X
[2] Zillman, D., & Bryant, J. (2000). Influence Of Unrestrained Access To Erotica On Adolescents’ And Young Adults’ Disposition Toward Sexuality. Journal Of Adolescent Health, 27(2 Suppl), 41-44. Doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00137-3; D. & Bryant, J. (1988) Pornography’s Impact On Sexual Satisfaction. Journal Of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 438-453. Doi: 10.1111/J.1559-1816.1988.Tb00027.X; Zillman, D. & Bryant, J. (1984). Effects Of Massive Exposure To Pornography. In Malamuth, N. M. & Donnerstein, E. (Eds.), Pornography And Sexual Aggression (Pp. 115-138). New York, NY: Academic Press.
[3] Park, B. Y., Et Al. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunction? A Review With Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. Doi:10.3390/Bs6030017; Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The Effects Of Sexually Explicit Material Use On Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. Doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Sun, C., Bridges, A., Johnason, J., Ezzell, M., (2014). Pornography And The Male Sexual Script: An Analysis Of Consumption And Sexual Relations. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 45, 1-12. Doi:10.1007/S10508-014-0391-2; 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/S10508-009-9585-4; Bergner, R. M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The Significance Of Heavy Pornography Involvement For Romantic Partners: Research And Clinical Implications. Journal Of Sex And Marital Therapy, 28, 193-206. Doi:10.1080/009262302760328235
[4] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The Effects Of Sexually Explicit Material Use On Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. Doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; 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/S10508-009-9585-4
[5] Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The Effects Of Sexually Explicit Material Use On Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. Doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078; Morgan, E. M. (2011). Associations Between Young Adults’ Use Of Sexually Explicit Materials And Their Sexual Preferences, Behaviors, And Satisfaction. Journal Of Sex Research, 48(6), 520-530. Doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.543960; 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/S10508-009-9585-4; Yucel, D. & Gassanov, M. A. (2010). Exploring Actor And Partner Correlates Of Sexual Satisfaction Among Married Couples. Social Science Research, 39(5), 725-738. Doi:10.1016/J.Ssresearch.2009.09.002
[6] Braithwaite, S. R., Coulson, G., Keddington, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2015). The Influence Of Pornography On Sexual Scripts And Hooking Up Among Emerging Adults In College. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 44(1), 111-123. Doi:10.1007/S10508-014-0351-X; 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/S10508-009-9585-4

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