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Is My Partner’s Porn Habit Harming Our Relationship, or Am I Just Insecure?

By July 26, 2020 No Comments
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Disclaimer: While this article talks about heterosexual relationships, the same principles can be applied to relationships involving any gender.

“Any time I post about my partner’s porn habit and its hurtful effects on our relationship, people are so quick to say, ‘It’s YOU. It’s YOUR lack of self-esteem that is the problem.’ ‘There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of porn.’

I’m starting to believe them. I don’t want to seem like a prude. But no matter how hard I try, whenever I think of my man getting aroused to who knows what behind my back, I’m filled with a sad rage that I cannot shake.

I’m in therapy, but it’s not helping me fast enough. What can I do/read/watch?”

J.

Ever heard the argument that porn isn’t harmful to relationships, it’s just that some partners are insecure with their significant other’s habit and that is more harmful to relationships than porn ever could be? What do you think?

Let’s entertain the argument for a moment. If porn weren’t actually harmful to relationships, then the majority of available research would reflect that it is partners’ insecurities that cause issues, rather than the porn itself.

So what do experts have to say?

Brain Heart World

What does the research say?

Allow us to introduce you to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, Co-founders of The Gottman Institute.

The Gottmans have conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. Dr. John Gottman was one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century by the Psychotherapy Networker. He is the author or co-author of over 200 published academic articles and more than 40 books. Dr. Julie Gottman is a highly respected clinical psychologist, she is sought internationally by media and organizations as an expert advisor on marriage, sexual harassment and rape, and domestic violence.

Together, they are considered some of the most influential and brilliant world-renowned experts on relationships, and their resources are all about how to build and maintain successful marriages and partnerships.

So, you can see they’re both experts. But how do they feel about the effects of porn in relationships?

In 2016, they released an open letter on pornography and relationships. In a nutshell, they have concluded that, “Pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony.”

Related: Renowned Relationship Therapists Drs. Julie & John Gottman Release “Open Letter On Porn”

From the letter: “Research on the effects of pornography use, especially one person frequently viewing pornographic images online, shows that pornography can hurt a couple’s relationship. The effect may be true, in part, because pornography can be a “supernormal stimulus’…  In fact, use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.”

Convinced yet?

More 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.”

And for good measure, here’s one last quote from the letter that puts the nail in the coffin of the idea that porn causes no issues in relationships on its own: “When one person becomes accustomed to [being aroused] to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction.”

Related: Why I Finally Stopped Watching Porn After I Saw How It Affected My Partner

As you can see, these experts have concluded not that it’s partner insecurity that causes relational issues, but the porn itself coupled with the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that often accompany porn consumption.

But are the Gottmans the only ones who think porn can harm relationships?

Podcast - Figures - Light

But what does other research say?

The truth is, in healthy relationships, reputable research in general shows 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 committed relationship.

The long-term studies paint a very different picture than what you might be hearing from pro-porn advocates. The preponderance of evidence from a dozen or more in-depth, longer-term studies consistently show porn consumption lowering relationship satisfaction, emotional closeness, and sexual satisfaction. [1]

Related: My Wife And I Loved To Watch Porn Together—Until It Ruined Our Intimacy

Let’s take a look at some more info.

• 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.

A 2012 study by Amanda Maddox and her team concluded that individuals who never viewed sexually-explicit material reported higher relationship quality (on every measure) compared with those who viewed the same explicit material on their own. [2]

Related: Can Porn Improve An Intimate Relationship?

• 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.”

• 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 that “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.” [3]

Related: How It Feels To Finally Be In A Relationship With Someone Who Doesn’t Watch Porn

Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn itself is bad news for long term relationships. Not an unsupportive and porn-disapproving partner, but the porn itself. The majority of research reflects that porn negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one.

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.

Give One For Love

Turn toward each other instead of porn

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. See how it isn’t the porn-disliking partner that’s the issue, but the porn?

Related: Why Watching Porn With My Partner Was A Terrible Idea

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.

So the next time you hear the argument that porn isn’t problematic, it’s just the insecurity of the non-porn watching partner, stick to the facts and show them this research.

Citations

[1] Wilson, G. (2013). Studies Linking Porn Use Or Porn/Sex Addiction To Sexual Dysfunctions, Lower Arousal, And Lower Sexual & Relationship Satisfaction; Retrieved From https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/studies-reported-relationships-between-porn-use-or-porn-addictionsex-addiction-and-sexual
[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 Behavior40(2), 441–448. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4
[3] Willoughby, B. J., Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., & Brown, C. (2016). Differences in pornography use among couples: Associations with satisfaction, stability, and relationship processes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 145-148, doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0562-9
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