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Is Watching Porn Cheating On Your Partner?

It’s one of the more debated questions when it comes to pornography: Is watching porn cheating on your partner?

By September 3, 2021No Comments

This article contains affiliate links. Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

It’s one of the more debated questions when it comes to pornography:

Is watching porn cheating on your partner?

It’s not an easy question, and everyone seems to have their own opinion on it based on their own personal experiences with porn. But are there any concrete answers? The answer is, not exactly.

There is not one objective answer to this complicated question because every couple is different, has unique standards, and has its own set of boundaries. It’s not our job as an organization to dictate what people’s rules and boundaries are in a relationship, but we do exist to educate on the harmful effects of porn and the harms it can have in relationships, including when one partner in a relationship watches it after agreeing not to.

Of course, we hope that everyone reading this will realize that they and their relationship will be better off without porn, but that is up to each individual to decide for themself.

The best thing you can do if you’re wondering whether your significant other feels the same about porn being equal to cheating is to have a clear, honest conversation and agree on boundaries and expectations together.

All the same, though, there are very clear reasons why many people do equate watching porn with cheating. Here, we break it down.

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

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What secrets do to partnerships

If you think about it, many porn consumers aren’t exactly forthcoming about their habits. Regardless of whether or not they admit it, most feel varying amounts of secrecy and awkwardness about it. Why is that?

In the words of comedian/activist Russell Brand from his viral video about porn, he says: “There’s a general feeling isn’t there, in your core, if you look at pornography, that this isn’t what’s the best thing for me to be doing. This isn’t the best use of my time.”

Even if people don’t want to admit it, many may know that watching porn behind their partner’s back isn’t the best thing for the relationship. Think about it: most people don’t wait until their partner leaves to go clothes shopping online. People don’t clear their search history because they spent too much time mapping out a road trip for a vacation with their boyfriend/girlfriend (unless it’s a surprise). People aren’t watching sports highlights with their door locked and their browsers set on private, right?

No, of course not. It’s because they know none of these things will threaten their relationship. But with porn, a lot of consumers know their significant other would be upset and feel betrayed.

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

This is one of the main reasons why porn can feel so similar to cheating for so many people—because of all the hurtful secrecy and hiding that goes into it. That, and the fact that becoming aroused and seeking sexual satisfaction outside of the relationship can break trust and is so hurtful to partners.

Few things will tear apart a relationship like keeping negative secrets and seeking sexual satisfaction apart from your partner, especially if they’ve asked you not to.

After all, a healthy sexual connection can be one of the better parts of being in a committed relationship. It can connect partners and provide a way to express the deepest emotions of love and intimacy. Right? But it can cut to the heart of a relationship if a partner is secretly having that need met outside of the relationship, similar to a secret relationship with another person.

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Why a personal porn habit isn’t only personal

Have you heard these excuses when hearing someone defend their porn habit? “Nobody gets hurt. It only has to do with me. This is my personal, me-time thing.”

Unfortunately, that’s not actually the case. We invite porn viewers everywhere to consider all the individuals in the porn industry who are abused and coerced into shooting sex on camera. And those caught in the sex trafficking industry and have had porn made of them against their will—they’re directly hurt by the porn industry, too. Not to mention the thousands of personal stories we get from partners all over the world saying how pornography tore apart their once loving, honest relationship.

The harms of porn go way beyond the viewer and their browser window.

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

What about the rationalizing argument, “It’s a healthy, natural release for me!That’s not exactly true, either. Pornography has been shown to actually influence a consumer’s sexual template and has been shown to have addictive potential and potentially lead to harmful, life-altering habits. The idea that porn is a healthy sexual behavior is perhaps one of the more twisted rationalizations of our day, one that science and research are constantly proving otherwise.

Like someone who chooses to cheat on their partner, watching porn doesn’t only affect the one person doing it. There is a ripple effect that can happen because of one action.

If you’d like some more food for thought listen to licensed therapist and public figure Matthias James Barker, LMHCA.

Regardless of how someone might label porn consumption in a relationship, if it causes pain for one or both partners, that’s something to think about.

“We open our hearts to the people we love when they’re in pain,” he said.

It’s up to each couple

For many partners, finding out their significant other has secretly watched porn can feel just they discovered they’ve been cheated on. For some other partners, they may feel upset but not betrayed. And still, for others, they may not be bothered at all by their partner’s porn habit.

It’s important to know that regardless of what your reaction to a partner’s porn habit might be, research has clearly demonstrated it is harmful to relationships. It’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.

More food for thought: if a partner in the relationship is actively fantasizing about, and getting turned on by, the naked bodies of other people, how does that ultimately add to the close bond and intimate connection in an exclusive relationship?

Related: Can Porn Improve An Intimate 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. See how porn can ultimately rob a relationship of connection and openness? 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. Porn can only take from a relationship in the long run.

Each couple can decide for themselves what is acceptable in the relationship and what isn’t, and that might mean it’s agreed upon that cheating doesn’t have to be a physical act. It can be emotional as well. And when it comes to porn, it can absolutely feel like being cheated on.

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.

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

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