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How My Partner’s Porn Habit Lowered My Confidence and Self-Esteem

He makes zero attempts to initiate sex and even calls it a “chore,” saying that he gets to “enjoy himself instead of having to focus on satisfying someone else” because it “gets old.”

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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.

Dear FTND,

I just wanted to thank you for the work you do. In order to try and help the cause, I wanted to share my story with you.

As the partner of someone who watches a lot of porn, I’ve watched this issue destroy our relationship as well as my self-worth. I have zero self-esteem anymore. My partner used to say his habit “didn’t hurt anyone” and “didn’t change anything in our relationship,” but now he can’t even get aroused with me. He can only get aroused with porn.

The material he consumes is increasingly more extreme. I cannot compete with these porn performers he prefers over me. These women seemingly have no limits to what they will do. I have tried everything: from trying to act more like a porn performer to trying more extreme acts, all to no avail.

I will never measure up to the women he watches and our sex life is more than enough evidence to substantiate that fact. He doesn’t even turn his head to look when I’m naked and when I try to get him going, he can no longer get turned on, regardless of what I do.

What is crazy is that he prefers me making videos that he can watch in private but he can’t have sex with me in real life.

Related: “No Harm In Looking, Right?” A Study Of Porn’s Impact On Self-Esteem

He continues to deny that his porn is an issue, but it is. I have no self-esteem; every time I look in a mirror, all I see are flaws.

Store - Love

Whenever we are out, all I see is how much prettier and better-built other women are compared to me. Whenever he is alone, I know he’s probably watching porn. The most hurtful of all is when we’re in bed and he is entirely disinterested and even admits that he is bored trying to get aroused.

Day after day, week after week, he makes zero attempts to initiate sex and even calls it a “chore” now, saying porn is “relaxing,” “less work,” and that he gets to “enjoy himself instead of having to focus on satisfying someone else” because it “gets old.” Ouch.

It hurts to be told that your partner no longer finds you attractive due to the fact that porn offers a continual new slew of fresh videos and virtual partners. He said, with me, “you can only ride the same roller coaster so many times before it gets boring.” It hurts to be told that my body can’t compete with the performers with giant breasts and perfectly tanned bodies. I used to have confidence in my body and my appearance, I don’t anymore.

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

Five years ago we had a passionate, happy, loving relationship. Today, we’re just two strangers in the same house.

Thanks for the work you do. If you can even save one couple from this heartbreak by inspiring even person to not watch porn, you have made an incredible difference. I wish that someone could’ve inspired my partner back when his habit began.

T.

Porn hurts relationships

The truth is, as we can see in this story, porn can take a heavy toll on real-life relationships.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:10.1556/2006.5.2016.078COPY Park, B. Y., et al. (2016). Is internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysunction? A Review with Clinical Reports, Behavioral Sciences, 6, 17. doi:10.3390/bs6030017COPY 

Many people report feeling distressed or hurt by their partner’s pornography consumption,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  but even if a partner has no issues with their significant other’s porn habit, it can still damage the relationship. In fact, research consistently shows that porn consumption is associated with poorer relationship quality and sexual dissatisfaction.Wright, P. J., & Tokunaga, R. S. (2018). Women's perceptions of their male partners’ pornography consumption and relational, sexual, self, and body satisfaction: Toward a theoretical model.42(1), 55-73. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1412802COPY Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5), 257-271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0COPY  The idea that porn is a personal decision that doesn’t affect anyone else is simply not supported by the research.

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

Individuals who learn of their partner’s porn habit often internalize their shame and confusion, asking themselves why they aren’t “enough.”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 

There are several studies that have shown that this experience is quite common in relationships where one partner consumes porn.Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 67(5-6), pp. 257-271.COPY  For example, a study of young adult college women in heterosexual relationships with men who consume porn found that the frequency of the man’s porn consumption was negatively correlated with the woman’s sense of self-esteem, her level of relationship quality, and her amount of sexual satisfaction—and these negative patterns were found to become worse the longer the relationship lasted.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 

Another team of researchers interviewed women who were in couple’s therapy for their partner’s pornography consumption. They found that pornography consumption is linked to feelings of betrayal and the erosion of the attachment bond in couple relationships. The researchers concluded that an analysis of the wives’ comments revealed a sense of “distance or disconnection from their husband” and “a general sense of being betrayed and harmed by their husband and subsequently feeling unsafe, emotionally and psychologically speaking, and insecure in their relationship.”Zitzman, S. T., & Butler, M. H. (2009). Wives’ experience of husbands’ pornography use and concomitant deception as an attachment threat in the adult pair-bond relationship. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 16, 210–240.COPY 

Leading relationship experts, Doctors John and Julie Gottman of the world-renowned Gottman Institute have expressed serious concerns about the effects of pornography on sexual relationships. They explain,

Pornography may be just such a supernormal stimulus. With pornography use, much more of a normal stimulus may eventually be needed to achieve the response a supernormal stimulus evokes. In contrast, ordinary levels of the stimulus are no longer interesting. This may be how normal sex becomes much less interesting for porn users. The data supports this conclusion. In fact, use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction.”Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (April 5, 2016). An open letter on porn. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/an-open-letter-on-porn/COPY 

Related: How Porn Can Harm Consumers’ Sex Lives

Consider the fact that, when someone regularly consumes porn, they can become accustomed to being aroused by the imagery and endless novelty found in porn.Bőthe, B., Tóth-Király, I., Griffiths, M. D., Potenza, M. N., Orosz, G., & Demetrovics, Z. (2021). Are sexual functioning problems associated with frequent pornography use and/or problematic pornography use? Results from a large community survey including males and females. Addictive Behaviors, 112, 106603. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106603COPY Hilton D. L., Jr (2013). Pornography addiction - a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology, 3, 20767. https://doi.org/10.3402/snp.v3i0.20767COPY  Pretty soon, natural turn-ons and real relationships aren’t enough, and many porn consumers find they can’t get aroused by anything but porn.Park, B. Y., Wilson, G., Berger, J., Christman, M., Reina, B., Bishop, F., Klam, W. P., & Doan, A. P. (2016). Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 6(3), 17. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6030017COPY Voon, V., et al. (2014). Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviors, PLoS ONE, 9(7), e102419. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102419COPY 

Put it all together, and there is growing evidence that pornography consumption can negatively impact the depth of attachment, trust, and satisfaction in romantic relationships. Even still, remember that shame and shaming have no place in this movement for love. And if you’re struggling, there are resources that can help.

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.

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

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.

Bloom

Addo Recovery

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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