Relationship science: it’s a thing. But what exactly is it, and why is it worth paying attention to? We’re glad you asked.
This interdisciplinary field that spans various social sciences like psychology, sociology, economics, family studies, and communication helps explain and even predict why some romantic relationships thrive more than others.
Let’s face it, we’re all looking for the secret to relationship happiness. After all, as human beings, we’re wired for connection. Each person and every relationship is intricately unique, but new research shows how there may be certain commonalities that successful, happy, long-lasting relationships—in all their beautiful diversity—share. (Spoiler alert: porn isn’t on the list.)
In their recent analysis of 11,196 romantic relationships via 43 different studies, researchers ultimately found five commonalities among happy couples. Let’s dive in, and while we’re at it, take a look at how porn can harm each of these aspects in relationships because we’re an awareness-raising organization that educates on the harmful effects of porn using science, facts, and personal accounts.
1. How individuals perceive their partner’s commitment to the relationship
Vital to the longevity of intimate relationships is having the confidence that your partner will stick by you. And on the flip side, feeling like your partner isn’t fully committed can lead to a downward spiral of negative thoughts and worries that are ultimately less than conducive to long-term relationship success.
Sex and relationship expert Tammy Nelson, Ph.D. shares, “How we perceive our partner’s commitment to the relationship is more important than how we perceive their commitment to us. If we believe they’re committed to staying together no matter what—even when we’re a horrible partner—then we can relax and feel confident that our relationship will weather any [situation], including a pandemic.”
Porn’s harms: Research shows that porn consumers tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners, less committed in their relationships, and even disinterested in going down the road of long-term relationships at all. Several studies even expose how many men prefer porn over marriage. But the kicker is, while porn promises to increase sexual enjoyment, it often leads to less satisfying sex in the long run and, for many consumers, no sex at all.
2. The appreciation partners have for one another
According to the research, both giving and receiving appreciation is essential for building a healthy relationship.
Dr. Nelson explains, “We always get more of what we appreciate. We get more time, more attention, more affection, and more good sex when we appreciate our partner for what they do and who they are.”
Porn’s harms: Think about it—when you’re overly critical of someone, it’s difficult to fully appreciate them. And that’s exactly what porn does. Studies show that viewing porn makes consumers more critical of their partner and less satisfied with their romantic relationships and sex life. Porn takes the intimacy, connection, and appreciation for your partner out of the equation and instead turns sexual fantasy into a transaction where selfish gratification is the ultimate priority.
One recent study even found that porn consumption is connected to friends with benefits relationships—i.e. sexual involvement without an expectation of commitment or other elements that can make a persona feel valued and appreciated, like dates, public displays of affection, emotional attachment, or exclusivity.
3. Mutual sexual satisfaction
Communication is a vital part of creating a healthy, fulfilling sexual relationship. Dr. Nelson shares, “As a sex therapist, I absolutely agree that sexual satisfaction is the glue that keeps a long-term relationship alive. Sex can bind a couple together when other life problems get in the way of their companionship and day-to-day life.”
Porn’s harms: Porn not only harms committed relationships, but can sometimes permanently damage them. In a recent meta-analysis of 50,000 individuals from 10 countries, researchers found that men who consumed pornography while in a relationship experienced significantly lower satisfaction with their significant other. They also concluded that consuming porn can raise an individual’s standards to unattainable levels—leading to reduced body confidence, sexual confidence, and relationship satisfaction.
Research and clinical reports show an increase in sexual dysfunctions in porn consumers. There’s also a rise in concerning trends like invasive and painful cosmetic surgeries in both women and men chasing unattainable, unrealistic, and unhealthy expectations they see in porn.
4. How individuals perceive their partner’s satisfaction
Feeling sexually and intimately satisfied is very important in relationships. But so is feeling confident that you’re satisfying your partner, according to the research. Knowing or perceiving your partner is satisfied can boost your own confidence. And again, coming to this understanding requires that magic word—communication.
It’s not just important to have healthy sex, but to talk about it openly, too.
Porn’s harms: Partners of porn consumers often report feeling confused, angry, and betrayed when they find out their significant other has been watching porn. Research does show that porn can make consumers more critical and less satisfied with their romantic partners, and it’s also clear that it impacts the satisfaction and happiness of the non-consuming partner, too—including big hits to their self-esteem.
A 2017 study examined the impact on couples when one partner consumes more porn than the other—which is pretty common—and found that “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationships satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.”
Ultimately, porn negatively impacts satisfaction on both sides of a relationship—and not just sexually, but in all aspects.
5. Healthy and productive conflict resolution
The goal of being a couple who “never fights” isn’t actually realistic, nor does it lead to long-term happiness, researchers say. Dr. Nelson explains, “It’s true that all couples have conflict, and it is the resolution of conflict that matters most. If a couple can resolve their conflicts and can end their arguments well, they’re more likely to stay together and be happy.”
Porn’s harms: Consuming porn can take a big hit on how couples communicate and relate to each other. Watching porn can make consumers feel more isolated, depressed, lonely, detached, and withdrawn from others—even those they’re close to. Porn has also been linked to unhealthy behaviors like sexual aggression, coercion and even violent behavior—which can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to many things, including conflict in a relationship.
Progress, not perfection, is the goal
No couple is going to have the perfect relationship overnight, if ever. In fact, perfection really isn’t the end goal—what counts is continuous improvement and mutual effort. And if couples truly want to thrive, research shows it pays to take porn out of the equation.
Bottom line: porn doesn’t have a place when it comes to relationship longevity and happiness. Porn Kills Love isn’t just a catch phrase—it’s a fact. And researchers, individuals, and couples are speaking up about just how harmful porn can be.
Let’s fight for real intimacy and healthy, fulfilling relationships by sharing the truth about porn.