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Your Partner Just Told You They Struggle with Porn. Now What?

Your partner tells you they struggle with porn, and your world feels like it's ending. What can you do? Here's a helpful guide for you to navigate what can happen next.

By October 18, 2022No Comments

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Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. No Porn November is all about giving visibility to these facts and empowering individuals to choose to be porn-free. Learn more by clicking here.

FTND note: We continually encourage couples to make decisions about their relationship that are best for them. Sometimes, that choice is to go separate ways, and sometimes, that choice is to stay and support each other through the struggles porn brings. It all depends on the couple, and we respect the decisions people make for themselves. There’s no “correct” answer. Every relationship is different.

A moment of shock. Or maybe, of confirmation of what was already expected. Your partner just told you about their secret porn habit—now what?

For couples, the moment of disclosure about a pornography habit can be incredibly challenging, and the following days, months, and sometimes years can feel overwhelming.

Related: Tips for Opening Up to a Loved One About Your Struggle with Porn

Individuals and couples often don’t know where to turn or what to do, and the journey ahead can seem beyond their ability to take on.

We’re here to reassure you that a looming feeling of hopelessness doesn’t have to be the case when you’re given the right tools to fight this battle, individually and together.

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My partner is struggling with porn. What do I do now?

Porn is harmful to relationships, but it doesn’t have to stand in the way of your happiness and healing—whether you choose to stay in the relationship or not.

Here are just a few helpful tips for supporting yourself—and a few for supporting your partner if you choose to stay—as you pursue recovery.

Let yourself react.

When your partner tells you they’ve been struggling with a porn habit, a variety of emotions can be triggered like an avalanche of disbelief: sadness, anger, betrayal. Allow yourself the time to feel and process these emotions. However, take caution to do so through healthy outlets.

Related: I Think My Partner is Looking At Porn After Promising Not To—What Do I Do?

Lashing out on your partner and using them as a punching bag ultimately won’t help either of you, so take a step back and process these emotions through avenues that are productive.

Finding out about a partner’s struggle can make you feel hopeless or out of control, but try to remember that you do have control. Not over the other person, but over how you react and what you do moving forward. That reassurance can be calming and empowering.

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Recognize the significance of disclosure.

Many partners express that a porn habit feels like cheating, and the lies and secrecy sometimes involved are painful to deal with.

While this can absolutely be true, something positive to remember is that telling your partner you’ve been consuming porn isn’t easy. If they voluntarily disclosed their habit to you, by being honest with you, they could be showing that they really want to pursue change.

Recognize that being accountable is a significant step on the recovery journey, so while disclosure can feel like a huge setback, it can actually be a significant step forward.

Related: My Girlfriend Watches Porn Behind My Back. What Do I Do?

Ask yourself the tough questions.

While we can provide tips and tools for you to utilize, we can’t tell you exactly what to do in your specific situation. This is a time where you will need to decide what is ultimately best for you and your partner.

Are you in danger or experiencing abuse? Prioritize your safety and be aware of those types of scenarios.

Also recognize that in a healthy relationship where both couples are safe and willing to try to stay together, fighting porn together, as a couple, can actually strengthen your relationship.

Plenty of couples stay together and build an even stronger bond as a result, while for some, it’s best to part ways. We’re confident in your ability to come to that conclusion for yourself.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

It’s crucial to remember that while you can support and show love to your partner as they work to overcome their personal struggle, you can’t do this for them.

Ultimately, the decision to take action and change is up to them.

If it feels like you’re pushing and they’re not trying, that isn’t healthy or productive. Watch for and acknowledge their personal efforts, if and when they make any.

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Remember self-care.

Remember your own emotional, mental, and physical health, and try not to lose yourself to your partner’s struggle.

Continue nurturing other relationships in your life. Pursue your own hobbies and goals. You deserve to have a fulfilling life.

Taking care of yourself rather than becoming consumed with your partner’s struggle will help you to better face what comes in the future and live a happy, fulfilling life.

This goes both for couples who are either pursuing recovery together, or parting their separate ways.

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

Try to separate the person from the struggle.

Remember that your partner isn’t ultimately defined by their porn habit, and neither are you. Look beyond the struggle and try to see the character of the person, even if your ultimate decision is not to continue with the relationship.

Guilt and shame are two very different things, and—this is important—shame is detrimental to the healing process.

Avoid the tendency to talk negatively in a deconstructive way about your partner. Confide in people you trust who can help you, and avoid shame at all costs. It likely won’t make you feel any better in the long run, and it won’t help the person struggling, either.

Related: It’s Okay to Not Be Okay: What Partners of Porn Consumers Want You to Know

On the flip side, remember that while your partner’s porn consumption directly affects you, it’s often not actually about you. This is a habit they probably developed when they were young before they knew you or were with you romantically.

Your partner consuming porn is not a reflection on you—it doesn’t mean you’re not enough or that you need to change the way you look or act.

Their porn habit is not your fault.

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Understand that betrayal trauma is real.

Many partners of porn consumers experience betrayal trauma, and there is science to explain what you’re going through. You’re not alone, and there are communities out there to support you. We’ll list them at the end of this article.

Connect with a support system and take steps to heal. And remember, healing is not linear. Be patient with yourself throughout your own healing process, too.

Related: 7 Real Stories of People Opening Up for the First Time About Their Struggle with Porn

Get empowered with science, facts, and personal accounts.

Learn about the science and facts behind the harmful effects of porn and check out our resources for personal stories from people facing similar situations.

This information can help you better understand what your partner is facing, why consuming porn can become addictive, and what the recovery journey may look like for both porn consumers and their partners.

This knowledge shouldn’t be used as ammo against your partner to shame them about how consuming porn is unhealthy, but can be used as a positive recovery tool that motivates both you and your partner. Knowing the facts can also prevent you from rationalizing a porn habit in the future, and remember that relationships are healthier when they’re porn-free.

Work on your intimate relationship.

Set clear expectations and boundaries for moving forward. Be honest and firm about what you’re okay with and what you’re not, and what progress you want to see from your partner.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Not Watching Porn is Sex-Positive

Remember that the opposite of addiction is connection, and fostering intimacy with each other is crucial.

However, understand that restoring this part of your relationship takes time, if you choose to stay, and you don’t have to dive back in right away. Avoid feelings of pressure or fear to do things you’re not comfortable with or feel like you have to compete with the porn they’ve been consuming.

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Recognize healing takes time, and be patient with setbacks.

Setbacks don’t mean failures. Maintain a positive outlook and remember that healing and recovery are possible, for both you and your partner.

Try to expect the best and doubt the worst, and know that no matter what your partner chooses to do or not do, you’ll be okay. Maintain clear expectations with your partner, but as long as you’re seeing progress and steps moving forward, know that setbacks aren’t the end of the road.

Related: 5 Tips for Talking about Porn for the First Time with Your Partner

Seek resources and professional help.

Our affiliates at Fortify offer a free platform that can help your partner understand their specific struggle and set up a plan to strengthen areas of weakness, vulnerability, and triggers. Seek professional help if necessary, both individually and together.

Remember that it’s okay if what you’re facing is beyond your scope of dealing with on your own. That doesn’t make you weak, that makes you human. Utilize resources like support groups or licensed therapists in your local area.

Continue an ongoing conversation.

Talking about porn in your relationship isn’t just a “one and done” thing. Check in with your partner periodically, but try not to hover. There’s a balance between being supportive and overbearing, and you can work together to create an environment of openness and trust in your relationship in a way that best fits you.

Confide in your partner when you’re having a difficult time, and help them feel that they can confide in you, too. Ask what they need to have a successful journey, and make sure to communicate what you need, too.

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Hope moving forward

The research is clear—porn is not a harmless pastime, especially when it’s hurting a romantic partner. But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.Copy  According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182Copy 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

On the surface, porn may seem harmless, or may even seem like a good way to learn more about sex. Maybe a committed relationship seems far away in the future, or you feel confident that a little porn won’t harm your relationships. But the research is clear—porn can have devastating impacts on relationships, both sexually and emotionally.

Related: I’m Terrified to Tell My Partner I Still Struggle with Porn

Above all, remember there is hope for the future. Healing for both those who struggle with porn and their partners is more than possible.

Try using some of the suggestions above and find other resources that work for you, too. As you continue in an honest dialogue about your current situation, we’re confident you’ll be able to come up with a solution together that works best for you individually, and if necessary, as a couple.

Remember that both you and your partner are more valuable than the lies and fake fantasies pornography portrays. Healthy relationships and real love are worth fighting for—you can do this.

To learn more about why porn is hurtful in relationships, watch episode two, “The Heart,” of our three-part documentary series, Brain, Heart, World.

You’ll hear Travis and Emily’s story (watch part of it below), dive into the science and personal stories that explain why porn drives a serious wedge in between partners in a relationship, and learn what you can do to fight for your love and heal from the hurt.

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.

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.

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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.

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