Pornography’s Impact On Relationships

Pornography is a consistently controversial subject in our society.

From its increased use, to its expanded accessibility, to the impact it has on us as individuals, pornography is a multi-layered subject that evokes strong feelings from both those for and against its use.

However, no matter where you land on the issue, it can be agreed that one area greatly impacted by pornography is romantic relationships.

Factors To Consider

While pornography’s effects on an individual’s sexual habits are frequently discussed, its effects on a couple’s sexual relationship are sometimes overlooked.

Studies highlight that one of the most influential factors when discussing pornography use in relationships is each partners beliefs and feelings on the topic and the weight that those feelings are given.

Clear, open communication is necessary for all healthy relationships, and it is vital to listen to the views and feelings of your partner when discussing a polarizing topic like pornography and its place in your relationship. It’s also important to evaluate and decide upon shared values and feelings before bringing pornography use into a relationship.

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Positive Impacts Of Pornography On Relationships

When both parties are actively involved and engaged, watching porn together can have positive effects on multiple aspects of a relationship.

Creating Emotional And Sexual Connection

Watching porn together can help create an environment where emotional and sexual connection can grow. By communicating their needs and preferences to their partner, they are building on their emotional connection, which has a direct correlation to a positive sexual connection.

Building Excitement

Viewing pornography together is a way of adding a new level of excitement to a couple’s personal, physical relationship. Viewing or trying new things together, particularly for older couples, can positively affect a relationship by evoking a renewed sense of attraction and enjoyment that can become dormant in long-term relationships.

Exploring Sexual Freedom

Watching porn together can promote sexual freedom and encourage consensual exploration in a couple’s physical relationship.

Negative Impacts Of Pornography On Relationships

Pornography can have negative impacts on a relationship, particularly when partners have different views and feelings on its use.

Samuel Perry, a professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, has performed extensive research on the use of pornography in relationships and claims that when porn use is a factor on relationship quality, it is almost always a negative factor and sign of poor relationship quality.

Listed below are some ways that pornography use can cause harm to relationships.

Impaired Emotional Intimacy

One of the most damaging effects of porn on a relationship is the one it can have on a couple’s emotional intimacy. A willingness to explore and be vulnerable emotionally is paramount in a healthy relationship, but porn use can disrupt or even take the place of this real connection. This can lead to an “emotional abandonment” felt by a partner, which is often the starting part of major destruction to a relationship, as both partners look elsewhere to have their emotional needs met.

Altered Views Of Commitment

While not a risk for everyone, some people can become desensitized to the sexual imagery and multiple participants portrayed in pornography. This can affect their views on monogamy and monogamous behaviors, which can ultimately lead to a breach of trust in a relationship when those same views are not shared by their partner. Some studies show that regular porn use by men minimizes their view of commitment to a primary romantic relationship, making participation in extramarital sex more likely.

Increased Secrecy And Isolating Behavior

There are many reasons why a person might try to hide their porn use, including a fear of judgment or acceptance, differing views of porn by their partner, or even an awareness of overuse. No matter the reason, these feelings can lead to increased secrecy in a relationship, ultimately creating an isolating feeling for both partners.

Other ways that porn use, whether individual or as a couple, can negatively impact relationships include:

  • Arousal templates are altered making it more difficult to be aroused when pornography is not included.
  • Partners may see the porn use of their significant other as a violation or betrayal of the relationship.
  • The person using porn and their partner may both report less emotional as well as sexual satisfaction.
  • Feelings of inadequacy for both the person regularly viewing pornography and their partner.
  • Regular porn use by one partner diminishes sexual intimacy with the other, leaving both feeling physically and emotionally alienated.

Can Pornography Use Contribute To Divorce?

According to Perry, of some 2,000 couples surveyed who agreed to use porn together, about 11% of the couples who viewed porn regularly were said to have divorced (opposed to 6% who didn’t use porn together at all). The uptick in the divorcing couples is hard to quantify given the many factors that can plague relationships. However, the data strongly suggested that satisfaction with the marriage or relationship was largely negatively impacted by regularly sharing in this behavior together. The study also cited that younger couples tend to be more negatively impacted by regular porn viewing.

Perry and other researchers do caution that more research is needed regarding how specifically porn can impact a marriage or committed relationship. However, for those who find themselves using porn secretly, more than they wish they did, or resorting to deception to allow themselves the opportunity to engage in it, porn will have a negative impact on their capacity for personal intimacy due to the isolating behavior and emotional abandonment that it creates.

Help Is Available

While couples can experience positive relationship impacts from pornography, it is important to note that when porn use becomes distracting, compulsive, or secretive, an addiction may be present.

If you believe you have an unhealthy relationship with pornography, don’t wait to get help. There are treatment options for those who struggle with a porn addiction. Explore online therapy options today.

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David Hampton

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  • A survivor of addiction himself, David Hampton is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach (CPRC) and a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

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