You Found Out Your Partner Uses Porn. Now What?

Searching onlineIn today’s world, pornography use has become quite common. In fact, 40 million Americans are regular visitors to pornographic sites, 12% of all websites are pornographic in nature, and 25% of all search-engine requests are for porn. Does this high prevalence mean it’s OK? Does the fact it is common mean it is harmless? Does the fact it is widespread mean it’s all right for all individuals and couples?

If it is not OK with you, then it is not OK in your relationship. When one or both parties have an issue with pornography use, it needs to be addressed.

Most people I encounter in my practice for whom porn is an issue “discover” a partner’s secret pornography use. It’s not something they share together. Due to the fact it is kept secret, it’s typically toxic. Would your partner be doing this if you were standing right there? Would your partner be fine with you knowing? Do you watch pornography as a couples activity? If the answers to all of these questions are no, then the pornography is likely a problem in your relationship.

Of course there are relationships in which pornography use is mutually condoned and enjoyed. But if your relationship isn’t one of them, you might be thinking, “What do I do now?”

If you feel like your partner’s pornography use is a violation of trust, like it is some sort of infidelity, or feel disgusted and hurt, try these suggestions:

  1. Take a moment to process things. If you haven’t already had an all-out argument, take a day or a week to think, calm yourself, and prepare for how you will talk to your partner about this. According to John Gottman’s reseach on couples, the first few minutes of a conversation generally determine the outcome. Start your conversation right!
  2. Remember: this is not your fault. Your partner’s pornography use likely is not because he or she finds you unattractive, and it is also probably not because you have been having sex less frequently. Multiple studies show that one consequence of frequent pornography use is reduced interest in sex with one’s partner. So you may have been having less sex because of the pornography—but probably not the other way around.
  3. Ask questions about the pornography use. Attempt to have a mature and calm conversation about your partner’s use. How long has this been going on? How often does he or she look at pornography? What kind of pornography does he/she look at? Does he/she pay for it? Does he/she use interactive websites or passive videos? How does he/she feel about his/her use? Does he/she feel guilty? Does he/she say “it’s not a big deal” or “everyone does it”? What is his/her reaction to you knowing? Though it might be tempting to raise your voice, calmly tell your partner how hurt and offended you may be; try your best to simply gather information. This is the time to let your partner talk about what it means. You’ll get your chance.
  4. Tell your partner what pornography use means to you. Talk about feelings of betrayal, jealousy, or shame. Talk about your insecurities. Talk about your fear that this will slide into another form of betrayal, secrecy, or sexual infidelity. Talk about how you may now be feeling pressure to perform in the bedroom, thinking that he or she will be comparing you to what he/she has seen. One study reports one of the most common negative results of pornography is women feeling that they must behave like porn actors and actresses.
  5. Come up with a plan. Talk about where you go from here. Assuming it’s what you want, is your partner promising to quit? Is your partner defensive and feeling like he or she shouldn’t have to stop? Can you agree on a plan? If not, consider seeking a couples or marital therapist to help you come up with a compromise. Some people may say that they are willing to stop but find it difficult or feel compelled to look at pornography. If this is the case, I encourage seeking guidance from a therapist who specializes in pornography addiction.

Pornography use can be a sensitive topic for many because it involves intimate and personal acts. It can trigger insecurity, mistrust, anxiety, and depression. It’s OK if you are not OK with your partner looking at pornography. Just because it is common does not mean that you must be OK with it. Just as you have other rules in your relationship, talking about pornography use will help clarify your values as a couple and your expectations intimately.

References:

  1. The Stats on Internet Pornography. Retrieved from http://thedinfographics.com/2011/12/23/internet-pornography-statistics/
  2. Gottman, J., and Schwartz Gottman, J. (2013). The Empirical Basis for Gottman Couples Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/wp-content/uploads/EmpiricalBasis-Update3.pdf
  3. Kirkova, D. (2013). Vanilla Sex is OUT, Porn Addiction is IN: Disturbing Survey Reveals How Porn is Damaging Our Relationships. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2264419/Vanilla-sex-OUT-porn-addiction-IN-Disturbing-results-Cosmo-survey-reveal-porn-damaging-relationships.html#ixzz2OfMGpMJ6

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C, CST, therapist in Silver Spring, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Laura

    Laura

    January 22nd, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    When I first found out about my guy and his porn use, was I ever livid! I mean, what was lacking in our relationship that he needed to use porn as some kind of supplement? I will be honest by saying that I asked all of those above questions and I really did try to get past it, but I don’t know. There was something there that I felt like it had to do with me and so I just couldn’t let it go, forgive nor forget. Needless to say this was the straw that broke the camel’s back[ and I had to end the relationship[. It just did not feel right to me that he would have to resort to using porn if we were in a loving and caring relationship.

  • ellery

    ellery

    January 22nd, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    I guess that I just thought it was common knowledge that most men use porn in pretty much any relationship?
    It isn’t generally about what is lacking, it’s just, you know, pretty accessible anywhere you turn and I think that that’s what makes it so appealing to most of us.’It’s not like we’re cheating, just you know, watching.

  • Joe

    Joe

    December 12th, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    Whether it is common knowledge or not doesn’t make it right or positive.

    You are withholding part of yourself from your partner and she will feel it as something not quite right about you, even if she isn’t able to articulate. It will stifle you both.

    Ask yourself what relationship you want – one where you are hiding behind porn on your own to cope with life but deep down feeling unfulfilled, or one where you can man up and face your problems with the woman you love by your side?

    Being honest and open about your porn usage is difficult but is the only way. If your partner is the woman you think she is then once she’s past the hurt and betrayal, a much stronger fulfilling relationship awaits you both with hard work. Be brave and strong. The longer you keep hiding it, the greater the damage.

    I recently discovered my wife of 15 years has been having an affair with another man. I know now my porn addiction throughout our entire relationship contributed to the emotional distance between us and was a factor in this. The hurt is tremendous, a pain which cannot be described. Do not make the mistake I did and hide. If you are a man, be brave, take courage and face it now before it’s too late. I wish someone would have told me this years ago.

  • Quinn

    Quinn

    January 23rd, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    For a lot of couples it can work out well when they use porn together, not to use it for something that they are missing but to spice things up a little in the marriage.
    My husband and I have used it a couple of times and it was a little weird at first but now there are actually times when I think that we can both enjoy it together.
    This might not be for everyone and I understand that but it can be useful if you would at least just give it a try.

  • Johanna

    Johanna

    January 23rd, 2015 at 11:06 AM

    Yuck, porn is so degrading for women

  • Amiee

    Amiee

    January 23rd, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    You might find that you want t talk about it and find out the reasons behind the use but for someone who does not want to share or who may not even understand why they have been drawn to pornography then it is going to be awfully difficult to have that conversation. This might be the time when you have to engage the help of a marriage counselor that will let both of you work through all of the issues surrounding porn usage and how you can resolve it if this is a big problem within the marriage.

  • Stephen G

    Stephen G

    January 23rd, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    There is no value to porn. Show me an individual who uses it regularly and I’ll show you a person who has difficulty being transparent to their partner. I speak, sadly, from experience and the loss of a 20+ year marriage.

  • reena

    reena

    January 25th, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    I suppose that this would be the time to decide if this is something that is worth losing this relationship over.

    If you are okay with having it be a part of their life, then I say just ignore it and move on, but if it makes you feel uncomfortable about the relationship that the two of you have together then there has to be some kind of discussion about them ending this behavior.

  • anon

    anon

    January 25th, 2015 at 4:15 PM

    Look, most men are going to do this in secret because they know that it will cause trouble in their relationships

  • Jonathan

    Jonathan

    January 26th, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    There was a time when I couldn’t go a day without visiting some of these sites online. That was what would get me through the day.
    I knew that I had a serious problem when I lost my job over some things that I had downloaded on a company computer/
    That was when I had to confess to my wife that I had a problem with this, and thankfully we stuck it out together.
    I know that I hurt her in numerous ways that I can never make amends for, but I try every day to be a good husband and dad and break this addiction that had developed.

  • Veronica

    Veronica

    January 27th, 2015 at 10:37 AM

    I think that if this happened to me I would think that it was a very big deal but I don’t think that my husband would think that way. He would see it as a non issue, something that all men do. So then how would you handle it then? Because if both people do not see it as a problem then how will you ever resolve the issue?

  • kenny

    kenny

    January 27th, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    As a guy I can see the appeal of pornography, you know, just to escape the mundane every day; but I can also see why it can be such a huge turn off for women and mainly because I think that it can destroy what they think of themselves. There becomes this expectation that they have to look a certain way or do certain things, and while I don’t think that most men who watch porn think about it that way, I can see how women can see things that way and how this could be a difficult realization for them.

  • Julaina

    Julaina

    January 29th, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    You could always put those blocks on the computer so that those kind of websites can no longer be accessed.

  • Aaron

    Aaron

    January 31st, 2015 at 2:09 PM

    I know that you could feel like this is such a harmless little habit, but honestly this is something that took over my life at one time and I have had to work hard to break that habit. It was an addiction to me, and there are still times, even after I have worked hard to overcome it for many years now, there are still times when I struggle with staying away from porn and porn sites. Sometimes it feels like this is the only thing that could relieve the stress that I always seem to feel.

  • Erica

    Erica

    February 18th, 2015 at 6:46 AM

    Harmless? Hiding it and acting like your partner disgusts you is ok? Wow sounds to me you’re apparently in this position with your partner and justifying it?? Not ok, you hide, break trust, legitimately knows it hurts me but yeah totally harmless.

  • Mike

    Mike

    April 10th, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    Here’s an idea. Join them. And to the person who says that porn is degrading for women, don’t you realize that porn is degrading to men too? I mean, they set these impossible standards with guys with ripped bodies and giant dicks that lasts for hours. That’s crazy!

  • Maseman155

    Maseman155

    June 15th, 2018 at 12:05 PM

    Porn is great I watch loads but if my wife knew she’d be upset so it’s all secret . Makes it more exciting.

  • Mase155

    Mase155

    July 3rd, 2018 at 5:40 AM

    I google escorts and brothels I guess it’s porn, it’s my thing. I like porn I’m probably addicted too but so what

  • Rikita

    Rikita

    December 12th, 2018 at 5:07 AM

    Disgusting. I’d run a mile if my hubby was looking at escorts, you owe her the opportunity to know what she’s married to surely let her be free to find a man who loves her not a screen or a prostitute

  • Leftspouse

    Leftspouse

    March 16th, 2019 at 1:07 AM

    Maseman155 if your looking at escorts you shouldn’t be with your wife. Your pretending to be someone you aren’t set her free

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