Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is Porn Affecting Your Relationship?

Can fantasy sink your reality?

Pornography has become commonplace in 2014 America. Once the domain of adult theatres and adult bookstores, it has  infiltrated almost every home across the nation, where is is only a touch of a keyboard away on millions of internet websites.  A survey by Sabina, Wolak and Finkelhor published in Cyberpsychology & Behavior determined that 93% of boys had viewed online pornography.  A 2008 study in the Journal of Adolescent Research by Carroll, Padilla-Walker, etal, of college age students,  found that 86% of young men aged 18-26 used pornography in the past year.  But how is this intensely personal and private practice affecting those around them?

 

A recent study by Resch and Alderson found that  women in committed relationships  who believed their partners were not open and honest about their pornography use reported more relationship dissatisfaction and personal distress. While  the study found that those who believed  that their partners were honest about their use of pornography  reported higher levels of satisfaction,  relationship satisfaction decreased if their boyfriends or husbands were frequently using and reporting their use of pornography.  This supports another study by Bridges, Bergner and Hesson-McInnis that found that women experienced higher levels of dissatisfaction and personal distress if their men used pornography regularly over a long span of time. As commitment increases in the romantic union,the amount of distress women feel over their partner's consumption of porn increases. A study by Olmstead, Negash, Pasley and Fincham concluded  that women didn't mind if their boyfriend or husband dabbled in pornography but were less accepting if it became a lifestyle practice.

 Resch and Alderson concluded that,  in general, women have a much different opinion of pornography use than men, fearing that their boyfriend or husband is comparing them to the idealized female images in a film or picture, and  perceiving the images as "a source of competition in that they may not be satisfying their partner's needs." The feeling of insecurity can  negatively affect a romantic union.

Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson, the authors of "Cupid's Poisoned Arrow", have written an outstanding article in Psychology Today on the  effects of frequent pornography viewing on men. They reported that the incredible visual stimulation of pornography results in the release of the neurochemical dopamine which gives the viewer an intense feeling of pleasure apart from any sexual experience. Nothing wrong with feeling good and not using alcohol or drugs, right? Unfortunately this personal use can affect those closest to the consumer.

A physiological-based relationship problem for men using pornography is that the dopamine rush lasts for only a few fleeting minutes or hours  for the consumer before they must retreat back to their alternative universe  where they live the life of boyfriend or husband, worker and father. For many men, real living women  with real mood swings, real personality quirks, real health issues and less that perfect bodies can never compare to the enticing , blemish  and celulite-free images that are always in the mood for love,  never age and always accept them just as they are.  The worries of being a  mate and father fade away into fantasy for the pornography user. The next day the pornography consumer will find himself feeling  unattracted  to his unsuspecting girlfriend or spouse and disconnected to his children. This can feed the  need to keep consuming more pornography, as it gives the user a temporary high, connection and escape from reality. As he consumes more pornography, whether he is honest about it or not, his relationship sours in the eyes of his mate. When his wife or girlfriend signals her displeasure by withdrawing from him physically, his need for pornography will grow, ultimately leading to the type of sexless marriage that will leave both partners completely miserable and considering alternatives. Unfortunately, when it comes to pornography, the personal becomes relational.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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