I recently had a conversation with a woman who was distressed over the discovery of her husband’s addiction to pornography. She knew that porn had been a part of his life before they married but he repeatedly assured her that he no longer was interested in viewing porn. She trusted him.
Her husband had a demanding job, so it wasn’t unusual for him to stay up late some nights and finish up work that had to be completed for the following day. On one of these nights, this woman came downstairs to find her husband engaged in an explicit online sex chat with an unclothed woman. When she confronted him he made up a flimsy alibi that she quickly dismissed. She demanded to know the “whole story” of his porn use and threatened to leave the marriage. Reluctantly, her husband admitted that he had been secretly viewing pornography online for years and had membership in half a dozen online sites that gave him access to a wide range of porn. But he tried to play it down, saying, “all guys use porn – it not’s that big a deal.”
So, is this woman justified in thinking that she is competing for her husband’s fidelity, or is porn so ubiquitous and a part of modern life that she needs to accept it?
Is Pornography a Societal Problem?
This woman’s husband is correct in saying that many men turn to pornography on a regular basis. It is estimated that 40 million Americans regularly visit porn websites. But it isn’t just men. About one-third of those regular visitors are women.
But this husband is wrong about the notion that porn is not a “big deal.” It is a very big deal because of how it erodes the physical and emotional intimacy in real relationships. Here are three ways pornography distorts intimate relationships.
- Pornography use erodes trust. Healthy relationships are built on trust. To be intimate with someone is to make yourself vulnerable. Trust is the assurance that your partner will respect that vulnerability and honor you. If your partner is secretly inviting others (complete strangers, no less) into the exclusive realm that should be reserved between the two of you, it breaks that trust and feelings of violation usually follow. Broken trust takes time and a lot of work to heal.
- Pornography is not real intimacy. The key to a strong, long-lasting relationship is the couple’s ability to build emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy, not sexual intimacy, is what makes a relationship most meaningful. Of course, if you take your cues from the porn sites or from the relentless sensual messages streaming through the media, you might think that sex is the prime binding agent in relationships. Despite the fact that this myth is pervasive in our sex-obsessed culture, it is the emotional intimacy that makes a person feel valued, cherished, loved, cared for, listened to and appreciated. When emotional intimacy is kindled between two people, satisfaction with their sexual union is far greater. There is no need to go outside of that relationship for other types of sexual stimulation or entertainment.
- Pornography creates unrealistic expectations about your partner and sexual behavior. Pornography has been shown to weaken commitment in marriages because it creates an utterly false impression of what a normal body looks like and what sexual behavior is really about. The sexual relationship is meant to be a mutually satisfying expression of each partner’s love for the other. In contrast, porn is about self-gratification and often involves dominating or mistreating the other person.
I have found that people most prone to use pornography are those who have “love deficits” that occurred earlier in their lives. They have often come from homes where love and affection were scarce. We all are eventually exposed to porn at some point, but those with love deficits seem more drawn to it as a substitute for the real relationships that weren’t as nurturing as they needed. If the person repeatedly returns to porn to get that excitement, it can become a compulsive behavior that may turn into an addiction over time. Don’t give up the fight to get these strangers out of your bedroom and your imagination. Your real love relationship may depend on it.