Only recently have psychologists and marriage experts begun digging into the negative effects that pornography use can have on marriages, and relationships in general. The results of these studies are grim, to say the least.
In our modern, technology saturated culture, porn is more readily available than ever before, and that is an extremely important factor to consider. The introduction of online pornography into the equation complicates the issue even further.
Before we get into how consumption of pornographic material actually harms marital strength, let’s address why online porn is such a significant part of the problem.
- Watching porn can take a toll on any marriage.
The online variety of sexually explicit material is it’s own special breed because of the three As: Availability, Affordability, and Anonymity.
Because it can be seen on a smartphone, a laptop, a home or office, computer, etc., the potential for secretive use, abuse, and addiction is drastically increased.
Now, how does porn actually hurt marriages?
There are plenty of theories out there viewing porn with varying degrees of severity, and each makes claims as to the damaging nature it can have on relationships. Pulling from these sources, we can at least get a picture of some of the potential harm involved:
When sexual stimulation is just a simple mouse click away, this can lead to a mental separation between a sexual partner and the real, complex human being they actually are.
This, in turn, begins to minimize the understanding a porn user may have for the unique needs and desires (sexual or not) that their partner possesses, and leads them to think of their partner as an object to fulfill their sexual desires (as the people in pornographic material are readily available, at the push of a button, for sexual gratification without any need for reciprocity).
2. Unrealistic Body Image
The typical porn stars is, as would be expected, an absolutely exaggerated and glorified version of the average person. From basic body type to often exaggerated endowments, the individuals featured in pornographic videos and photographs are not an accurate reflection of society as we know it. However, when these individuals are consistently seen as the paradigm for sexual pleasure, people begin to set their expectations to match what they see on the screen.
This can lead down a dark road of unrealistic expectations about both the looks and the actions of a sexual partner. “Normal” people don’t look like porn stars, and they shouldn’t be expected to, but our psychology has a way of making associations and developing tolerances, and if sexual satisfaction is always associated with an unrealistic depiction of people, what does that do to the way a porn user views their spouse?
3. Misplaced Sexual Energy
This is the big one. Even if a porn user shows no signs of addiction or misuse, if they do not objectify their spouses or hold them to an unrealistic standard, this problem still has a major impact on a marriage.
If one member of a couple is using pornography as a sexual outlet, it means that they are not focusing this intimate energy on their partner. This can create an imbalance in the relationship, where one person’s needs are left unfulfilled or ignored, or, if nothing else, a lack of sexual intimacy becomes the norm.
When this happens, couples begin to lose the physical connection that helps keep their bond strong. As this connection begins to wither, the cycle is perpetuated, and an individual may continue to turn to pornography to meet their individual sexual needs.
These are just the problems that exist at the surface of pornography’s use within the context of a marriage. The long-term consequences of frequent use may have more devastating effects.
The bottom line is that porn can be a wedge that separates spouses and skews the way they see their own sex lives. Talk to your partner about porn. Make sure you are on the same page, and above all, focus your sexual energies on your spouse first and foremost – it is an essential component of the connection you share.
Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com