How Pornography Distorts Intimate Relationships

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Gary Gilles is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in private practice for over 20 years. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the University ...Read More

How Porn Affects Relationships Pornography can have a profound and...

How Porn Affects Relationships

Pornography can have a profound and damaging effect on relationships. While it can be considered a form of entertainment for some, it can also lead to the destruction of trust, communication, and intimacy in romantic relationships. Pornography can create unrealistic expectations and can make people feel less attractive or desirable, leading to insecurity and jealousy. It can also become an addiction that leads to obsession and distraction from other aspects of life. This article will discuss how porn affects personal relationships and offer advice on how to address the issue if it is affecting your own relationship.

Pornography often leads to a decrease in communication and trust. People may feel as though their partner is not being completely honest with them or that they are not being respected, which can be incredibly damaging for any relationship. Pornography also creates unrealistic expectations about sex and sexual relationships itself, which can make it difficult for people to live up to in real life. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy or inferiority.


Pornography can also lead to porn addiction. People may become obsessed with watching porn and find it difficult to focus on other aspects of their lives. This can cause them to neglect their partners and other important relationships, and it can lead to serious problems with their mental health.

If you are in a relationship and pornography is causing problems, it is important to talk about the issue openly with your partner. You may need to set boundaries or create ground rules for your partner watching porn, in order to ensure that it does not become a distraction from your relationship and make sure that both partners are feeling respected and valued.

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It may also be helpful to seek the guidance of a professional therapist. There are several online therapy providers available, including BetterHelp, Calmerry, and Cerebral.

Porn and relationships

With the recent release of the movie, 50 Shade of Grey, we as a culture have again revisited important issues about sexual matters that often don’t get talked about or clarified to the extent that we learn lessons that will actually improve our relationships. So, I am going to use this opportunity to talk about how pornography affects the emotional intimacy in romantic relationships. I’ll start with a question someone asked me recently.

I recently found out that my husband has been secretly viewing pornography online for years without me knowing. I feel very hurt by this discovery and disgusted by the thought of what he’s looking at. I told him this and he doesn’t see it as a big deal. He says “all guys use porn.” I need a reality check. Is internet pornography really that prevalent with men? And what should I do with these feelings?


This is a very important question and one that many couples struggle with. First, it is correct in saying that many men turn to pornography on a regular basis. It is estimated that 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites on the internet. But, it isn’t just men viewing porn. About one-third of those regular visitors are women. But those who claim that porn is not a “big deal” are wrong. It is a very big deal because of how it erodes the physical and emotional intimacy in real relationships.

Here are some things to consider:

  • 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.
  • 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 even from the relentless 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 spouse 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 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 marriage may depend on it.

a couple fighting about watching pornography

Is porn bad for a relationship?

The impact of pornography on relationships can vary greatly and depends largely on the context in which it’s used, as well as the attitudes and comfort levels of those involved. Some individuals and couples find that pornography can be a way to explore sexual interests and increase intimacy. However, others might find that excessive porn use can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or betrayal, particularly if there’s a perceived disconnect between reality and the scenarios depicted in porn. Researchers have pointed out that problems can occur if one partner uses porn secretly or if its use becomes a substitute for intimacy within the relationship.

Is porn unrealistic?

Pornography often portrays sex in a way that can be unrealistic and not reflective of typical sexual experiences or relationships. For example, the acts, positions, body types, and responses of the actors and actresses can create expectations that may not align with reality. In fact, these unrealistic depictions can influence people’s perceptions of what sex should look like and how partners should act. Therefore, it’s essential to differentiate between the fantasy of pornography and the reality of sex in the context of a consensual, respectful, and loving relationship.

Why do men watch porn?

Men watch pornography for a variety of reasons. It could be for pleasure, to fulfill a sexual fantasy, or as a form of stress relief. Some men may view porn as an easy and accessible way to explore their sexuality, or it could be that pornography use is a way to cope with feelings of loneliness or depression. However, it’s important to recognize that excessive viewing of pornography can potentially lead to issues such as unrealistic sexual expectations, decreased intimacy in relationships, or even addiction. It’s always recommended to maintain open communication with partners about the use of pornography and its effects on the relationship.

How to talk to your partner about porn

Discussing pornography with your partner requires open and honest communication. It’s important to approach the conversation without judgement, keeping in mind that it’s okay for people to have different views about pornography. Start by expressing your feelings in a non-confrontational manner, using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. Make sure you listen to your partner’s perspective and try to understand their viewpoint. If the use of porn is causing issues in your relationship, discuss these concerns openly and honestly, and consider seeking professional help from an in-person or online therapist if needed. Wondering if you’re an overthinker? Take our overthinking test designed to assess your tendency to overanalyze and overthink.

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