9 Reasons Porn Hurts

Why do partners struggle so much with porn use?  What's the big deal?  This article provides my observations based upon working with couples faced with this issue.

First, What is Porn?

To quote the Supreme Court, “I know it when I see it.”  If your wife thinks it’s porn, you need to consider her opinion, even if you don’t agree.  The issue is whether or not she’s distressed by it…so don’t get into an argument about whether or not something you’ve been viewing is all that bad.

So, why does porn hurt so much? I’ve been dealing with this issue with a number of my couples recently.  Here’s a synopsis of what some women have told me:

Reason #1 - It’s Not Personal

When she gets married (or into a committed relationship), a woman tends to make the assumption that her relationship will be monogamous and her sex life will demonstrate how much her partner cares about her in particular.  Sex is the ultimate way that a woman makes herself vulnerable to a man – he is typically stronger, and the act of intercourse is one of penetration into a woman’s physical being.  Women often describe sex as emotionally meaningful, about being vulnerable, and about attachment to their partner.

When you were discovered using porn, your partner was suddenly confronted with an ugly reality.  All of her assumptions about what sex means in your relationship are wrong.  For you, sex is not about her in particular.  It’s just about sex and feeling good.

Reason #2 - Porn is Revolting to Many Women

For many women, porn is horrifying in that it degrades women and sex.  One woman in the health care field told me recently, “I spend a lot of time helping women value their bodies.  How do I deal with my husband’s porn use, which is so contrary to everything I stand for?”  When a wife discovers her husband likes porn, she’s likely to struggle to maintain her high opinion of him.  ‘He likes that?  I must have misjudged whether or not he’s a respectful, and respectable partner.’  Even what I call “laughable porn” (think naked woman with size DDD breasts perched atop a Ducati and licking a popsicle) lowers her estimation of you.

Reason #3 - Porn as the Perfect ‘Other Woman’

Further, porn is like the perfect mistress.  She is available 24/7, comes with no strings attached, is always ready to fulfill whatever type of fantasy a man has at the moment, and won’t be stupid crazy enough to call his wife and announce that she just spent three days with him in Miami.  But that perfection makes porn quite threatening.  How does your wife compete with perfection?  Your sex life was probably not as exciting as either you or she would have liked (hence the porn use) and now, at least for a while, every time you have sex together she’s likely to feel as if you would rather be elsewhere.

But it’s more than that porn is the perfect mistress idea – it’s also incomprehensible to women.  Discovering your partner has a female mistress (flesh and blood) may be one of the most painful things you’ll ever experience, but at least you understand it.  There's a woman there enticing you.  The completely impersonal (and fake?) nature and appeal of porn is not so easy to comprehend.  And you chose this…thing…instead of coming to find her to enjoy sex…

#4 - Even More Threatening – Porn is Ubiquitous

Porn is so readily available that every woman who worries about a husband’s continued use of porn knows she’s not in control.  Porn is ready and available if he decides he wants it again, no matter what she thinks or does.  Period.  Coming to terms with this uncertainty (will he use porn again???  What else don’t I know?) is something she must do to heal, but it comes hard. 

#5 - Porn Use is Insulting

Face it, you chose porn over her and that’s just plain insulting.  You could have been with her…but you weren’t.  If you justify it by saying that your relationship or sex life has been in trouble, it’s still an insult.  Most women are eager to “work” on their relationship if needed (hence the success of the self-improvement industry).  But instead of working on your sexual or relationship problems together, in her opinion you took the “easy way out.”  No wonder she’s mad!

#6 - Now You’re a Liar

If she didn’t question your honesty before she discovered you were hiding your porn use from her, she does now.  Since trust is a key element in a solid relationship this creates real problems for you both.

#7 - She’s Thinking…I Just Don’t Know My Husband AT ALL!

Porn is the opposite of what your wife thought sex meant to both of you.  She thought connection.  Porn is disconnected.  She thought “healthy” and loving.  Porn is not.  She thought she was special.  Porn use communicates she’s not.  And if you chose porn instead of her, it “means” that the impersonal, meaningless (as you have now told her) porn and masturbation were more important (and exciting) to you than her love, your relationship and your sex together.  She thought she knew you.  You proved to her that she didn’t.

What do you do with that information?  As a woman, how do you recover from being shown that you are less important than a complete stranger in what is, arguably, one of the most personal and important parts of your relationship?  That you thought you knew your partner well, but in fact you don’t?  That there may always be unpleasant surprises hidden inside your partner?

#8 - “What’s the Big Deal?”

Many men unwittingly make the agony worse as they try to reassure their wives that the porn doesn’t mean anything.  The “it’s just pictures” comment simply reinforces the idea that their husbands chose something meaningless over them!  And, to make matters worse, the statements are invalidating.  The wife is saying “I’m so hurt I can barely stand it” and the husband is saying back “it’s not a big deal.”  What your wife needs to hear is it IS a big deal…for her and now, therefore, for you.

#9 - Porn, Round 2

Then there is the “next round” situation.  Too many times, a husband uses porn again, even after his wife has expressed how hurt this makes her feel.  This is an extension of his feeling that it doesn’t mean much (i.e. the impersonal nature of sex for men) and the fact that for many, it’s hard to give up – for the same reason affairs can be hard to give up.  It makes him feel good, fulfills his fantasies, and is easy.  And, trust me, things with the wife after the porn use has been discovered are complicated!  Sex is probably hard to come by at that particular moment…but it’s still not a good idea to continue to use the porn.

This second betrayal is even worse than the first one.  As one woman told her husband in a session recently, “The first time I could say that you didn’t understand how porn would hurt me.  But now I’ve explained it and you’re still using it!  How hurtful is that?  Don’t you care about me at ALL???”

 

So, there are lots of important reasons porn can really damage your relationship.  If you’ve already found that out the hard way, I hope this post helps you understand why and helps you be more empathetic to your wife’s struggle.  In my next post I’ll write about what couples can do to recover from the upset that porn can cause.