Written by The Relate Institute
Pornography has been a topic of increased focus for the last decade. As the internet has come to dominate our lives and various forms of pornography have become more accessible, scholars and the general public have struggled with fully understanding the short and long-term effects of increased pornography use and exposure.
Weighing in on this discussion, a recent study by Doran and Price found that adults who had viewed pornography in the last year “were more likely to be divorced, more likely to have an extramarital affair, and less likely to report being happy with their marriage or happy overall.”
While we should be careful with making blanket statements like “everyone that watches porn will have a horrible marriage,” these types of research findings underscore the important relationship issues that arise from repeated pornography use by one or both partners. Unfortunately, there are many who not only view pornography occasionally, but struggle with pornography use as a very real compulsive addiction. This type of behavior can lead to lying to one’s partner or other harmful relationship behaviors.
So what if you’re the spouse who has found out that your partner has been struggling with compulsive behaviors centered on pornography? How can you respond in ways that will help, not hurt the situation or your relationship? Sometimes the response that individuals get from their partners regarding their pornography use does nothing but drive a wedge in their relationships. Below is one common mistake and some suggestions on how to respond to a partner who uses pornography in ways that does not undermine your relationship.
What NOT to do: Seek outside validation or air your complaints to the world. Consider this exchange on social media:
[Young married woman posting on Facebook]: HELP! I just found out my husband has looked at porn. My husband has a porn addiction. I feel like I can’t trust him anymore. He is a monster, and he has been cheating on me with this smut. What do I do????
[Online friends commenting]: You deserve better! He is a monster! Give him an ultimatum: it’s you or the porn.
1) Help them identify the problem, and the times and places it emerges. When is the urge to engage/to use/to lapse into the addiction most likely to appear?
2) Find ways to help your partner avoid those times and those things. If they are unavoidable, set-up a check-in system with your partner. Be the person they can come to and talk to when the urge to use arises.
3) Accept that the behaviour probably won’t stop forever the first time. There will probably be slip-ups but if you allow one slip up to destroy your resolve to continue improving, you will never come out on top. Keep moving forward.
4) Establish an open dialogue about how your spouse is improving. Ask them about their temptations and how they are overcoming them. Be someone who they can come to when they struggle or lapse. Do NOT avoid the issue or make them feel judged if they talk to you.
5) Seek professional help if needed. When in doubt, find a therapist you can both trust and rely on. They are trained, they are licensed, and they can give support to both you and your spouse no matter the issue.
Pornography use does not need to lead to divorce or an unhealthy relationship, so long as there is communication, hard work, and possible forgiveness on both sides. Try taking our RELATE assessment for additional tips on where you and your partner could be more understanding of one another.
Photo Credit: Caitlinn Mahar-Daniels
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