Pornography use in committed relationships is on the rise. It has become a fixture even in relationships that appear blissful and idyllic. With the ease of technological access to porn constantly increasing, its use has become a significant issue for many couples. Whether you are are in a committed relationship or thinking about one, or you are a counselor, member of the clergy, or a therapist, here are 3 myths about pornography use among couples you need to know:
1 – If We Had More Sex, We Would Have Less Porn
This sounds like it makes sense. People can have strong sexual drives. If a couple is not having sex enough to satisfy both partners, a spouse might turn to pornography to satisfy his desires. As likely as this sounds, logic, research, and my clinical experience demonstrate that it is usually not true.
Firstly, many couples, if not most, are not able to have enough intimate moments to satisfy their desires for each other. Stresses vie for most couples’ attention. These include career related pressures, childrearing demands, domestic responsibilities, relationship issues, financial burdens, and social callings. Obligations make many couples feel overwhelmed and not able to devote enough time to each other, let alone share meaningful sexual experiences. Simply stated, many couples feel that they are not having “enough sex.” If so, almost all contemporary couples should be driven to pornography. As much of a fixture as pornography is, it isn’t universal. Clearly “not enough sex” does not necessarily lead to pornography use.
Secondly, research in the field of pornography use in committed relationships has not found a connection between sexual desire and porn use. As researchers found, “desire did not seem to discriminate between males who use and males who do not use.” Committed or married men can be comparable on the scale of sexual desire and some will use pornography, while others won’t.
This is buttressed by my professional experience. Pornography use is not usually connected to a couple’s frequency of intimate experiences. Often couples are very sexually active with each other, while one of them still resorts to pornography use privately. More sex does not mean less porn.
2 – Religious Couples Don’t Have Porn
Another common belief is that religious people, whether single or married, use pornography less, or not at all. This is patently not true. In my practice, I see individuals both in relationships and not committed that are devoutly religious and struggle with pornography use.
This is borne out by an astounding study. A group of researchers analyzed Google search terms on a state by state basis. They found a clear trend. States that are generally identified as more religious and fundamentalist had a higher prevalence of pornographic search terms on Google. Think about that: the more a state identified as religious, the greater amount of sexual terms were searched for. Another group of researchers was incredulous, so they independently replicated the same study – and found the same results.
The first researchers then found something else even more amazing. They anonymously surveyed citizens of the states that demonstrated high pornography use. Although the respondents were anonymous, most people replied that they did not use pornography. Imagine that! In the states that were clearly using porn, people did not admit it, even anonymously. It seems to indicate that religious communities see two things with regards to online pornography: increased use and decreased honesty about it.
Clearly, increased religiosity does not indicated less pornography use. It appears to sometimes indicate the opposite.
3 – Pornography Use Is a Spouse’s Private Business
It would be so nice if this were true. One spouse uses porn. The other ignores it and they have an exciting, committed, and passionate relationship.
In most situations, a spouse sees partner porn use as a form of infidelity. To most spouses, it makes little difference whether their partner is committing an affair with another person or through watching porn. A partner whose spouse watches will feel deep anger, resentment, and question their relationship. They will also experience their own self doubt, question their ability to trust their partner, and feel depressed mood. This is such a common pattern of behavior that I adopted a term for it in my practice: virtual infidelity. Although pornography use is usually online, with no relationship or connection, a spouse feels just as shunned. She questions herself, her relationship, and her spouse. Although virtual infidelity seems very different than an affair with another, the effects on one’s spouse, and one’s relationship, are very similar.
It is important for first responders, such as clergy and educators, as well as therapists, to expect strong reactions from a spouse and make room for those reactions. It is advisable for clinicians to center a large part of their work with couples recovering from a spouse’s use to addressing those spousal feelings and rebuilding the spouse’s world after the cataclysmic blow it sustained.
Pornography use among couples is the new frontier in relationship development and enhancement. Individuals, couples, responders, and therapists have to be are aware of the truths about pornography use in relationships. The more knowledge people have about pornography among couples, the greater ability they have to understand its impact.