Couple working on their marriage.

You may be concerned that your partner is watching porn and worry about how it impacts your sexual relationship and what it means about him or how he feels about you.

This is a complicated issue, but more and more it is a common concern in relationships. Pornography is more readily available than ever on most media platforms. It can be seen on almost any device, including phones, tablets and almost anything with a screen. It is easy to find if you want to.

But do you or your partner want to? Is it normal to watch porn?

There are no one-size-fits-all answers, and there is no right or wrong.  There are mostly questions to guide your discussion about this with your loved one. What is most important is what you both think the value of porn is for your relationship. You need to discuss this together and by doing so, you can then do what is best for your marriage.

Some things you might ask yourself about porn are:

  • Can it enhance my sexual relationship or actually make it less fulfilling for both of us?  
  • Are there long- term effects of this behavior for how you feel about each other and your sexual performance?
  • How do we determine what works for us?

Consider these questions as a starting point for a conversation with your husband:

  1. How much porn do you honestly view each week? Try not to be shocked by the answer and assume it is more than he says. Men generally have a higher sex drive than women, and watching porn may be a way to help manage that.
  2. What does each of you like to watch or hear? There are many sorts of images and sounds that can be sexually arousing. Some of them may include violence, others are more erotic than anything. Is it the sounds or the images that turn you or him on. Take some time to think through this. Many people don’t know the answer right away. What about smells? That is a very powerful human sense that pornography does not offer.
  3. Does it sap your energy for sex with me? There are conflicting studies and conclusions regarding the impact of porn on a man’s sexual interest and performance. Some report that it is not really a big problem for most men, but rather an expression of being a male. Stopping men from watching porn may be difficult and not worthwhile. Research from WebMD has this to say about why men look at porn.  On the other side of this discussion, others take a more negative view of the impact.
    One study commonly referenced discusses an increase in sexual dysfunction among users of porn. To make your own decision, you may have to do some research (preferably together) and then discuss your concerns.
  4. Is it erotic or sensual, and does it include violence and unrequested domination? You may notice that all “porn” is not the same. Some images depict sex that includes warmth and tenderness and gentleness. Other forms are more aggressive and violent and include unrequested restraint and control. It may be that you both would get off on this, but it needs some fair and open discussion.
  5. How would each of you feel about watching porn together? Given what is referred to above, you may want to explore watching different kinds of images both video and still pictures together. You may want to use it as part of your lovemaking, a prelude to your beginning (like foreplay), a model to copy, or just playing in the background. Afterward, you need to be honest about how it makes each of you feel. You don’t want to give into something that is not enjoyable for both of you. Be persistent in looking for what you like if you think it might exist.
  6. Do you see a time when you won’t watch porn? Think and then talk a little bit about why you use porn. Does it fill time when you are apart (might you substitute phone sex or some other mean to mutually experience arousal?) Does it give you new ideas? Is it something you can use sometimes but not others? Can you learn new ways to be intimate from other sources like books or podcasts? A sure sign that a person is not addicted to something is that they can stop. Can he? Can you?
  7. Where do you want to go from here? This discussion can be a bit tricky, so go slow. It is more about what things there are to do, not whether or not he finds you attractive, arousing or hot. Be adventurous, if you can. Make requests of him as well. Try something new to both of you, like having sex without moving for a few minutes or role-playing or dressing up. Talk together about what you would like to get out of watching or discussing porn that will enhance your intimacy together. You might want to talk about why it might be difficult to talk about it at all. You might decide that he could use some support, or both of you could talk with a therapist  or counselor who can give you some ideas (verbally, of course.)

Remember that watching or using porn needs to be a mutual agreement. Discuss this. There is no right or wrong. Align about the role porn plays in your marriage. Get on the same page about it.

Can you keep your word to do what you decide together? In short, do you trust each other? This is important to being sexually intimate with or without porn being an issue.

Here’s a couple we worked with recently…

Mark and Melinda had been together for years. From the beginning, Mark watched porn and was open about it with Melinda. She said she was OK with it but became more worried when they had two children around. She also noticed that Mark had much less interest in sex. For a while, after the children came, she was OK about having less sex with him, but it became an issue for her eventually.

By then, it seemed like he was watching a lot of porn. He was not very sexually aroused by her, he said. She made the request that he stop watching any porn for 3 months. He agreed (not as a compromise, but as a “gift” to her). At first, there was no difference, but after a month or so he became more and more aroused.

After another 3 months, they would watch together and talk about their experience. It was difficult for him to keep his promise at first, but eventually, they had a good and fun result. They tried new things together (like having sex in every room in the house or outside in the dark on their patio.)

Generally speaking, there is no correct answer about how to deal with porn in your relationship. What it takes are trust and good communication. The only harm that can be done is being secretive about it.

Do some research about the effects of porn together and keep talking about it. It might take some practice, as sex is not the easiest thing to discuss. Get some support about how to bring these things up.

The goal is good sex, not criticism. Trust is absolutely necessary. You might want to speak with a sex therapist or at least do some reading. Read the books together, out loud. Seeing a therapist may only involve a few sessions but be very helpful.

We offer consultation about having pornography conversations and would be glad to speak with you to decide what you may need. Check out our other articles on our website or call Dr. Phyllis or Dr. Peter at 434-971-4701 for a private conversation.

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