Should I Get Over My Feelings About My Husband Using Porn?

Should I Get Over My Feelings About My Husband Using Porn?

Should I Get Over My Feelings About My Husband Using Porn?

Pornography is available 24/7 to anyone with a connected device.  What’s the impact that this has on marriages?  

And if you have a question you’d like me to address on this podcast, don’t be shy, we’ll all benefit from your question so come on over to my website, neildbrown.com and enter it there today.  If this month of May, we select your question for a podcast, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending The Parent-Teen Control Battle.

Today we’re hearing from Jennifer from Salt Lake City.  And Jennifer writes:

I have a question about pornography.  I get upset with my husband because he uses it, and he says it’s no big deal.  He claims that he’s been using it since he was a teenager and it has no bearing on our relationship.  He says all men view porn. I don’t like it because it makes me self-conscious when we have sex.  I feel that I’m competing with the woman in the videos.  I know I have insecurity issues; am I just supposed to get over these feelings and accept his behavior as normal? 

Thanks for your question Jennifer, it is an issue that gets raised in my practice quite commonly.

First of all, before we discuss porn, I want to point out that you and your husband’s discussion about it is an unproductive argument.  You’re telling your husband that something is bothering you, and he’s telling you that your feelings are wrong.  That’s an unhealthy discussion.  I have no idea how you’re bringing it up, whether you’re accusatory or are emotionally charged, but what you’re getting back is not the empathy or understanding that you need. 

So that’s the first issue. It’s a big issue because it comes down to how your needs and your husband's needs whether they are emotional, sexual or otherwise are met or not. 

The Positive and Negative Effect of Pornography

Now let’s talk about pornography in general.  What is porn?  What I’m talking about here is explicit visual content that’s designed to create sexual arousal; to give the viewer a dopamine hit and sexual arousal.  Before the Internet, pornography for the masses were nude pictures in Playboy or for the harder core folks, Hustler magazine. 

There was plenty of other stuff too, but you had to go out of your way to get it.  There is only so much arousal someone can get from a still photo before the photo loses its charge.  Now online, there is an endless supply of pornographic videos with every orientation and presentation one can imagine.  It can be highly arousing and teens and men often use it to become aroused and then much of the time to masturbate. I’m not interested in discussing the morality of pornography, just the psychology and relationship side of it. So from that perspective, does it have value?  Can it be a good thing? 

On the positive side, it can take what for many people is a difficult-to-discuss subject and bring it out into the open.  Along those lines, there are “how to” videos that provide valuable instruction on different sexual options.  I wouldn’t count those as porn, but they are arousing.  Another positive possibility for porn is that couples can view it together as a warm up to create initial arousal or to open up a discussion about what they desire and what they don’t care for.  They can get ideas for what they could experiment with for themselves.

There is a pretty big downside too of course.  Sex is an important part of a couple’s relationship.  Sexual intimacy is part of the special uniqueness of their relationship and it’s important that it is honored as a special aspect that belongs just to them.  It is a special and unique way that couples give and receive, that they meet each other’s needs, make each other and themselves feel good.

A Couple's Emotional Connection

There is a sexual energy that both members of the relationship hold for each other.  It’s there whether they’re having sex, or not.  The sexual energy is part of what brings them together, holds them together.  The large majority of the time that couples are together, they aren’t having sex, but the sexual energy is still there.  Sometimes it’s felt strongly. Sometimes they will be unaware of it, and sometimes it will be challenged by hurt, anger, and fighting, but it’s there, and it’s part of what brings them back from hurt and anger.

Now, if a partner is using porn as a regular form of sexual gratification, it will drain that sexual energy out of the relationship.

Instead of growing and developing their sexual relationship, engaging the discussion, focusing on learning about each other's needs, desires, and preferences, and bringing them together, use of pornography can support or lead to disengagement. Click To Tweet

In other words, if a couple is having a hard time, and struggling with emotional closeness, and the lack of emotional closeness creates a situation where they are having infrequent sex, one way they might deal with it is by using pornography and masturbating.  Now instead of using that sexual energy to encourage emotional healing or getting close and connecting, the sexual energy is escaping into porn, and there is low effort to improve the relationship.  That’s what I mean by porn supporting the disengagement. 

And of course, if someone brings significant interest and engagement with pornography to a relationship, and their sexual energy is going there, well, that could lead to emotional disengagement where the other partner experiences them as emotionally and sexually distant.

At an extreme level, porn can lead to sexual addiction, where sex becomes an obsession.  With sexual addiction, an individual is virtually always seeking sexual stimulation and it has nothing to do with emotional connection. 

So to simplify, here's the best way to differentiate a positive use of porn from a negative one; does it support or undermine a couple’s emotional connection? Click To Tweet

Jennifer, let’s say your husband uses porn sometimes so that he doesn’t overwhelm you with his sexual needs, or because it has been part of his life since adolescence. But if your emotional relationship and your sexual relationship is positive and the sexual energy between you is still strong, and your husband is sensitive to your needs; maybe then it’s fine. 

On the other hand, if your partner’s use of porn is excessive or drains emotional or sexual energy from the relationship, then it’s unhealthy and needs to go.

My concern for your situation Jennifer, is that you do carry some insecurity that you should be able to outgrow in a safe relationship.  If you’re being made to feel that your feelings are not valid, that’s going to exacerbate your insecurity and create or add to disconnection in your relationship. 

Starting a Conversation about Porn

I can imagine you having a conversation with your husband and you saying the following:

“Dear, I understand that porn has been a part of your life since you hit puberty and I’m not saying there is something wrong with that.  I’m not saying that you are doing something wrong, bad, or immoral.  I’m saying that it’s having a bad effect on me.  It’s making me feel that I should be sexier, more experienced, more sexually amazing, and I can only be me.  And I keep thinking you wish I were one of the women in the videos.”

Jennifer, how would that be for a conversation starter?

It would be great for you and your husband to see an experienced couples therapist and focus on how you can support each other and build a connection.  Your husband’s use of porn is one element that is supporting or creating disconnection, but there is more than that to talk about.

We now have every form of sexual presentation available 24/7 to everyone with a connected device.  For many folks, use of pornography was a common part of their growing up.  As young people grow from teenagers to young adults to then more settled adults, building careers and coupling, habits and lifestyles need to transition and those elements that are unhealthy including drug and alcohol use and the use of porn needs re-examination.  Does it support health and family connection or does it undermine health and family connection?  Let’s be sure that we’re taking an honest look at ourselves and if our partner has a concern, let’s care about that.

Thanks for tuning in today listeners and special thanks to Jennifer for her important question.  If you’re enjoying and benefiting from HFC, please leave a review for me there on iTunes and for this month of May. If your question is selected for my podcast, we’ll send you a free copy of my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle.  At the end of each podcast, I encourage everyone to take care of themselves, but let’s not take my closing for granted. 

Think of one wonderful thing you can do for yourself that’s on the back burner.  Put it on the front burner and let’s get it cooking.  And now it can really mean something when I say, please remember to take care of yourselves, you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.

Bye for now.

 


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