Picture this: you are in a happy, seemingly healthy relationship with your partner. You both love spending time together and understand each other in a way no one else does. You have something really special, and you feel really confident in your relationship and secure in your partner’s love for you.
One day, you find your partner looking at naked, explicit pictures of another girl or guy in your friend group. Suddenly, you might doubt your partner’s love for you. Your world is turned upside down. You may think, “Why are they looking at her or him? Am I not enough? Why are they going outside of our relationship for sexual satisfaction? Why are they cheating on me?”
Most of us recognize that finding our partner looking at pictures or videos of a naked friend would be cheating, at least in some way. That person becomes the “other girl” or “other guy” that drives a wedge in the close, exclusive connection. Yet somehow, in our culture, looking at porn is “normal,” even though it means sharing your time, affection, and sexuality with someone outside of your relationship. Even though it means specifically seeking out another person, strangers on a screen, for sexual gratification.
So let’s pose a tough question: can porn become the “other” girl or other guy in a relationship?
The Effects Are Still Real
Porn can be destructive to any relationship. A porn habit takes the time, attention, and affection that can be given to a partner, and instead, gives it to an exaggerating performer on a screen. It can isolate the viewer from their real life relationship and affect the way they view their partner. And at times, viewers may end up seeking sexual satisfaction through their screen rather than with their partner, exclusively. After all, porn never rejects you, it never won’t want to try a new idea, and it’s never “not in the mood.” In any other instance where a physical person is involved, this would automatically be considered cheating, right?
Just because the person is on the screen and not in the room, physically, does not mean that the effects on the relationship are not devastating, and this is something our society gets really wrong. But let’s look at the facts.
What’s the Research?
Two of the most respected pornography researchers, Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama, studied the effects of porn and media for over 30 years. Their studies found that viewing pornography makes many users less satisfied with their own partner’s physical appearance, sexual performance, affection, and sexual curiosity.  Other researchers have confirmed those results and added that porn users tend to be significantly less intimate with their partners,  less committed in their relationships,  less satisfied with their romantic and sex lives,  and more likely to physically cheat on their partners. 
Porn can also change sexual tastes so that viewers no longer respond to their partners.  Researchers have shown a strong connection between porn use and low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and trouble reaching orgasm.  Many frequent porn users reach a point where they have an easier time getting aroused by Internet porn than by having actual sex with a real partner. 
The problem with porn is that people who have a habit viewing it can often end up consciously or subconsciously comparing their partner to the never-ending variety of men or women of unrealistic proportions and sexual appetites on the screen. And that’s not exactly ideal for a healthy, intimate, exclusive connection.
So What Can You Do?
Here’s the thing—every person who watches porn can watch it for different reasons. Sometimes, it’s an old habit that’s hard to kill. Others really are hooked, with no intention of giving it up or trying to stop for themselves. Or, someone could be watching porn because they think it’ll inspire their sex life with their partner (even though research shows how that’s not really a good idea). No matter why someone is watching porn, it’s important for a couple to communicate about their expectations and what they think about it. Yes, porn can be very harmful, but there is a huge difference between someone who is watching because they can’t seem to stop versus someone who watches because they don’t want to or care to stop.
In so many cases, porn can really feel like the “other woman” or “other man” in a relationship. Most people want their relationship to be based on mutual love, fidelity, and respect, sharing all of themselves with each other. That’s the best case scenario, right? Giving all of yourself to your partner can be made more difficult if you are simultaneously giving yourself to women or men on a screen. Strive for the ideal, and keep it real.
Why This Matters
In a relationship, porn can become that person “on the side,” whom one goes to in order to have their needs met. If you don’t think porn adds to the health of a relationship, SHARE this article.