Is watching porn cheating?

With porn being available to us at the swipe of our smart phones, it is no surprise that the majority of adults have had some experience of it. It’s so easily accessible that people’s viewing of porn has become acceptable. Yet, with it’s “normalcy”, couples are finding that porn is interfering with their ability to connect, now more than ever. 

“He insists he has to work late, waits for me to go to bed and then jerks off to some dumb-looking American school girl on the internet, can you believe it?!”

“I thought we didn’t have much sex because he wasn’t so sexually energetic, but then I found hundreds of links to porn sites in his internet history. He watches porn everyday!”

 

It feels like cheating

In an age when porn is so seemingly acceptable, when someone finds their partner has been using porn, it can feel like they’re being cheated on. In some situations, it actually resembles cheating; there is secrecy around it, the time dedicated to it is honoured and there is loyalty to it – a refusal to let it go for the sake of the relationship.

For these reasons, it can spark a whole load of discord in some relationships. Partners can experience betrayal, jealousy, anger, resentment, longing and hurt. It can feel like cheating because their loved one is reserving their sexual energy for some hyper-sexualised people on the internet instead of going to them. It is very difficult to make peace with this especially if there is no explanation for why it’s happening.

 

I’m not cheating, I promise!

If you are the partner using porn, you may feel wrongfully attacked. You haven’t cheated and you wouldn’t even consider cheating on your partner. It’s just porn, everyone does it. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner.

Watching porn is a bit like drinking a gin and tonic or buying a new pair of shoes; it brings positive sensations for a while so we can forget about the complex, more challenging aspects of daily living. When porn becomes a habit, however, it goes from being an innocent distraction to a destructive force that has an impact on many aspects of our lives.

 

“Staying in my play pretend, where the fun ain’t got no end.” – Tove Lo

Using porn habitually is like having an addictive behaviour. In the same way that alcohol, drugs, shopping or gambling addictions can wreak havoc in relationships, so can porn-use. Even though you do not mean for your partner to feel cheated on, you are taking sexual energy and intimacy away from your relationship when you choose to watch porn over going to your beloved. Over time, this has an impact on the trust you share, on the way you communicate, and on your sexual and emotional connection.

It’s important to ask yourself what your porn use is really about. What does it give to you (ex. a sense of being powerful, desired, adventurous, curious)? Maybe using porn allows you to just feel nothing for a while. Here are 4 questions to get your started on this process of self-discovery:

  • What do I get from porn? (ex. Release of stress, feel in control, desirable)
  • What do I lose when I choose porn?  (ex. My girlfriend feels she can’t trust me.)
  • Do I want to keep choosing porn? (This is up to you.)
  • How can I receive what I get from porn elsewhere? (ex. When I feel out of control when I have sex it freaks me out. How can I learn to trust that if I let go it will be okay?)

I suggest you begin by free-writing your answers just to gain some clarity around the issue. If you make the decision to stop or to lessen your porn-use, seek someone to explore the issue further with. I know the thought of speaking to someone about porn sounds weird, but choose someone who will not judge your behaviour and will challenge you to gain insight on your addictive patterns.

Even though habitual porn-use may not be intended as cheating, it can be received as cheating. If you want to have a healthy relationship with your partner – and with yourself – you have a responsibility to figure out what it means to you.

With love,

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Read about how to cope with erectile dysfunction, which is sometimes related to regular porn-use.

Book a therapy session with Emma.

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