Pornography is one of the largest online industries. And the vast majority of pornography viewers are men. As a result, many couples experience damage to their relationships because of pornography.
In my experience as a marriage counselor, however, it's not the pornography per se that causes the difficulties in the marriage. While the use of pornography is a personal decision between a couple and can cause conflict, there are a lot of misunderstandings and assumptions that go into men's and women's differing views about pornography. These misunderstandings and assumptions often escalate conversations into arguments and make a couple's conversation about pornography into something much more heated. When the conversation about pornography turns heated, it often creates even more difficulty and damage. It can even create more damage than the pornography itself.
Learning how each gender interprets a husband's pornography viewing can help you understand the feelings going on within yourself as well as your spouse, and help you to communicate about it openly and candidly. And it can help you and your spouse heal from the damage — instead of create new damage.
Women and men have different views of pornography
Women and men have varying beliefs about pornography. Men are more visually stimulated than women. As a result, many men consider pornography to be simply a form of entertainment — much like a video game or a movie (with an added sexual flare.) They don't usually view it as a way to retaliate against their wives — like they might retaliate by not coming home on time from a friend's house.
They also do not view it as, or intend it to be, a form of infidelity. In fact, most men view pornography for several reasons which have nothing to do with their wives or because they are dissatisfied with them. And it's not their intention to hurt their wives by viewing it, either. In fact, most men who come to my office would rather be with their wives than watch a pornography any day.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to consider their husband's viewing of pornography as a relationship violation. They believe that their husband looking at another woman sexually is a form of cheating and infidelity.
They often take it as a form of infidelity because they believe it reflects their husband's feelings towards them. They believe that if their husband was happy with them or sexually satisfied, he wouldn't be viewing pornography. Finally, women usually think their husband must not love them if they are viewing pornography. And if they don't love them, this is the biggest relationship violation of all.
Men's problems with pornography can vary
Just because a man views pornography does not automatically mean that, if the behavior goes unchecked, he will become a deviant.
There is a common misconception that pornography is a "gateway drug" to other, more deviant, behavior. While some research shows that people who view pornography may have more lenient beliefs towards certain sexual behaviors, there is little evidence showing that viewing pornography leads to greater sexual deviancy (including abuse, rape, etc.). This means that not all pornography consumption leads to deviancy. So long as it is not viewed compulsively. And as mentioned above, most men view pornography casually and infrequently.
While many men view pornography infrequently and recreationally, there are also many who view it habitually. People often commonly refer to this as "sexual addiction" — even though there is no such disorder in any of the textbooks or clinical diagnostic manuals.
Viewing pornography becomes problematic when it becomes habitual. Such "pornography addiction" is harmful because often the addict prefers viewing to pornography over other more healthy activities such as engaging with friends, performing well at work, etc. As a result, other arenas of their life suffers. They will often lose jobs, friends and have financial difficulties as a result of the behavior.
When pornography addiction becomes this severe it is often classified as a compulsive disorder rather than a form of addiction. Just like those with obsessive compulsive disorder will often feel a need to habitually and compulsively clean, "pornography addicts" feel compelled to habitually and compulsively view pornography. When this happens, treatment from a certified professional is often warranted.
While the use of pornography is often a personal decision between many couples, understanding what drives men to view pornography is often a first step in a healthy conversation full of understanding, compassion and love. It also can help alleviate any fears and misperceptions that can cause unnecessary difficulties. When couples have more understanding of each other and the phenomenon around pornography, they are able to have more healthy discussions and are also much less likely to create more damage trying to talk about it.
***For additional information as well as tips and tricks to talk to your husband, check out this article on how to talk to your husband about his pornography viewing.