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Possible Side Effects of Pornography on Relationships


clicking on porn button to learn the side effects of pornography

It is no secret that porn use has been on the rise in today’s society. This rise can be due to many reasons. For example, internet pornography is readily accessible and can easily be kept private. However, compulsive porn use can have multiple negative implications that carry over into areas of our lives, and can especially have a negative impact on intimate relationships. Read on to learn the pros, cons, and potential side effects of pornography on relationships.


The Pros, Cons, and Potential Side Effects of of Pornography in Relationships


You might be sitting here thinking, “How is it possible that viewing pornography can be healthy for a relationship?” That is quite a normal reaction to have, but it’s certainly possible for couples to have a healthy relationship with porn.


There are pros and cons to most situations people come across in life, but the key is to learn how to navigate through them.


When used as a tool for enhancing intimacy, incorporating porn in sexual relationships can have benefits. For example:

  • Porn can be a catalyst for discovering sexual activity preferences with a partner, exploring sexual desires, and it can allow for experimentation.
  • Utilizing porn as an addition to your sex life, rather than an alternative.
  • Aiding in communication. If you are having difficulty putting into words what brings you pleasure, you can utilize porn as a means of showing your partner what you would like. Porn can help open the door to who you are as a sexual being.


On the other hand, potential negative side effects of pornography in relationships can include:


  • Portrayal of a distorted reality. For example, sexual intercourse and orgasms are not the only means of sexual pleasure. Communication with your partner is always key for what you and your partner want.
  • Porn can desensitize particular stimulations. For example, “vanilla” sex just isn’t fulfilling anymore.
  • Porn does not always portray healthy sexual behaviors – many stereotypes are presented (i.e. the idea that large penises are the only size that are pleasurable, non-consent, fetishization of trans-bodied individuals/black men/Latina women, etc)


A helpful way to decide if porn use works for your relationship is to have an open, non-judgmental conversation about interests, boundaries, expectations, and definitions of infidelity within the relationship.


5 Signs Porn is Impacting Your Relationships


Relationships are built on the following three pillars: trust, honesty, and communication. With all three pillars intact, it sets the tone for not just a healthy relationship with your partner, but also a healthy attachment. This feeling of safety can create permission to be vulnerable and intimate with your partner.


Engaging in solo experimentation with porn and masturbation is both healthy and normal, even if you are currently in a healthy partnered relationship. It is important to remember that everyone has different interests, and there is no right or wrong as long as everyone is consenting. Try to be open minded and mindful not to ‘yuck anyone else’s yum.’


There are many signs that porn can be impacting your relationship, but below are some highlighted signs to be mindful of.


Decrease in Relationship Satisfaction


Has your partner expressed feeling emotionally threatened? For example, a concern that you would rather consume pornogrpahy than to engage in sexual intimacy with them.


Feeling Like You are Needing to Keep Secrets From Your Partner


Secrecy, shame, depression, guilt, and isolation are just a few emotions that can arise when the utilization of porn crosses a threshold. This secrecy can enhance feelings of distance within the relationship.


It’s More Difficult to Experience Arousal Without Pornography


Do you find it difficult to engage in sexual intimacy without watching porn prior or during sexual activity? Are you needing higher amounts of stimulation during sexual acts and find yourself not being mentally present?


Breaking Your Relationship Agreements


Some partners may view watching porn as infidelity. It is important to discuss realistic expectations with your partner(s) about fidelity. It can be helpful to try to come to an agreement that meets both of your needs.


Noticing Addictive Behaviors Around Consuming Pornography


Is watching porn the only time you experience a surge of dopamine, numbness, or happiness? Is there an escalation in amount of time you spend watching porn? Are you neglecting your responsibilities? Are you unable to resist porn despite the negative consequences directly from it?


If Porn is a Problem, What can be Done?


There is no doubt that overcoming porn addiction and other problems around porn within a relationship can be challenging. That being said, it is not impossible. The first step in breaking free from pornography addiction, if you and/or your partner has identified this as a problem, is to identify the “why” behind the porn use.


In addition, it is of great importance that the atmosphere for the conversation be one that is open and nonjudgmental. In other words, if you are upset about your partner watching porn, or the types of porn that are being watched, talk to your partner about it. There is no need for you to suffer in silence. Choosing to stay quiet only has the potential to disconnect further, and can even cause resentments. It is important to express your wants, needs, and boundaries while fighting the urge to judge or attack.


In addition, ask as many questions as you need answered! It helps to be openly curious about your partner’s interests in pornography. You might ask how you can best support them through any struggles they are facing. Or, maybe you can ask what it is they like about the content that they are viewing or what it does for them sexually.


You can also try to look within yourself and ask what it is about their pornography usage that bothers you. If you cannot resolve the issue alone or together in the relationship, the option to seek out help from a third-party can be helpful. You might seek out help from a couples sex therapist to gain more insight on how you and your partner feel. It can also be helpful to work with a sex therapist if you or your partner are experiencing any sexual dysfunctions as a result of excessive porn use or pornography addiction.


Don’t be scared to reach out for help from a mental healthcare professionals if your relationship is experiencing negative side effects of pornography. Couples therapists are here to help you and/or you and your partner work through any relational barriers.


The bottom line is that porn is not necessarily all good or all bad for relationships. Nothing in life is ever that simple. What is important, however, is that the lines of communication are always open. If the individuals within the relationship do not consider viewing porn to be a negative influence on the relationship, if the utilization of porn is not getting in the way of their day-to-day lives, and they are able to navigate through any concerns that may arise, it’s likely the presence of porn is just fine.


Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Raquel VanLoon, LCPC, CSAT, CADC, is a Clinical Associate for Modern Intimacy. Raquel feels passionate about helping individuals through their journey on becoming their most authentic selves in any relationship or setting. Raquel works with people to develop and maintain healthy boundaries.



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