April 7, 2016

Is Porn Bad for Your Relationship?

I remember a client who felt demoralized after a couples therapy session.  The therapist essentially condoned the partner's use of porn.  He's a man and men are visual, said the therapist. Don't interfere with the male prerogative.

Many professionals view porn differently. If both partners enjoy viewing porn together, and neither find the material objectionable, it may not be a problem.  But in An Open Letter on Porn, psychologist and relationship researcher, Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D., concludes that porn can interfere with intimacy between couples.  Couples with one partner viewing porn regularly have sex "far less" often, his sources indicate. It would be ironic, wouldn't it, if viewing porn, assumed by some as a quintessential masculine activity, predicted less real-life sex.

One of the reasons porn enthusiasts have less sex may stem from something known as the "supernormal stimulus" phenomenon:

  "...Research on the effects of pornography use, especially one person frequently viewing pornographic images online, shows that pornography can hurt a couple’s relationship...because pornography can be a “supernormal stimulus” ...  a stimulus that evokes a much larger response than one that has evolutionary significance. One effect of a supernormal stimulus is that interest wanes in normal stimuli."

I have heard several clients express just such a fear,  "If my partner is getting off to air-brushed images of uber-beautiful, surgically enhanced models (supernormal stimulus), how could he possibly want to have sex with me?"  Gottman's Open Letter suggests such fears may not be rooted in insecurity or jealousy but in a hard, lonely truth: Porn can be bad for a couple's intimate relationship.

Sandy Andrews, PhD  is a Clinical Psychologist / Therapist who provides CBT in Austin, Texas