He says he's satisfied, so why does my partner watch porn?

Psychologist and author Kerry Howard answers your trickiest questions about sex, relationships and love. This week, she shares her expert advice on how to deal when your partner says they're satisfied, but still watches porn. "Porn is always a challenging discussion because it has many different elements to it and we don't often consider all of them," Kerry says.


Q.  My partner watches porn and it makes me feel inadequate and rejected. What should I do, and why does he watch it when he says he’s more than satisfied with our sex life?


A. Porn is always a challenging discussion because it has many different elements to it and we don't often consider all of them.

Accessibility is important in terms of developing addiction and porn has never been easier to access than it is today.  It is quite different to when I first came across a Playboy magazine at my friend's house when I was about 10 - that was clearly 'naughty' and I didn't have regular exposure to it.  These days, it is quite unusual for an adolescent to make it to adulthood without being exposed to porn in some form - most often video.

The long-standing argument is that men obtain more arousal from visual input, it stimulates dopamine release in their brains. 

However, a recent study that reviewed a lot of research conducted over many years came to a clear conclusion - porn is damaging how our men are engaging in, and responding to, sex. Although that fact alone is not going to be enough to convince some people that it's not actually a good thing.

You need to come to a place where you are able to understand it for what it is, and make some decisions about the impact on you and your relationship. If your partner is open to discussing the focus on porn, it can help to try and understand what the focus is about. 

For some people, it's literally just an external perspective that may produce increased arousal. In this case try to enhance the sexual activity between the two of you to ensure you can see each other clearly during sex.  Some people may just leave the lights on, or others might try and incorporate a mirror into the room when you are engaging in sexual play, to create that extra layer of visual arousal.

Some men say that porn is just a quick way for them to relieve some tension — it's a tried and tested method that allows a range of hormones to be released into the system and people can become quite focussed on the feeling of that release.  Making love with a partner usually takes time — sometimes the ability to utilise some level of porn with self-stimulation is a really quick way to achieve a sense of exhilaration and create calm.  It can be hard to compete with quick and easy.

If your partner doesn't want to talk about his porn use because he's embarrassed, it may help if he could write it down for you.  That way, you are able to try and see if you can understand what the attraction is and try and bring that type of arousal into some of your personal interaction.

Your feelings of inadequacy are a concern. Many women believe that the reason men watch porn is because their relationship is not meeting all their partner’s needs, but it isn't always the case.  Unless there is some other reason to doubt your partner, perhaps he is telling you the truth when he says he is completely satisfied with your sex life.

As with most issues in relationships, the best way to resolve issues is to open communication around it.  Sex is often an area that we can feel embarrassed about, but if we can find a way to open the discussion, a willingness to be honest about our desires and fantasies, and bring to the conversation a little bit of humour — you might find that you can come to an understanding about the use of porn in your relationship.

 

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