Is pornography cheating?
Most relationship counsellors will have experienced the damage that cheating and infidelity has on a relationship. Most of us would see going to bed with someone other than your partner as infidelity; but when it comes to watching and using pornography, is your partner cheating?
The big problem here is how you see the word cheating. The issue seems to revolve around how it makes the partners feel. So, if both watch pornography together, perhaps as part of their sex life, that does not feel like cheating. If one partner watches pornography with the consent of the other and they still have a healthy relationship together, again that doesn’t feel like cheating.
The problems really start to arise when the secretive nature of watching pornography comes to the forefront. When one partner feels cheated of the intimacy of the relationship by their partner’s use of pornography, it is easy to see this as cheating.
While around 25% of pornography is watched by women, the problems of pornography are mostly a male problem. Many forums and websites have posts where women are shocked to see what their partner is watching (often discovered by accident) and they speak of the way that it makes them question their relationship and how their partner sees them.
Similarly, many men feel trapped by internet pornography; it has developed into an addiction, they perhaps cannot perform without access to pornography, and they spend more and more time finding the right “perfect” images.
Often the problems have started because of problems in the relationship. Perhaps there is a difference in libido; perhaps there are unresolved issues that prevent the partners from becoming intimate. Perhaps it is circumstance; you are just tired all the time and intimacy is the last thing on your mind. Perhaps your sex life has become routine and you never discuss it. One partner may feel that it is a problem yet the time is never found to address the relationship. All of these can, over time, drive one partner (often the man) to surf the net for pornography.
Dealing with the problem is about addressing the cause of the problem, identifying where the problems are in the relationship and trying to address these, and perhaps learning to talk about subjects that have been historically difficult such as sex. It is worth noting that demanding why someone is looking at pornography is unlikely to bear fruit; while you may be angry at your partner’s use of pornography, they are more likely to respond to the feelings that it generates in you.
Often a counsellor can help you to talk about the issue and help you deal with feelings of hurt, betrayal and loss. The objective is to get the relationship back to a point where the intimacy between you and your partner means that cheating with pornography is not worth it.
Finally, it is worth noting that there is help if you feel that you have become addicted to pornography and, like any other addiction, counselling and support groups are available.