Pornography is not a new issue in relationships; however, the expansion of the Internet has increased its use because of the convenience, affordability and anonymous nature. Many never anticipate that viewing pornography will negatively influence their lives, yet it often significantly impacts the user as well as his or her family, workplace and community. The couple relationship often receives the most negative impact from pornography. 
Common damaging effects of pornography use can include addiction, isolation, increased aggression, distorted beliefs and perceptions about relationships and sexuality, negative feelings about themselves and neglecting other areas of their lives. Within couple intimate relationships, pornography can have negative impacts in the following ways:
 • User faces difficulty becoming sexually aroused without pornography.
 • User loses interest and engages in fewer sexual experiences with partner.
 • Partner may view pornography use as infidelity and a betrayal to the relationship.
 • Partner feels sexually inadequate and threatened by pornography use.
 • Partner may feel that certain sexual activities desired by user are objectionable.
 • Both user and partner have decreased emotional closeness and sexual satisfaction.
 • Relationship trust decreases due to dishonesty and deception about pornography use.
 • One or both partners may be concerned about children’s exposure to pornography.
While the negative impact on relationships can be challenging to overcome, healing is possible. It is first essential that an individual wants to make the steps toward recovery. Others may encourage steps toward change, but only the user can ultimately make the transformation. Without internal motivation, change will likely be superficial or short-lived. Second, the user must implement strategies to strengthen motivation to quit pornography. Consider these tips.
 • Become aware and understand how pornography creates problems. For individuals struggling with the addiction, it is important to honestly evaluate the impact of past pornography and possible future outcomes to strengthen their resolve to change. For partners, an open conversation about the negative effects may be helpful. While it is a difficult topic to approach, both partners should express how the pornography usage makes them feel without interruption and judgment from the other person. If the conversation turns into an argument, partners should take a break and come back to the topic after anger and frustration have subsided.
 • Re-evaluate and identify values. Individuals who reflect on their values, beliefs and goals, and how they want to be viewed by themselves and others, may become motivated to change.
 • Face the fears of what life would be like without pornography. There is usually a reason individuals choose to use pornography, so removing this habit from their lives may be a challenge. Identifying and admitting specific fears about quitting is an important step.
 • Take responsibility for self-recovery. With the guidance of an experienced counselor, individuals who want to change can develop an individualized plan that will help them be accountable and build on successes that will aid them in long-term change. Counselors may suggest getting involved in a treatment program and/or establishing a 24-hour support and accountability system.
 • Create a pornography-free environment by discarding pornographic materials and preventing future access by using an Internet-filtering service or eliminating cell phone Internet access. It may also be helpful to place the computer in a commonly accessible area in the home.
 • Create an action plan for alternative activities to break old patterns of behavior and build feelings of self-worth and confidence. Suggestions include exercise, sports, starting a new hobby, cultivating friendships or any other healthy activity the user enjoys.
 • Find coping techniques for the partner. Having a partner with a pornography addiction can be very challenging and spouses often feel responsible or blame themselves for their partner’s behavior. Support groups or talking to a qualified individual may provide the partner with a safe place to share frustrations and learn coping skills. Taking time to engage in healthy activities may also help boost emotional and physical health and help regain self-esteem.
 • Work on healing as a couple. When both individuals are committed to working together to have a healthy relationship, they can begin to repair it. While this process may take time, it is possible to build or rebuild a loving and connected relationship. Guidance from a qualified counselor or therapist can be helpful. Couples may also choose to seek counsel with a trusted religious leader. Some of the areas that may need to be addressed include trust, gaining empathy and moving from anger to forgiveness. Gaining communication skills and new ways of approaching intimacy as a couple may also help the relationship.
 • Seek help. In addition to a qualified therapist or counselor and/or a trusted clergy member, there are also online resources. Sex Addicts Anonymous,, helps men and women overcome sexual addictions through a twelve-step process. They provide referral information for finding SAA meetings in local areas and provide meetings via Internet chat and conference calls. Codependents of Sex Addicts,, is a twelve-step program for men and women whose lives have been affected by another person’s sexual behavior. They also provide referral information on finding local meetings as well as telephone conference calls. The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists,, is an organization that helps locate qualified sex therapists and counselors.

By: Naomi Weeks - Feb. 9, 2010