I get asked often about what it means if a man uses pornography. Most wives and girlfriends are bothered, offended or disgusted. A few will watch with their partners, but in my observation this is to please their mate rather than a genuine desire to view XXX-rated videos. I am generalizing and of course there are exceptions to what I just wrote.
When the discussion gets pitched in a marriage counselor’s office, it is not unusual for the man to state, “What is wrong with wanting to look at naked women? All guys do it and it’s not like I’m cheating on you.” Their partner will look disappointed and respond, “That’s someone’s mother, sister or daughter. Don’t you get that? And how do you think it makes me feel when my own mate would rather look at porn than be with me?”
Both feel absolutely entitled to their perspectives and the discussion evolves into awkwardness. At this point in our nation’s history, pornography is not a crime and for me as a marriage counselor to label the man as depraved is unfair. What I have discovered is each couple comes to their own balance with pornography.
Many have a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy. They both know he looks at porn sites or videos but have non-verbally agreed the man will do so in private, not talk about it and not put it in his partner’s face.
Others have this issue as a chronic source of friction. The wife clearly states she is uncomfortable and the husband acts like a petulant teenager sneaking around and cleaning up the evidence. This solution rarely works well in a relationship.
A small percentage just doesn’t care what their partner does as long as it does not involve another live human being. Videos, pictures, porn sites are fine but calling 866 phone chat lines, going to strip clubs or visiting prostitutes leads to the death of the relationship.
I can’t state what is best for every relationship. I can say that with the advent of the Internet, men who would never purchase pornography at liquor store or video establishment suddenly find themselves one click away, in the privacy of their home to be able to view pornography. As much as they want as often as they want and for free.
There is no such thing as a sexual addict, at least not in the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV book of diagnoses. But if a man chooses pictures over a live human being, is consistently dishonest, withdraws from their mate and finds they are spending hours each day pursuing pornography, there is a problem.
Many couples find pornography is the giant elephant in the middle of the room; they know it’s there but won’t talk about it. Secrets never work well in a relationship.
Mitchell Rosen, M.A., is a licensed marriage and family therapist with practices in Corona and Temecula.