By Steve Roberts The couple walks into my office. She is obviously hurt and angry. He has the look of angry confusion. She blurts out her discovery that he uses pornography. She feels as though he's been cheating on her. She feels betrayed. She finds the whole thing repulsive. How could he do this to her? He is ashamed on one level. On another level, it seems the most natural thing in the world. He's always looked at bodies. He has always had fantasies, and he can now see pictures and films just like them on the internet. His friends do it. The guys in the locker room talk about it. What's so wrong with it? This situation occurs with surprising frequency. Couples are angry and confused about what to do with it all and about what it really means. They feel terribly hurt and misunderstood. They'd like some answers instead of just blaming each other. So, here's some things to consider. 1. Any problem for a couple is a "team" problem. If one person hurts, the "team" has a problem. If one person is angry, then the "team" has a problem to resolve. It's not a competition where one wins and the other loses. It is about the "team" winning as a whole. The pornagraphy issue is the same. The couple needs to find a way that meets the needs of both people, so that the team wins. 2. Men and women have very different training and understanding of sexuality. Women are raised to focus much more on the relational aspects, while men grew up learning to focus on the visual and physical experience, often to the exclusion of relationship. In a culture that makes use of women's bodies to advertise and sell just about everything, women easily come to believe that they are only valued for their physical attractiveness. Many already feel ashamed of their bodies, believing they're supposed to be shaped like teenage boys. In their most intimate and important relationship they so desire to be loved and accepted for who they are, not what they look like. It comes as a very rude surprise to realize that their man seems to be just like all the others. Men, take note. When your partner's dream bubble is burst in this fashion, you have to take action, or it is downhill from there. As described above, men are trained to feel both guilty about pornography, and to accept it as the norm. They see it as a simple release mechanism, and not as cheating, betraying, or even having any real meaning at all. They are drawn to the relationality of their women, but often do not really understand it, let alone understand that pornography can damage it. 3. From a functional standpoint, here's the real problem with pornography: It seduces a man away from emotional intimacy with his partner. This doesn't have to be the case, but it occurs so often that I tend to assume it is happening until proven otherwise. The seduction is one of easy avoidance. There is no relationship to take care of or nurture. One doesn't have to live with the complaints or even the mistaken dreams of the fantasy figures. Worse still, the images are ever changing, ever titilating. Life at home with the same woman, the same old positions, and the same old timing can seem rather mundane. The problem with pornography is that men do not learn to develop the ability to be highly stimulated by deep emotional intimacy with their one, special partner. A successful team helps both partners learn to be intensely intimate with one another, and then intensely stimulated sexually. Pornagraphy offers the stimulation while avoiding the real reward of intimate closeness in the relationship. So, how do such couples handle this dilemma? At their best they use it as a vehicle to move them to an ever deeper level of contact with each other. They move past blaming and misunderstanding to acceptance of the other's gender and training. They come up with behavior that works for both of them and that they can both agree to and live with. Ultimately, it can be a journey of emotional intimacy that ends up being one huge "turn on." Steve Roberts is an experienced Marriage and Family Therapist who shares tips and real life relationship secrets from over 20 years of practice.
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