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Is porn addiction destroying your marriage?

You can break free from the shackles of porn addiction and embrace a brighter, more intimate future.

Pornography's influence on your relationship is complex and distressing. At The Reconnection Institute, we understand these challenges and are proud to offer expert guidance to help you navigate these complexities. As an authority on intimacy and trust, we will help you to unlock the secrets to a stronger bond with your spouse. Our mission is to empower couples to face this challenge directly and equip you with the tools and strategies that are needed to break down barriers, strengthen communication and ultimately rebuild trust. By doing so, you will also rebuild a stronger and more resilient bond together.

A personal message from Michael Myerscough

Founder of The Reconnection Institute

Have you recently discovered your partner’s porn use? Is this a new revelation, or are you simply shocked by the frequency? If so, you may be grappling with feelings of hurt, betrayal or even hopelessness about the relationship. Thoughts such as "My partner is an addict" might haunt you, especially if they've promised to stop but continue their secretive behaviour. As you navigate this challenging situation, understanding the impact of pornography on your relationship is essential. Let me share some key facts to help you realise that you're neither crazy nor overly sensitive.

We've identified three major ways male porn use can impact your relationship:

  • Unrealistic Expectations: Regular porn consumption can lead your partner to develop distorted expectations about sex including frequency, physical appearance, and performance. Pornography often portrays sex as performance-based and power-driven, which of course we know differs significantly from real-life intimacy. This disconnect can leave you feeling inadequate, unsatisfied, insecure, or anxious within your relationship.
  • Decreased Intimacy: Porn use can erode emotional and physical intimacy, as your partner may prefer the easy accessibility and variety of pornography over building a genuine, emotionally fulfilling connection with you. Research has shown that certain types of pornography can reinforce dominant behaviour in some individuals as it triggers adrenaline responses in the male brain, potentially exacerbating this harm to relationships as a result. This fascination with specific sexual acts, which may not align with your preferences or agreements, can negatively impact the emotional connection between you and your partner.
  • Trust Issues and Betrayal: As porn use continues, you may feel as though your partner is choosing pornography over you. You may begin to view porn use as a form of infidelity, leading to feelings of betrayal, hurt and mistrust. This can create a deep rift between you and your partner, naturally making it challenging to rebuild trust and connection.

This painful experience might be one you don't feel comfortable sharing with anyone, therefore leaving you feeling isolated and uncertain. You may fear that your partner no longer loves you, especially if they've become emotionally distant or angry. Their pornography use might make you feel sexually undesirable and, when you try to express your hurt, you may feel ignored, dismissed, and worried that your relationship won't survive. You might even wonder if it's worth having this conversation at all.

Understanding the impact of porn use on ourselves.

As the compulsive porn user, you may no longer be getting the sexual satisfaction you need in your marriage, so viewing porn seems like a harmless solution—after all, you’re not cheating or lying, you’re just watching porn. Right? That's often how it begins. But does it seem like this “solution” now only creates more problems? Here’s what we know about how porn can negatively impact men:

  • Addiction and Escalation: Regular porn use can lead to pornography addiction, where men find it increasingly difficult to stop watching porn or need to watch more extreme content to achieve the same level of arousal. This can result in a cycle of escalation that can be challenging to break.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Pornography often presents an unrealistic standard of male sexual performance and physical appearance which can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and body image issues for male viewers.
  • Relationship Issues: As we discussed earlier, porn use can create trust issues, intimacy problems. and even breakups or divorces. These outcomes cause emotional distress for both men and their partners.
  • Erectile Dysfunction: Numerous studies suggest that heavy porn use can contribute to erectile dysfunction, as men become desensitised to sexual stimuli and have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection during real-life sexual encounters.

For something that usually starts out as light entertainment, it’s easy for porn to generate some significant challenges. Maybe you’re no longer able to perform optimally during “real” sex which is highly distressing on so many levels. Or maybe this has been an issue between you and your partner for a while, and perhaps you have been caught sneaking around behind your wife’s back.

Traumatic events manifest in all kinds of different ways–natural disasters, plane crashes and yes, you guessed it, infidelity. No matter the nature of a traumatic event, they are overwhelming and often debilitating. Whilst natural disasters and mechanical failure are usually unavoidable, a partner’s affair is a result of deliberate actions by your partner—the one person who is supposed to be your biggest fan and ultimate protector, and the one who is supposed to treat you with honesty, dignity and respect. For many, few betrayals hit harder than an instance of infidelity.

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Don’t underestimate porn’s pull

For something that usually starts out as light entertainment, it’s easy for porn to generate some significant challenges. Maybe you’re no longer able to perform optimally during “real” sex which is highly distressing on so many levels. Or maybe this has been an issue between you and your partner for a while, and perhaps you have been caught sneaking around behind your wife’s back.

Porn can easily become compulsive for men due to their brain's natural response to sexual imagery. In short, men are especially vulnerable to pornographic images because these images can hijack a male brain’s hypothalamus—the command centre for your brain—in a way they generally cannot hijack a female’s. The hypothalamus is also the centre that determines hunger and satiation, so an arousal response to Internet porn is as natural to a man as a growling stomach is to the smell of food on a grill.

A crippling impact

Now that it’s clearer how men are wired, it's important to acknowledge the implications of today’s flood of high-definition porn images. The male brain has never had to contend with such an assault, which is strategically calculated to stimulate this vulnerable part of the male brain. You are being manipulated by people who stand to profit from your built-in weakness at the expense of your relationship with both your partner and you.

Perhaps you feel as though your porn use has got out of control and you're worried about more people finding out about your habit—especially your children or your employer. The fear, shame and guilt associated with the possibility of being discovered can be overwhelming and only adds to your emotional turmoil. It's also possible that you're tired of having a head full of pornographic images whilst trying to focus on other things, again leaving you feeling trapped and isolated.

Deep down, you crave intimacy from the person you love, but you feel unable to bridge the gap between you and your wife. You might feel conflicted and torn between the desire for a genuine connection and the pull of pornography. This internal struggle can leave you feeling disconnected and unworthy of love, almost as though you and your partner are living in an emotional desert where connection and honesty seem unattainable.

Having porn disrupt your relationship can be a confusing and immensely painful experience. On top of everything else, you may be wondering if there's anything you can do to quit porn and save your marriage. It's important to know that you're not alone in this struggle and that there is hope. With the right support, it's possible to overcome porn use, rebuild trust and re-establish emotional intimacy with your partner.

You Are Not Alone

If your marriage has been impacted by porn use, you are not alone. As mentioned earlier, it's estimated that one in five Australian couples battle intimacy problems triggered by internet porn, according to research from Relationships Australia. The National Counselling Service has also recently found that readily accessible online porn leads to a breakdown of trust and an erosion of intimacy in about 21 percent of all relationships. This is an enormous problem, and an experiment that can have severe consequences for some.

It's no secret that many people view porn. However, not very many people realise that, if you aren’t careful with this discreet diversion, the effects of watching pornography can be emotionally devastating, for both partners.

Porn addiction often stems from sexualising difficult emotions like fear, anger, stress, loneliness, shame, and boredom. In this light, it's no wonder that pornography seems like a magic fix, a jolt of electricity that temporarily clears the mind and provides a brief respite from the muddy, tangled emotions that weigh us down.

Our society is highly sexualised. There are borderline pornographic images everywhere, including in advertisements that promise to improve our lives. These images can make it seem as though everyone is having great sex but you. In truth, people are raising families, attending to careers, and keeping a nice house. Not everyone is having amazing sex all the time, and feeling disappointed about it doesn’t make it any easier.

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"Addictions are cunning, baffling, and powerful. They are a fierce adversary, but you're stronger—'Just stop!' won't cut it, but with the right tools—knowledge, support, and effective strategies—you can conquer addiction and claim the life you deserve. You deserve to be free."

A click away

When facing an intimate disconnect in your marriage, porn may seem like a harmless solution to relieve the tension and fulfill any unmet needs. It's common for marriages and relationships to experience spells of disharmony. As an example, if you take on career and parenting responsibilities, there may not be a lot of free time to devote to your relationship. Attempts to initiate sex, from one or both parties, may end in rejection. Porn often starts out as a well-intentioned way to gain some relief. You don’t even have to go anywhere to get it. After all, it’s only a click away.

However, as porn use increases, it can become a replacement for “real” intimacy and feed into a cycle of fear, anger, boredom, shame, and loneliness. In other words, porn causes more problems than it solves.

It's important to understand that porn addiction doesn't stem from a lack of intelligence, even if you want to stop and can’t. You’re simply caught in an addictive cycle. You’re not doing this because you’re dirty or disgusting. Porn presents a solution that, in the moment, dissolves the fear and stress and simply makes us feel better about ourselves. But porn isn’t real connection—it’s lonely. It’s worth noting that most don’t finish a porn session feeling great about themselves.

The good news is that help is available. With my support, you can start to understand what is driving your porn use and develop tools to stop. Porn addiction counselling can help you to quit porn and regain control over your life.

Couples counselling for porn use can be highly effective in breaking the cycle of secrecy and shame. Before we delve much further, it’s important to note that some couples include porn in their healthy sex lives. Those are not the couples I see. I work with couples whose relationships have been deeply hurt by pornography.

In this confidential space, you and your partner can have a prolonged, honest conversation about what is happening, as opposed to a fight. Together, we can clear away blame and confusion to explore the motivations behind the behaviour. Porn is not personal, and porn use is not necessarily shameful. Sometimes it’s simply a way of scratching an itch. Unfortunately, it is often a method that causes a great deal of pain for both partners.

Affair recovery: how to survive an affair.

I know this doesn’t happen too much in Australia, but discovering an infidelity is a lot like dropping through the ice on a lake into cripplingly cold water. It’s a shock that reaches into every piece of your body and leaves you gasping for breath. You find yourself hyperventilating and panicking. I’ve had this experience and can assure you that it is crippling. The natural tendency to thrash about and panic tends to all too often result in death. The survival experts teach that it’s important to remain still for a few minutes whilst the body adapts to the shock. At that point, your mind clears, your breath returns and it’s often as simple as kicking your legs and climbing back up onto the ice with some assistance. However, if you’re already exhausted, this task becomes virtually impossible, and you’ve probably already done a lot of damage. Fortunately, I’m on hand and ready to pull you out.

The couples that come to me after an affair have sometimes spent months trying to work through a sense of abandonment on their own. Let’s face it, it’s not a conversation that many people want to be having in public. This is sensible because the general public, and a lot of therapists, can be incredibly judgemental about infidelity in a way that just isn’t helpful. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but going it alone often doesn’t end so well. There’s a predictable cycle of self-healing where a couple will try to get through the effects of the adultery on their own. The injured partner can feel pressured to forgive too early, causing even more anger and resentment. The couple do their absolute best to get past the huge amounts of pain and uncertainty but find themselves arguing and fighting in horrible ways.

In moments of calm, they begin to reconnect emotionally and sexually only to have the entire cycle of pain and mistrust start all over again. This is not how to get over an affair. It is wildly optimistic for a couple to think that they can heal that level of trauma on their own, but I wouldn’t blame you for trying. If you’re not careful though, you can end up feeling as though you’re riding a never ending emotional roller-coaster, maybe you’ve even begun to feel a little crazy. This is totally normal if you’re trying to fix these issues alone as a couple. It’s just not easy, and in truth it would be more accurate to say that attempting to heal this way after an affair can be an absolute nightmare.

Once we know what’s causing the porn compulsion and why, we can then develop strategies to eliminate the behaviour. We can also practice strategies that will help to ensure that you are meeting each other’s needs in a way that is sustainable and nourishing for both of you.

Key questions answered

I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I don’t want to talk to anyone about this, let alone a stranger.

It’s completely normal to feel embarrassed and ashamed about discussing such a sensitive topic. I’ve felt the same way at points in my own life. It’s natural to be hesitant to open up to a stranger about the most intimate aspects of your life. However, talking about it becomes easier once you get started. Rest assured, confidentiality is of utmost importance to me, and it’s the cornerstone of my practice.

If your relationship is on the rocks and you’re faced with the prospect of only seeing your kids on weekends, seeking help is the only smart move. I can offer support, guidance, and tools to help you navigate this challenging situation. I can help.

Can you actually fix this problem?

Yes, if you’re the partner using porn and are motivated to change, there are effective strategies to overcome this addiction. With determination and the right support, sustainable solutions can be implemented.

It’s important to recognise the point in which porn use crosses the line from healthy to excessive. Engaging in porn use multiple times each week can quickly escalate into an unhealthy pattern. It’s better to seek help before reaching the point of crisis where relationships, careers and possibly even more are at risk. By taking proactive steps now, you can secure a brighter, more stable future for yourself and those around you.

My partner is the one with the problem, and I’m done with the relationship.

Discovering your partner’s pornography addiction can be incredibly distressing. However, it’s important to consider whether you would be willing to stay in the relationship if this problem could be resolved. Although it may feel like an insurmountable betrayal right now, with a few months of dedicated treatment, it’s possible to reconnect with the partner you fell in love with and heal your relationship. Before making any rash decisions, give yourselves a chance to work through this challenging time together. You could be amazed at what your partner is willing to do to get your relationship back on track.

Trust can be restored in your relationship

My angle for this work is to help couples thrive. No, I am not a religious fundamentalist. I’ve just found in my work that pornography is regularly detrimental to marriages because it creates a cycle of secrecy and shame that leads to prolonged disconnection. In our work together, we can restore the honesty and trust that has been lost.

I’ve been working with couples struggling with porn addiction for 15 years. I, myself, have recovered from this very issue, and I understand that losing sight of what real sex is can be lonely and confusing. I know that this problem is absolutely fixable. With the right help, compulsive or damaging porn use can become a thing of past. Together, we can work to get you unstuck. You can reconnect your marriage and experience the stable, connected bond that drew you together again.

If you’d like to know more about the couples counselling I offer, please take a look at our counselling services or my FAQ page for more information. My practice is based in St Ives on Sydney’s North Shore.

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