fbpx Skip to main content
Blog

How Many People Hide Their Porn Habit From Their Partner?

When romantic partners keep secrets from each other, their trust in each other erodes and their confidence in their relationships decreases.

By September 2, 2022No Comments

Another key way porn can harm couple relationships is that many consumers conceal from their partner how much and what types of porn they are viewing.

According to a 2017 study, the number of women who reported that their male partner didn’t watch porn was significantly higher than the number of men who reported no porn consumption.Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 16(2), 146–163. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796Copy 

Related: How I Talked to My Partner About His Secret Porn Habit After 9 Years

Using a large national sample, the study found that only 4% of women who were casually dating men reported that their partner regularly consumed porn, when in reality, 50% of the men who were casually dating reported that they regularly consumed porn.

In fact, in this study none of the casually dating women—zero—reported that their partner consumed pornography daily or every other day, but 43% of casually dating men in the study reported this level of heavy porn consumption. In more committed relationships, only 46% of women accurately reported how much their partner consumed porn with nearly 40% of men reporting more consumption than she believed was occurring.Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 16(2), 146–163. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796Copy 

Store - General

Eroding trust in relationships

Relationship experts have long recognized that relationships last when partners develop a secure attachment with each other, where each partner trusts that the other will be physically and emotionally responsive to his or her needs. It’s understandable, then, that any behaviors that have the potential to disrupt or erode this trust can have a negative impact on couple communication, intimacy, and satisfaction.

Scholars and therapists have noted that partner differences in pornography consumption and pornography concealment may influence the partners’ sense of trustworthiness and security in the relationship.Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 16(2), 146–163. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796Copy 

Related: I Feel Betrayed by My Wife’s Secret Porn Habit. What Do I Do?

When someone hides their porn habit from their partners, it can not only hurt their relationship, but can also leave the consumer feeling lonely and more vulnerable to depression, poor self-esteem, and anxiety.

Plus, when romantic partners keep secrets from each other, their trust in each other erodes and their confidence in their relationships starts to decrease.

Which came first?

But is this just a “chicken and egg” scenario? Is porn really damaging to relationships, or do people turn to porn because they’re in relationships that are already suffering?

Probably both, according to Dr. Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma who’s been studying porn’s effects on relationships for years. Dr. Perry also explains, however, that “the few studies we do have that use experimental or longitudinal data find that there does seem to be a directional ‘effect’ of pornography use on relationship outcomes, particularly for men.”ElHage, A. (2017). Pornography use and relationship quality: An interview with samuel perry (part 1). Retrieved from https://ifstudies.org/blog/pornography-use-and-relationship-quality-an-interview-with-samuel-perry-part-1Copy 

Related: I Think My Partner is Looking At Porn After Promising Not To—What Do I Do?

That means, these findings aren’t just correlational—they’re showing that pornography can directly affect relationships in negative ways.

Whether porn is the original culprit of a couple’s relationship problems, or whether it becomes a coping mechanism for existing problems, many couples find themselves caught in an unhealthy cycle of porn and relationship issues, each fueling the other.

Do you want to change your porn habits?

The research is clear—porn is not a harmless pastime, especially when it’s hurting a romantic partner. But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.Copy  According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182Copy 

So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

Related: Why Does It Hurt So Much When Your Partner Watches Porn?

On the surface, porn may seem harmless, or may even seem like a good way to learn more about sex. Maybe a committed relationship seems far away in the future, or you feel confident that a little porn won’t harm your relationships. But the research is clear—porn can have devastating impacts on relationships, both sexually and emotionally.

There is no substitute for real connection, and porn isn’t worth risking that.

This is a selected excerpt from one of our Get The Facts articles. Click here to read the full article, “How Porn Can Negatively Impact Love and Intimacy.”

Help for partners

If your partner is struggling with porn, you are not alone—know that there is hope, and there is help. As you navigate this difficult situation, there are supportive communities and resources available to you. Below is a non-exhaustive list of several resources for those experiencing hurt because of their partner's porn consumption. Note that this isn't a complete resource list.

Bloom    Addo Recovery

Disclaimer: For those who may find themselves involved in this sensitive situation, their responses can differ. This is why resources need to fit the specific needs of whoever is seeking them. Some of these resources are gender-specific, others are religiously-affiliated, others use a variety of approaches. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization hoping to provide access to resources that are helpful to those who need support. Including this list of recommendations does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

Store - Love

Support this resource

Thanks for taking the time to read through this article! As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we're able to create resources like this through the support of people like you. Will you help to keep our educational resources free as we produce resources that raise awareness on the harms of porn and sexual exploitation?

DONATE