My Boyfriend Likes Pornography

Question: I’ve been in a relationship with a man for several years and I love him. He’s everything I could ever want except for one thing: he’s very into pornography. He watches it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. He spends more time watching porn than he spends with me! This really bothers me as I want to be enough for him. We’ve talked about it but instead of quitting, he just hides it. If I bring it up, he gets upset and denies doing it even though I’ve caught him lots of times. I’m so frustrated and hurt that I’m almost ready to end things over it. People have told me to watch it with him but that isn’t fun for me. What should I do?


Answer: Your partner could be suffering from a sexual addiction. Although there is no official diagnosis for it yet, the National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity defines sexual addiction as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” Some of the behaviors you listed – continually engaging in the behavior despite negative consequences (you being angry with him), neglecting family obligations (spending more time looking at porn than being with you) and the escalation of the behavior (watching it multiple times a day) – all fit with symptoms of sexual addiction.

Sexual addiction can best be described as an intimacy disorder. If someone has difficulty being intimate with romantic partners, the sexual experience itself may become frustrating and uncomfortable. As such, a sexual experience that is as far away from an intimate encounter as you can get (like pornography) becomes more gratifying than sex with a romantic partner. People who are addicted to sex get a sense of euphoria from it (which can explain why they find it difficult to stop). They use sexual activity to seek pleasure, avoid unpleasant feelings or respond to external stressors, like work difficulties or interpersonal problems. It is important to realize that his constant watching of pornography probably has little to do with you. It’s not because you aren’t good enough and it’s not something you can change.

I agree that you should not watch pornography with him especially if it bothers you. That will change nothing and just upset you further. Instead, it may be best to have a frank and calm discussion about this and see what, if anything, your partner is willing to change. If he doesn’t want to stop and is unwilling to get help in order to do so, then you have a decision to make. One of the most difficult things about dealing with a loved one who has addictive behaviors is recognizing that it is their problem to solve. You cannot change their behavior especially if they do not want things to be different.

All you can do is maintain good boundaries (decide what behaviors you can and cannot deal with) and live your life the best way you know how. Seek out support from others who have dealt with the same types of issues. Find ways to be happy. Hopefully your partner will decide that he wants to a part of that but ultimately, it’s his call to make.

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