Sex is the number one topic searched on the internet, and 25% of total search engine requests are porn-related. But at what point, if any, does watching porn endanger a committed relationship?

Let’s first look at the difference between a habit and a serious problem. According to Ann Pietrangelo, author of “Everything You Need to Know About Pornography Addiction,” it really boils down to a lack of control. If your partner exhibits the following behaviors, it may be a cause for concern:

  • The amount of time spent watching porn keeps growing
  • Hours on end are spent perusing online porn sites, even if it means neglecting responsibilities or sleep
  • There is an insistence that romantic / sexual partners view porn or act out porn fantasies even if they don’t want to
  • Sex is not enjoyable without first viewing porn
  • Porn has become a life disruption but it’s too irresistible to quit

So I’m guessing that if you’re still reading, you’re starting to get uncomfortable. Are any or most of these behaviors familiar? They certainly were to me in my past life…

But how about cheating? If someone is merely watching porn, as opposed to interacting personally, do these behaviors still mean that your relationship is destined for infidelity?

Linda Hatch, author of the article, “Do Porn Addicts Cheat on Their Partners?” believes that, although not all porn addicts cheat, the mere fact that they are involved in committed relationships is just one level of stress in several risk factors.

As porn addiction is a type of sex addiction, she claims that regular viewers of porn tend to avoid intimacy, and often lead lives based on deception. Their desire to connect to others yet still escape the demands of intimacy with a partner is a major factor in their desire to seek sexual connections outside of their committed relationship.

Though married for nearly eighteen years, I always felt like there was an emotional wall between my ex-husband and I. He used to claim that most people just “didn’t understand” him, which was just part of his intelligent and complicated personality.

As with most addictions, the longer it goes on, the more likely the addiction will progress and escalate, meaning that greater excitement and risks may be taken to get the same “fix.”

Some porn addicts may exhibit behaviors similar to sociopaths and narcissists, which include disregarding the effects of their behavior on others, not being accountable, and completely ignoring the consequences of their actions, which can appear similar to narcissistic entitlement.

During the last couple of years of my marriage, as well as the divorce proceedings, I unearthed a startling level of deception which had gone on since the very beginning of our relationship. When my lawyer questioned the behavior, the ex claimed that “we’d had an agreement” (we did not!), and that his actions should have been expected, because his dad had also been a serial cheater. He showed no remorse, nor offered any apology.

In “What Porn Can do to Intimacy” author Peg Streep notes several studies showing that porn can have a greater effect on relationships than people might think.
First, porn-free relationships tend to be stronger, and have a lower rate of infidelity. Findings showed that porn-free couples had lower levels of negative communication, were more committed to the relationship, and had higher sexual and relationship satisfaction.

She also observed that, interestingly, people who only watched porn with their partners were more dedicated to the relationship and sexually satisfied than those who watched alone.

In addition, watching porn can diminish relationship commitment. Why? Because doing so reminds you of all the potential sexual partners out there, which may in turn lower your dedication to the person you’re actually involved with, and make you crave a fantasy individual you’ve never met.

Another study confirmed the same conclusion: “just the thought of greener pastures may be enough to send one roving.”

If you’re becoming more uneasy while reading this, let’s now take a breath, shift gears, and focus on how your partner’s actions could be damaging you.

In a study done by Robert Weiss, reported in his article, “Information for Spouses and Partners of Sex Addicts,” he found that almost everyone betrayed by a sex addict’s behavior was left feeling awful and impacted with many of following symptoms:

  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Inability to trust
  • Reduced ability to enjoy sex and romance

In fact, another study noted that many women married to sexually addicted men, upon learning of their husbands serial infidelity, experience acute stress and anxiety symptoms characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Perhaps the bottom line to remember is this: a relationship involves two people, who should be aware of and mutually agree on certain boundaries. What’s most important to consider is how your partner’s behavior affects you. If you feel hurt, deceived, ugly, inadequate, lied to, and generally miserable, things have gone too far.

It’s up to you alone – not your partner – just how much you are willing to tolerate.