A few recent articles in New York Magazine delve into our culture’s treatment of porn and how it can negatively affect the people who consume it as their real-life sex partners, whether long- or short-term relationships. It’s an interesting cycle that seems to either lead to (in these articles) men withdrawing from their partners, even subconsciously for a variety or porn-related reasons; or women attempting to mimic the type of sexual behavior prevalent in porn. But neither outcome is satisfactory or fulfilling for either party.

One of the articles puts it this way: “Men, oversaturated by porn, secretly hunger for the variety that porn offers. Women, noticing a decline in their partners’ libidos, try to reenact the kinds of scenes that men watch on their computer screens. Men, as a result, get really freaked out.”

As I discuss in my book, “Adultery the Forgivable Sin,” any time there’s something taking up resources that should be allocated to ones’ relationship and partner can be seen as a type of adultery. Infidelity isn’t just about having physical sex with someone who’s not your significant other. It can be financial (which I address in “Financial Infidelity”), psychological or – I would argue – in the case of porn, emotional.

Creating and sustaining a healthy, fulfilling relationship with a real-life partner takes time, energy and work; yes, even, sometimes, the sexual aspect as well! Which can make the world of pornography so appealing – it doesn’t take hardly any work and you don’t have to worry about someone else’s emotions and needs. Or do you? As these articles show, porn is not a one-way street. No matter how you slice it, when it becomes a go-to resource or something that’s viewed as easier or better than engaging with a spouse or significant other, it interferes in that real-life relationship.

I would consider this over-abundance of problems caused by porn to be an addiction and just like other types of addiction it can cause serious infidelity issues. I think we need to get away from considering “cheating” to only mean having physical sex with someone else, and realize that there are all different kinds of infidelity that can lead to results that are just as heartbreaking and upsetting as sexual infidelity.

For any addict, the choice to self-medicate in any number of ways—with alcohol, medications, sex, porn and so forth —can begin with a desire to relieve stress or mute depression. The addiction then progresses to a preoccupation with where their next “fix” will come from, and often involves a strong desire to create rituals around obtaining the “high.” This preoccupation becomes a compulsion—to use drugs or alcohol, or to have sex, watch porn —followed by depression and despair as the effects wear off, leading to the start of the cycle all over again.

At that point it’s important to realize your actions aren’t just affecting one person; there also affecting the person you’re in a relationship with, or would one day hope to be in a relationship with.

Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil has been an internationally acclaimed relationship therapist for thirty years. New York magazine named her one of the city’s top therapists and Psychology Today named her one of America’s best therapists. Her books are available on her site, http://doctorbonnie.com/

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