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Relationships

The Effects Of Porn On Relationships And The Brain

By Hayley Lewis·· 6 min read
The dark effects of porn on relationships and the brain

The porn industry generates over $97 billion in worldwide revenue each year, and porn sites receive more traffic than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined each month. To say this is an epidemic is no exaggeration, and the effect on relationships is tragically very real and lasting.

Effects on the Brain

Regardless of whether or not you consider porn to be an addiction, the use of porn has an ever increasing number of well-researched effects on the brain. One of the most prominent effects is that the use of porn is actually linked to changes within the structure of the brain. The full 2014 study can be accessed here, but without getting too scientific, the results showed that an increased use of porn led to a “higher need for external stimulation of the reward system and a tendency to search for novel and more extreme sexual material.” While there are more studies and research out there that further detail the effects of regular porn use, these two findings seem to have the most significant impact on romantic relationships.

The Increased Need for External Stimulation of the Reward System

Needing to look for rewards externally is a dangerous path to wander down, and the same is true when it comes to the supposed rewards of porn use. External triggers that cause dopamine release need to be increased as use becomes more regular, and what was once satisfying is no longer enough. Feelings of happiness and pleasure are harder to attain both virtually and in real life, and the pornographic scenarios that trigger feelings of satisfaction are often unrealistic and hard to replicate in real-world situations.

Sex in real life is entirely different than what is created on the pornographic stage, and those who view porn develop unrealistic expectations for their current and future sex lives. Not only are the expectations that are being created unrealistic, but they are also cheap imitations of the beauty and goodness that exist in true love and sexual intimacy.

Not only are the expectations that are being created unrealistic, but they are also cheap imitations of the beauty and goodness that exist in true love and sexual intimacy.

Creating intimate and loving relationships is inherently different than what is portrayed through porn. The reliance on these external images and videos is a poor attempt to create loving feelings outside of a relationship that is actually capable of satisfying these desires. Porn leaves people with an ever increasing desire to satiate themselves in ways that cannot (and often should not) be replicated in good and healthy relationships.

The Tendency To Search for More Extreme Material

One of the biggest problems with porn is that it does not actually fulfill the true (and ultimate) desire to love and be loved. In leaving these desires unfilled, the search continues for satisfaction outside of the true and good that is promised through real love and intimate connections. As porn consumption increases, so does the need for material that is continuously more arousing and stimulating. This ever-increasing need can lead to a variety of long term issues involving sexual impotence, inability to be aroused, and general discontent with one’s own sexual encounters.

This ever-increasing need can lead to a variety of long term issues involving sexual impotence, inability to be aroused, and general discontent with one’s own sexual encounters.

Most importantly, this increasing need is concerned only with pleasure, rather than the dignity of another person. While pushing boundaries in the bedroom can often be fun and playful ways for spouses to connect more deeply with one another, an inherent need to do so at all times is a sign of much more profound psychological struggle.

Degradation of Another

The main issue with increasingly extreme desires points back to a person’s larger understanding of sex and intimate relationships. When the desires become mostly or entirely oriented towards extreme means of pleasure, the value and dignity of both people in a relationship are compromised. Sex devoid of real intimacy, as is often portrayed through pornographic images and videos, is concerned only with pleasure, and generally only with the pleasure of a single person.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that our true desires are for far more than just fleeting pleasure, but lasting security and intimacy with one who truly understands us and is willing to put our needs above their own. The focus of porn is to satisfy desires for shallow pleasure, and as such leaves feelings of emptiness, shame, and isolation. This is the antithesis of the love and acceptance that healthy relationships offer.

Embrace the Discomfort To Avoid the Pain

So how do you proceed in a relationship in which one, or both of you, struggle with the downward spiral that is pornography? Specific steps will depend on your level of interaction with pornographic material, but a simple conversation is a necessary starting point. While it is undoubtedly an uncomfortable conversation for both of you, the pain you can prevent will far outweigh the immediate discomfort you may experience. It is essential to be honest with one another about your porn use and how you view it in light of your relationship.

Conflicting ideas about pornography will only become more extreme with time, creating emotional and psychological chasms between you and your partner.

If your partner is honest about their porn use but doesn’t see an issue with it, this is going to be a difficult hurdle for you to overcome. While it is certainly possible to kick the habit of porn, doing so requires a great deal of conscious effort and willingness to change. If your ideas regarding the use and validity of porn are different than that of your partner, it may be time to seriously consider the future of your relationship. Conflicting ideas about pornography use are not going to fix themselves, and these differences of opinion will only become more extreme with time, creating emotional and psychological chasms between you and your partner.

The Bigger Pornographic Picture

This only touches briefly on the issues and studies surrounding porn, and the statistics and evidence regarding the long-term effects are truly staggering. The ever-widening black hole of data regarding porn use is genuinely shocking and eye-opening as to the amount of porn currently consumed by so many men and women. We must confront the nature of porn and how it literally trains us to use others in an attempt to satisfy ourselves, while still leaving deep feelings of loneliness and discontent. Tackling this issue head-on in your relationship will deepen your understanding of yourself, the needs of your partner, and most importantly the true and good desires for real love, intimacy, and understanding.

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