3 Things Every Woman Whose Partner Uses Pornography Needs To Know

Guest blog submitted by Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

For some women, it’s shocking to find out that her husband has been using pornography. For others, they are well aware of pornography in their marriage but don’t know exactly what to do about it.

Here are three things that women who are in a relationship with a pornography user need to know.

1. Pornography Use Will Decrease The Quality Of Your Relationship

All women need to know that pornography use will affect their partner’s ability to have a healthy relationship.

A longitudinal study of married couples found that those who used pornography more often reported lower satisfaction with their sex-life and decision-making as a couple. Pornography use was strongly and negatively related to marital quality over time.

The study stated: “The findings provide qualified support for the notion that more frequent pornography viewing—rather than simply being a proxy for the participants’ dissatisfaction with sex-life or marital decision-making—may negatively influence marital quality over time.”

After working with women whose spouses or romantic partners use pornography, I’ve heard many of these women describe manipulative relationship dynamics. While not every pornography user engages in these behaviors, the patterns of deception that occur when an individual is trying to hide regular pornography use might manifest themselves in these ways:

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Lashing Out In Anger
  • Chronic Emotional Irritability
  • Neglecting Emotional Needs Of Family Members
  • Emotionally Abusing Family Members
  • Neglecting Household Duties and Other Family Responsibilities

Sometimes women recognize these behaviors, but they aren’t aware that their husband is using pornography. Many people blame these behaviors on work stress, money problems, or other excuses. However, emotionally healthy people experience stress and money problems and don’t lie, manipulate others, lash out in anger, or neglect their families – so obviously those reasons don’t hold up.

Unfortunately, as women attempt to get information or understanding through communicating their fears or worries, some pornography users lie, deny, and divert attention away from the topic to avoid taking accountability for their pornography use and the negative ways it affects the relationship and family.

2. Talking About His Pornography Use May Not Be The Answer

Consider the classic logic puzzle Knights and Knaves. In this riddle, there are Knights that always tell the truth and Knaves who always lie. The riddle is to determine with one question which one is the Knight and which one is the Knave.

Wives of pornography addicts are frequently put in this situation of being a human lie detector. Dr. Bella DePaulo summarized studies done on the topic of detecting lies and the results were that 54% of the time people could accurately detect a lie. But when you compare that with the 50-50 chance someone has of being right, the research clearly shows that we simply cannot tell when we’re being lied to.

I was lied to repeatedly for years. My ex-husband looked me in the eyes and with the depth of his soul swore that he had not been using pornography. I found out later, it had all been lies. I could not tell that I was being lied to. And thousands of women are in this same situation.

However, I do believe we can tell when something isn’t right. Our gut will tell us. If we push that feeling away with excuses or reasons, we may not ever lose that feeling. Sometimes we lose touch with that inner voice after years of lies and gaslighting, a tactic used by pornography addicts to try and convince their wife that she’s just paranoid or unstable.

My feeling of dread escalated as my ex-husband’s pornography use and sexual addiction escalated until he was arrested in 2015. I generally pushed the feeling of dread away or told myself, there’s no reason for this. We have a beautiful family! I have everything I’ve ever hoped for! Especially because when I’d talk with my husband about pornography use, he told me he hadn’t been using.

From my experience talking with thousands of women all over the world, observing behavior is your best bet. Since the Knave won’t tell you he’s a Knave, just sit back and watch what he does. Observe.

You will observe is one of two things:

  1. You will observe an emotionally healthy person, who participates in family activities, is kind and loving, and able to have a conversation without disengaging or getting defensive.
  2. Or you will observe someone who is difficult to engage and connect with or gets defensive over very simple things – questions like, “Hey, I thought you’d be home at 6:00PM” turn into – “Why can’t I get any respect around here? I work so hard for you and all you do is complain and nag.”

To contrast that, an emotionally healthy person would respond, “I was caught up on a conference call that went over. I’m sorry I was late.”

Whether pornography is the cause of these unhealthy behaviors or not, if there is defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism or contempt, you can know that a conversation alone may not solve your problems. The best course of action when dealing with someone who is emotionally unhealthy for any reason is to set boundaries and watch to see if they can make healthy choices.

If you see any of these behaviors in your relationship, and you’ve already tried proven healthy communication techniques, it’s likely that communication isn’t the issue. Don’t go down the chaotic and dangerous path of attempting to have a productive conversation with a Knave.

Rather than focus on communication, an APSATS trained coach or therapist can help you navigate your spouse’s unhealthy behaviors and establish safety in your relationship without leaving you vulnerable to further emotional abuse.

3. Your Partner’s Pornography Use Has Nothing To Do With You

Because people use pornography to regulate their emotions, users aren’t able to recognize and process their own negative emotions in healthy ways. Rather than be honest about their feelings of lust, inadequacy, fear, sadness, depression with their spouse, spiritual leader, or qualified C-SAT or APSATS coach/therapist, they turn to pornography as a way to numb those emotions.

Similarly, pornography does not show reality. It is a contrived, fantasy world, where people are consumed as objects. Where violence and hurt are portrayed as desirable. Where control is empowering. This fantasy helps cover negative feelings – but it doesn’t resolve them.

In real life, healthy sex within the commitment of marriage doesn’t resemble anything portrayed in pornography. Yet pornography users would like the sacred, sexual experience of marriage to be more base, violent, or exciting – usually dismissing the fact that pornographic type sex is very uncomfortable or unsafe for real women, both emotionally and physically.

In real life, women do not like to be harmed or abused. 

In real life, women like to be respected and listened to in the relationship, not constantly overpowered or dismissed.

Improving your looks, being more “loving” or less “cold” (pornography users frequently will criticize in that manner), giving into your partner’s sexual demands that feel uncomfortable will not solve the pornography issue because his pornography use has nothing to do with you.

For more information about how to navigate a loved one’s pornography / sexual addiction and related behaviors, visit Betrayal Trauma Recovery.


Anne Blythe is the producer and host of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery podcast and founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. After years of attempting to help her husband recover from his pornography addiction, he was arrested for domestic violence in 2015. She seeks to help women navigate their husband’s pornography / sex addiction and related behaviors in safe and effective ways. She now lives a relatively peaceful life with her three small children.

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NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


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