This post is the second in a series on dealing with how pornography affects marriages and relationships. Today’s post is an interview with Leanne Grant, Ph.D., who has worked with women who are affected by online pornography in their marriages.
Jason Fierstein: I am interested in learning about a woman’s perspective on the role of pornography in one’s relationship. Could you help me understand more about this?
Leanne Grant, Ph.D: Men don’t understand, from a woman’s perspective, to imagine their significant other getting off to pictures of the opposite sex and how threatening that feels to a woman. I imagine that any guy who comes home to find their wife or girlfriend to watching nude photos of men would feel threatened. For women, the message of “I’m not good enough” and “my guy is looking elsewhere to be stimulated” instead of with them is what comes up for women. Porn is physiologically stimulating, and is new and novel, so is attracted to the newness or the novelty.
For women, it triggers a cycle about insecurities about their bodies. No woman can compete with an airbrushed image online. Visually, a woman couldn’t be that perfect, but women become obsessed about trying to become that image. Look at industries such as weight loss, plastic surgery, liposuction, Botox, exercise, cosmetics, and the list goes on and on.
Women get obsessed with trying to compete with the images that their men are watching online. Women think that “I’m not good enough,” and remember the point in their relationship that their man was really into them in the beginning.
Women see their guy looking at porn, and imagine to themselves that “he must be falling in love,” and “what if he is falling in love with somebody else.” The initial spark (during the honeymoon phase) can’t last over time.
JF: So how does a couple break the cycle?
LG: Women need to talk about their own experience, and men need to talk about their own experiences together. Women are making it more severe in their own minds.
The work becomes to create that spark again in your own relationship again. Women need to understand that that spark between them and their partner needs to be reignited over and over in a relationship. It doesn’t happen as spontaneously over the course of time as it did when you first start dating someone. It’s learning together how to bring that sense of excitement and novelty into your life.
JF: What happens if that doesn’t happen, though? It’s fairly common to see these things not happen, and for a relationship to get much worse?
LG: If it’s not happening, then you need to take the next step and get some outside help, because there might be something else getting in the way, such as feelings of hurt or resentment that impede your communication and intimacy. In the communication, it is important that you talk about how you feel – both you and your partner.
For example, as a woman, you need to admit that you feel scared to your partner when confronted with this. Men need to be able to communicate about why they are doing it, and what they might be needing. They may not need their wife or girlfriend to look like Scarlett Johannsen, but that they need their wife or girlfriend to talk to them.
Each other needs to be able to to express the feelings that each other has. Once you are able to talk about your feelings about it, it takes the tension out of the relationship, and can bring some playfulness and passion back into our sex life.
JF: So, there might be some positive aspects to talking about pornography in one’s relationship?
LG: Yes. Maybe we can look at pornography as the door to improve or enhance our relationships.
Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC, is a Phoenix, Arizona, based counselor for men. Jason specializes in working with men who want to make their wives and girlfriends happier, and don’t know how to do that. He helps men give their quiet suffering a voice, and helps them to become better relationship partners, employees and happier people in general. He also works with women to help “decode” or better understand their men. Please call him to schedule an appointment at 602.309.0568.