Over the years, research has increasingly shed light on the negative effects of pornography on the brain. The effects of pornography on behavior are particularly damaging to relationships, due to how pornography changes a man’s view of the opposite sex.
Pornography increases the objectification of women and, reduces a partners ability to empathize or even express intimacy. However, there is one common effect of pornography on relationships that is rarely mentioned, that is the connection between pornography and anger.
Over the past 6 years of offering accountability to men struggling with a pornography problem, I’ve noticed that anger is a common theme in almost all relationships where pornography is present. Often, the women in the relationship are puzzled and confused when her partner begins to express an angry response that is not proportionate to the situation that triggered it.
Disproportionate anger becomes even riskier when the couple has children since children usually haven’t developed the skills to process, in a healthy way, such extreme emotions from adults they depend on.
After working one on one with over 300 men struggling with pornography, I’ve come up with five main reasons for anger in a relationship where porn is a problem. Sometimes, there may be other underlying issues facing a person which leads to anger, but when pornography is added to the mix, it will only serve to escalate this emotion.
1) Shame: Porn use thrives in secrecy.
For many men, the shame of watching pornography comes from repeatedly acting against their values. Your anger, however, comes from the feeling that deep within you, you are inadequate.
This becomes a belief that you are not worthy of love. Porn truly does kill love. Living in shame and being disconnected from love generates feelings of low value and lack of control over your life. Anger is an emotion which can mask these scary, vulnerable feelings.
When you are angry, you feel as if you are back in control…you feel safe. The reality is that behind this illusion, this wall of anger, you still experience deep shame, loneliness, fear, and sadness. The solution to shame is to always shine a light on it. To first take responsibility by admitting you have a problem, then reaching out to an understanding, trustworthy person or community for support.
2) Porn leaves you disappointed
Porn promises many pleasures, and highs. It promises to make you feel better, improve your mood, satisfy your cravings and much more. At the end of the day, however, all it really does is leave you unsatisfied, empty and angry. You feel cheated when you realize that over time, porn really doesn’t deliver anything it promises.
Worse still, you are unable to stop going back to porn despite knowing that it offers nothing of value to you. Similar to repeatedly going back to a relationship where the other partner hurt you, only to get hurt again, you generate anger and resentment not just towards that person, but towards yourself for your self- destructive decision.
Healthy, intimate sexual behavior doesn’t leave you feeling cheated or taken advantage of. Instead, it elevates your mood, leaves you feeling better and deepens the intimacy between you and your partner.
Giving healthy relationships a real chance will prove to you that as human beings, we are capable of much more than our most basic biological instincts. A human brain is a wonderful tool which can generate infinitely more satisfaction and happiness in your life through intimacy with one partner.
3) You have good intentions
You are fully aware of the dangers of pornography and are actively participating in not only creating awareness but eliminating porn from your own life.
Perhaps you are looked up to as a role model, a leader, or a well-respected activist. For a person with such a positive self-image, which you undoubtedly worked hard to develop, it can be challenging to face your failures, slips, and shortcomings. The prospect of divulging this to others is daunting especially if your mistake makes you feel like a disappointment or a fraud.
Unfortunately, keeping this secret to yourself only generates the very emotions you have tried to help others escape. In this situation, it is quite natural for our minds to seek out someone or something to lay the blame on. Anyone but yourself. Usually, that person is the one closest to you-your partner.
It’s not unusual to hear men say:
If my partner was a little more open minded…
My partner isn’t sensitive enough to my needs…
If only my partner wasn’t so selfish…
If your partner was also an accountability partner of sorts who was aware of your struggle, it is not uncommon to blame them for not being as committed to helping you. Now, since its no longer your fault for slipping, you can take it out on this person to release the pressure of falling short of your self-image’s expectations.
At the end of the day, regardless of our good intentions, we are human. No one is perfect, and the best leaders are those who can, at the very least admit their shortcomings to those closest to them.
Instead of weakness, strength and freedom are created when you become vulnerable and give yourself a chance to renew your commitment to serving others and avoiding pornography.
4) Your partner is getting in your way:
This is a big one.
Since you have programmed yourself to derive more pleasure from porn than a healthy sexual connection with your partner, every moment when you feel an urge to view pornography when your partner around becomes a problem. Your partner actually gets in the way of your relationship with pornography which makes you frustrated.
The more often your damaging routine is disrupted, the more you direct your anger at your partner. Many spouses are often confused when one moment they were enjoying an intimate moment with their partner and the next, their partner is expressing anger and acting as if their presence is unwelcome.
Of course, if there was no secrecy or shame attached to a behavior, you’d be able to express your emotions in a healthy way. In this case, despite your partner’s well-meaning concern about your behavior, you aren’t ready to open up. The dangerous aspect of this situation is that while your anger stems from your partners getting in the way of your porn use, the damage is far from done.
Repeatedly directing your anger towards someone whom you care about a person whom you know is innocent, becomes emotionally in-congruent over time. Therefore, after some time, your brain begins to find other reasons to justify your anger.
Before you know it, all sorts of trivial issues become opportunities and evidence to become angry at your partner. Realize that by expressing anger towards your partner, you are not only rejecting her but choosing to allow fantasy to dictate your emotions in the real world.
5) Discontent with your partner
Porn changes the brain.
Repeated exposure to pornography alters your arousal template, changing the cues that arouse you. Unlike the largely unrealistic scenes portrayed in porn, your relationship isn’t as versatile and neither is your partner. Since it is impossible for your partner to simply change to keep up with your porn induced preferences, you begin to resent the fact that you are with a person that doesn’t live up to your new expectations.
As absurd as it sounds, you literally become angry at your partner and your choice in a partner. It is not uncommon for some men to second guess their relationship, deluded into the belief that they didn’t pick the right partner or could somehow find a partner more appropriate to their altered preference.
Anger is a normal human emotion. There are many situations where it is justified. However, like all human emotions, when expressed or prompted for the wrong reasons, it often hurts others. Before anger hurts others, anger hurts you.
I want you to remember that pornography fuses the parts of our brain which process violence and sexual arousal. Violence is often preceded by anger. Most men never imagine themselves as violent- especially in relationships, however, as I often mention, you become what you eat.
Be mindful of what you let into your brain so that you never have to look at yourself in the mirror one day and wonder how you strayed so far from the man, the brother, the father or the husband whom you once aspired to be.