I’ll never forget the shame I felt when I had to admit to my girlfriend that I had used porn just a few weeks before. We were sitting on the couch in the living room of her parent’s house. We had recently gone through a rough patch, and she knew that I resorted to porn in times of stress. She asked me point blank if I had done so recently.
When I said yes, her reaction was not anger. Instead she began to silently cry. As I watched the tears fall down her face, I felt an enormous helplessness. I couldn’t comfort her or tell her that it would all be okay. I could barely even look her in the eyes. This was pain I had inflicted, and I have never felt so weak and helpless in my life. All I wanted to do was get up, walk out the door, drive away, and never come back.
This is how the final months of my relationship with her went. We would go through a rough patch and then I would act out on porn to make myself feel better. She would then ask if I had used it recently, and I would say yes. She would cry. I would hate myself, and the cycle repeated until she suddenly ended our relationship.
We are told that porn is a private affair, that it hurts no one. I can personally attest that this is an absolute lie. It’s a lie that I told myself. The truth is that porn is exploitative, unrealistic, personally harmful, and kills love.
Besides my own story of how my porn usage contributed to the conflict in my relationship, a study done in 2014 has found that frequent, or problematic pornography use contributes to poor relationship quality, gender role conflicts, and less sexual satisfaction between couples. Even while my pornography use decreased, the strength of the relationship I had with my girlfriend continued to be damaged by it. My girlfriend and I couldn’t trust each other, and it was easy for her to use my struggle as a weapon against me in arguments.
But it wasn’t just romantic relationships; porn was causing other responsibilities and relationships in my life to fray.
Porn tends to cause chain reactions. Porn was certainly helping to ruin my romantic relationship, which led to higher stress. Higher stress led to less focus on things that should have been important to me at the time, such as schoolwork, spending time with other friends, and being open with my family. I was working so hard at trying to pick up the pieces of my broken relationship, that I had no time or desire to give anyone else in my life the attention they deserved.
Very few of my friends knew of my struggle with porn, and those who did were at a loss as to how to help. It was an uncomfortable subject for them that they didn’t want to get too involved with. This alone was isolating. It alienated me from a couple close friends and also from friends who did not know about my struggle because I found myself withdrawing from social functions as I sunk deeper into my porn use.
Porn ended up demanding more of me than my friends. It couldn’t be ignored because it was always waiting for me in my room. It ate up more of my time in the afternoon and evening, one to three times in a week. As my habit of using porn increased, my level of interaction with my friends and communication with my family decreased.
I may not be able to convince you of porn’s harm to others, but I can tell you how it hurt me and the people that mean the most to me. I went through stages of justifying my actions, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad, etc. In the end though, I knew in my heart that what I was doing was ultimately taking me away from people that I loved.
I was choosing to give myself to something that could not love me back. I can’t hold porn in my arms like I can hold my wife after a hard day at work. Porn can’t tell me it loves me like my mom has my whole life, and porn can’t be there for me like my friends. The only thing porn can do is take. It takes my time, energy, and even my will to make it through a day. This is enough to convince me that it hurts my relationships.
Life is too short to spend looking at people on a computer screen who I don’t know or love and who don’t know or love me. I want to grow old and die knowing that I spent my life with people whom I love and who love me, and that I didn’t waste it on the emptiness porn offers.