Is porn cheating? (In a way, yeah)
Is it disrespectful to your partner? (Kinda think so)
Is it perfectly normal, a healthy way of having needs met? (Yup, that’s true, too)
Guess what? It’s not really what matters. Here’s what does: how you two deal with it.
What matters most:
1) How you confront your feelings (most likely fear is at play)
2) How you communicate those feelings + fears
FINDING YOUR OWN “WHY?”
First you need to get to why? Your own why. Literally sit down with a piece of paper and write how you’re feeling or even what’s going through your head followed by a why?, and you’ll often see what’s really going on. Let’s play.
Holy snowballs! No way. You hot steamy turd of a liar, I think I’m going to vomit a ball of tar. Why? Because you said you weren’t into porn. Why? Maybe you said that because to you being “really into porn” means something else, or maybe you said it because you assumed I’d be offended. Why? Because I’ve never come out and told you how I felt about it. Why? Because it’s private… and maybe that’s why you haven’t told me about it.
Still, it makes me feel like a fat nasty cafeteria lady seeing women with buoyant globes and nipples the size of nickles. Why? Because I’ll never look like that. Why? Because my parents and their parents have suckass genes. And I wasn’t born with an airbrush. But really why? Because I fear I’m not enough, enough for him, good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, adventurous enough. Why are you afraid of that? Because then he’ll reject me, leave me—Why can’t I be his fantasy?!
Because he has you. And he chose you.
Wouldn’t it be worse if you’d discovered 200+ pictures of his ex? If these were women he actually knew? Women posing for him? Of course (that actually happened to me), and it made me run to the toilet with the ‘rhea. Why? Because we’re all vulnerable, we’re all afraid of loss, of rejection, because it doesn’t feel good.
I offer your self-esteem this tasty nibble: “Show me a beautiful woman, and I’ll show you a man who’s tired of banging her.”
That is to say, those women in those photos have boyfriends, husbands, even, and no matter how beautiful she is, he likely has his own trash stash. However gorgeous you are, cellulite-free, skin tanned and smooth, stomach tight, he’ll still fantasize about “other,” about “different” about “a piece of strange.” It’s obviously not personal and has nothing to do with your body.
WHO CARES MORE? RESOLVING CONFLICT
Can you discuss that you stumbled upon his 200+ photos—and there may be videos on that laptop of his, too, a subscription to paid sites—without accusations, without even a hint of judgment or blame, simply expressing how you feel, and why you feel the way you do? Ideally this is the state of mind you want to be in when you approach the subject. Then, after sharing, you need to be ready to listen, really listen, to how he feels, and why he feels the way he does. This is true of anything.
Chinese Proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
The problem (porn in this case) is the fish. How you solve it, communicate it, come upon a resolution is the fishing for a lifetime.
That said, oh, lady, have I been there
It started in high school. I didn’t like that my boyfriend read “guy magazines” with evocative pictures, not porn, but magazines like Maxim.
I would literally flip through his magazines and tear out anything alluring, anyone I didn’t want him to see. Because I was jealous. Because it made me feel like shit that he’d choose—seek out, even—to look at images of other women. It felt disrespectful.
He could just forget about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. If he wanted to read it, he’d have to do so at the grocery store checkout. At Barnes & Noble. And I’d better not find out about it. Because to me it was a form of cheating.
My stance on cheating: doing anything you wouldn’t normally do in front of your partner—no, pooping doesn’t count. Would he really flip through a magazine of mostly naked women with me sitting there? I think he wanted to keep his balls, so no, never. But if he did it without me there, it was a form, however mild, of cheating. It was also a form of control. And here’s what I’ve learned about that: people do what they want to do. They might lie about it, might swear on their unborn children, might make promises, say everything right to allay your fears, but the simple truth is, if someone wants to cheat, wants to watch porn, wants to FILL IN THE BLANK, they’ll find a way to do it.
WE ALL HAVE DEAL-BREAKERS
We let our partner know up front what those deal-breakers are, and why they are deal-breakers for us—and sometimes, there’s just no rational explanation, and that’s okay. You know what? None of us is perfect, and if you have a hang-up about something, if it’s your line in the sand, make it count. Pick your battles. For me, it’s strip clubs and trips to Vegas. “Because no good can come of it,” my Father admits to me, of the “all boys” Vegas trips.
Phil and I agreed that he would never, for the rest of his life (as long as I’m alive + married to him) go to a strip club, and he’d leave anywhere if strippers showed up. It is my line in the sand. And yes, I’ve been to a strip club. I don’t want the love of my life in a sexually charged atmosphere without me. I don’t care if the guys are just there to have a steak dinner. It is off limits. Completely. I don’t need to do the whole, “Well, how would you feel if” because there is no equivalent to strip clubs, though my friends and I tried to come up with one. And one could rationalize all they want, that it’s a scam, that it’s all about money, that they’re all gross, but I don’t give a pastie.