Is Watching Porn in a Relationship Really Considered Cheating?

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Cheating involves putting intimate energy into another person. Being physically present with someone outside of the committed relationship is one way of putting intimate energy into another whether it is emotional or physical intimacy ( or both). Also, texting, emailing, phoning, chatting on the web and soliciting on the web with live people are all ways of interacting with others that betray the committed relationship. A secret is always involved when it comes to cheating.

Porn often is done in secrecy and that, I would say, is not healthy for the relationship. If there is porn, it is better for there to be an openness about it but that topic is for another week. However, porn that does not involve direct contact with a 3 dimensional human being is not cheating. In this scenario, you are not saying or doing things with another person that should only be reserved for your committed partner. Ask the typical betrayed partner who just found out the partner cheated with another person if it feels the same as if he or she just caught the partner watching an x-rated video. Both situations may make the partner feel pain, but the degree of betrayal does not compare.

The slope is not as slippery either with porn. For example, flirting online has a likelihood of leading to more intense cheating, much more so than watching porn can lead to more serious problems. I am not saying that watching porn will not lead to more problems; it could. I am saying that the likelihood of porn being a slippery slope is less than beginning intimate interactions of any sort with a real live human being.

Keep in mind that this article is not saying that porn is good (or that it is bad). The article is merely stating the opinion of a person who has worked in this field for decades- porn is not the same thing as cheating. I would LOVE to hear your comments on this debatable topic.

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10 Comments

  • Robin Altman says:

    Here is one scenario that can happen: She comes home from work eager to see her lover and have sex, however when she comes on to him he says, “I’m sorry honey, I already gave at the office.” Her heart drops. Why couldn’t he have waited for her? Then she wonders about what the woman he chose looked like and thinks, “maybe she was pretty, sexier….different than her.” Then her self esteem goes down a notch and her sense of being sexy to her partner does too. She may not even feel like having sex again with him for a while until these feelings subside.

  • Is Watching Porn in a Relationship Really Considered Cheating? - CheatingSupport.com says:

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  • Michael Cohn Ph.D. says:

    Porn, as you say, is not cheating per se, but it certainly can evoke the sort of response that is usually reserved for actual cheating. That said, even smiling at someone else might be considered cheating in some cases. Inevitably, it is women who complain about men not porn, and not the inverse. This is interesting and I would like to hear what you think the cause of the profound gender difference is…

    • Todd Creager says:

      Hi Michael. Thanks for your comment. I agree about the profound gender difference. Probably it is because women are more kinesthetic and experience stimulation more from their feelings and men are more visually stimulated and it is difficult for men and women to appreciate and be sensitive to each others different ways of experiencing realities. Of course, that probably is too simple of an answer and I will have to think about that more.

  • Michael Cohn Ph.D. says:

    ok, that was supposed to say “women who complain about men WATCHING porn” – sorry

  • Louise Compton says:

    Hi. Very nice article. I liked the way you defined cheating as putting emotional energy into another person. And I do think that watching porn is not the same as cheating, but I think that may be because our values are similar. For a couple who sees porn a different way, it might be different. I think couples should talk about what they feel is cheating and what is not, so they can establish some values in the relationship. If one person says that they feel watching porn is cheating, and the other person says OK, I will respect that, and then watches porn, that might make it cheating because the person is violating something agreed upon in advance. Anyway, just my idea.

    • Todd Creager says:

      Excellent comment Louise. Couples definitely need to decide on what their values and boundaries are together.

  • Linn says:

    You say that it’s only cheating if the person is putting emotional energy into another person. Then explain exactly what a person is doing when they are looking up porn “Real People” and getting off to them? To become aroused would you not have to have some sort of attachment to what you are viewing? Would you say a wife who sends out nude photos online and gets her ego fed by men would be normal and natural as long as she can prove she is not being physical with the men?

    • Todd Creager says:

      I define cheating specifically as when a person gives energy to a real live person. Sending out nude photos online and getting one’s ego fed by men is out certainly cheating if she is doing this behind her husband’s back. It is cheating because there are real live people and she is doing some virtual interacting with other men even if she does not know who they actually are. The more I read your comment, I see that you make good points. Some of this is just how we conceptualize and use words. The bottom line is that secrets, however they manifest, are poison for relationships. And by the way, cheating does not only include being physical. Any contact with others behind the partner’s back is cheating as I see it and is very destructive to intimate relationships.

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