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My partner prefers watching porn to having sex

A woman wants to know if she should leave her boyfriend. Dr. Gail Saltz says she should find out more about his obsession — and then decide.
/ Source: TODAY

Dear Gail: My boyfriend and I have been dating for a rocky two years, and things were finally starting to mellow out. But now we have this porn issue! He has watched porn occasionally over the years, but it never affected our sex life. So using the pick-your-battles theory, I’ve dropped it. But now that we’re living together, I find it increasingly hard to accept his obsession and I'm tempted to end our relationship.

He only watches porn alone, and he has refused my offers to watch it with him. Every time he’s home alone, he watches it. Then when I come home for some lovin’, he’s not interested. He has started lying and sneaking around. He basically told me, “I’m going to do this. I can either lie about it or you can leave me alone about it.” Can you give me some insight? —Weary Porn Widow

Dear Porn Widow: If your boyfriend feels driven to do something — whatever it is — behind your back, your relationship is in trouble. Another concern is the fact that you’ve been together for all of two years and he is no longer interested in having sex with you. You are right to question this relationship. As you probably can sense, these issues might or might not be surmountable.

Keep in mind that I am not addressing the social or moral issues of pornography, which generate great controversy and which people have strong feelings about. Whether a couple includes pornography in their sex life is a personal choice. Many people find pornography stimulating. (Men generally like visuals and acts, while women prefer romance and emotional content.)

Asking to be included in his porn watching was a good move. That could have been exciting for both of you. Unfortunately, and for some unknown reasons, he isn’t willing to do that. He is forfeiting a sex life with you in favor of a sex life with pictures and movies. This may mean that porn has other meanings for him. He sees it as something private, and possibly shameful, and he doesn’t want to share it with you.

You might try asking him about that. Find out why he doesn’t want you to watch it with him. It’s possible he will open up. Let him know pornography can be a turn-on for you as well. Porn can be an enhancement to your sex life, but it shouldn't be a substitute for it.

Whatever you approach decide to take, make sure that you're not judgmental. While you don’t want to condemn or criticize him for his interest in porn, it is fair to explain to him that when he doesn’t want to have sex with you and instead spends his time on pornography, you feel diminished and unwanted.

If you are able to discuss and resolve this with him in a nonjudgmental way, it will be good test of whether you can work out other important issues in your relationship. If you cannot, your problem boils down to one of two things: Either he is obsessed with porn in such a way that makes him exclude you, or he is not terribly concerned with your feelings. Either way, you can decide whether you want to stay with him or leave.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: A man’s insistence on using pornography to exclude his partner from his sex life — and his life — can destroy a relationship.