Some of the most sensitive and challenging topics for couples are physical attraction towards others and pornography use. Couples will frequently avoid these topics for fear of provoking each other’s insecurities and jealousy. However, the truth is that the guilt and embarrassment that stop couples from sharing also hinders emotional and physical intimacy. With a Canadian study finding that women whose partners openly disclose pornography use are more likely to report relationship satisfaction and lower levels of distress (Borreli, 2014), many relationship experts are stating that discussing pornography and outside physical attraction is an essential ingredient for healthy relationships. However, what is less well-known is how to discuss this topic with your significant other. While every couple is different, and there is no prescription for everyone, I offer a few tips below.
- Make Sure It’s Not Just About You
Clarity in your intention plays a major role not only in helping your partner to hear that you may be attracted to others or use pornography from time to time, but also in preserving the trust and intimacy of the relationship. One simple step is to ask your partner how he or she feels about your sharing these topics, while realizing that doing so may elicit feelings of shame, embarrassment, and inadequacy. It is also important to ask yourself why you want to share. Do you want to deepen your trust and intimacy level with your partner by being honest, perhaps expressing your own feelings of guilt or shame, or do you simply want an occasion to objectify someone else? Are you also willing to hear from your partner about his or her attractions or pornography use? When we love somebody, that person may be able to intuitively discern what our motives are, so sharing, especially in the beginning, is best done by couples when the goal is to promote intimacy and connection. For example, there is a significant difference between stating that you always thought your co-worker was sexy and stating that you would like to be more open about your fantasies and desires to build honest and healthy communication between you. Choose your words wisely and make your intentions clear.
It may also help to empathize that your attraction may vary quite a bit; sometimes, you might admire someone who is skinny, and sometimes you might find somebody attractive who is slightly overweight. Explaining to your partner that the diversity of your attraction may lead you to be attracted to others, including those who are not glamorous or models, may humanize the process for both of you. One might say, for example, “I really find him/her attractive, even if they’re not skinny or athletic, although I appreciate those qualities in you.” The idea is not to take away from what your partner’s attractiveness, but to celebrate another person’s distinctive style and beauty as well, which does not make your partner any less beautiful in your eyes.
At times, there may be attractive qualities in someone else that your partner is also happy to develop. You may point out, for example, that a mutual friend is wearing a nice sweater, and that you believe it would look gorgeous on your partner as well. You can even suggest that a mutual acquaintance has developed a healthy physique and that you would like to begin working out with your partner so that both of you can get in shape. Again, the key is to articulate steps that empower you and your partner to engage in activities together that would increase your attraction for one another.
- Make Sure the Pornography Is Something You Can Share
Pornography can be many things: degrading, sexy, empowering, and kinky are some adjectives that come to mind. However, if you are into porn, think about how your fantasies may be able to include your partner. At times, it may be something you can share in the bedroom. If you have a fantasy that is ignited from a pornographic video, ask your partner if he or she might like to act it out with you. Sharing a voyeuristic fantasy, for example, may actually be a turn-on for your partner, especially if you are able to imagine viewing a specific act together. However, it is much too challenging to include your partner if the material is degrading and/or if you impose your porn use and fantasies without first exploring your partner’s openness to these topics. Ask your partner if your fantasy is something he or she is willing to explore with you and even if it may be exciting on some level.
- Reaffirm Your Love
There is a special reason why you choose a particular person. Yes, there may be attractions to others at different times, but there is really only one person that you choose to be with. However, we often forget to express this. When your partner feels loved and understands that he or she is the only one you have deep feelings of commitment for, insecurity is less likely to arise and can be more easily soothed. Therefore, it is important to articulate why you chose your specific partner over everyone else. Attraction does come and go, but love is something that can last if we bring our true and honest selves to it, difficult as that may be at times.
Borreli, L. (2014, January 7th). Why Couples Who Confess To Watching Porn Are Happier And Have Better Relationships. Retrieved from Medical Daily : http://www.medicaldaily.com/why-couples-who-confess-watching-porn-are-happier-and-have-better-relationships-266505