The compulsive use of pornography and the physical act of being unfaithful are indicators of issues within a relationship. Are both acts considered cheating? Is cheating only a physical act? If you respond with yes, think about your reasoning. How would you feel if your partner was emotionally involved with someone else? Would you consider that non-physical act as cheating? If so, how is watching pornography any different? Those questions may feel heavy, but they are all valid.

With the evolution of technology over the last decade, pornography has become an even bigger phenomenon. In 2018, one porn platform reached 33.5 billion views. Yes, you read that correctly – just on one platform. What does that mean? Nearly 4.5 views of pornography for every single person on the planet. Astounding, right?

Clearly, compulsive pornography use and infidelity are big problems that affect more than the two people in a relationship. However, here’s the thing…there is no definitive answer as to whether or not pornography is or isn’t a type of cheating. Here’s why! Every person is different, and everyone has a different perception of infidelity. Even though some people view pornography as something they dislike, they may not agree that it is the same as cheating.

To gain a deeper understanding of cheating and being unfaithful, you need to understand the three (very broad) categories of infidelity. Once you have a better understanding of those three categories, you can make your own argument as to whether or not pornography is a type of affair. Regardless, you need to remember this is your opinion. While it important that you and your partner agree on the stance of infidelity, it’s not necessarily important for others to side with your stance.

Purely physical is the first category of infidelity.

Being purely physical and having a sexual affair is the most blatant act of infidelity. This is when a person seeks sexual acts outside of their relationship. There are no personal or emotional connections, and there are no attachments to his or her partner in the affair.

Oftentimes, this is what many people refer to as a one-night stand. It’s purely for pleasure and isn’t really thought out. No one has really given a lot of thought into the act of infidelity, and it is believed to be more of an impulsive act.

An emotional affair is the second category of infidelity.

In an emotional affair, a person does not have extramarital sexual contact but feeds on the emotional attachment of a person other than their partner. The relationship resembles the intimacy found in romantic relationships. With the robust use of digital meetups, this category of infidelity can be text messages, email exchanges, inappropriate social media comments, videos, and/or phone calls. In most cases, the individuals are communicating with each other, and it’s generally not a one-sided engagement. In some cases, this is done out in the open, and at other times, it’s not.

The combination of physical and emotional dimensions is the third category of infidelity.

Both physical and emotional elements come into play with this form of infidelity. In these cases, an individual may already know someone through a casual acquaintance or previous meet up engagement. Generally, there are feelings involved, and all parties have an emotional investment in the relationship. Not only do their physical and emotional actions reflect that of an exclusive relationship, but the notion that they could/should continue their relationship (and ditch their other relationship) is probably discussed in this stage.

This category is usually the most harmful because lying is intensified, and individuals can get caught up in the lure and lust of an affair.

Pornography can be a gateway into any of these categories of infidelity, and it can also be singularly grouped into the second category – depending on who is doing the grouping. Nonetheless, understanding the categories of infidelity is important when trying to understand whether or not pornography is a form of an affair. It’s imperative to remember that pornography doesn’t mean that an individual is involved with someone outside of their relationship in a sexual way.

Pornography has been shown to stimulate the same neural pathways which are associated with other addictions. Just like drugs and/or alcohol, a pornographic image or video loses its impact with repeated exposure. This means, in most cases, someone viewing pornography may need more; thus, becoming addicted to sex or seeking outside relationships.

Couples must make their own conclusions as to whether or not pornography is actually an affair. Now that you understand the categories of infidelity and the potential consequences of a gateway, such as pornography, can impose on a relationship – and an individual. If you and your partner haven’t discussed your stances on pornography, it’s important to have the conversation and find out where each person stands. During your discussion, address the following:

  1. Are both individuals educated on the three major categories of infidelity? Do you and your partner agree on the acts that fall into each category?
  2. What is your stance on the viewing of pornography? Does your partner agree? Why or why not? Does your partner have reasoning as to why or why not? Do you, why or why not?
  3. Does your partner believe that pornography could be linked to addictions down the road? Why or why not? How does their logic make you feel?

There isn’t a clear yes or no answer as to whether pornography is a form of infidelity because each couple is different and has their own views. Your view is not right or wrong; however, your partner should share that view, and if they don’t, then your relationship will not work. Be willing to have open discussions with your partner and better understand their reasoning and logic.

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