Boyfriend Quitting Porn? 5 Tips

Printer-friendly version

Understand your partner's porn challenge and how you can help

Couple kissingYou have no particular objection to porn, but you love your partner and he has decided to give up Internet porn after using heavily for years. Here are 5 ways you can support his effort:

1.  Understand why he's quitting

For your partner, porn isn't just a harmless past-time. If you want to understand, have a look at the kinds of problems users report, such as sexual performance issues, loss of attraction to real partners, morphing sexual tastes, concentration problems, social anxiety, moodiness, and so forth.

Said one young woman,

Reading about the brain process in addiction really helped me understand that his porn use wasn't a personal insult to me and that it truly is an addiction. It's the high he was after rather than actual other people.

Porned Out, an informative little ebook by an ex-porn user, explains what's behind these symptoms, as does this TEDx talk. The Your Brain On Porn slideshow series offers more detail. (Also see this new, short, user-friendly video on the science of porn addiction.)

Sure your partner is lucky to have you—but giving up his daily fix could be one of the toughest things he does in his life. And he must make the decision for himself. Here's one guy's advice to partners:

Having that habit of fapping to fall back on is a great comfort to him, as with anything an addict uses. So even if he says he understands that it isn't helping the relationship, he will still feel like that comfort is being taken from him, and he will rationalize reasons that it's not so bad, reasons to keep doing it. Try not to come at him in a way where he might feel threatened.

There may be another issue. How sexually active are the two of you? Are there any hang ups in the bedroom, any things you know of that would cause him performance anxiety or stress? A lot of times people fap because they think they need to keep their equipment "exercised" and healthy. Sometimes they do it right before sex in order not to ejaculate so quickly. I would try to talk to him on a deeper level about what he feels in the relationship and about your intimacy. If he has no fears about performance and things relating to that, he'll be more willing to give up the habit and devote all of his energy to your sex life.

Respect his courage and determination. Keep in mind that addictions have rightfully been described as "cunning, baffling and powerful." Here's what one guy said:

I've found the best things she can do for me are:

  1. Forgive me when I fail.
  2. Always expect more from me.
  3. Congratulate me when I succeed.
  4. Distract me when I'm having a bad day.
  5. Remind me that WE are worth it, and that she thinks I'm super-sexy.

These things help boost my self-esteem and remind me to do the best I can for the best woman I ever met.

2.  Know the benefits you can expect as a couple

Read men's actual observations about how they became better lovers after giving up porn, how they find their partners more attractive, how much more they enjoy intimacy, and how much better sex feels:  Guys Who Gave Up Porn: On Sex and Romance Read the posts under the article, too. You will be amazed. Here are sample comments:

  • I haven’t fapped since a week ago (sex-real, thrice since then). - Initial response - HOLY SHIT this feels so much better now. Your hand can make you O, but it isn’t 'erotic' and doesn’t feel good like something erotic can, like [intercourse]. I told my SO that she was beautiful (spontaneous outburst) during a recent encounter. From her reaction, I apparently didn’t do things like this that often. I feel closer to her intimately.
  • I've had my share of empty hook ups in college. Forced, unsatisfying, centered around the orgasm. [Last night's] kind of tenderness is completely alien to me, and yet it felt hardwired; a natural part of myself I'd just never explored.
  • When I got back from a conference yesterday I was exhausted physically and mentally. But this time I discovered an inner reservoir of energy I never expected to find. The sex was incredible, passionate, and unbelievable. I felt like I was 20 years old all over again. After 5 years of being "too tired" to have sex in times like these I now know the problem isn't about fading chemistry but about wasting my sexual energy fapping all the time.
  • Only a matter of weeks ago I had almost resigned myself to never being able to achieve climax during penetrative sex. Last night I had sex with my partner twice and reached climax both times! Once we started kissing and touching each other, I couldn't hold back on my urge to penetrate her. It felt so natural, the sensitivity in my penis has definitely returned, plus I feel there's more to come.

3.  Learn the timing and "map" of recovery

It can take months for an ex-user to reverse the brain changes related to excessive Internet porn use. Those recovering fall into two groups: those quitting due to sexual performance problems (erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, lack of arousal during sex) and those quitting for other reasons (escalation to disturbing tastes, desire to feel more attracted to current partner, social anxiety, brain fog).

Mysteriously, young guys with porn-related ED tend to recover more slowly than older guys. It's likely this is a function of whether highspeed porn was on tap during their adolescence (or not).

A very typical pattern of recovery (for those with ED, DE) starts with a week or two of crazy libido (higher than before quitting), which is followed by a temporary "flatline." Guys describe the flatline as "total indifference about sex and hotties, lifeless genitals, and no morning wood"—sometimes accompanied by depression. The flatline can go on for a couple of months, and even recur. Here's an interview with a guy describing a 9-month recovery. He explains which behaviors slowed his recovery. Expect a recovery period of 2-6 months or longer. 

Said one guy,

My GF and I hadn't had sex for 2-3 months. The relationship was near death. Things weren't easy. When I quit, there was an initial period of renewed sexual interest on my part, but there then followed the flatline period, which was fairly prolonged for me. I'm through it now, and sex life with GF is much healthier, and improving all the time.

Mood graphNot every guy experiences this unnerving flatline, but almost all report some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Typical symptoms include: insomnia, irritability, brain fog, headaches, anxiety, restlessness, depression, desire to isolate, and of course cravings. You can read many self-reports of withdrawal symptoms. The first two weeks seem to be the worst, but it may take two months or more for his mood to stabilize.

Guys without porn-related sexual dysfunction can sometimes continue to have affectionate sex during recovery. Others find it slows them down. Young guys with ED almost always heal faster if they avoid orgasm until their libido reawakens naturally.

In any case, recovery is not linear, which means he may be doing well one day and feel rotten the next, even though the overall trend is positive. Be patient.

4.  Stay confident about your attractiveness and don't seduce him (prematurely)

As you have seen, his libido may drop off alarmingly for weeks during his recovery. This has nothing to do with you. It's related to healing changes going on in the sexual/appetite centers of his brain. No need to doubt your attractiveness. Wait with confidence.

Traditionally,  both men and women assume that turning up the sexual heat is the solution to sexual sluggishness. However, in the case of most guys quitting porn the problem is the reverse: They are often numb to everyday sexual pleasures due to overconsumption of synthetic erotic enticements. They need to reboot, free of sexual performance demands.

One man described his girlfriend's support:

She has been so amazing and I would never have got through this without her. I told her that I would occasionally use porn fantasy to stay hard, and she told me that she'd rather I went soft than use porn. Knowing that actually made it easier, and I haven't even thought of porn since we had that convo a few weeks ago. She also refused to let me take any sort of ED drug, as she wanted me to sort this out naturally. Here's my advice:

1. Talk to your partner. It is by far the biggest help.
2. Take your time and go at a pace you are comfortable with.
3. Supplements had no effect what-so-ever.
4. Don't fall into the trap of looking at porn even if you don't plan to binge.

Funnily enough, my girlfriend went through a similar phase a while back of viewing too much porn and ending up finding that only girl-on-girl action would get her wet even though she is not lesbian at all. So she also had to give up the porn. I guess this in some way was good for me, because she fully understood what I was going through.

Sure, we've had some lows. She's had some insecure feelings. I've had some terrible evenings of feeling inadequate and useless, but in the end we talked through each moment and came out stronger. Then this last weekend I managed to actually get and stay hard enough for sex. This is a huge step forward for me. And I mean HUGE. This is the start of a new sexual adventure for me and it's fantastic. I'm sure it is only going to get better. My confidence is already a lot stronger.

While he is recovering, if orgasm sets off noticeable neurochemical ripples or even sensd him back into a binge, don't push him to finish. Keep the sexual activity gentle and low key, that is, free of all performance pressure while his brain returns to increased sensitivity naturally. (For the science behind the brain changes occurring in connection with porn-related ED, watch the Erectile Dysfunction and Porn Video Series). It may seem counterintuitive, but it's often better to leave him wanting more than to try to exhaust his sexual desire. (Even healthy men may benefit from not overdoing it.)

In short, don't play porn star in an effort to heat him up prematurely. Although your dazzling foreplay and fantasy skills may produce the desired fireworks in the short-term, they can ultimately hamper his healing. You can make up for lost time once he returns to his studly self. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for these signs that he is truly back on track.

5.  Understand the power of soothing bonding behaviors

Although performance-driven sex will not speed your partner's recovery, regular affection can help enormously. Daily bonding behaviors can keep both of you glowing while you wait for his brain to return to normal sensitivity. Said two recovering porn users:

First guy: What helps me is as much tender touch and kissing as possible. I suffer from intense anxiety, and touching her or her touching me is so healing.

Second guy: I always was comfortable with women, kinda social, and a quite happy person, but my love story with porn was too old and too strong to let me be a 'normal' person. Daily masturbation, sometimes up to 5 times, multiple tabs, edging for hours until my dick felt nonexistent and my brain burnt like crazy. Was I single? No! The girlfriend was always asking for sex, but I would fake orgasms just to get the real "rush" with porn when she's gone. One time I had an orgasm with her, was fully satisfied, but couldn't resist porn after she left the house like an a hour after. Then it happened: my girlfriend was like disappearing. In bed she would look like fog. My brain was full of other images. I'd be thinking about porn images while [having sex], feeling foggy, sleepy, absent, like my girl was ten miles from me, so naturally, ED hit. Denial, didn't want to stop my other love story, my longest affair ever! So I kept fantasizing while with her trying to get it hard, and my lovely girlfriend became barely another masturbation tool. I became sad, depressed, irritable, and felt I was living in a sort of bubble. The ED got worse, even fantasies weren't enough, so I looked for a solution. Decided to start the journey. Felt horny for 2 days, then big flatline. I was sleeping all day, dead dick, etc. But I talked to my girl of the goal. After a week, my girlfriend started to look real again, she gave me massages which helps the resensitization. I thought I needed weeks, even months. But yesterday we were on the couch watching a movie, and she started kissing me. I was hard, and I knew it was a different erection, an old erection, a healthy, awake one, and guess what? We made love, without any ED, without any fantasies, and it felt like she was a new person I was discovering. Even I felt like a new person. Sex was not foggy anymore, and even after orgasm I didn't feel any sadness, just plain healthy satisfaction.

Communication is also a bonding behavior:

My wife makes herself available to me as much as possible, and I don't mean this sexually. I mean that she makes herself open to talking.

Another husband wrote this after talking with his wife about his porn habit:

Couple in bedShe got it and was very supportive, we talked a lot about what I was going through and what to expect. I'm a very lucky man, as she is very understanding. She thought that I was looking at porn because she isn't attractive enough for me, but then I showed her the Coolidge effect and remembered about Hugh Grant who cheated on Liz Hurley, and at last she understood the novelty lure. After the talk we both felt like we were getting closer than ever. And you can't imagine how great a relief it was. 

Flirty behavior that makes him feel attractive is also helpful, but keep your flirtation on the playful side of passion.

Bonus tip: Explore non-goal-oriented intercourse

Rather than trying to ease your sexual frustration yourself, or via oral or digital orgasms, why not experiment with containing your own sexual energy for a bit? Some women find that a timeout from sex toys and porn ultimately increases their sensual pleasure too. You may also wish to experiment with some ancient solo practices for cultivating your sexual desire to boost your energy and stabilize your mood.

If you're both feeling bold, explore karezza (non-goal-oriented intercourse) or gentle tantra together. Relaxed intercourse can assist your partner's recovery by offering all the benefits of intimacy without any neurochemical ripples after climax. Here's a discussion between two guys who are experimenting with this during recovery:

First guy: I'm twenty days in, my girl and I have been practicing modified Karezza (she finishes, I don't), and we've been having some of the best sex we've had in our year-long relationship. Whereas before I would have weaker erections and sometimes have trouble finishing, now I could f*ck a hole in the hull of a submarine, and I'm constantly having to flex my pelvic floor muscles to avoid finishing.

Second guy: The same thing happened to me and I was so shocked by the reversal. I used to finish every time and she did half the time. Now I don't need to finish. I don't think I would have even believed that was possible before starting this recovery.

You may also want to play around with passing up orgasm yourself during sex. Some women find it helps ward off subsequent mood swings.

Whatever your choice, recovery is a unique period during which the two of you have an ideal opportunity to test non-performance oriented intercourse. Some men say it is a very useful tool in overcoming a porn addiction. 

At the end of the day...

You may both be glad that you went through this experience together. Sharing a challenge like recovery builds trust and authenticity. Think of the support you give now as an investment that will return to you when you need help or extra understanding. (Obviously, women can also be the ones who need patience and understanding while they unhook from today's erotic enticements. Guys, be patient!)

Relationships are precious. Treat your partner as you would want to be treated if you were the one whose sexuality were temporarily out of kilter. If you need to process angry feelings, do it outside your relationship with a trusted counselor. Trust that he's doing his best, and that his courageous choice to let go of porn will benefit you both. (If he behaves in bad faith, however, be ready to move on. Recovery must be his choice, and many an addict thinks he wants to recover before he is truly willing to face the pain of withdrawal.) 

Finally, even when his libido kicks in again, it can take some time to regulate lovemaking. Take it easy at first. (See Age 21 - Sex with girlfriend may have slowed reboot (ED).) Both premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation are not uncommon when intercourse enters the picture. Guys continue to see improvement for months.

Also see "Why It’s A Good Thing That Men Are Reflecting About Masturbation" (article by woman).