Divorce porn is living vicariously through another's divorce.

Divorce Porn: 4 Types That Are Almost Never a Good Thing

Ever wonder why we pay so much attention to how Angie and Brad split up? Or if Beyonce and Jay Z are really going to stick it out? Or, will she do it this time? The world is watching …Will Melania take 45er’s hand as they board Air Force One?

Turns out, we are secretly fascinated, drawn, repelled and addicted to watching how others struggle in their relationship. It’s a momentary release, allowing us to escape our own relationship (and any problems we’ve been enduring). Love is powerful, so we’re really interested when others mess it up.

Please, mess it up good! Because, even better, we relish spectating in divorce.

Some call it divorce porn—vicariously living through another couple’s divorce. The term became popular and, indeed, symbolized by the release of the movie Eat Pray Love. The heroine’s story was heady, hearty, lusty stuff for us women. Elizabeth Gilbert’s character “seemingly had it all,” but gave it up to wander through Italy, India, and Bali in a journey of self discovery.

What? Leave everything and walk out? Leaving it all behind sounds damn good to many women thinking about or getting divorced, whether they have it all or not.

There’s that, and the fact that this journey was no celibate wander. Let’s remember the story culminated with bonding up, because completion (as popularly defined by finding your soulmate) sells. The prince arrived, once again.

But, wait, back it up. Divorce porn starts back there when the heroine is combusting and falling apart. It’s the particularly juicy part that feeds our culture’s obsession with break ups – and more specifically failing marriages.

Though “divorce porn” may be what we’re calling it these days, the phenomena isn’t new. We all know the experience, don’t we? Even back in high school and college—long before any of our friends were married—the breakup of one beloved couple in our friend group sent ripples throughout the circle, bringing some of us closer together and pushing others away and apart.

From our perspective as educators and divorce coaches, we know this too. And that this coming together or pushing apart effect can be seen through four specific types of divorce porn.

Divorce porn is the kind that brings couples together

Have you ever looked at someone else and thought, “Well, at least I’m not that bad.” We all do it. We grow up hearing phrases like “no matter how bad things get, remember, someone else always has it worse.” This is supposed to make us appreciate what we have, of course, not promote the celebration of other people’s lack.

And so, when a friend or family member has marital troubles and gets divorced, sometimes that impulse to be grateful is the first one we have.

Grateful, that is, that we’re not the ones getting divorced.

Sandy (not her real name) tells us how in her 20-year marriage, when another couple got divorced in their social circle, she and her husband—who had all kinds of strife in their own marriage—would often turn to each other and embrace, clinging to each other tighter than ever before. “It was like ‘Phew, we survived! We’re not as bad off as them. They’re getting divorced!’ We were just so grateful it wasn’t us,” explains Sandy. “Because, on so many levels, we were sure dancing on the edge.”

But, then again, the divorce of a friend or family member can also have the opposite effect on your marriage or relationship.

. . . The kind that’s contagious

Sometimes divorce spreads through social circles like an affliction, as if marital problems were contagious. A friend vents her frustrations and the challenges she faces in her marriage, or maybe she reveals that her husband has been less than faithful, and you start comparing and reflecting on your own situation . . .

Suddenly, you start to notice the same flaws in your own marriage—suspicion spreads like fine cracks on a windowpane.

Or maybe it’s simply the very fact that your friend did it! She got divorced! She and her husband were the first ones in your social circle to do it, to get divorced, and now, it was as if she’d given a pass to everyone. Everyone’s doing it! She normalized it and so now, you can do it, too.

In a 2013 Pew Research study, researchers found that participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is divorced and 33% more likely to end their marriage if a friend of a friend is divorced. So the idea that divorce might be contagious is one backed by science, much like the next type of divorce porn discussed.

. . . The kind that brings out people’s voyeuristic side

You see? When we witness a fight—whether it’s a violent eruption or a slow simmer—so often our first impulse is to break out the popcorn and pull up a seat. This voyeuristic tendency extends to our obsession with tabloids and soap operas. We celebrate budding celebrity relationships, but we also dig the demise. Part of us craves the drama. Science suggests the human brain is hardwired for gossip because information is a form of power.

Through gossip, we come to know a person, even if that image is flawed and one-sided, and we learn who we can trust. But more importantly, gossip gives us a way to learn from other people’s experiences, potentially sparing ourselves the heartache that comes with making the same mistake.

So when a friend or family member gets divorced, we react much the same way that we do when we read tabloids, watch dramatic TV shows, or gossip about other people.

On some subconscious level, we want to understand what it takes for a marriage to fall apart, what pushes a person over the edge, so that we better understand ourselves.

But the need for gossip can become addicting.

. . . The kind that’s literally, well, pornographic

The effects of watching porn regularly have been debated. But the fact is, no matter what the science or research says, both men and women have reported that porn has negatively affected their relationship and sex life. Recent studies have suggested that married couples who watch porn are twice as likely to divorce as those who don’t.

The “high” someone gets when they watch porn is one the regular viewer needs to chase—they seek out different types of porn to satisfy their desires. Videos that once did the trick eventually lose their appeal. And all this leaks into their real-life relationship. The regular porn viewer might begin to place a set of unrealistic expectations on their partner or create an environment in which tension and jealousy is likely to brew. There may also be the experience that there is no real relationship or marriage anymore. People shut down.

Most people usually start watching porn not because they are necessarily dissatisfied with their marriage but to relieve stress or escape a difficult home life.

Interestingly enough, porn seems to be less of a problem for couples who watch together.

Which brings us to our last point.

Remember, divorce porn is almost never a good thing

Communication (with each other) can help alleviate challenges divorce porn can create. Some couples, for instance, report that porn actually has a positive impact on their marriage. They say that watching porn together makes them feel more comfortable discussing sex openly and without shame.

Other couples have no communication or connection in their marriage as a result of pornography. In a 2002 informal survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (aka divorce attorneys), 60% of the 350 attorney asked, reported that internet porn played a significant role in the divorces they negotiated, with “excessive interest” in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases. At SAS for Women, we are not surprised. Many of our clients cite pornography as a major issue in the downfall of their marriage.

If you think you might be suffering from the effects of divorce porn, remember that there is nothing wrong with appreciating your spouse, discussing frustrations and challenges, or escaping reality every now and then, but, of course, it’s important to reflect on the events that you act upon:

  1. Make sure that you aren’t sensationalizing aspects of your own marriage—strengths or weaknesses—and comparing yourself to friends and family members. Don’t be unfair to yourself because every one of us is different.
  2. Make sure that you listen to and support those close to you because, as they get divorced, they’ll need you more than ever. (But also, remember that pesky biology and don’t feel too guilty about any unwanted emotions you experience.)
  3. Always be aware of the children. If you are unable to avert your eyes from another couple’s divorce, just remember that offhand comments can be overheard and are confusing to children—yours and theirs—and it’s the kids who are the hardest hit by gossip.
  4. If you are a woman dealing with divorce porn (however you define it) and you would like to hear what else is possible for your life, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with SAS. We’ll share stories of inspiring women and what they have done.

Divorce porn, much like divorce itself, is nothing new and the fact that we all need support as we go through divorce isn’t either.

SAS for Women ladies are those amazing women you meet who are entirely committed to experiencing divorce on their terms. Women facing a divorce, or contemplating it, are invited to schedule a confidential chat. “Divorce requires a one moment at a time approach” ~ SAS for Women

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