The Impact Of Porn In Your Marriage

The Way Porn Affects Marriage

Today we are wanting to talk about porn in marriage. Although we know this is a different topic then we normally address, we feel it’s NECESSARY to stand for what we believe about it and the way it can impact your marriage. I’ll freely admit, we’re a little nervous to venture into these unfamiliar waters. However, as a site dedicated to strengthening marriages, we feel strongly that it’s a topic that needs to be more openly and candidly discussed and studied. That’s why today we’re tackling this (sometimes uncomfortable and awkward) topic.

Man looking at a computer with the title How Pornography Affects Marriage overhead

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Pornography and How it Affects Marriage

Pornography is on the rise! Did you know that in 2013 porn sites received 450 million unique monthly visitors? That’s more than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined! In fact, 30% of all data transferred across the internet is porn-related!1

Wanna hear some more staggering statistics? Every second 28,258 people are watching pornography on the internet, and every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet.2

We’ve Heard Your Questions

It’s no wonder then that we seem to be hearing a lot more about pornography. Recently, we’ve had been receiving more and more reader questions wanting to know…

  • It is true that ALL men look at porn?
  • Is it unrealistic to not want porn in your marriage?
  • Do porn-free marriages really exist?
  • Why does it matter if my husband looks at porn anyway?
  • Is porn a good way to spice up your sex life?
  • How do I deal with my spouse’s porn addiction?

Our post today is in response to all these questions. Our intent is not to get on a soapbox or start a debate, but to really look at the effects pornography has on relationships and, specifically, marriage. We all have our own personal moral and religious views on the subject, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to be mainly focusing on what scientific research, studies, and surveys have discovered about the link between pornography and marriage.

Word art quote about what science vs society says about Pornography and Marriage

Why all the Confusion?

So, why is there so much confusion about pornography? If you’re ever on social media you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of debate and contradicting views when it comes to the topic of pornography. In just the couple of months that we’ve been researching and preparing this post, we’ve been amazed at the different, opposing information that is being shared online.

The truth is, what society is telling us about pornography is totally different from what research is telling us. No wonder there is so much confusion!

What Society Says About Pornography and Marriage

Here are just a few examples of what social media, magazines and newspapers have to say about porn…

  • ALL men look at porn.
  • Men can’t help themselves, it’s how they were built.
  • Looking at porn is normal and okay.
  • If he says he’s not looking at porn, he’s lying.
  • You should never ban porn from your relationship.
  • Women’s feelings don’t matter.
  • At least he’s not cheating on you.
  • If you don’t sext your man, he will look at pornography.
  • He’s watching pornography anyway, so you should join him. 
  • You should join him so he doesn’t feel guilty for doing something wrong.
  • Porn is harmless.

However, as we looked at the real research and studies done on pornography, we found very different information!

What Science Says About Pornography and Marriage

The truth is…

Porn is NOT harmless!  Porn is destroying marriages.

10 Ways Porn Puts Your Marriage in Danger banner with man looking at computer screen

10 Ways Porn Puts Your Marriage in Danger

I don’t think anyone wants to put their marriage in jeopardy. In fact, we’ve heard from several readers that the only reason they “allow” porn in their marriage is to try to save or enhance it. They don’t want to push their husband away by putting “unrealistic expectations” on him or they want to “keep things exciting” so he doesn’t get bored.  But the truth is, pornography is not saving or strengthening marriages, it’s destroying and weakening them!   

Professors Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman have been researching the effects of pornography for more than 30 years and have concluded that when it comes to porn use “no rigorous research demonstrations of desirable effects can be reported.”3

Or in other words, in all the legitimate research they’ve studied over the years, they have found NO benefits to pornography- only damage.  

Pornography Ruins Relationships

In 2004, Dr. Jill Manning  found that 56% of divorce cases involved one party having an “obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”4  Similarly, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers polled 350 divorce attorneys in 2003, where two-thirds of them reported that the internet played a significant role in the divorces, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.

That means that roughly 500,000 marriages annually are failing due to pornography!5

So, what is it about pornography that is leading to divorce? Well, it’s ten things actually.

1.  Porn Breaks Trust in Your Marriage

According to numerous studies, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to a diminished trust between intimate couples.6

It really is no surprise. After all, pornography and secrecy go hand in hand. Most people who view pornography go to great lengths to keep it hidden. It’s most often watched late at night when their spouse is asleep or when they are home alone. Users are careful to lock doors, erase their internet history, and keep files and videos hidden with passwords.

Spouses are shocked and feel betrayed when they find out because they were so easily kept in the dark. They wonder what else is going on that they don’t know about. Even users who were upfront with their spouse about watching pornography admit that they hide how much and when from them. Deception is a common theme of pornography. In contrast, transparency is a common theme of strong marriages.

2.  Porn Hinders Emotional Intimacy

Pornography leads to objectification rather than a meaningful interaction with another person.7

There’s a big difference between having sex and making love. Sex is about pleasure. Making love is about connection. Sex is about the body. Making love is about the person. Because a bonding hormone is released during sexual intimacy, it can be a wonderful and powerful way to feel closer to and connect with your spouse. However, if that hormone is released when your spouse is not present, that aspect of marital intimacy is lost.

3.  Porn Destroys Self-Esteem

When men and women were exposed to porn, they were less likely to be pleased with their partner’s physical appearance, affection, and sexual performance.8

Not only does porn affect how users view others but it also affects how they view themselves. Porn users may find that not only do they see their partners in a less than “satisfying” way, but they start to think that they themselves are less attractive as well.8

Men who viewed a lot of porn were likely to say that they became more critical of their partner’s appearance and lost interest in sex with their partner as a result. Interestingly enough, twice as many women reported that their porn-watching spouses became more critical and that this criticism made the women less interested in sex.

Researches have found that porn consumers eventually compare their spouse or partner and themselves to images of porn models. Is it any wonder then that it destroys self-esteem? How can anyone live up to to the unrealistic expectations of porn’s perfectly airbrushed, surgically enhanced, and carefully photoshopped bodies? Some doctors even suspect that increased porn usage is the cause of the rise in women seeking plastic surgery to change their bodies!10

4.  Porn Causes Selfishness

Pornography promotes selfishness. Seldom did I think of bringing sexual pleasure to my wife. I thought only about getting, not giving.11

Pornography, at its core, is all about selfishness and immediate gratification. The user focuses solely on getting and taking when he wants. In contrast, true marital intimacy is a giving of oneself.  A relationship where one spouse is only interested in taking usually does not last very long. People who use porn regularly often have a hard time being gentle during lovemaking. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced.” There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.12

Here’s a little fact you probably don’t know – the least popular day for Americans to view porn is Thanksgiving Day.13

Interesting, considering that gratitude and selfishness are opposites.

5.  Porn Demeans Women

Results showed that the more porn a man was exposed to, the more likely he was to prefer that women be submissive and subordinate to men.14

Pornography also changes the way men view women. Research has proven that just two sessions of one-hour exposures of R-rated sexual entertainment change men’s attitudes toward women. They begin to objectify women and no longer see them as individually unique or valuable because of the demeaning manner in which women and sex are portrayed.15

And that’s not even mentioning the porn that portrays women being dominated, abused, and enjoying it.

6.  Porn Impairs Your Sex Life

Porn can lead to decreased sexual performance. A recent NoFap survey of pornography users found that 19 percent suffer from premature ejaculation, 25 percent are disinterested in sex with their partner, 31 percent have difficulty reaching orgasm, and 34 percent experience erectile dysfunction. After committing to no masturbation/porn, 60 percent of those on NoFap felt that their sexual functions had improved. And 67 percent had an increase in energy levels as well as productivity.16

So many people say that they use porn in an effort to “spice up” their sex life. However, research shows that it actually wrecks your libido. Not only is porn leading to bad sex, but some studies show that it’s taking away men’s ability to have sex at all. Recently, porn-induced E.D. is becoming more of a “hot topic.” In fact, about 60% of compulsive porn users reported erectile dysfunction in a brain scan study last year.17

7.  Porn Leads to Marital Dissatisfaction

Research has found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than men who didn’t see any porn.18 

Here’s the thing: not only is porn a fantasy, but it also makes it harder for users to have real loving relationships.19

Pornography warps views about sex and relationships. It distorts views of men and women and changes sexual attitudes and behaviors. Because pornography is portrayed as easy and quick, marital sex is then viewed as complicated and too much work. As a result, romance dwindles.

8.  Porn is a Gateway to Infidelity

Porn increases marital infidelity by 300%.20

Watching porn diminishes relationship commitment. The fantasy alternative leads to real-world cheating.21

Porn-free relationships are stronger, with a lower rate of infidelity. Their rate of infidelity was at least half of those who had watched sexual material alone and with their partners.22

It’s interesting that society tells us that if you don’t “allow” pornography in your marriage, you’ll push him away and drive him to infidelity. When in reality, pornography is linked to infidelity. That’s not even mentioning the fact that many people view pornography as infidelity in itself.

9.  Porn is Linked to Depression, Stress and Anxiety

Men who have cyber sex have “alarmingly high” rates of clinical depression, stress, and anxiety.23

Recovering porn users continue to report a reduction in social anxiety as one of the most common improvements when they stop using Internet porn.24

We’re not saying that pornography is the primary cause of depression or anxiety. The truth is, there isn’t enough research on the subject yet to draw clear conclusions. However, there is a very clear correlation and link being discovered between porn usage and depression, stress and anxiety. These are three issues that can have a big impact on, not just yourself, but your marriage as well.

10.  Porn Alters Your Brain

Porn physically changes your brain.  And here’s the really scary part: the more porn a person looks at, the more severe the damage to their brain becomes and the more difficult it is to break free.25

Yes, porn actually alters your brain.  Scientists at Cambridge University recently studied the brain scans of porn addicts and found that they looked exactly like those of drug addicts. Just like other addictive substances, porn fills the brain with dopamine. And the more you view pornography, the more desensitized you become.

However, pornography is a little different than some addictions. Most alcoholics want more and more alcohol. But porn addicts don’t just want more porn – they want different porn. What was once exciting and arousing no longer satisfies them, and they look for harder and harder core porn. That’s why porn can become so addictive and that’s why porn never satisfies.

Often pornography users venture into progressively perverse content, which is why pornography is linked to violence and crime. This can be seen in the extreme example of Ted Bundy. (If you don’t know the story of Ted Bundy, I highly suggest watching his interview.) No, we’re not saying that every porn user will become a criminal, but we do think it’s important to understand the nature and danger of pornography.

The facts are pretty sobering.   So… is it a lost cause?

NO – Not All Men Look at Porn!

Despite what the magazines and TV shows would have you believe, there are a lot of happy marriages out there without pornography. The idea that ALL men look at pornography or are lying is totally false! Chivalry is not dead. Men who are standing against pornography and totally devoted to their wives DO still exist. (Don’t believe us?  Just read some of the comments from our readers- real men and women who are saying no to pornography.)

In fact, when we sent out an anonymous survey, we heard back from lots of men who shared their thoughts on pornography.  Here are just a few…

“I find it offensive when people say ‘Men can’t help it.’ Of course I can help it. I’m not an animal. I have my own choices. I can absolutely control myself and my actions. Why don’t women give us more credit than that?”

“Yes, I was exposed to pornography as a child and I did struggle with addiction. However, I hated the way it made me feel. I hated the way it made my wife feel. After a lot of hard work and communication, we’ve overcome it together. It has been over 10 years since I’ve watched pornography and I have never been happier.  We have an amazing sex life and the thought of porn honestly disgusts me. So to answer your question, no not all mean look at porn.”

“There’s no room for porn in my life anymore. I’ve filled it all up with love for my wife. I’m not saying it was easy, but I’m so glad that I made the change. I honestly feel sorry for men who think pornography makes them happy. They don’t know what they’re missing.”

“No, I have honestly never intentionally watched pornography. I know people will say that I’m lying and won’t believe me, but it’s the truth. I was taught from a very young age of its dangers and I’ve always stayed far away. I’ve watched my best friend go through a divorce because of his pornography addiction and how it’s torn his family apart.”

“Pornography has no place in our marriage. It is just the two of us. I don’t need any other woman.”

We need to spread the message loud and clear that it’s okay to have higher expectations- it’s not unrealistic.  And, for the sake of your marriage, you should!

Use Other Ways to Spice Things Up in the Bedroom

Using porn to spice up marital sex is self-defeating. Instead of being more attracted to and engaged with your spouse, the porn user will actually become more drawn to porn. You don’t need porn to make your marriage exciting, anyway! Fidelity and commitment are sexy. (I don’t know why society tells us it’s not.) Looking to add some excitement to the bedroom? Pick a new Bedroom Game or browse through our whole collection of Sexy, Intimate Ideas.

Now, let us be clear- we’re not saying that all marriages with pornography are doomed to failure! And we’re not saying that pornography isn’t a very real struggle for many men and marriages.

We know that there are many wives, husbands, and marriages that are hurting because of pornography. And we know that change is not easy or immediate. But we know it’s possible. And we know it’s worth it.

How to Overcome Porn Addiction

If pornography is a struggle in your relationship, here are some wonderful resources to get you started…

Permanently Overcome An Addiction to Pornography – FREE Mini Course

Fortify Program

Fight The New Drug


Resources for Wives of Porn Addicts

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Rebuilding Trust After Pornography

For Christian readers…

Overcoming Pornography through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

He Restoreth My Soul

Do you know of more resources?  Please let us know in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you’ll like Our 12 Favorite Marriage Books and 10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Knew!



“Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined.” The Huffington Post.  4 May 2013.  Web.

“Internet Pornography by the Numbers: A Significant Threat to Society.” Webroot. n.d. Web.

3 Zillmann, D. (2004). Pornografie.  In R. Mangold, P. Vordere, and G. Bente (Eds.) Lehrbuch der Medienpsychologie (pg.565-585). Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe Verlag.

“Is the Internet Bad for Your Marriage? Online Affairs, Pornographic Sites Playing Greater Role in Divorces.”  PR Newswire.  14 Nov. 2004.  Web.

Skinner, Kevin B.  “Is Porn Really Destroying 500,000 Marriages Annually?”  Psychology Today. 12 Dec. 2011. Web.

6 Gilkerson, Luke. “Get the Latest Pornography Stats.” Covenant Eyes.  19 Feb. 2013.  Web.

7  Corey. “How Pornography Impacts Marriage and Family Life.” Simple Marriage. n.d. Web.

8  Zillmann, Dolf and Jennings Bryant.  “Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology.  13 Jul. 2006.

9 “News Flash: Watching Porn Leads to Bad Sex & Low Self-Esteem.” Fight the New Drug. 16 Jan. 2015. Web.

10 Davis, Rowenna.  “Labiaplasty Surgery Increase Blamed on Pornography.” The Guardian. 26 Feb. 2011.  Web.

11 “Inside the Mind of a Sex Addict.”  All About Love. n.d. Web.

12 Sheila. “Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life.” To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.  18 Mar. 2014. Web.

13 “79 Little-Known Facts About Pornography.” Random Facts. n.d. Web.

14  “Burns, R.J. (2002). Male Internet Pornography Consumers’ Perception of Women and Endorsement of Traditional Female Gender Roles.  Austin, Tex.: Department of Communication Studies, University of Texas, p.11.

15 “The Dangers of Pornography in Marriage.”  Marriage Today. n.d. Web.

16 Christian, Scott. “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.” GQ. 20 Nov. 2013. Web.

17 “Porn-Induced ED Diagnosis Receives Medical Legitimacy.” Your Brain on Porn. 12 Jul. 2014. Web.

18 Bridges, A.J. (2010). Pornography’s Effect on Interpersonal Relationships.  In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pg.89-110). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute.

19 “Porn Kills Love.” Fight the New Drug. 8 Aug. 2014. Web.

20 “Internet Pornography by the Numbers: A Significant Threat to Society.” Webroot. n.d. Web.

21 Streep, Peg. “What Porn Does to Intimacy.” Psychology Today. 16 Jul. 2014. Web.

22 Maddox, Amanda, Galena K, Rhoades, and Howard J.Markman,” Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone and Together: Associations with Relationship Quality,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (April 2011), 40, no. 2, 441-448.

23 Gitlin, Jonathan. “Internet Sex Makes You Sad, Anxious?” Ars Technica. 2 Nov. 2008. Web.

24 “Is Porn Making My Social Anxiety/ Confidence/ Depression/ OCD worse?” Your Brain on Porn. 14 Mar. 2011. Web.

25 Angres, D.H. and Bettinardi-Angres, K. (2008). The Disease of Addiction: Origins, Treatment, and Recovery. Disease-a-Month 54: 696-721.

About the Author: Becca

Besides my hilariously witty husband, I love a good book, sappy songs, old black-and-white movies, cute crafts, and all things chocolate. I have four (seriously adorable) little kiddos at home and they definitely keep life at home FUN!

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62 Responses to The Impact Of Porn In Your Marriage

  1. Dang girl!! This is AMAZING! While maybe not “fun” to write, this is so important. Thanks for finding all of this research and shedding light on this topic!

  2. I agree pornography can be a major issue in relationships, however a big part of the issue is that watching it is done secretly. Both men AND women watch porn, although many women don’t like to admit it! I think that the problem is a lack of openness and acceptance in marriages, not that all porn is evil!

    One thing you wrote is “We know that there are many wives, husbands, and marriages that are hurting because of pornography”. It’s easy to blame porn, but really, the issue is how people handle the problem. Open communication and honesty goes a long way, which is something The Dating Divas has advocated for over and over again, but not here.

    There is a healthy way to watch porn, even when you are in a relationship. I have to say that I am really disappointed. I thought The Dating Divas would explain a way for women to take responsibility for their uncomfortableness, and open their hearts to working with their husbands. Instead, this post sends the message that women should outright ban pornography in their marriage! If anything, banning porn in a marriage could cause even more evasiveness, lies and secrets. Now, if someone were to talk with their husband about how they feel, and coming to that conclusion together, it would be a completely different story.

    Just my two cents! Otherwise, this was a very well-written article and great job on the research!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Estelle. We totally agree that communication and honesty is SO important when discussing this issue (or ANY issue) in marriage. It’s definitely something that you and your husband can come to a united decision on and work on together. We have received many questions and comments from readers who said the only reason they “allowed” porn in their marriage was because they wanted to save their marriage or spice it up. However, many studies have shown that instead of saving or enhancing marriages, porn is weakening and destroying marriages. Our purpose of this post was to show and warn our readers of the real dangers that come with porn. We definitely didn’t mean to imply that women shouldn’t work with their husbands, just that they should be informed and that porn doesn’t HAVE to be a part of marriage like many people assume. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Deneigh! We’ll add it to the list. (And thank your husband for all he does for marriages and families for us!)

  3. I LOVE everything about this post! I’m so glad to see this and get people talking about it. Porn is so dangerous! GREAT read – really!! I can’t say enough good about it!

  4. Matt Fradd and catholic answers.
    If you haven’t heard of him look him up … he’s amazing and has launched a huge campaign bringing the trauma of porn addiction to light. He’s had interview podcasts with former porn stars etc
    Really interesting stuff

  5. Dr. Doug Weiss has a lot of great books, DVDs, and other materials for addicts and theirs spouses. I realize your organization may not be able to promote/endorse his material, but from one spouse to many others, my husband and I have found his material VERY helpful and useful. (Hopefully, coming from a reader, my comment can stay!) We were first introduced to Dr. Weiss through a church group for men that my husband participated in. You’re right, not all men look at porn, but the number of them who do IS staggering – it’s definitely an epidemic – and I thank you ladies for this article – believing it will help many!!!

  6. I’m so thankful that you addressed this on your site. When we believe the lies the world tells us that porn is normal and everyone does it, it makes us think that we should accept it. No one should accept their spouse looking at porn anymore than we should accept them being sexually active with someone other than ourselves.

    Thank you for taking the time to put together this research. More people need to be made aware of what porn is doing to us as a society.

  7. I applaud you all for the amount of research and time you’ve put into this article. This is clearly a topic which means a lot to you and one with which you hope to help others, and I love that bloggers are willing to educate themselves for the greater good of all us readers! The only thing you might want to double-check is your use of the Ted Bundy interview. Many religious entities use this video without knowing the background or knowing Bundy’s full story, including his history of pathological lying. This article and even the “Pathology” section of the Ted Bundy Wikipedia may give a clearer picture of what may have caused Bundy to blame pornography for his behavior. During his trials, Bundy was examined multiple times by multiple psychiatrists and was found to have issues far beyond “pornography addiction,” and in fact didn’t mention pornography as a factor in his violent actions until Dobson came into the picture at the end of his life. Anyway, the video has been used for years as anti-porn propaganda and it seems that the facts behind it are pretty muddy and it may not be a good resource. I definitely commend you all for the amount of work that has gone into this article. Thank you for being willing to educate yourselves in order to better educate your readership!!