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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
1 “Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined.” The Huffington Post. 4 May 2013. Web.
2 “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.
4 “Is the Internet Bad for Your Marriage? Online Affairs, Pornographic Sites Playing Greater Role in Divorces.” PR Newswire. 14 Nov. 2004. Web.
5 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.
I do not feel I was addicted because I watched some, I stopped. I watched more when I felt neglected and not listened too. Some times porn may be a sign of a losing marriage and not the cause. I am not saying I was right in watching porn, I am just saying it may be a symptom of a bad marriage instead of a reason sometimes.
Yes! It is true that pornography is often used as a method to cope with pain. (All kinds of pain- not just marriage related. Ie. trauma from childhood, etc.) Most don’t realize that they are using it to numb emotions that are hard to deal with. However, it can be very destructive and is not a healthy way to resolve the underlining problem. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Thank you for this article. This is something that I’ve been struggling with for a decade, with my spouse. Now that we’re parents, I’m even more turned off. We are not intimate anymore, I have no desire to try to capture his attention over that of porn, he watches porn every single day and just lies about it. I’ve become so numb to the negative feelings I have for myself, because of this obsession he has, that I recently realized I am just deeply unhappy. I cook for our family, host holidays, care for my son and I am the provider as well. I have an elderly parent I care for and I have nothing left to give. I finally let him know that I’m no longer going to pretend that he is not a porn addict, a liar, an overall terrible husband. I’m not going to try to figure out how I can be more interesting for him, how I can be better than the porn he watches. I’m done. I’m looking for a therapist and I don’t know what it means for our marriage, but I can say that thinking of either, possible, marital outcome, brings a feeling of utter indifference to me.
I am so so sorry Lindsey. That’s just heart-breaking. If you’re looking for a therapist who specializes in this area, we really recommend Sam Tielemans https://healingcouples.org/
The problem I have is that my husband don’t think he is doing anything wrong and that he needs it to help him get in the mood for me he says that well we have been together for a long time (34 years – 9 years) cause I divorced him but was stupid and got back with him almost 5years ago which I have spent the majority of the time depressed and in tears it hurts because he can’t get in the mood for me very easy he doesn’t seem to be interested in me and when we do do it he can’t get an erection or keep one without Viagra and he still has a problem but he goes to do his thing and has no problem and he tries to say he does but I know different for a fact because I’m not proud of this but I have spied on him but that is what his habit has forced me to do to spy on him and to not want to leave him home alone and I make sure if I have to go out someplace I make sure I get home Before he does but he can get in the mood for that at a drpo of a hat in fact I had to go out of town for a week to 2weeks long over the last month and a half and found out he watched porn every night I was gone and had masturbated like every other night and he don’t do that for me (have sex) I’m lucky if I get it once a week and if he can’t get it to work he gives up and leaves me hanging for 3,4,5,6 days in a row till he kinda gets in the mood again he says I’m the one that is obsessed with his porn habit not him ectectect it is heartbreaking and very hurtful help me to be stronger cause I do love him so much
I’m sincerely sorry, Stephanie. That is just so heartbreaking. If he is open and willing to hear more of your perspective, we recommend this free 4 module mini course by Sam Tielemans: https://trust.healingcouples.org/access
Porn has ruined my sexual desire for my husband. Each time I discover it, I put up more bricks in the wall. I’ve been married for nearly 35 years and my desire for any intimacy has disappeared.
Unfortunately it is now a vicious cycle. He enjoyed porn (probably since before we were married, unbeknownst to me) which turned me off, so he looks at more porn which turns me off even more etc. Its been going on for too many years…I’m done with it.
I’m so so sorry, Joyce! It’s just heart-breaking what it can do to a marriage. Have you heard of unashamedunafraid.com? They have so many resources and even a podcast about sexual addiction recovery. We actually did a podcast with them last month: https://unashamedunafraid.com/blog/2021/2/12/ep48-with-the-dating-divas
Thanks for sharing this article. Love so many of your date ideas too! For Christian readers, one website which helps people who struggle with porn is called : Covenant Eyes. You can set it up so it tracks what websites you go to, and can choose one person (recommend not your spouse) to have access to your web history and then they can help keep you accountable to not watch porn. They recommend not your spouse because they expect you to tell your spouse and the spouse may be recovering from the surprise/knowledge. There is also a porn blocker option there I believe. There are not a lot of resources for women who struggle with porn, but one Christian based one is called “Dirty Girls” by Crystal Renaud.
Thank you for the additional resources!
See More Comments