You may be a rare couple (married or engaged) for whom porn has not been present in your past. In this case, your strategy is preventative:
- get a sound education on where pornography can be encountered and what its wider effects are – personal, relational, social and spiritual,
- set up safeguards to reduce your chances of exposure – such as accountability software and transparent computer usage,
- work on your relationship and communication, ensuring intimacy, grace and love flourish between you both,
- have healthy outlets for dealing with stress, frustration and emotional challenges. People are more susceptible to porn when they are emotionally and physically drained.
Yes, but true healing requires repentance, grace, and fundamental changes. When one partner is discovered using pornography, it can be deeply hurtful to the other. It erodes trust and increases insecurities, leading the non-user (usually the wife) feeling betrayed, second-rate, even ugly. To learn you are not the person they turn to for sexual fulfilment can be humiliating, and rightly interpreted as adultery (Matt 5:27-28). What can be done?
For the user:
- understand that your porn use has been a betrayal to your marriage vows. You have forsaken your spouse for others. You have also contributed to much wider social hurt by contributing to the market of lust. You are also in a poor spiritual state, and chances are your behaviour is compulsive and addictive. You need to repent to your partner,
- get spiritual help from your pastor, or another trusted Christian mentor,
- seek behavioural help from a trained counsellor to work through the compulsive behaviours, including associated issues that contribute to your behaviour,
- devise a trustworthy game-plan for recovery, for not-repeating, and for demonstrating you can be trusted. You may need serious help learning how to be intimate and sexual in an other-person-centred way. Your spouse may forgive you, but trust will take many years to rebuild,
- take heart: change is possible, but will take humility, hard work and patience. Be assured there is no sin God won’t forgive when you confess and repent,
- our 7 step plan is what we recommend as a holistic way forward.
For the spouse:
- your sense of hurt and betrayal is real. You should take some time out for support and advice from trusted mentors, pastors and counselling. Your true worth is never in comparison to the fantasies created by pornography, but in the love Jesus has for you in his death on the cross,
- if you arrive at a place where you can forgive your spouse, just as with all deep hurts, the grace you give comes at a personal cost. Seek out resources on recovering from the pain caused by pornography, which can help you,
- don’t lose hope: if your spouse is sincere about changing, and surrounds themselves with strong safeguards and habits, healing is definitely possible – and your marriage may even strengthen beyond anything you could imagine.
Sometimes consenting couples view pornography for ideas, inspiration, and mutual stimulation. The view is that since it is consensual, and helps improve your sex-life, this should be okay. We cannot support this. Porn offers an unrealistic, often distorted and inaccurate view of sex based heavily on fantasy rather than reality. Sex acts in porn do not occur in the context of healthy, loving and marriage based on respect, connection and trust. Research has shown that pornography can harm relationships and impacts sexual satisfaction negatively.
To watch pornography is to endorse everything that results from it. Pornography has many harms, but few benefits:
- the porn industry preys on the vulnerable, desperate and disadvantaged. Its links with prostitution, sex-trafficking and child-sexual abuse are well documented,
- the widespread damage porn causes to people, especially the young is indisputable: from attitudinal, behavioural, to neurological harms,
- the wider effect on mass media, pop-culture, objectification behaviours, and sexual violence, means greater insecurities (especially for women), relationship breakdown, and general social dysfunction.
Ultimately, porn glorifies a use of sexuality which is contrary to God’s good purposes, whilst using people (who are made in God’s image) dishonourably for personal gain.
If you want to improve your sex life, there are good resources for this that do not involve watching, promoting, supporting and disseminating pornography.
If you’re dating or engaged to someone with a habitual porn problem, this will have a major impact on any marriage you enter. Our advice is not to pursue a relationship where porn is present. It will be difficult for you to be number one in the other person’s heart and desires, and you deserve better than that. A problem that is carried into a relationship will likely stay in that relationship.
So what can you do? Our advice is to:
- take time to observe the other person’s character and self-control. If you are female, the chances of finding a man unaffected by pornography is very low. It is best to assume that porn is in their past,
- take strong precautions before you get emotionally attached to someone. You have a right to ask them if porn is, or was, part of their life. Ask them what steps they have taken to resist pornography. You can insist that your future relationship requires some default precautions about internet usage, because you have the right to feel secure,
- never tolerate pressure to sexually conform or behave in a ‘pornified’ way.
Many Christians have recovered from pornography addictions, leading mature and trustworthy lives. No one is perfect, you included. When God works his transforming grace in people’s lives, it can mean a wonderful opportunity for deep friendships, and even marriage.
There are many tell-tale signs associated with porn usage. If you suspect that your spouse is addicted to porn, look out for these signs:
- denial or lying about using porn even in the face of clear evidence,
- excessive masturbation,
- increased time watching sexualised media,
- interference with daily responsibilities and behaviours,
- refusal to talk about porn use.
- loss of interest in physical affection and sex with you,
- difficulties becoming sexually aroused or maintaining an erection,
- developing an uncharacteristic interest in “rough” sex or sexual acts that you may find belittling,
- lack of caring about your feelings on the issue,
- does not seem to be him/herself – withdrawn, distant, irritable, moody, less sociable,
- secretive about online activity,
- empty history on internet devices,
- finding fault with your appearance, blaming you for a lack of interest in you sexually,
- unexplained bank charges or credit card purchases.
The short answer is because it helps achieve orgasm through masturbation. Porn, masturbation and sex are like drugs to a porn addict. It is often frequently a deep-seated behavioural addiction, just like other forms of addiction and has very little to do with their love for their spouse and family. There is a spectrum to the amount of pornography usage by people. Some are occasional users and have few problems stopping while others are compulsive, using it every day or multiple times per day, thus finding it very difficult to quit.
People who use it tend to turn to porn for 'comfort' in times of great stress, anxiety, boredom, depression or exhaustion.
If you think your spouse is addicted to pornography or you have discovered this addiction, one of the most important things you can do is to take care of yourself emotionally. For example, many spouses of pornography addicts experience symptoms of trauma such as:
- strong emotional reactions such as rage, sadness, fear, hopelessness, anxiety,
- constantly checking for “signs” of pornography use,
- attempting to combine a series of unrelated events in order to predict future betrayal,
- sleeplessness and nightmares,
- trouble concentrating on daily tasks,
- obsessive thoughts,
- withdrawing from others.
“Emotional first-aid” will help you to understand and cope with very painful feelings and help prepare yourself for the healing journey that lies ahead. This involves:
- physical self-care: Trauma is often felt in the body as anxiety. It is important to nurture your body by eating well and making time to rest as well as exercise,
- spiritual support: Ask those who you can trust to pray with and for you, find scriptures that speak to you of God’s love and care for you at this time,
- simplify your life: Put yourself in the best position to heal. Do not take on any extra responsibilities and consider what you might be able to let go for a while,
- learn about the problem: Learning about pornography addiction may give you greater insight and understanding and may also help to validate your feelings throughout the process,
- seek counselling: A counsellor who has experience in this area can help you express your feelings safely, help you find ways to recover from the trauma of betrayal and explore ways to re-connect with your husband.
“Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. Isaiah 41:10
People who use porn are often able to compartmentalise and keep the different areas of their life separate from each other. Your spouse may truly believe that their pornography use has no harmful impact on your relationship or how they feel about you. In order for you both to recover, your spouse will need to understand that this is not true.
It can be easy to blame yourself or be troubled by feelings of self-doubt and insecurity about your own attractiveness. It is very common to think that if you just lost weight or made yourself sexier that your spouse would stop watching porn, but this addiction has nothing to do with your attractiveness or the quality of their love for you. Even some of the world’s top supermodels know what it is like to be in a relationship with a porn addict!
You may think that it’s your fault for not paying your spouse enough attention or having enough sex. The truth is it’s not your fault. You are not responsible for someone else’s sin. Porn addiction affects all kinds of relationships including those where people are married to an attentive, caring and exciting spouse.
If your spouse blames you for their addiction it is likely that he or she wants to justify their continued use of porn, protect themselves from feelings of shame and avoid taking responsibility. Blaming a spouse or partner for a pattern of sexual acting out behaviour is part of the denial process. It is quite common for an addict to convince themselves that their behaviour is caused by something or someone else.
The truth is that you cannot make an addict stop or recover. Often people mistakenly try to take control of an addict’s behaviour by monitoring their computer use, checking their phone or by having more sex. A porn addict, like any other addict, is responsible for their own recovery.
Would you watch a movie to get ideas on how to have a better marriage? The answer is probably no. Porn offers an unrealistic, often distorted and inaccurate view of sex based heavily on fantasy rather than reality. Sex acts in porn do not occur in the context of healthy, loving and marriage based on respect, connection and trust.
Let your spouse know how you feel about their porn use, its effect on you, and how it is impacting your marriage.
Ask for accountability, honesty, patience and a commitment to seek help.
Guard against self–righteousness, pride and hatred when you respond. Such attitudes only make things worse, and lead to greater destruction and hurt. Though difficult, it’s important not to reject your spouse, withdraw from them or lash out in anger.
Show compassion. People who struggle with pornography addiction need unconditional love and to be upheld in prayer. Even though you may be in great emotional pain, it’s still possible, with God’s help, to respond with respect, grace and kindness.
Remember: we are most tempted to sin when we have been sinned against. If your spouse has shown repentance and a heartfelt desire to be free from addiction, then it’s very important, through the power of God’s spirit, to make it safe for them to share their innermost struggles and fears and be a source of support during their recovery.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Talking to someone who is understanding, compassionate and non-judgemental can be a tremendous help for both the spouses of addicts and the addicts themselves. Your minister, pastoral care worker, a counsellor or a trusted friend may be able to offer you the support you need or put you in contact with someone who can. The important thing is to reach out and ask for help.
For a list of helpful resources, please check out our Relationships and Couples section in the Resources page.