Should You End Your Marriage Over Porn?

There is much debate over watching pornography

Photo: Brent Stirton / Getty Images
Photo: Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The issue of spouses watching pornography is one that can tear a marriage apart. For some couples pornography is okay, while for other couples, the use of pornography is a deal breaker.

The Porn Problem

When a wife discovers that her husband is viewing pornography, she often has feelings of rage, repulsion, disappointment, and mistrust. Her feelings of anger and hurt are intensified if he prefers viewing porn over having sex with her.

While many wives consider pornography to be insulting, degrading, and a form of cheating, many husbands do not understand their wives' anger about the use of pornography and do not see themselves as being unfaithful.

"But the attention paid to the connection between porn and infidelity doesn’t translate into anything like a consensus on what that connection is. Polls show that Americans are almost evenly divided on questions like whether porn is bad for relationships, whether it’s an inevitable feature of male existence, and whether it’s demeaning to women. This divide tends to cut along gender lines, inevitably: women are more likely to look at pornography than in the past, but they remain considerably more hostile to porn than men are, and considerably less likely to make use of it. (Even among the Internet generation, the split between the sexes remains stark. A survey of American college students last year found that 70 percent of the women in the sample never looked at pornography, compared with just 14 percent of their male peers; almost half of the men surveyed looked at porn at least once a week, versus just 3 percent of the women.)"   Is Pornography Adultery? by Ross Douthat, TheAtlantic.com (2008).
"This is a very common question and concern. Let’s start by dispelling a major porn myth; there is absolutely nothing “unhealthy” or abnormal with watching porn in and of itself. As long as we’re talking about legal adult movies, and as long as everyone who is watching is consenting, there is nothing inherent in pornography that makes it bad. That doesn’t mean that people do use porn in unhealthy ways, watching too much of it or becoming obsessive about it. But people do this with drugs, work, even sports, and we don’t consider those things “evil” (well, some of us do I guess). ... The first thing I want to suggest is that you talk to him about it. Without being judgmental, it would be interesting to know what he likes about porn. Is it the fantasy? Are there things he sees that he wants the two of you to try? Is it boredom or habit?"  Is Watching Porn Okay? by Corey Silverberg

What is Pornography?

Pornography is difficult to define because it is different things to different people and not all porn is illegal.

Pornography is generally defined as material (magazines, pictures, videos, movies, internet web sites, etc.) that depicts individuals in sexually explicit ways. Although porn is also described as adult entertainment and a harmless habit, it is also viewed as a "gateway drug" that can lead to betrayal and infidelity.

 "Some of my favorite aphrodisiacs include True Blood, Spartacus, Hung (which sadly was canceled), Girls and Game of Thrones. Oh sure, sure, the story lines are compelling, the dialogue whip-smart, the worlds rarefied, but let's face it, these shows are all soft porn. Soft or hard (yes, a pun), I think pornography can help keep a marriage fresh, vital, funny and ever-evolving if it's not used as a replacement for actual sex with your spouse."  Can Marriage and Pornography Get In Bed Together? by Shannon Bradley-Calleary

A Few Warning Signs of Harmful Pornography Use

The obvious sign of harmful pornography use is lack of sex in your marriage. Here are other signs that could show that your spouse has crossed the line in viewing pornography:

  • Continual denial in the face of obvious evidence
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Inability to stop viewing porn
  • Neglect of family, spouse, job, hobbies, and other important responsibilities
  • Refusal to discuss the issue
  • Loss of sexual intimacy with a partner
  • Lying about pornography use.
  • Lack of caring about your feelings on the issue.
  • Moodiness
  • Staying up later at night to spend time on the computer
  • Frequent changing of computer passwords.
  • Demand for unusual amount of privacy and personal time on the computer
  • Allowance of easy access by your children to pornographic magazines, videos, and computer files

What To Do When Your Husband Won't Stop Watching Pornography

When your marriage has obviously been hurt by pornography, and your husband won't stop watching porn, you have to face the reality that you may not be able to change this behavior.

For some strategies to help with this problem, read: What to Do When Your Husband Won't Stop Watching Porn.

*Article updated by Marni Feuerman

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