When you and your husband married, I doubt you thought divorce would come within the next ten years. But according to experts, most divorces happen in the first ten years of marriage.
When you read the data, you find many reasons listed. But dig a little further into the combined divorce data, and you see some trends.
On almost every data list I’ve reviewed, these items seem to be at the top but not necessarily in this order:
2. Commitment issues
3. Communication issues
4. Lack of intimacy
What I find interesting?
Porn viewing impacts each of these five reasons for divorce.
Let’s dive a little deeper.
In Hebrews 13, we read many admonitions about living a life that pleases God. One of these deals with keeping the marriage bed pure. Infidelity is having a romantic or sexual relationship with another. When Dave and I spoke our vows, we promised to be faithful to each other, like most couples. We committed our lives exclusively to the other. Pornography invites someone else into the relationship. Yes, it is through imagery, but that imagery diverts your sexual desire and thoughts away from your chosen spouse.
Drs. John & Julie Gottman state in An Open Letter on Porn, “Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. Many porn sites now offer an escalation of sexual activity beyond simply viewing porn that includes actually having sex with other individuals.” Well-known as researchers and psychologists who focus on relationship issues, the Gottmans recognize the negative impact of porn use on marriages. It breaks trust in the relationship and can be viewed as cheating by the non-porn-using spouse.
2. Commitment Issues.
According to FightTheNewDrug.org, anyone who watches pornography regularly finds it more challenging to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. The article goes on to state that “porn consumption was the second strongest indicator that a marriage would suffer.” Every marriage relationship needs to be nurtured, have affection, and have time together to grow.
Commitment to one person for life necessitates working through issues rather than covering them up or walking away from the commitment when life gets hard. And life gets hard from time to time. When we met with our counselor to begin the arduous journey to repair our marriage after the damage from porn use, he mentioned that, like other addictions, porn could be a medication of choice to deal with unresolved pain issues. If we hadn’t committed to “until death separates us” firmly entrenched in our DNA, I would have backed away from the marriage commitment. It felt like the easier option at the time. In my situation, it wasn’t.
3. Communication Issues.
Think about someone with an addiction. Their focus is on how to get the next hit rather than working on a relationship that may have issues. Even when the relationship seems good, addictions can still interfere. Like me, you probably know several people who struggle with addictions to various things, e.g. prescription drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. Their marriage relationship may appear to be strong and could be.
My marriage relationship was fairly strong. We thought we communicated well and knew we could always improve. But any secret threatens your communication. And keeping secrets feels exhausting. You must guard your words at all times so you don’t slip and let the secret come out. Dave says that once his secret porn addiction came out, he felt relieved. After struggling for years to overcome it, he knew now he could get some help.
4. Lack of intimacy.
FightTheNewDrug.org cites a 2014 study by Szymanski & Stewart-Richardson, that states, “Despite porn’s promise of improving consumers’ sex lives, research shows that consuming porn is associated with decreased sexual satisfaction.” The Gottmans agree. They found in their research that increased porn usage creates a supernormal stimulus. In layman’s terms, as I understand it, this means that it’s harder to find sexual satisfaction with your partner through normal sex after repeated exposure to porn.
An intimate relationship at its best means I can be myself with my husband, and he with me. We spend time learning about the other, not just sexually, but in every area of our lives. Porn interferes with the desire to work on that intimacy. If you can get the physical high from sex without having to figure out the foreplay and intricacies of stimulating your partner, porn seems much easier.
More and more experts now conclude that porn can become an addiction. “It is now evident that various behaviors, which are repeatedly reinforcing the reward, motivation and memory circuitry are all part of the disease of addiction. Common mechanisms among addiction involving various psychoactive substances such as alcohol, opioids and cocaine; and pathological behaviors such as uncontrolled gambling, internet use, gaming, pornography and sexual acting out have also been delineated.”
Not everyone who sees porn becomes a constant user or addict. I remember my first exposure many years ago. I felt disgusted by what I saw and didn’t seek it out. But, like anything, a person who gets exposed and then feels the tug toward porn may take a second look and feel titillation (reward). And so the addictive cycle can begin.
You and your spouse might be dealing with porn addiction in your marriage, but it doesn’t have to mean divorce.
I get asked this question in almost every client conversation. “Is my marriage over because of porn?”
It doesn’t have to be. However, if your marriage survives the devastating effects of porn use or addiction, it will be because you and your spouse make some drastic heart, life, behavioral, and relational changes. You choose whether you will do whatever it takes to heal yourself and your marriage. No counselor or coach can do that for you.
Dave and I were told early in our recovery journey that we would get out of our coaching and counseling what we put into it. We had to take each session seriously and do the work required to change and forge a new, healthy self-image and relationship. I’m so thankful we both made that decision. Fifteen years later, I’m grateful to be married to my Dave, and I’m blessed to have a brand new marriage. One built on complete transparency and trust.
If you need help taking your next step forward toward healing, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment, point you to God who is the source of all healing, hear your fears and pain, and help you decide on your next step. There is hope if you choose to do the necessary work. Let’s talk.