The Lust of the Eyes: How Pornography Affects Relationships
- Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
My boyfriend would rather go to porn sites than have sex with me. What is wrong here? What do I need to do?
You ask, "What is wrong here?" Porn is what's wrong. In my opinion, your boyfriend is either addicted or far along the road to addiction.
You ask, "What do I need to do?" Think carefully about how you want to handle this. Start by bringing the issue out into the open with earnest and frank discussions with your boyfriend.
Also, let me address an important side note before we continue; as a Christian, you must stop having sex outside of marriage. We'll talk a little bit more about how that relates to your question later on.
Now, there is little doubt that most all men look at porn at one time or another. After all, porn lurks just a keyboard click away. Unfortunately, surveys indicate that 92 percent of males in America are exposed to porn by the age of 11. I believe that finding a husband in our culture who has never seen port is nigh unto impossible.
I've read statistics that report that male adolescents think about sex at least once every 15 minutes. I don't know how true that is; but, remembering back to my adolescent years, that number can't be too far off.
I suppose that most adult males don't think about sex quite that much -- their rate is probably more like 20 or 25 minutes per sexual thought. Thinking about sex is not unusual. God has woven sex into the heart of man. The operative words here are "procreation" and "intimacy."
Well-adjusted men often glance and then look away. After a while, they glance again. I don't suppose any man looks just once and never looks again. Over all, a glance or glances seem to have little adverse effect on the long-term success and fulfillment of marriages and relationships.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that looking casually at porn is OK by any means. It has serious consequences.
Job knew the dangers of pornography to personal and spiritual well-being when he declared, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman" (Job 31:1). Covenant made. Boundaries in place. Not easily kept, in that ancient culture or in our own ... but it is the biblical model.
Others, however, don't fare so well. When porn moves into the realm of need, and a person can't stop at any time, then he or she is traveling down the road of sexual addiction. Something is drastically wrong, mentally, morally, emotionally and spiritually with the person who actively seeks out porn. Sexual or pornography addiction is a hard task master.
Pornography hinders a person's ability to see or hear from God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." My heart grieves when someone gives up an opportunity to see God for a fleeting glimpse of Miss October.
All pornography is based on a big lie. Luscious Cheryl, breasts flashing, seems "oh so close" and available. The truth is that if your boyfriend sat down on the airplane next to Cheryl, she wouldn't give him the time of day.
Less than five days after I performed a wedding, the new bride and groom sat in my office needing counseling. It seems that on their wedding night he expected her to perform like the porn stars he'd watched on the internet. He had no idea why she wasn't measuring up to his expectations. Their whole sex life was based on the lie of pornography. Their marriage didn't last long.
In many cases, women whose husbands are into porn will have their self images brutalized, because he can't help but compare their bodies to the air-brushed, touched up, and made-up women that inhabit the internet. Worst of all, many husbands and wives never find the sexual satisfaction God intended in marriage because of the false smokescreen that is pornography.
Maybe the reason that his sexual desire for you is waning is because he is using up his sexual energy sitting in front of the computer screen. By the way, the Bible calls this "defrauding your wife." I was talking about this topic with one of my counselor friends who specialized in sexual addiction. He related that the more involved a person is with porn, the more difficult it is for the porn addict to perform sexually with a real person.
The beauty of God-given intimacy is traded for a sordid fantasy that doesn't exist.
To this point I have assumed that the one addicted is male. The truth is that the number of female sex addicts is increasing exponentially.
Now, let's move on to your second question: "What do I need to do?"
I am assuming that you are a Christian. I will answer you in that context.
Open up and bring the issue out into the open. Why is the person struggling with porn? Was he or she sexually abused? Did they begin at a young age and got hooked? Forever? Can they stop if they want to or is pornography a driving force in their life?
Please, don't fall into the trap of assuming that a partner who's looked at porn at one time or other needs to be divorced or can never make a good marriage partner. In my opinion, looking at porn is a sin like any other and needs repentance and confession to God for cleansing our very souls.
However, carefully consider that the burden of being shackled to a porn-addicted person can result in decades of misery and hurt. Hopefully, he will get help for his addiction. But, most don't. You can't force your boyfriend to change. You need to make a wise decision about continuing the relationship -- pursue counsel from people you trust, spend time in prayer, and go with the truth in your "knower."
Now, there is one more issue included in your question that we need to talk about: having sex with someone when you are not married.
According to the Bible, sex is for married couples. Sex is a holy thing and to be expressed only in a marriage setting. Sex with someone who is not your spouse defiles both your body and his. Sex outside of a marriage setting brings with it an ungodliness that breaks Jesus' heart ( 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
Also, consider that Matthew 5:4 also comes into play in your life. Sex without marriage dirties up your spiritual soul and compromises your ability to both see God and to hear Him speak into your life. In one sense, sex outside of marriage will put a spiritual stain on your life.
One reason that marriage is a "big deal" to God has to do with the future success or failure of society. Families are the glue that hold a society intact. When marriages and families fail, society is on the way to destruction (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
I'd like to tell you to keep your eyes open and someday the perfect man who has never looked at porn will come along and you'll live happily ever after. Of course, we both know that man doesn't exist.
But, we do know that when we live pure and holy lives, surrendered to the plan and will of God, He is in a great position to bring just the right person along.
So, be honest and open with your boyfriend. Talk with him about becoming the kind of loving husband Paul described in Ephesians 5:25-31:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse ... not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. ... So ought men to nourish, cherish and love their wives as their own bodies. ... For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
I believe with all my heart that such men exist. I pray that you will find one.
Finally, let me tell you about Tim and Lisa.
Lisa finally fell in love with the “right” guy. At age 30, she had waited patiently for a godly man who would treat her with respect and great love, someone who would be the spiritual leader of her family. Tim felt the same way. He treated Lisa like his “princess,” and they planned a June wedding.
In May, Lisa stopped by Tim’s house and received the shock of her life. The man she planned to marry in just a few weeks was deeply engrossed in hardcore internet pornography. They stared at each other; she pulled off the ring and set it on his desk. She turned and ran out the door.
How could a man who proclaimed his love for the Lord fill his eyes and mind with such perverse images? What did his desire to see those women have to do with his desire for her? Lisa couldn’t stop the questions.
Sitting at lunch the next day with a close friend, she said: “It’s over, isn’t it? Tim keeps calling, but the pornography thing is so disgusting. I can’t imagine that a Christian guy would ever struggle with it.”
As they talked, her friend became convinced of several things. First, Lisa had no idea that most men — Christian men included — do struggle with the temptation of pornography. The Scriptures contain warning after warning about how to handle the “lust of the eyes.” The classic Biblical way is to flee as quickly as possible.
Second, she deeply loved Tim and was committed to the relationship. Her friend asked if she would be willing to open up with Tim a conversation about the issue. In many ways, the sin of pornography thrives in secret.
By openly discussing the issue with Tim, including what she had seen, how often Tim struggled with pornography, and when he began to become addicted, key elements of the healing process commenced. First, Tim admitted that he needed help overcoming the pull of pornography. He made a commitment to seek out counseling immediately. Second, Lisa realized that Tim is human; he was struggling with this sin, but his love for her was real. And perhaps most importantly, they agreed that it was not time to rush into marriage.
Over the next year, Tim spent time in intensive therapy, uncovering several contributors to his addiction to pornography. Sadly, they included childhood sexual abuse, which led to more counseling and healing time. Lisa walked beside Tim as a friend, encouraging him and praying for him, while allowing him to work through this issue in his own time.
When Tim and his counselor felt that he was ready, Tim asked Lisa if she would be willing to begin a relationship again. Several conditions applied: Tim would continue to attend counseling: the adage of “once an addict, always an addict” holds true. Second, he and Lisa would attend counseling together on an ongoing basis. And third, the topic of pornography would always be an open one. Bringing pornography into the light removes its fangs ...
Five years later, Lisa and Tim are very happily married, with one young son and another on the way. The issue of pornography will always be there, a serpent to be carefully watched and defended against. But their marriage has been battle-tested and is stronger for it.
Their story is rather unusual. However, I believe that Tim’s commitment to deal with the sin openly and honestly provided a foundation for trust and healing. Lisa’s willingness to open the lines of communication even when she felt violated and angry, and their joint commitment to be vigilant in their marriage has led to their success.
I hope this is helpful to you, C. May God grant you great blessings and good days ahead.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: March 28, 2012
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