Pornography's Devastating Effects on Marriage
- 2009 4 Sep
Porn creates a set of expectations about sex in marriage that are quite literally impossible to fulfill.
Over the last decade, I've spoken about love, sex, and marriage to many churches across America and Canada, including Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Community Churches, and many more. After sharing scriptures to teach God's view of sex in marriage, I offer audiences a chance anonymously to write questions on index cards.
Typically written in female hand, one of the top five questions from Christian audiences goes something like this, "As long as we both enjoy it, isn't it okay for us to watch porn to spice up our lovemaking?" That question from a church audience shouldn't surprise us. In America about 15% of men and nearly 5% of women compulsively use porn. There appears to be many Christians within those numbers.
In those seminars I spend several minutes explaining many reasons that the couple, or either spouse, should not be involved with porn. Interestingly, quoting Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" is often countered with statements such as, "We're not lusting after those people; we want only each other. If we're both for it and use it together, it isn't cheating or leading us to bad things."
Because of statements such as that, in addition to Scripture I share information about the affect of porn on marriage itself.
As people use porn, they start to buy into the idea that most people, especially the spouse they have or will have, should always be ready and willing to have sex. Not only that, from exposure to the multiplied variations of sexual behavior modeled in porn, they expect their partner to have sex in every manner possible, even ungodly acts. They also eventually compare themselves or their spouses to the people in porn. The person in a picture or video will never age a day or gain a pound, no matter how often the film is played. However, spouses age, gain weight, and wrinkle.
Because real people in real marriages eventually do not compare physically to those in pornography, porn usage erodes the ability to be sexually attracted to one's spouse. As one woman said to me, "I wish I had the money to have cosmetic surgery from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet so that maybe my husband would want to look at me rather than those women on the Internet."
It appears that the American expectation (maybe worldwide) is evolving into marrying a spouse that doesn't age or change physically, thinks about sex constantly, talks, acts, and dresses seductively, makes every lovemaking session extraordinary, and does everything either of them has seen, heard of, or imagined.
Will all who have that marriage please raise their hands?
Real life isn't like porn. Even the real life of porn actors isn't like porn. People get tired, become preoccupied, develop broader interests, grow passionate about other dimensions of life, change after childbirth (both genders), and age a little every day. Occasionally, they don't like their partner. Life isn't focused on sex.
Sometimes I hear someone say that men think about sex every 30 seconds, or some such number. Ridiculous. Life is broad, complicated, and demanding.
My friend, outstanding sex researcher, writer, and expert Barry McCarthy, PhD, spreads the message broad and wide that we shouldn't expect every sexual encounter to be great. In a recent communication, he reminded me, "Emphasize the crucial importance of positive, realistic sexual expectations: The most important being that less than 50% of sexual encounters among happily married, sexually functional couples have outcomes that are mutually satisfying, and 5-15% of sexual encounters in marriage are dissatisfying or dysfunctional."
I wonder how the unrealistic expectations created by porn affects those numbers. It leads to anticipations that can never be fulfilled in real life.
I'm aware that there are very frustrated husbands and very frustrated wives that are angry because they feel that their spouses are sexually inhibited, or seemingly don't care whether lovemaking occurs or not in their marriage. As part of completion of my PhD in sexology, I am developing a weekend workshop for Christian married couples that will have one goal - helping couples develop a sexual life more fulfilling to each of them. Yet, no matter how good the weekend workshop will be (ahem, it's already very good), it will not make every day a great day of sexual fulfillment.
As a proponent of fulfilling sex in Christian marriages, I shout from the rooftops that porn is not the answer to achieving that goal. It creates impossible expectations that lead to misery.
If a couple pursues porn, they will drift emotionally from their partners into an imaginary world that will never exist in reality. They eventually will reach the point where their lovemaking relies on fantasy and not at all on intimacy between them.
If you are both into porn in your marriage, please believe me when I say that my experience with thousands of couples demonstrates that you will develop problems with your intimacy, self-esteem, and fulfillment as a couple. Stop now. Save your future by rescuing your present.
If one of you is into porn and the other doesn't know, don't think that it isn't hurting your marriage. Every exposure to porn immerses you into a fantasy world that erodes the reality you could have together. It will change you; maybe it has already. Think you can keep it a secret? Get real. When your spouse discovers, he or she will very likely feel betrayed, rejected, unattractive, and abandoned.
Even before your spouse discovers it, you are programming your mind in a manner that leads inevitably to a lack of appreciation of and attraction to your mate.
If one of you is into porn and the other does know, the spouse not into porn should take the lead in demanding the removal of porn opportunities altogether. Get rid of the Internet, just as you would remove an addict's access to alcohol. Check up on missing time and missing money. Seek out a Celebrate Recovery group in your area (you can find locations online).
**If your marriage is in trouble, let us help. Our success rate over the last decade is three out of four marriages, even when porn, adultery, or other things have deeply hurt the relationship (www.MarriageHelper.com) If not us, let someone help. Don't think a slap-on-the-wrist and a promise to do better will solve a problem that is deep-seated, especially an addiction such as porn.