The topic of pornography has come up in several of the Expert Q & A section of the Get Your Marriage On! app. There’s no doubt that pornography is popular and permeates our culture. It’s interesting to me that people think habitual pornography use has no harm on their marriage. Some even say, “What’s the big deal? Everybody watches it.” or “Find something you like and let it turn you on too.”

At the risk of offending many of the users of the app and readers of this blog, I want to share what I’ve come to know and believe — that there’s no good that can come to a marriage from habitual porn use.

Dr. John Gottman, the country’s leading marriage researcher, says it best in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

A report by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy estimates that between 20 and 33 percent of Internet users in the United States go online for sexual purposes–either to view pornographic images or to engage in some sort of sexual interaction. Most of these people are married men. I believe that porn is inherently anti-romantic because it is impersonal–almost any “object” will do. In addition, many porn sites are degrading to women, or combine violence towards women with sexual release.

It’s little surprise to me, therefore, that research indicates habitual porn use hurts the nature and quality of sex in relationships–particularly when (as is usually the case) a partner is viewing porn alone and not as part of a couple’s mutual sexual enjoyment.

He goes on to summarize research findings about the impact habitual masturbation to porn has on a couple’s sex life:

  • Less Frequent Sex in marriages where there’s habitual porn use.
  • Less sexual communication because porn use doesn’t require the user to interact with another human being. Less communication impacts the couple’s ability to create a satisfying sex life together.
  • Less mutually satisfying sex. If you’re frequently having orgasms in response to a specific image and fantasy, a conditioning takes place that leads you to seek out the same stimulation in real life. As a result, the porn user may become so transfixed by particular masturbatory fantasies that sex becomes unsatisfying unless that partner is willing to engage with them. But the partner may not share the turn-on or feel comfortable recreating it. Result: nobody is happy in bed.
  • Increased risk of betrayal, as porn is “step one” in a trajectory that ends in a sexual affair.

Other problems that habitual porn use can have on the marriage include feelings of betrayal, comparison issues, unrealistic expectations, irritability, selfishness, and impatience towards the other spouse. Porn can also be spiritually numbing.

I hope individuals dealing with habitual porn use will wake up and realize the problems it can cause, and root it out of their lives. I hope couples dealing with this can talk openly and honestly with each other. Sometimes professional help may be necessary. It takes courage but taking that step is the most lovable thing you can do for your spouse and your children.