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Why Marriage Won’t Cure Your Porn Problem

Last Updated: May 9, 2018

Bobby Angel

Bobby Angel is a campus minister and theology teacher at an all-boys' Catholic high school in California. He enjoys writing, surfing, and drinking too much coffee. He and his wife, Jackie, travel often and speak to youth and young adult audiences, sharing the Gospel and the call to a life of chastity. They have two beautiful daughters who won’t let them sleep. Connect with Bobby at jackieandbobby.com.

For many of us who have grown up with the presence of pornography from a young age—magazines, movies, or the Internet—marriage is sometimes viewed as the healthy “cure” to end a pornography habit.

Why marriage won't cure your porn problem

I’ll stop when I’m married” or “I won’t bring this into my marriage” is usually the rationale. The problem is that there is no superpower in that wedding ring that will magically imbue you with the discipline (and the freedom) to renounce pornography; your ring is not forged in the fires of self-mastery. There’s no switch thrown on your wedding day that will make you impervious to temptations. Nor will your spouse magically satisfy all the illicit sexual fantasies that porn trains your brain to expect.

Marriage will not cure your porn problem; your porn problem will undermine your marriage.

You bring into your marriage who you are, and that includes your daily habits and behaviors. Good habits and bad habits alike take time to cultivate. I have to make a conscious effort to floss my teeth everyday for a few weeks before the habit can take root into an internalized behavior. I have to deliberately stop gossiping or disparaging my coworkers before the actions become habitual and improve my character. And I must take seriously my battle with pornography long before I am ever married; otherwise that habit will shoot down my marriage before it starts.

Thank God, that’s exactly what happened for me.

Several years before I was married, I decided that my chastity (and my future wife, and my soul) was indeed worth $10.99 a month for accountability software. So I installed Covenant Eyes and asked a close friend to be my Accountability Partner. I didn’t want pornography to come anywhere near my vocation (whether it was marriage or the priesthood), and so I took the necessary steps to purge it from my life. It wasn’t an overnight story of victory, but it was a huge first step and the necessary action to be free of porn years before I met the woman who would become my wife. But I had to first admit that I needed help and needed the motivation of protecting my prospective family before I could act.

We’re a culture with a widespread porn problem. That much has been well established by churches, psychologists, and a few honest media outlets. Deceitful magazines and talking heads will still tell you that bringing pornography into your marriage will help you, not hurt you, but this is an evil lie that is losing more and more of its steam.

Pornography, by its very nature, undercuts the commitments needed to love one’s spouse faithfully. It negatively influences behavior and leads to a perpetuation of brokenness, mistrust, and heartache. If the habit of viewing pornography has been well established for many years, the daily stresses of marriage and family life will only stir those temptations and can call for release. Many wives have been abused or even raped by their husbands because of the poisonous influence of pornography. And if the person conditioned by pornography finds no willing release from his or her spouse, then the person will look elsewhere to feed the disordered appetites. This is not authentic love.

In my church we teach, “Grace builds on nature.” Human and spiritual growth happens in tandem. The graces poured out upon a person on their wedding or ordination day are only effective insofar as the individual has been conforming to God’s will. If you haven’t cultivated a habit of prayer, nothing magical happens on the day you become a pastor. If you haven’t addressed why you’re running to pornography and subsequently rooting it out, you’ll return to it after a disagreement with your spouse or an evening where you’ll feeling lonely.

God desires to bless us with the strength we need, but we also have to put in the work.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). God does not hijack our natures, but His grace will pour down once we welcome it and make room for it. And it is often through our weaknesses—say, a habit of viewing pornography—that we are humbled and willing to accept God’s strength. He continually invites us to surrender control and not rely on ourselves for our own redemption.

Beyond merely building on, grace also perfects nature. We must first make the steps necessary to own our porn habit and increase in discipline, call for help when needed, and rely on God always. God’s grace will perfect us in our weakness; where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20).

We need to have cultivated discipline and mastery of self before we take our marital vows, not after. For love of your family and love of God, root out pornography now to save your marriage before it even starts.

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  • Comments on: Why Marriage Won’t Cure Your Porn Problem
    1. Xavier on

      I must say I’m sincerely impressed at the verbal finesse and lucidity of Bobby Angel (that your real name?). And he’s spot on in practically all the points he brings across in polished style. Mazel tov!

      But, Bobby, you ACTUALLY sat down and decided to shell out “$9.99 a month for accountability software” quite some time before tying the knot? How old were you then? Because that’s a pretty mature and far-sighted step (at any age) to take in the best interest of a marriage yet in the future. (By contrast, I feel like a kid beside someone as prescient as you, and I say that without sarcasm.)

      Moreover, you “…installed Covenant Eyes and asked a close friend to be (your) Accountability Partner”. Well, pardon me, but that sounds so like a sales pitch for Covenant Eyes that (along with the $9.99 bit) I sense my cynicism sensors lighting up. Hmm…

      Oh, well… In conclusione, Bobby, I was also struck at the insightfulness of your parting comment, of our “need to…cultivate( ) discipline and mastery of self before we take our marital vows”. Wow. A grand personal ideal, Bobby, to say the least. But at ground level: if only, buddy, if only…

      Reply
      • Bobby on

        Hey Xavier, it’s Bobby.
        I’m a bit of an old soul, so I think that contributed to a “long term” approach when it came to making some life choices. I’m not paid per blog by Covenant Eyes (and they still get my money each month)…so know that I write as a testimony to the services and accountability they provide, not as a marketing ploy. Thank you for the kind words!

      • Xavier on

        You’re welcome, Bobby. Glad things worked out for you.

    2. Andrew on

      Bobby, this is well-written and very true. I appreciate the steps you took to guard your heart in such a way.
      Many people think that marriage will cure the problem of pornography. The problem with that is that a person who views pornography never stops at just one photo. The spouse will just become one more photo in their rolodex of many women in their mind. They won’t stop at viewing and thinking about her just like they won’t view one pornographic photo and stop at that. The heart will seek another, then another, then another. It doesn’t curb the appetite, it increases it. If you are truly seeking purity, a wife can help you as there will be times of intimacy where you will be sexually fulfilled. However, if you are looking at marriage as ticket out of sexual temptation, you will be greatly disappointed. She will end up being only one more fantasy that’s now already been fulfilled.
      By the way, Xavier, I see that your “cynicism sensors” lit up on this. I’ve also seen your them light up on several other posts. Do you think that your cynicism is actually defense mechanism towards the conviction that you feel when you read an article such as this? This conviction comes from a God that deeply loves you and wants to be with you. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have made you in His image so that you feel that conviction. I don’t want to argue with you. You can take it or leave it. But I think God is working in your heart.

      Reply
      • Xavier on

        Well, if you reread my comment more carefully, dear Andrew, you’ll notice that I had nothing but praise for “practically all the points” Bobby made, and for the way in which he made them. I was, however, somewhat put off by what I saw as his artful shilling for Covenant Eyes. THAT is what lit up the cynicism screen in the left side of my brain, dude, not spiritual conviction. But I do hope, as you say, that the Lord is working on this (obstinate) heart of mine. Thanks for your concern.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hey Xavier,

        If your asking whether Bobby was direct to mention Covenant Eyes or paid for his writing, I can vouch that he wasn’t. I understand your skepticism, but as someone who has been chosen to write for us regularly, it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising that he likes and uses Covenant Eyes software. He open support and endorsement of Covenant Eyes is one of the reasons we found Bobby in the first place.

      • Jessica on

        As a woman, I find it really powerful and humbling to read posts from men who’ve struggled with pornography (or who are presently fighting the battle and trying to quit). I understand it is a struggle for many women as well
        – as a teenager I was also caught in its grip. Bobby offers such heartfelt and honest advice. I pray that we can can all see the usefullness and practicality in such measures as installing accountability software and finding an accountability partner. Our souls and marriages/relationships depend on it. God bless

    3. CatholicbyChoice on

      Marriage doesnt solve or cure anything in your life. Nothing. It gives women an untold amount of Power and Enslaves men, Sexually, Financially and every other way. Pornography and Marriage are two sides of the same Coin.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Are you saying this categorically or just based on what you’ve observed?

      • Ross Wagstaff on

        Marriage is a beautiful thing. It binds two people together in love and seals a covenant to society and God of the prosperous union of two parties where life can come and be nurtured and brought forth as a boon to society and a tethered child of God. Unfortunately, two imperfect people must make that union with all their flaws. Literally the best and worst of human nature is found in marriage. It is the marriage participants choice and responsibility to fulfill the tenants of the covenant.

      • CatholicbyChoice on

        Both. Marriage and Porn are opposite sides of the same coin, Slavery. Porn Enslaves and Shackles you to your own selfish desires and deceives you into thinking that with every indulgence and every peek, your Lust will be satisfied. Marriage Enslaves and Shackles you to another person, becoming subordinate to their wishes, wants, desires (selfish and otherwise), Lusts, fallen nature and Prideful thirsts.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I suppose I agree with you, but I probably have a more optimistic view of the marriage scenario since it is actually part of God’s design for humanity.

      • CatholicbyChoice on

        Optimistic for what? To be told where to live, what to drive, what clothes to wear, what haircut to get, what to eat, what to drink, what to buy while simultaneously being used as an ATM and Sperm Bank? Good luck with that……

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Your caricature of marriage falls woefully short of so many people’s experiences. For example, never once have I been told where to live, what haircut to get, what to eat, what to drink, or what to buy. (I have been told my clothes don’t fit me like they used to.) As far as being used as an ATM, my wife probably makes about as much money as I do. As far as being used as a Sperm Bank, I fail to see how my bedroom comparable to a cold, white-walled room where I’m given porn to masturbate for money. Marital sex is a whole lot better than that.

      • CatholicbyChoice on

        1.) How long have you been married? I bet not that long. The mask of “I’m a wonderful and holy lady!” falls soon and you will be shown who your wife truly is. It happens to all men.
        2.) Sooner or Later, if you plan to have a big family, one of you will have to leave work to be a full time parent. Once you’re the soul breadwinner, see how fast the Money runs through your hands, without even a thank you.
        3.) Don’t let your senses betray you on Marital Sex. The First time someone has sex is the last time they have it selflessly. Because the first time you feel that Orgasm, it completely hacks your mind and you cant focus on anything other than that feeling. So, while the act itself may be “great”, do you honestly think your wife has you in mind? Or is putting your best interest at heart during the act?

        And Here’s how I can talk about all of this. I surrendered my sexual self and future relationships to Jesus Christ when I was 14. And boy, did I dream of Marriage! It was so wonderful, I imagined what my wife would look like, who she would be, what her likes and dislikes would be. I’m now 26 and last year, I met a woman who, I was CONVINCED was the woman I was destined to marry and spend my life with. She wasn’t just Catholic, she held a Master’s degree in Theology and worked for the Church. She and I were like best friends, complete twins, agreed on all matters political and religious, we were one mind. Except, for 6 months of our relationship, she never loved me. She faked it. Everything. And on top of that, would make fun of me and mock me in front of her friends and family. I propose to her, she accepts, then 2 days later, after flirting openly in front of me, wearing my ring, she tells me it was all a lie. Se felt sorry for me and wanted to make me feel good. then she blocked me from everything and I was out of her life forever.

        Women Lie. Even the Catholic, “good and holy” ones. They’re manipulating, selfish, greedy, attention seeking, think only of themselves and I’ll be darned if I let myself fall for one ever again. And, I’ll do my best to warn my brothers of the same traps I fell for.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        1. I’ve been married 7 years. I can see your own experience have scarred your view of women, but please refrain from insulting my wife.

        2. We have four kids and my wife and I run an at home business together, in addition to my day job. She homeschools our kids as well. Even if I was the sole bread-winner, I fail to see why you think you know the spending habits of my wife. She’s one of the most frugal people I know.

        3. I’m not following your logic. Are you saying a woman who pleasures her husband in the act of sex can’t possibly have his pleasure in mind?

        It hurt to hear your experiences. Its so sad when marriages fall apart because of deception. Please, just refrain from assuming all marriages are like your own.

      • ForHim on

        St. Paul considered himself a slave to Christ. I am so glad he did reject the idea of being told what to do and those who supported him did not view their finances as their personal ATM. Everything that exsists is FOR HIM and by HIM.

    4. CPKid on

      Bobby, this is a great reminder of the consequences and negative impact of pornography. For me I have a hard time seeing the hope in marriage because it is always contingent on my perfection. I’ll dealt with pornography since I was 15…I’m now 36 and it still a fight I win sometimes and lose sometimes. But in every direction of advice it seems I have to deal with this, this, this and that then I am ready for marriage. If it’s not pornography I need to get selfishness out of my life first, if it’s not selfishness…I need to deal with any anger then I’m ready and this list goes on to where it seems I’ll never be ready for marriage because I can’t be perfect. In 21 years pornography is not completely gone outta my life and I know marriage won’t magically make it disappear but if my dreams of marriage hinge on my self-mastery of every aspect of my fleshy being…it just doesn’t leave much hope. So what is a healthy expectation of my preparing for marriage?

      Reply
      • CatholicbyChoice on

        You don’t have to be perfect in the Flesh (You cant be), but be perfect in Christ. Cling to the Sacraments for your very life. Live in the Confessional, Consume the Eucharist as much as possible, Pray the Rosary and Divine Chaplet, dive into scripture and spiritual books (I Personally suggest The Confessions by St. Augustine). All of this places distance between you and the evil one. Pornography doesn’t separate you from your future spouse, it separates you from God. That’s is what is so bad about Sin, it separates us from God. So run into the Father’s arms, throw yourself upon the mercy of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit Heal you. Despite your best efforts, your flesh will never be pure. And guess what, your future wife will never be pure either. Women crave sexual pleasure too, they also fall victim to pornography, masturbation, etc. So there’s a woman out there somewhere worrying and distressing just like you are right now, fretting that her sin will impact her marriage to you. And that’s ok. Marriage isn’t just for the Perfect fleshy creatures who pray 15 hours a day and levitate haha. It’s a process, a journey, a mystery and a portal for many graces and blessings to flow from. Stay Strong and Fight the Good Fight, Brother! Prayers for you and your future Queen :)

    5. Sonflowrgirl on

      CatholicByChoice,
      These words likely won’t bring you comfort, and may only create more derision in your heart toward women. I am ashamed of my fellow woman who treated you so horribly, so disrespectfully. She had no right to treat you the way she did and she did not live up to her calling as a woman, as a sister in Christ and a daughter of the Most High King. In hurting you as she did, she hurt the heart of Christ. Yes, women lie. So do men. I’ve experienced my fair share of betrayal for your sex, too. But I refuse to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bushel. I know that not all men are liars, not all men are manipulative, and not all men use women as object for their sole pleasure. I also don’t expect men to be perfect. I know they have their faults, that they will fail morally to some extent in relationship. What I do expect is honesty and authenticity. By what you shared, the woman you were with were neither of those things. And for that, I apologize. She acted in a cowardly manner. What else can I say? I understand your anger, your distrust, your derision. I hope one day in the future, your faith in the other half of the Divine Image will be restored. In the meantime, I will be praying for you.

      Reply
      • CatholicbyChoice on

        Quite the contrary, Sonflowrgirl. Your words have given me much comfort and peace. Thank you. I apologize too for what unfaithful, cowardly, emasculated men have done to you. I realize men can be this way too. All too well. Up until last summer, however, I didn’t know how deceitful and manipulative a woman could be. Prayers for you always :)

    6. Dr. Harry Schaumburg on

      A lot of truth in this post, but as one who has counseled 1000s struggling with sexual sin, I have a problem with the statement, “Pornography, by its very nature, undercuts the commitments needed to love one’s spouse faithfully.” Absolutely true, BUT, the real issue, and why sex in marriage doesn’t fix the problem, is that lack of commitment, perpetuates the porn problem in marriage. And, the purity benefits of 1 Cor, 6:1-6 fail. False intimacy in marriage is love built on self-gratification rather than self-sacrifice for the glory of God. The result is that the wife feels like a sexual object and loses sexual interest. The lack of interest happens in many marriages within the first 2 years. First Corinthians works, but only when we live out marriage, not for me, not for us, but sex in the service of God.

      Reply
    7. Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg on

      Having counseled 1000s of porn addicts, you are right! But why? First, it is a heart problem, not a sex problem. If that problem is not addressed, having sex with your wife isn’t enough. Second, why does scripture tells us in marriage, “Do not deprive one another?” Answer: Because our “lack of self-control.” Porn is selfish, most of us marry in selfishness; thus no self-control. Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, by Christopher Ash spells out the real purpose of marriage. The right purpose; the right heart allows sex in marriage to be a cure. At least Paul got it right! 1 Cor. 7:2-5

      Reply

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