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Christian Marriage Advice: 5 ways porn will hurt your marriage

Last Updated: April 4, 2024

“And they lived happily ever after…” Cut! End scene. Movie over. They’re married, what more is there? Happily ever after…

Is that so? I’m not sure how many married couples would explain their marriage as “happily ever after.” Not that all marriages are bad, by no means! But marriage comes with its challenges. It takes work. It takes dedication. It can be great, it can be happy, but it can also be hard.

One growing difficulty in many marriages is the issue of pornography. Everything can seem great until the Mrs. is greeted by a naked image of another woman as she turns on the computer screen or until the Mr. stops showing up to little Jimmy’s games as he sits and watches his computer screen for hours on end. Maybe the Mrs. has gotten into “harmless” romance novels and no longer has the desire for sex, or Mr. finds pornographic messages being sent between his wife and another man via a social network.

It may not be the exact situations above, but if porn is involved anywhere in your marriage (with you, your spouse, or even both of you), then there is no “happily ever after.” Pornography never blesses, it only takes. It never enriches, it only deceives. Porn will not develop anyone, but only put the user (and others) in harms way.

If porn is involved in your marriage, you are not alone. Covenant Eyes reported in their most recent statistics (via MSNBC and a Stanford/Duquesne study): “In 2000, 25 million Americans spent 1 to 10 hours per week viewing Internet pornography, and as many as 4.7 million spent over 11 hours per week viewing Internet pornography.” Of those millions, I cannot imagine how many are married.

I myself have experienced the problem of porn in my marriage. My husband revealed his struggle to me just a few months before we were married and it has been a part of our lives ever since. Not that my husband is actively involved in pornography any longer, but just as alcoholism is a struggle with no cure, so is the addiction to pornography. One sip, one look, and it can be a downhill journey once again.

Worth the Fight

So why try? Does it really hurt your marriage? Is it something worth fighting against if the urges and temptations will always be there and the “happily ever after” doesn’t completely exist?

Yes. One million times, yes! Though this struggle is hard, your marriage is worth it. Just as you would fight hard to prevent alcoholism or drug addiction, fight just as hard against the battle of pornography.

Still not convinced? Here are 5 ways that pornography can hurt your marriage. I pray you take them to heart and know that none of us are immune to the effects.

Way #1:Porn Invites Comparison

Invite anyone into your marriage—past, present, or future—and that person will always be somewhere in your mind. For example: if you have had a sexual partner apart from your spouse, possibly even years before you were married, could sex with your spouse bring that previous relationship back to your mind? Of course it would!No matter how hard we can try to forget the past, it becomes a part of who we are. It becomes an ingrained memory that cannot easily be pushed aside. Are we more than our past? Absolutely. We can change, we can move forward as a new person. But the memories are always there.

Now think of this with pornography. If a man sees an image of a naked woman, what happens when he sees his wife naked in a few hours? Does he not notice that his wife may not have the same computer-generated flawless features? And what about the video he watched of two people having sex? He may begin to believe that sex with his wife is not quite as exciting as the scripted scene he had witnessed before. Romance novels and soft porn can have the very same effects.

I heard once that comparison is the thief of joy. I don’t think it could be explained any better, especially in this situation. Porn invites in comparison. Comparison can take away the joy that we experience in our marriages, specifically in our marriage beds.

Way #2: Porn Encourages Lies

Pornography as a topic is generally avoided. It’s kept behind closed doors (just where Satan likes it) so the habit and addiction can fester and grow. There are marriages where it is freely done and the spouse knows about it (I highly disagree with this as well), but for the most part you will find that the one looking at porn is keeping it under wraps. Lies of any sort can rip a marriage apart, but lies about porn are sneaky ones that often take a while to come out into the open.

Before porn is revealed in a marriage, it can wrap its claws around the aspect of one’s life and cause detrimental harm. Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” Being trustworthy means honesty with your spouse. Hiding a porn addiction is not only being dishonest, but it’s being untrustworthy. A marriage is built on trust, and without it the marriage will crumble.

Way #3: Porn Lowers Self-Worth

As a psychology and counseling major, I’ve heard the term “self-esteem” quite a bit. It’s thrown around frequently, and while there is truth to it, I like the term “self-worth” a whole lot better. I believe it better encompasses the greater issue. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it is more of a worth issue than one of esteem for ourselves.

I get into this because I believe porn can greatly mess with the self-worth of both a husband and a wife in a marriage, no matter who it is that is struggling with the addiction. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God created us in His image, one that is holy and righteous. But when we sin, or those we love sin against us, we rarely feel anything close to the attributes of holiness and righteousness.

This is most often an issue for the wife whose husband is struggling with porn. In my own experience, and in talking to numerous other wives who have been through this, the question rolling through our minds is “Am I not good enough?” If we know our husbands are looking at other women, it must mean that they don’t think we are enough for them. I might think I am not pretty enough, not sexy enough, or not worthy of love and affection. While the struggle with porn is far greater than what the wife may think, the issue of self-worth is still there.

I would also argue that looking at porn is a self-worth issue for both men and women. When one becomes upset with him/herself, going into “another world” can be an easy escape from reality—one that always appears to fulfill and bring pleasure no matter what the real-life circumstances may be. Just as one may go towards alcohol or drug abuse in situations of frustration and low self-worth, so someone else can turn to porn. Porn starts with low self-worth and ends with low self-worth. Without respect for oneself, a marriage will be brought down. Without knowledge of how you were designed (in God’s image) and without living in light of that knowledge, a marriage will suffer.

Way #4: Porn Robs Us of Intimacy

Porn takes intimacy away. Period. On to the next point…

Just kidding, but really, that sums it up pretty well. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” “Undefiled” means “without stain or blemish.” Porn is a stain. It’s that nasty grass stain that will never come out of a white t-shirt. It can be covered, dyed, washed, and cleaned, but it will always still be there. Porn will defile a marriage bed. It will steal from the intimacy that a married couple has the opportunity to be blessed with. Porn will take sex that a married couple has and completely strip away all holiness and intimacy that it once had. It invites someone else into the sexual relationship, which leads to our next point…

Way #5: Porn is Adultery

Ouch. I debated whether to include this one or not. It’s harsh, it’s hurtful…but it’s truth. Porn is adultery. Matthew 5:28 says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” No arguing with that one. Jesus is pretty clear, and you know He already knew about the sin of pornography before it ever came into existence (though I suspect they already had forms of it during this time period). He knew the easy accessibility that the Internet would someday bring. He knew that 47% of families (via Covenant Eyes and Focus on the Family statistics) would have this problem in their home one day.

Looking at another man or woman in lust is adultery. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Hard reality, but a truthful one. Porn is adultery and obviously, adultery is a problem in marriage.

God is Bigger

This was a hard post to write. So harsh, so dark, so depressing! Unfortunately, it is all true. These are just five ways that porn will hurt your marriage and unfortunately, there are hundreds more. But I can’t leave you with that!

God redeems (Eph. 1:7). God heals (1 Cor. 10:13). God does miracles (Matt. 17:20). God is bigger (Isaiah 55:8-9). My husband and I are a testament to this. While pornography will always be a struggle and temptation that we will seek to conquer, He has blessed us with an incredible marriage despite the evil that has threatened our relationship. He has healed us from comparing or being fearful of comparison. He has taken away the lies and silence that held my husband for so many years before he told me about his struggle. He has restored our self-worth and made us feel like royal children (as we all are!). He has completely brought back all intimacy that was lost and not only that, has made it better! And He, by far, is greater than any sin of adultery. Satan may try to take us down, but God keeps our marriage up and thriving. We give all the glory to Him and are so blessed by the great things He has done.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Photo credit: titlap

  1. Mary

    I am

  2. Sandy Johnny

    Is Porn Allowed in Sex with ur Partner?

    • “Allowed”? If you’re asking from a Christian perspective, I would say no. If you lust after another person while making love to your spouse, it is sinful. Pornography seems to encourage that very thing.

  3. Kasey Sharp

    Thanks again for replying. I blocked his phone through Verizon parental controls. I even tried the sites to be sure they blocked in front of him. I have still tried to touch on this subject and he continues to deny it. I spoke to a therapist today and she is going to meet with us pending him agreeing. I told him I spoke to her and he just huffed it off to avoid answering. I’ll check out thelinks I just want the truth regardless. The lying is just adding to my grief. Thank you so much!

    • My pleasure, Kasey. I think it is good for you to visit a therapist about this, even if he is unwilling.

  4. Kasey Sharp

    I meant to ask you, as a former addict, do you have an opinion as why he is lying to me? Thanks again!

    • Addicts (all sinners, really) are liars. We don’t just lie to others, we lie to ourselves. We begin to believe our own lies. We want to believe everything is okay even when it isn’t okay.

      For you, I think it would be really good to sit down and think about how best to respond to his sexual betrayal. Without a support system, this can be really tough, but I think it is worth it. There is an excellent video series (and its free) you might like to watch called “True Betrayal.” The Christian counselor who does this series talks a lot to wives who are in the same position as you are in. These videos will really help you to think critically about how to handle this situation. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  5. Kasey Sharp

    Luke, thank you for your response! I greatly appreciate it. I have both a male and a female friend that I confide in. The female friend says she agrees that it isn’t right but I feel like she is more on his side. My male friend says to pack his crap and send him down the road. I’m so torn. I tried showing him this page (without my comment) and he refused all denying he had done nothing wrong. It’s sad but a strangers opinion right now means more than anything. My friends haven’t been in this situation and I’m truly torn. I know in my heart that he looked those sites up and he continues to lie to me. I have (with his consent) blocked mature sites from his phone now. This isn’t fixing me and the hurt that I’ve endured. I don’t know where to go from here. Again, thank you for responding!

    • If he continues to deny that he’s actually watched porn, there are a few courses thoughts to keep in mind. Chances are good that he actually is looking at porn (it’s not just a glitch), in which case he will be found out again. It’s only a matter of time before you find more evidence.

      How was the phone blocked? Does he know how to unblock it? What kind of phone is it?

      As more evidence surfaces, you are right to approach him about it and tell him that you don’t believe him. (Perhaps you feel like you’ve already reached that point.) Kicking him to the curb may not be the answer, but putting up clear boundaries with him is important. He needs to know that you don’t tolerate it. Since he’s claiming he didn’t nothing wrong, this shouldn’t even be a point of contention for him.

  6. Kasey

    Reading this article has really helped me. I’ve been married 5 years and have found porn on my husband’s phone several times. He knows that I feel like him watching it is the same as cheating. Recently I found tons of pages on his phone. He bold faced lied to me even after I showed it to him. Blamed pop up ads and spam. He swore and promised that he didn’t do it that the phone just had a mind of its own. I am not an idiot. It has broke my heart, my trust in him, and my spirit. I’m only 35 and have been open to anything and never rejected him, although he had rejected me too many times to count! He isn’t interested in sex with me but he watches porn, or his phone does. Not funny btw. I’m at the end of my rope. I’m blonde, tall, thin. I’ve toned, dressed sexier, etc…. Trying to grab his attention and no reaction? He says I’m pretty and he’s lucky to have me. So what’s wrong with me? Please add any comments to help me through this or understand. I see this as cheating and my marriage is on the rocks and he doesn’t understand why! I would normally never take a chance to post anything on the Internet but I’m out of options. Thank you for this article and I’m downloading the ebook now. Signed, dangling by a thread :(

    • I think you are right to be suspicious. I know computers and phones can do wonky things, but multiple pages of porn is not likely due to popups.

      Speaking as a man (a man who regretfully used to watch a lot of porn), on a surface level, one woman cannot compare to porn because porn is a fantasy experience. Kasey, you might be gorgeous by any of society’s standards, but a lot of beautiful women are asking the same question: “What’s wrong with me? Why is he still looking at porn when he could have me?” Internet porn allows a man to look at hundreds of women, as much as he wants, looking however he wants, doing whatever he wants. It’s like a woman in a harem of 1000 women trying to convince her husband that he should only have sex with her. What the man is drawn to is the variety, the novelty, and the 100% customization of the experience. He may love real sex, of course, but in the end real women aren’t as clickable and customizable as porn.

      Plus, porn is solo-sex. Porn promises pleasure without the work of actually pleasing or knowing another person. It is easy pleasure. No romance is involved. Porn conditions a man to love the cheap thrill over the long haul of love-making.

      I say this to shame men. Porn makes a guy feel like a man without requiring him to really be one. He can imagine he’s having sex with the hottest girl on the planet, filling his brain with all sorts of pleasure hormones, but in the end it is all a lie. He knows its a lie, of course. It’s like watching professional wrestling: the viewer knows its fake but he’s asking to be fooled, to suspend reality so he can be entertained for a brief period of time.

      Men should not live in fantasy. They should make love in reality, pleasing the women they’ve married.

      All that said, there are reasons why men escape into porn (beyond just the obvious). For some men, they crave the fantasy of respect, where they feel man enough to merit the dream girl. For other men, they love the feeling of intimacy without the risks of rejection. For some, porn is their big stress reliever, their refuge. For others, it is their way of “rewarding” themselves, something they give feel like they are owed for all the sacrifices they make. Men who want to quit often can’t just quit cold-turkey without first examining their underlying reasons for going after porn.

      For many, porn is a true addiction, something that has messed with their chemistry of their brains enough to where they feel actual withdrawal symptoms. This is not something that just goes away. It takes work.

      Either way, you should find support for yourself in the midst of all of this. Do you have any friends, a pastor, a spiritual leader, or a counselor you can talk to right now?

  7. Elle

    How did you and your husband get through it? Did you both seek help/counseling? Or was is all through steps you took by yourselves/with each other?

  8. rebekah

    I am not sure this will even be seen since the other posts are a bit older. I came across this site as I was searching for answers and am having a hard time leaving it without commenting.

    I am having the same problem many of you are. Before we married I knew my husband viewed porn occasionally. I knew because he would call me a day or two after and say how guilty he felt and he wanted me to know. Fast forward eight years. I know he views porn. When his work schedule allows it, on a fairly regular basis. He has a bikini girl calendar hanging in his office. A few years ago we went to counseling and this issue was brought up multiple times. He would scoff, get mad, and his defense was that all guys did it, it is a guys right to do it. He never seems/ed to care how deeply it hurts me. I am afraid to bring it up yet again because I know he will get mad and defensive. I hate the thought of living like this for the rest of my life but am too prideful and scared to do anything more about it.

    • Hi Rebekah,

      So sorry to hear about this in your life. It is awful when a man trounces all over his wife’s heart in this way.

      Your husband is right about one thing: all (or at least most) guys do look at porn. He’s wrong that this justifies using it. The fact that he’s scoffed at the idea of quitting, especially in front of a third party, tells me he’s not ready to give it up at all. He believes this is just what men do.

      You have a choice to make: You can either continue living with things as they are (including the tension), or you can choose to practice some tough love with him. I highly recommend you read “7 Questions Wives of Porn Addicts Often Ask,” especially part 3 of the series. I also recommend you read, “When Love Has to Get Tough: 5 Steps for Wives of Porn Addicts.”

      Once you read this, write back and let me know what’s going through your mind.

    • nikole

      My relationship with my husband is also suffering from similar issues, the difference is that my husband had asked my permission. We have not recovered from my bilateral mastectomy well. He’s tried to hide his lack of desire for me, but now had become desperate enough to ask me saying he doesn’t want me to hurt because its not because of me. The intimacy left for the most part as he has his this from me, until he disappeared one night to go to a strip club and asked me to join him because he really wants to look but admits to his own shame in feeling this need, I’m afraid to say no.

    • Kay Bruner

      Oh, Nikole. Those four sentences just break my heart. What a huge burden of suffering you have both borne in this situation. To me as a therapist, I can draw a straight line from the trauma and distress of your illness and surgery, to your husband’s need to escape that enormous weight of emotion with acting out sexually. This is, unfortunately, one of the “acceptable” ways for men to deal with trauma in our culture. It’s not a solution, though; just a way to stop feeling all those distressing feelings temporarily.

      My reading of this situation would be that he is terrified that you’re going to die. And being intimate both physically and emotionally is very difficult for him to bear right now, so he’s turning to something that’s easier to bear. Physically, arousal makes him feel good for a while. And emotionally, he’s creating this whole other mess for you guys to be upset about, when I really think it’s the mastectomy that he needs to process.

      The best possible scenario, I think, would be for him to go to therapy and process through the emotions he’s dealing with as a result of your illness. Using porn and going to strip clubs is never going help him heal. It’s just going to create more stress and trauma and shame for him, as well as making things more stressful in your relationship together. The American Association of Christian Counselors is a good place to start looking for someone local to you.

      Blessings, Kay

  9. Amie

    Thanks Luke, luckily we aren’t married yet. I’ve decided that he needs to work on this by himself. If its Gods will he will guide us back together

  10. Amie

    Hi I am in a situation at the moment where my boyfriend of 2 yrs has been watching pornography. While he was honest about it in the past when I’ve questioned him he has recently lied about it. The first time I spoke I asked him to tell me when we he failed and he assured me he had it under control.

    He recently added me as his ‘accountability partner’ for an app that monitors porn websites. What he didn’t realise is the app backdated activity and that’s how I found out! I’m at the point where I think the right thing to do is end it. I feel the trust is gone and it hurts me too much.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Joseph

      First of all you must understand tht wht he is doing is a weakness he has. So wait patiently on God may be you are the strength for him to overcome tht weakness,bt remember you also hv a weakness in one way or the other. We need God all of us

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