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6 Common Questions Asked By Wives of Porn Addicts

Last Updated: February 29, 2024

The following is an excerpt from our free e-book, Porn and Your Husband: A Recovery Guide for Wives.


Why does he look at porn?

There are a few things you need to understand about your husband’s heart and his use of porn. The first is simply that men are visually stimulated in a way most women are not. Men like to look at naked women, and pornography offers unlimited access. Pornography also offers a fantasy world where they can imagine themselves being desired by eager and seductive women. Over time, as he watches more porn, his virtual harem can seem more appealing than face-to-face intimacy with his wife.

Psychological scars frequently contribute as well. Many men struggling with pornography use were exposed to it at a young age. For example, men often report having stumbled across a copy of Playboy in their father’s dresser. With the advent of the Internet, more men than ever before were exposed to porn as children. One study reports that 93% of boys are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18. This early exposure almost inevitably leads to a struggle with pornography into adulthood.

It’s also possible that your husband is experiencing what Mark W. Gaither of Redemptive Heart Ministries describes as a sense of “toxic shame,” or the belief that he is horribly broken and beyond hope. (Normal shame, on the other hand, is the sense that he has done something wrong that has broken your relationship.) He may think he is unlovable, and fear that if he allows you to draw close, you will notice his flaws and lose respect for him. Rather than run this risk, he may have turned to the always-willing, always-happy girls of porn. Retreating to pornography can then make him feel even more of a failure, feeding into his toxic shame, and causing the cycle to continue. Eventually he builds up internal defenses to justify his use to the point that he no longer notices the shame.

There are likely other contributing factors (including in some cases sexual abuse as a child). A counselor will be able to help him identify and work through these. What you need to remember is that your husband would struggle with pornography regardless of whom he married. His use of pornography is not your fault.

How can he watch porn and say he loves me?

Compartmentalization comes more naturally to men than women. To him, different parts of life—work, you and your children, his hobbies—don’t necessarily interact. He may believe that viewing pornography in secret protects you from the consequences of his actions. He might even rationalize that hiding his actions or lying about it is the best way to love you in the midst of a bad situation.

As you recover, he will need to learn that this is not true.

Why does he prefer porn to sex with me?

Some men seem to prefer looking at pornography to intimacy with their wives. There are a few reasons for this. First, men crave respect and measure their own worth in terms of adequacy. Sometimes they fear really being known because it will result in you discovering his defects. Because of this, at the beginning of your relationship he may have overemphasized just sex instead of focusing on intimacy. For the same reason, porn and masturbation feel like safer alternatives to him. Even if you’ve made yourself sexually available to him, he knows that porn girls will never say “No”—never discover his inadequacies—and he never has to worry about meeting their needs.

There’s a neurological side as well. Pornography rewires the brain, training him to desire the hormonal rush from porn instead of sex with you. The chemical vasopressin, which is released during the sexual act, bonds the man to his sexual partner. With repeated pornography use, he is bonding himself to images on a screen. Given that many men were exposed to pornography during childhood, he may have chemically bonded with the women of pornography long before you entered the picture.

Some men become so dependent on porn that it becomes a behavioral addiction. Much like a drug addict, men entrenched in pornography will do anything for their fix, including sacrificing what should be most dear to them.

Read the e-book Your Brain on Porn for more details about how pornography has rewired your husband’s brain.

Keep in mind that not all men show this symptom of addiction. A man might regularly use pornography and often pursue sex with his wife.

Why am I not enough?

During sex, natural opiates are released, along with dopamine, creating a pleasurable experience. However, repeated stimulation, particularly through porn and masturbation, eventually builds up a resistance. It’s like a drug; the more he gets, the more he needs.

In simple terms, you’re “not enough” because his repeated porn use has vastly accelerated his tolerance for these chemical rushes, far beyond the levels of monogamous sex with you. In particular, pornography has trained him to be turned on by variety, which no single woman can provide. It also explains why he may have turned to harder porn or acted out through an affair—he’s looking for the rush that you, through no fault of your own, can never provide.

Is this my fault?

Often men have the tendency to blame-shift, claiming that if you were prettier or thinner or more open to sex or less of a nag, that they wouldn’t need to turn to the fantasy that pornography provides. Even if men don’t say these things, their wives will often wonder such things about themselves. Often wives will tie their own self-worth to their husbands’ opinions of them. A drop in self- esteem is common after a betrayal.

If your husband is telling you such things, he is trying to rationalize and justify his desire for porn by shifting the blame to you. By blaming you, he protects himself from shame and avoids any suggestion he is not adequate. If he is not ready to take responsibility for his own behavior, “he will say anything to convince you, and even himself, that he does not have a problem. Blaming you is an easy way to save face,” explains Ella Hutchinson.

You could be the most beautiful, supportive woman in the world and he’d still turn to porn. Remember, even Tiger Woods cheated on his supermodel wife.

Is this it for our marriage?

Unfortunately, many marriages never recover. A survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers states that 56% of divorce cases involve one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”

However, countless marriages have recovered in spite of the husband’s use of pornography, or even adultery. This will require significant work from both you and your husband. You will need to set boundaries that will reestablish your sense of safety and security during this time. When he violates one of these boundaries, be prepared to follow through on the consequences you have promised. You will also need to seek counseling and support to help you recover from the trauma his actions have caused to your marriage. Your husband will need to take whatever steps necessary to break free from pornography. This will likely involve putting Internet accountability software on his computer and smartphone, as well as seeking counseling and personal support for himself.

Photo credit: james_sickmind

  1. Lisa Bramer

    I was in an abusive marriage and was forced to watch porn for about 8yrs. I had to watch it before we would have sex. It has ruined so many relationships since then. I was even forced to do our own and I hated seeing myself in the same way but looked nothing like those women did. Ive been with my boyfriend for a little over a year and I have been able to tell him everything because I felt safe and comfortable with him. Come to find out he has been watching porn on his phone. I was devistated. He said he would stop because I told him it took me back to that dark place and I can’t handle it. He didn’t stop. He said he only did it because he needed a quick release. What the heck does he mean. We have a great sex life but I don’t know what to do about my fear of being so betrayed and I feel like I’m never going to be good enough. He says I am and doesn’t blame me but why would he do that to me knowing the abuse I went through with porn. I’m at the point of giving up but I don’t know what to do. I’m 50 yrs old and he’s 30. Any thoughts please

    • Moriah Bowman

      Hi Lisa,

      I am going to be quite honest with you and suggest that you take a serious look at the future of this relationship. If your boyfriend is not willing to give up porn for you, what does that say about his love and devotion to you? You ARE good enough, and you are not to blame for this. Especially with your past marriage, I would hope that he would be even more willing to quit watching porn.

      Check out this blog post about navigating questions about pornography with your significant other. This post also discusses the importance of keeping pornography OUT of relationships.

      I also wonder if counseling might be a great tool for both of you to use together? Again, if he’s not willing to take this step, it may mean that isn’t truly serious about your relationship, and I would encourage you to get out before it’s too late.
      I am praying for you!
      Blessings,
      Moriah

  2. Rebecca

    My husband had been hiding a porn issue from me for 5 months last year. Before we were married, we had a discussion about porn and he said he had never used it, which I still believe. I told him if it ever did become an issue, please just come to me right away and I would help him through it. I had been in an abusive relationship prior to him and had been cheated on multiple times, so honesty was really the big issue to me. I know people are imperfect and porn is practically handed to men on a silver platter, so I didn’t expect it to NEVER happen. What I didn’t expect were lies. A double life. Last year he struggled with his mental health and impulsively began to use porn for the first time in his life. He said he was so ashamed that he had no idea how to tell me. He didn’t want to break my heart, but he knew the damage had been done. This was the cycle that fueled his problem for months. Every so often I’d check on him and ask if he was having any problems with anything, including porn, and he always denied it. Even in the middle of his use, he denied it. I always believed him until last year. I didn’t fully believe him then, but I blamed it on my previous relationship and trust issues. Then, the day after our anniversary last year, we were having a long talk and for some reason I had a pit in my stomach. I decided to ask him again. He finally owned up to it, and when I asked how long it had been a problem, he said it had only been once and it was months ago while I was out of town. I didn’t believe him and about an hour later I demanded he answer me honestly. He admitted it had been a continuous problem for months. I was completely devastated… Fast forward to now – we are doing SO much better. We have been through therapy, spiritual counseling, and have been using software like yours to keep him accountable. My problem is that I still feel almost as heartbroken as day one. I have anxiety every single day that he is still lying to me. I recently stopped all accountability/spying software as he is adamant that he hasn’t had any relapses, but I get scared that if he really wanted to use porn, he would just find a way around anything we have set in place. That’s what my ex did. I’m STILL finding out about people my ex cheated on me with and we’ve been broken up for 5 years. I just feel so hurt in ways I can’t explain and I feel like I will never feel the way I did before all this happened. I have had so many horrible things happen in my life in the last 5 years and this is right up there with my abusive relationship and the death of my grandparents. I feel like I’ve been beaten down and that life just gets worse. I have so many intrusive thoughts about my husband’s porn use and I keep reliving the day I found out. I imagine his use as so much worse than he claims it was… I just can’t get away from this horrible feeling. I don’t really know what I’m looking for by commenting… Maybe just some validation or ways to help me know that everything will be okay one day?

    • Kay Bruner

      Rebecca, I am so, so sorry for all the pain you’ve been through both with your ex and your current relationship. It sounds to me like you are having a perfectly normal and understandable trauma response. So many times women will meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in situations like this, and most of the time, this is neither recognized nor treated. I would suggest finding a traum-informed counselor, just for you, who can help you process through this for your own healing. There are also fantastic trauma-informed resources online at Bloom for Women. There’s a small monthly fee at Bloom, and it’s worth every penny! I hope that tending to your own trauma and healing can bring about the good outcomes you’re hoping for. You absolutely deserve to be treated with the tenderest possible care. Peace to you, Kay

  3. Rita

    I’m having a really hard time with this kind of situation & found his article because of it. I don’t know what to do. I found out my husband watches porn soon after we married 2 years ago but I let it go the entire first year & said nothing cause I didn’t know what to do. Then I found out the next year he watches it in bed with me directly next to me almost every morning. I just found out I was pregnant at the time and I didn’t fight him on it I just came to him extremely upset & crying asking him to stop. He swore to me he would and never look at it again. After I had the baby I noticed things were different and I again came to him crying and begging saying I know things were different between us and if he just told me I wouldn’t be angry I just wanted to talk. He denied it over and over again and told me I was crazy and it was all in my head , which I believed. I was in a really bad mental state after I had the baby and his words made me think I might have had post partum or that my baby had msde me paranoid. I went through his phone three months later and found out he was watching porn, and not just looking at porn but looking up specific women and specific actresses by name to find their nudes n sex scenes. This time I was done crying and woke him up screaming and punching. I felt so betrayed and angry and like I had been cheated. He denies watching it since then and between our talks about it but I can’t drop the feeling he’s lying. I do everything he wants in bed, I bend over backwards to make him happy and I can’t get rid of this pit in my heart over the whole situation. He lied and manipulated me when I was at my lowest point and made me feel like I was going crazy. I’m just hurt and I feel like it’s cheating. Especially because he was looking up specific women by name for their nudes, and the women was from tv shows we was watching together. Idk. I don’t know how to deal with this. It just hurts and I can’t escape it

    • Kay Bruner

      I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve been going through for so long.

      I want to suggest that you check out the resources online at Bloom for Women, where they take a trauma-informed approach for spouses. Many women will meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress in a situation like this, and I think you will find Bloom very helpful as you process through what is best for you here.

      You might also appreciate some of our articles on boundaries: here, here, and here. Boundaries can include separation or divorce from someone who refuses to take responsiblity and do their own work. It’s sad when that happens, it’s not what we want, but you are not required to be emotionally abused forever. He has healthier choices he could make, if he wants.

      I hope those resources are helpful. No matter what he chooses, you can choose health and wholeness for yourself.

      Peace to you,
      Kay

  4. Mandy

    My husband of 7 years goes to porn even after I have sex with him or give him whatever he wants and when he wants it. I have 2 almost teenagers with my previous husband (Left him due to his porn addiction) and now I have a 2 year old son and 6 month old baby girl and I still make time for my husband 24/7. I enjoy sex with my husband and we both love having sex together. But then I walked in on him in our bedroom last month masturbating to porn and he admitted it and said he would stop and again yesterday. I felt so worthless and like I had just been cheated on by him. Then last night he asked me if I wanted to cuddle with him and I said no. He doesn’t get it no matter what I say to him and sometimes he’ll say stupid things to take this off him. I’m just worried this is going to continue and I just can’t live through this kind of marriage again. What should I do?

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