Rebuild Your Marriage
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The Effects of Pornography on Wives and Marriages

Last Updated: September 20, 2017

Joe and Patty came to my office in crisis. Patty had recently discovered Joe viewing Internet pornography late at night. A search of the computer’s history revealed chronic use of porn. Joe admitted he had a problem with Internet pornography and vowed to get help. He was truly sorry for hurting Patty, but he could not understand why she was so upset about it. Joe couldn’t understand why she had so much difficulty forgiving him and moving on with their relationship. What Joe didn’t understand is how a husband’s porn use impacts a wife.

Porn's Effect on Wives and Marriages

If a husband watches porn, it affects his wife.

For many women, discovering that their husbands watch porn is similar to uncovering an extramarital affair. As a result, they experience a variety of emotions: anger, hurt, sadness, betrayal, and rejection. They believe their husbands would rather be with the women they view in pornography rather than their wives. Often they feel that they have been replaced by a computer image. The woman on the computer screen is “the other woman.” Because of this, many women are devastated when they discover their husbands have been looking at porn.

For many wives, their husbands’ use of pornography is a violation of marital trust. When a man and woman marry, they vow to love, honor and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. Viewing pornography is akin to breaking these vows because they are in no way a sign of a man’s love, honor and respect for his wife. For these women, the men they married all of a sudden seem like strangers.

Many feel like a fool for ever having trusted their husbands. For some women, the violation of trust is so deep that they question if they can go on with their marriage. While they might be able to forgive their husbands, rebuilding trust can be extremely difficult.

Pornography invading the home can also lead a wife to feel old, unattractive, and sexually undesirable. It’s no secret that most of the women in pornography are just over 18 years of age. Furthermore, thanks to plastic surgery, makeup, and digital photographic enhancement, most of the women in pornography do not exist in real life. They are too “perfect.”

A wife in her mid-thirties, who has had a few children, might be very beautiful; however, she does not look like a 19-year-old. Because of this, she may think, “How can I compete with the young girls in porn?” This can lead her to feel ugly, undesirable, and rejected by her husband.

Related: 5 Lies I Believed When My Husband Was Watching Porn

This is further compounded by the effects pornography can have on a man’s sexual performance. A man who is addicted to pornography can become so accustomed to being sexually aroused by the “perfect” women in pornography that he can eventually find it difficult to perform sexually with his own wife.

Porn’s effect on husbands

Studies have shown that men crave respect from their wives more than love. Pornography robs men of this basic need. Pornography use almost always leads women to lose respect for her husbands.

They also begin to view their husbands as poor role models for their children. This adds to the lack of respect. This can be very painful for women because it inhibits their ability to love, honor, and respect their husbands. Men were created to be the leaders, providers, and protectors of their wives and families. Pornography prevents men from being able to fulfill these roles because it leads a man to isolate himself and neglect his wife and children. This deepens the trust wound in the marriage.

In addition to the emotional effects that pornography has on wives and marriages, porn use can also have physical ramifications. When a man becomes addicted to pornography, he eventually develops a tolerance to it. What was once sexually arousing becomes boring and uninteresting. Thus, he can go from viewing soft porn to hardcore porn. After a while, even this is not enough. He may develop a desire to perform the sexual acts he has seen in pornography. This can lead to using prostitutes and engaging in anonymous sex. With this comes the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

Related: Porn–A Gateway Drug

With one couple I treated, the wife found out about her husband’s pornography/sex addiction from her physician. She had gone to her gynecologist for her annual examination and was informed that she had a sexually transmitted disease. She had gotten it from her husband who had been frequenting prostitutes. Since she had always been faithful to her husband, she knew she caught the disease from him. After confronting him, he confessed. One can hardly imaging the devastation this couple felt. Although this couple loved each other dearly and were committed to mending their marriage, it took months of therapy to work on forgiveness and rebuilding trust.

Fortunately, most couples are not like the one just described. Most are like Joe and Patty. When people think of addiction recovery, they often envision the addict attending 12-step group meetings and individual therapy sessions. While these are needed for recovery, marital therapy is also needed to heal the deep wounds inflicted on the marital relationship.

Moving toward healing

In all cases, wives need to learn how to forgive their husbands (forgiveness does not mean blind trust). This comes by understanding the deep emotional wounds that lead a man into pornography addiction. When one understands that addictive behaviors are often symptoms of deeper wounds, it becomes easier to have compassion and forgive.

Trust also has to be rebuilt in the marriage. This comes from the husband taking responsibility for his recovery and proving his trustworthiness to his wife. As forgiveness and trust grow, the couple experiences healing in their relationship. Thus, addiction recovery is not just for the addict, it involves spouses and families too.

Related: Boundaries for Couples Facing Porn Addiction

Couples need to realize that even the most devastating situations can lead to greater love, trust, and intimacy in a marriage. There is always hope. However, it starts by husbands understanding how their pornography use affects their wives and marriage. It is my hope that this understanding will prevent men from viewing pornography as well as help heal marriages that have been damaged by pornography use.

  1. Cecilia

    I liked you’re article. I never was into porn, I’ve tried it a few times but it never really floated my boat. I find looking at other women gross and personally when I am with someone I feel it is disrespectful to look at others whether it a video image or in person. I have always felt that way and men always call me insecure or stupid or whatever but why am I stupid for not liking it? Theres many reasons I do not like it one being it fuels sex trafficking. Anyway I met this guy over a year ago and i didn’t know it at first but he lied about a lot of things (I will only stick to the porn lies). Him saying he didn’t watch it when he had a girlfriend and it didn’t do much for him either. Stupid me decided to believe him which idk why, men seem to be predictable when it comes to that stuff. But come to find out he does and some of it is hard core and it seems that’s all he wants to do. When I’m here and not paying attention, when I sleep, when I’m away etc etc. Its hard being with someone who can not give me the respect of something very basic such as truth and honesty especially when I have been open with them. He frustrates me so very much and I’m sick of feeling this way. I have tried to talk to him on multiple different occasions about it and how it makes me feel especially when it’s on my phone and he leaves traces of it. Its hard to be with someone like that when I am so different, I feel like my boyfriend and I ste on 2 separate pages of two different books. He lied because he was scared I wouldn’t date him but I feel very betrayed with some of the things he has kept secret and lied about for so long. He still is not very honest, and I am giving up ok n trying to talk to him. I fear our relationship may not last 😔 I really wish men would stop acting like it is a natural thing and us women should get over it. It’s a man made act made to make money and not all in good ways which is a whole nother subject as well

    • Kay Bruner

      Hey Cecilia,

      It sounds like you have very clearly identified that this behavior is not okay with you. That’s great! It’s the first step toward healthy boundaries. The second step is often the confusing one, because many times we try, like you have, to make the other person behave differently. Now, sometimes that works, because the other person wants to participate fully in a relationship, and they are willing to do their part. There’s nothing wrong at all with stating what’s okay and not okay with you and letting the other person make their choice. However, we often have trouble accepting the other person’s choice, and that’s where the confusion happens, when we’re honest and we get lies and secrets and all sorts of mess coming back at us. When we know that this is happening, like you do, then we’re faced with the reality of whether we will respect ourselves and make hard choices to end relationships that are not okay with us, or whether we will continue to allow ourselves to be treated badly by people who aren’t willing to take responsibility for themselves. I think we can find men who will participate responsibly in relationships, but unfortunately this guy doens’t look like he wants to. It looks like he’s lost in the narrative of male entitlement, expecting you to just put up with whatever line of lies he happens to spin on any given day.

      Here, here and here are some more articles on boundaries that might be helpful to you.

      Peace to you,
      Kay

  2. Desiree Appleby

    I know the comments and replies are old…. but this article was incredibly helpful to me. I’m struggling with a spouse who has addiction problems… and now “LIVE PORNO” is not helping. When there is another “interactive” person on the other side…. in my opinion it changes the game. We’re NOT animals…. it NOT just about sex. I cannot agree with the idiots above who say “just let it be”…. if someone gets turned on my watching someone die…. do we let that be? What about sex with children…. do we let that be. There are reasons for why there are boundaries concerning sex in a marriage. If not… than chaos… and we are all nothing but horny, humping, lustful creatures.

    • Kay Bruner

      I do think it’s important to understand the difference between child pornography, where children are not able to give consent and the sex act is inherently abusive, and adult pornography where the actors are able to give consent to the performance. Those are two different things. We may not like adult porn, but those are adults who gave consent. Children cannot.

      Also, people who are aroused by watching death are in a different mental state from those who are aroused by watching sex. Those are two different things also.

      Having said that, you absolutely have the right to the boundaries that are healthy for you around sex in marriage. You don’t need to justify your boundary choices by conflating what’s not okay with you to child pornography or death porn. Aside from your own personal likes and dislikes (which are perfectly adequate to form your boundaries) there’s plenty of other evidence that watching porn is harmful to relationships, and it’s not just religious people who recognize that. Here’s an article from The Gottman Institute that you might find helpful in that regard.

      Here, here and here are some more articles on boundaries that might be helpful as well.

      Choose your boundaries. They are yours.

      Kay

    • Cecilia

      Frustrating to say the least. You have a right to be angry about that stuff I am as well. Theres many things in our world that are very sick and I struggle to see all the good sometimes. I do not like our society at all! The things our society is built around are disgusting to me

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