Is Your Spouse's Porn Habit Damaging Your Marriage?

Warning signs of harmful pornography use

Verwell / Nusha Ashjaee 

For some couples, watching pornography (whether separately or together) is an acceptable part of their sex lives, while for others, it's a deal-breaker. The question isn't necessarily whether porn itself is "bad" or "wrong," but rather how each partner feels about it in the context of their relationship.

For example, porn may become a problem in a marriage if one spouse has a moral objection to it, if porn use is secretive or compulsive, or if it interferes with maintaining a healthy shared sex life.

What is Porn?

Pornography is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Most commonly, it refers to sexually explicit printed or visual materials (such as videos, pictures, or writings) intended to arouse sexual excitement.

Thanks to the Internet, porn is far more easily and widely available than it once was. There is also a huge spectrum of what might be considered porn, from woman-centered erotica to harmful material that depicts brutality, violence, or abuse of children.

The Porn Problem

Research shows that many people watch porn—and that includes women. With the exception of illicit pornographic material, porn in and of itself may not necessarily be an issue in all relationships. Where issues arise is when there is a disconnect between partners.

The question of whether porn is all right is a common one. There's nothing unhealthy or abnormal with watching legal adult material with consent, but some people use porn in unhealthy ways. Watching too much of it or becoming obsessed can be detrimental.

Like anything else having to do with sex, if porn use is mutual and consensual, it benefits a marriage. It can keep a couple's sex life fresh and vital. If it isn't, then there could be a problem.

Some spouses may consider pornography to be insulting, degrading, and even a form of cheating. But, others may not feel the same and as a result, may not understand their partner's anger or hurt about their use of porn.

Warning Signs of Harmful Porn Use

An obvious sign of harmful pornography use is a lack of sex in your marriage. Additional warning signs that your spouse may have an unhealthy relationship with porn include:

  • They allow easy access to pornographic magazines, videos, and computer files to other family members
  • They demand an unusual amount of privacy on the computer
  • They masturbate excessively
  • They seem anxious, stressed, or moody when unable to access porn
  • They're unable to stop viewing porn despite negative consequences
  • They don't seem to care about your feelings on the issue
  • They try to lie or hide porn use
  • They neglect family, social, or work obligations to view porn
  • They refuse to discuss the issue
  • They spend an increasing amount of time watching porn
  • They stay up late at night to spend time on the computer

If Your Partner Is Watching Porn

When your marriage has obviously been hurt by pornography and your partner won't stop watching porn, you may have to face the reality that you may not be able to change their behavior. However, you can try to take back control of the relationship.

Here are some tips on how to broach the topic of porn with your spouse and get back on track:

  • Try not to judge. If your partner's use of porn is harmful or hurtful to you, the first step is to talk to them without being judgmental.
  • Let them explain. Ask your partner what they like about porn. Listen to what your spouse has to say calmly and respectfully. Perhaps there are things they want both of you to try, or maybe they are watching porn out of boredom or habit.
  • Share your feelings. Take the time to calmly and clearly articulate why you feel the way you do about porn. Again, do this in a loving, non-judgemental way. You don't want your partner to feel like they are being attacked or blamed.
  • Go to counseling. Consider seeking the help of a couple's counselor or sex therapist if you can't resolve the issue alone. You can also seek marriage counseling to see if there are other problems in your marriage that may be leading to excessive pornography use.

Talking about sex and pornography can be difficult, emotionally charged, and even awkward, but just like most difficult topics, getting on the same page is key.

A Word From Verywell

If you're thinking of ending your marriage because of pornography use, it's common to feel self-doubt, low self-esteem, blame, or guilt. Counseling can help you work through these feelings, whether or not your spouse participates. Divorce is difficult and complicated. But if both partners are willing, you may be able to heal the rift pornography has caused.

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Article Sources
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  2. Gola M, Wordecha M, Sescousse G, et al. Can pornography be addictive? An fMRI study of men seeking treatment for problematic pornography use. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017;42(10):2021-2031. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.78

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