What to Do If Your Spouse's Porn Habit Is Harming Your Marriage

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.

The Porn Problem

Pornography is difficult to define because it means different things to different people. Most commonly, it refers to magazines, pictures, videos, movies, and websites that depict individuals in sexually explicit ways. Thanks to the Internet, it's far more available than it once was, and there is a huge spectrum of what might be considered porn, from woman-centered erotica to harmful material that depicts brutality, violence, or abuse of children.

Research shows that many people use 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.

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 is a problem.

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.

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. There are additional ways that a spouse may cross a line or even become addicted to pornography:

  • Lying about pornography use
  • Continual denial in the face of obvious evidence
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Inability to stop viewing porn
  • Neglect of family, spouse, job, hobbies, and other important responsibilities
  • Refusal to discuss the issue
  • Lack of caring about a partner's feelings on the issue
  • Moodiness
  • Staying up later at night to spend time on the computer
  • Frequently changing computer passwords
  • Demanding unusual amounts of privacy and personal time on the computer
  • Allowing easy access to pornographic magazines, videos, and computer files to other family members

If Your Partner Is Watching Porn

If your partner's use of porn is harmful or hurtful to you, the first step is to talk to them without being judgmental. Talking about pornography can be difficult, emotionally charged, and even awkward, but just like most difficult topics, getting on the same page is key. Ask your partner what they like about porn. Perhaps there are things they want both of you to try, or maybe they are watching porn out of boredom or habit.

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 this behavior. However, you can try to take back control of the relationship and explore some strategies to get back on track.

Share your feelings; 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.

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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