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

The issue of spouses watching pornography is one that can tear a marriage apart. For some couples, pornography is acceptable, while for others, watching porn is a deal-breaker.

When a wife who is against porn discovers that her husband is watching it, she often has feelings of rage, repulsion, disappointment, and mistrust. Her feelings of anger and hurt can be intensified if he prefers looking at porn over having sex with her.

The Porn Problem

Pornography is difficult to define because it's different things to different people. It generally means 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.

Many, many people use porn—and that includes women, research shows. So porn on its own is not necessarily an issue (excepting illegal material). 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 common, says sex educator Cory Silverberg. 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 wives consider pornography to be insulting, degrading, and a form of cheating. But many husbands don't understand their wives' anger about the use of porn or feel that it makes them unfaithful.

Warning Signs of Harmful Porn Use

The obvious sign of harmful pornography use is the 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 Husband Is Watching Porn

The first step is to talk to your husband without being judgmental. See what he likes about porn. Perhaps there are things he wants both of you to try, or maybe he is watching porn out of boredom or habit.

When your marriage has obviously been hurt by pornography, and your husband won't stop watching porn, you 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 having a counselor with you if you can't resolve the issue. 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

When you're thinking of ending your marriage—for any reason—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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