Is Porn Ruining Your Marriage?

Pornography is a touchy subject for most people. For starters, it’s an intensely private (some would say shameful) use of time that most people are uncomfortable talking about, or even bashful about admitting to – without even going into any detail.

The unfortunate reality is that the internet has made porn more abundant and available than ever before – and that means that its damaging effects are even more widespread than they used to be.

And while people of both genders watch porn, men are far and away more likely to – and more likely to suffer from the negative effects. You might be wondering just what those affects are – and as you probably guessed, every last one of them has to do with closeness, connection, and a healthy sex life.

Let’s take a closer look:

1. There’s No Intimacy

The sexual parts of our brains learn from the things that stimulate us. In a real human relationship, sex involves communication, connection, and intimacy – but in pornography, there’s absolutely none of that. It strips the whole complex sexual relationship down to the acts themselves – and we can’t help but internalize those patterns.

Because everyone in porn is “ready to go,” it imparts the “lesson” that this is how normal sex works, and therefore makes it all about the act – instead of about the connection.

2. Unrealistic Expectations

Not only does pornography give us an unrealistic representation of sex, foreplay, and connection – it also gives unrealistic expectations of what bodies should look like. These are people whose bodies ARE the product they sell – and that means intense workouts, plastic surgery, professional makeup artists, and on and on to make sure they are looking like some sexualized “ideal.”

But the truth is, people don’t really look like that – at least most of us don’t. When we start to associate our sexual thoughts with those images, though, it creates an unrealistic standard that our partners can’t live up to (because they are real people, after all, without makeup, airbrushing, and camera tricks to help cover up imperfections). For men, it creates a totally objectified view of the female body, as well as standard of male physique and “anatomy” that doesn’t reflect reality – and may lead to self-consciousness and self-doubt.

Is porn ruining your marriage?
Is porn ruining your marriage?

3. Conditioning

Just like Pavlov’s famous dog, we are all subject to conditioning – that is, associating certain stimuli with certain outcomes. What the means for a porn user is that, well, eventually the images/videos/etc. become a central component of sexual stimulation – instead of the real live person they’re married to.

This goes for arousal and stimulation, but also runs deeper, affecting even the desire to be with another person (instead of on the computer). The longer this goes on, the harder this conditioning is to break. For most people, they don’t even realize when it’s happening until after the damage is done.

In a similar vein, being conditioned to pornography can also make “regular” sex seem boring. While there’s nothing wrong with “spicing things up” from time to time, many of the acts depicted in pornography simply aren’t pleasurable for both partners, are too strenuous, or – like the people themselves – are dramatic, exaggerated versions of “real life.” Thinking they are the norm can be problematic, to say the least.

4. Selfishness

Like the entries on intimacy and conditioning, getting satisfaction mostly through porn (and usually masturbation) can lead to developing bad habits surrounding sexual needs – particularly a spouse’s needs. If a person is used to instant gratification, and can achieve it by themselves (and relatively quickly), it can make seduction, foreplay, even connecting at all feel like too much work, or somehow not worth the effort.

People become concerned with satisfying their own needs, and disregard the needs of their partner – and what starts with sexual desire eventually bleeds into intimacy, connection, communication, and ultimately, even participating in the relationship at all!

These are only some of the problems that pornography can cause in a marriage. The parts of our brains that control sex drive – and all of the related desires, needs, and behaviors – are complex and subject to outside influence, and not always under our control. If you’ve noticed some of these problems in your relationship, it might be time to ask your partner about porn use.

If it’s already a problem, talk to your spouse about the damage being done. If it’s truly an issue, you may even want to consider seeking professional help.

As with so many other issues, overcoming the obstacles starts with communication and honesty. Don’t let porn ruin your marriage!

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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8 comments

BKB 7 years ago

Great article on the damage pornography does to intimacy and marriage. As you pointed out, there are many more negative consequences. One of the problems people face is, once they realize the negative consequences and want to quit, they find it impossible to quit on their own. Many people are finding success using the methods in the book Power Over Pornography.

farrah 7 years ago

I watch A LOT of porn. Not to the point where it consumes my life but my ex did have a big issue with it. He felt unattractive and compared himself to the guys in the porn. I didn't see things like that, infact I usually watched lesbian porn on my own. I got a "fix" from watching it but it wasn't from other men, I'm bi sexual and enjoy looking at women. He moved past it but it really upset him when we looked at couples porn, even though I wasn't interested in the men. I was just wondering if any women have a pornography problem too.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Brian - Thanks for sharing your book with us. I hope it will be a resource to those who are looking for some support.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi Farrah - I think it's an issue for both sexes. Pornography in a relationship should be openly discussed, as not all couples will agree on whether it has a place or not.

SAD 7 years ago

I have enjoyed porn myself in the past, but my husband has been addicted to porn, which has caused immense trouble in our relationship. He doesn't watch it nearly as much as he did (it used to be normal for him to watch porn for HOURS a day for YEARS), but he still does use it and want to use it in our relationship. We don't have intercourse because he doesn't get enough stimulation from it, so it has to be oral sex or mutual masturbation. He doesn't think he has a problem...

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Hi SAD - unfortunately, it's an addiction like anything, and he will probably need to realize it's an issue on his own before he is ready to change the behavior. Here is an article and some resources - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/is-porn-addiction-jeopardizing-your-marriage/

SAD 7 years ago

Any suggestions on what to do since he refuses to give it up completely? It's not like we don't discuss it. I don't DEMAND that he gives it up, but I discuss how it makes me feel when he uses it. Like I said, he has decreased his usage dramatically, but still does use it-much of it hidden behind my back.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 7 years ago

Are you willing to compromise? You don't mind some use as long as he is open, and you both also go to couple's therapy to see if there is a way to comment the two of you again. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/7-sex-secrets/