Why Pornography Can Be Harmful To Marriages

Only recently have psychologists and marriage experts begun digging into the negative effects that pornography use can have on marriages, and relationships in general. The results of these studies are grim, to say the least.

In our modern, technology saturated culture, porn is more readily available than ever before, and that is an extremely important factor to consider. The introduction of online pornography into the equation complicates the issue even further.

Before we get into how consumption of pornographic material actually harms marital strength, let’s address why online porn is such a significant part of the problem.

Watching porn can take a toll on any marriage.
Watching porn can take a toll on any marriage.

The online variety of sexually explicit material is it’s own special breed because of the three As: Availability, Affordability, and Anonymity.

Because it can be seen on a smartphone, a laptop, a home or office, computer, etc., the potential for secretive use, abuse, and addiction is drastically increased.

Now, how does porn actually hurt marriages?

There are plenty of theories out there viewing porn with varying degrees of severity, and each makes claims as to the damaging nature it can have on relationships. Pulling from these sources, we can at least get a picture of some of the potential harm involved:

1. Objectification

When sexual stimulation is just a simple mouse click away, this can lead to a mental separation between a sexual partner and the real, complex human being they actually are.

This, in turn, begins to minimize the understanding a porn user may have for the unique needs and desires (sexual or not) that their partner possesses, and leads them to think of their partner as an object to fulfill their sexual desires (as the people in pornographic material are readily available, at the push of a button, for sexual gratification without any need for reciprocity).

2. Unrealistic Body Image

The typical porn stars is, as would be expected, an absolutely exaggerated and glorified version of the average person. From basic body type to often exaggerated endowments, the individuals featured in pornographic videos and photographs are not an accurate reflection of society as we know it. However, when these individuals are consistently seen as the paradigm for sexual pleasure, people begin to set their expectations to match what they see on the screen.

This can lead down a dark road of unrealistic expectations about both the looks and the actions of a sexual partner. “Normal” people don’t look like porn stars, and they shouldn’t be expected to, but our psychology has a way of making associations and developing tolerances, and if sexual satisfaction is always associated with an unrealistic depiction of people, what does that do to the way a porn user views their spouse?

3. Misplaced Sexual Energy

This is the big one. Even if a porn user shows no signs of addiction or misuse, if they do not objectify their spouses or hold them to an unrealistic standard, this problem still has a major impact on a marriage.

If one member of a couple is using pornography as a sexual outlet, it means that they are not focusing this intimate energy on their partner. This can create an imbalance in the relationship, where one person’s needs are left unfulfilled or ignored, or, if nothing else, a lack of sexual intimacy becomes the norm.

When this happens, couples begin to lose the physical connection that helps keep their bond strong. As this connection begins to wither, the cycle is perpetuated, and an individual may continue to turn to pornography to meet their individual sexual needs.

These are just the problems that exist at the surface of pornography’s use within the context of a marriage. The long-term consequences of frequent use may have more devastating effects.

The bottom line is that porn can be a wedge that separates spouses and skews the way they see their own sex lives. Talk to your partner about porn. Make sure you are on the same page, and above all, focus your sexual energies on your spouse first and foremost – it is an essential component of the connection you share.

Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness!

Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com


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Ken 11 years ago

Couldn't agree with this more. The fact that the woman's image on the screen is beautiful and WILLING to satisfy every desire without relationship and the day to day grind of life makes it an appealing option. A prostitute looks at a man as a loaf of bread, but with some internet sights, it's free. What we fail to realize is that it is a trap that ensnares and ruins real relationships. And I contend that when a man allows that into a marriage, it has a repelling effect on his spouse and she starts to stray and look to satisfy her desires as well (material or physical). I watched it happen in my own life.

Rachel 11 years ago

My husband and I both use pornography together. Very infrequently, but together. Sometimes we videotape ourselves and watch that too... Every once in awhile we watch it by ourselves but maybe a few times a year. We do have our problems but I never really saw porn as part of that. Actually, I'd say our sex life is the only flawless part of our marriage.. I can see how misuse and hiding it could be a problem but what we do. Is that an issue to be addressed?

Regina 11 years ago

My husband does not watch porn (he does not have a smartphone and has only a work computer where anywhere he "goes" is made a record of at the office, so for now, I feel pretty sure) But I do know as Ken above said, I would feel very turned off, rejected, and like his "sidepiece." And I look pretty great myself, but as we know, once a man is "hooked" on the constant "variety" it doesn't matter how great you are! I want a MAN, not a manchild (no offense intended) that plays with himself looking at dirty videos. It is said to be true that it takes more & more new & weird stuff to keep the excitement going. Some women will put up with anything. They would pull in the family pet, a neighbor, donkey, sex toys, etc. just to keep a man. My God enough already, can't people ever be happy with what they have? I have read some blogs where young men that have already relied on porn for years (and are 19-23) already can no longer get excited by a real woman....and also have self pleasured so much that no real woman can duplicate the same tightness, rhythm, etc. they do every day. They are afraid they will not be able to perform with a real woman. Let's face it they can't compete with FANTASY. Like Ken said a woman who only wants to please men all over the world for one night & has NO needs of her own, doesn't want to warm up, or dinner, or conversation, don't need to chase or win her & you can keep your wallet! What's not to like? Except what is happening to mankind.

Martin Marentes 11 years ago

I have a problem watching porn but I think it was my wife's fault because when we first got married we woukd have sex almost every day but after our first daughter was born it went down to like once a week and know sometimes twice a week, plus I'm the one that always has to get things started for us in bed (sex)....and she's never the one to start foreplay or anything and she doesn't give me oral either!!!! You know how frustrating that is? But idk I love my wife and I wouldn't leave her cuz of our sex life but I wish it was different and better. I even thought for a while there that she just didn't love me but once I start throwing that outthere she gets all offensive and mad so idk maybe she just doesn't have the sexual hunger I have and she's only 23 and I'm 25 I'm so confused can someone give me advice please?!

Mike_Olsen_SMN 11 years ago

Hi Martin, Thanks for the comment. There are many ways to improve your sex life in marriage. Head over to our page: https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/sex-and-intimacy/, there are a lot of great tips on what each other needs, and how to 'turn-up' your physical relationship. Best of luck!