Porn creates a set of expectations about sex in marriage that are quite literally impossible to fulfill.

Over the last decade, I’ve spoken about love, sex, and marriage to many churches across America and Canada, including Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Community Churches, and many more. After sharing scriptures to teach God’s view of sex in marriage, I offer audiences a chance anonymously to write questions on index cards.

Typically written in female hand, one of the top five questions from Christian audiences goes something like this, “As long as we both enjoy it, isn’t it okay for us to watch porn to spice up our lovemaking?” That question from a church audience shouldn’t surprise us. In America about 15% of men and nearly 5% of women compulsively use porn. There appears to be many Christians within those numbers.

In those seminars I spend several minutes explaining many reasons that the couple, or either spouse, should not be involved with porn. Interestingly, quoting Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” is often countered with statements such as, “We’re not lusting after those people; we want only each other. If we’re both for it and use it together, it isn’t cheating or leading us to bad things.”

Because of statements such as that, in addition to Scripture I share information about the affect of porn on marriage itself.

As people use porn, they start to buy into the idea that most people, especially the spouse they have or will have, should always be ready and willing to have sex. Not only that, from exposure to the multiplied variations of sexual behavior modeled in porn, they expect their partner to have sex in every manner possible, even ungodly acts. They also eventually compare themselves or their spouses to the people in porn. The person in a picture or video will never age a day or gain a pound, no matter how often the film is played. However, spouses age, gain weight, and wrinkle.

Because real people in real marriages eventually do not compare physically to those in pornography, porn usage erodes the ability to be sexually attracted to one’s spouse. As one woman said to me, “I wish I had the money to have cosmetic surgery from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet so that maybe my husband would want to look at me rather than those women on the Internet.”

It appears that the American expectation (maybe worldwide) is evolving into marrying a spouse that doesn’t age or change physically, thinks about sex constantly, talks, acts, and dresses seductively, makes every lovemaking session extraordinary, and does everything either of them has seen, heard of, or imagined.

Will all who have that marriage please raise their hands?

Real life isn’t like porn. Even the real life of porn actors isn’t like porn. People get tired, become preoccupied, develop broader interests, grow passionate about other dimensions of life, change after childbirth (both genders), and age a little every day. Occasionally, they don’t like their partner. Life isn’t focused on sex.

Sometimes I hear someone say that men think about sex every 30 seconds, or some such number. Ridiculous. Life is broad, complicated, and demanding.

My friend, outstanding sex researcher, writer, and expert Barry McCarthy, PhD, spreads the message broad and wide that we shouldn’t expect every sexual encounter to be great. In a recent communication, he reminded me, “Emphasize the crucial importance of positive, realistic sexual expectations: The most important being that less than 50% of sexual encounters among happily married, sexually functional couples have outcomes that are mutually satisfying, and 5-15% of sexual encounters in marriage are dissatisfying or dysfunctional.”

I wonder how the unrealistic expectations created by porn affects those numbers. It leads to anticipations that can never be fulfilled in real life.

I’m aware that there are very frustrated husbands and very frustrated wives that are angry because they feel that their spouses are sexually inhibited, or seemingly don’t care whether lovemaking occurs or not in their marriage. As part of completion of my PhD in sexology, I am developing a weekend workshop for Christian married couples that will have one goal – helping couples develop a sexual life more fulfilling to each of them. Yet, no matter how good the weekend workshop will be (ahem, it’s already very good), it will not make every day a great day of sexual fulfillment.

As a proponent of fulfilling sex in Christian marriages, I shout from the rooftops that porn is not the answer to achieving that goal. It creates impossible expectations that lead to misery.

If a couple pursues porn, they will drift emotionally from their partners into an imaginary world that will never exist in reality. They eventually will reach the point where their lovemaking relies on fantasy and not at all on intimacy between them.

If you are both into porn in your marriage, please believe me when I say that my experience with thousands of couples demonstrates that you will develop problems with your intimacy, self-esteem, and fulfillment as a couple. Stop now. Save your future by rescuing your present.

If one of you is into porn and the other doesn’t know, don’t think that it isn’t hurting your marriage. Every exposure to porn immerses you into a fantasy world that erodes the reality you could have together. It will change you; maybe it has already. Think you can keep it a secret? Get real. When your spouse discovers, he or she will very likely feel betrayed, rejected, unattractive, and abandoned.

Even before your spouse discovers it, you are programming your mind in a manner that leads inevitably to a lack of appreciation of and attraction to your mate.

If one of you is into porn and the other does know, the spouse not into porn should take the lead in demanding the removal of porn opportunities altogether. Get rid of the Internet, just as you would remove an addict’s access to alcohol. Check up on missing time and missing money. Seek out a Celebrate Recovery group in your area (you can find locations online).


Joe Beam founded Marriage Helper, and we help marriages that many feel are beyond hope. For more information on getting help for your marriage, complete the form below.

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3 thoughts on “Pornography’s Devastating Effects on Marriage

  • July 3, 2015 at 6:53 am

    In my heart, my marriage is over. My husband has an addiction to pornography and he rejects me intimately; he never touches me, makes love to me or kisses me and he rarely speaks to me. Sadly, he gives more attention and shows more affection to our dog than he ever shows to me. It has gotten so bad that I have even become jealous and resentful of this animal.

    I am 45 years old and my husband is 57 and we have only been married for 3 1/2 years. I am also in recovery from alcohol. I have been sober for one year. Unfortunately, we argue often, and when we do, he blames me for everything that has EVER gone wrong in our marriage – he blames it on my drinking. He says he is resentful, and I truly understand that. I did go through and completed an intense 12 week treatment program, but he refused to participate in any of the family programs, etc. I did it alone and that’s ok, too. However, I have begged him to go to counseling on his own or with me, whichever he prefers so that he can hopefully work through his resentments towards me, but he refuses. I work hard on my recovery and I will continue to do so. I just can not take his rejection any longer, I very much long to he touched by him and be made love to, but it never happens. I have tried many, many times only to be rejected, so I have had no other choice but to give up, because I am tired of crying myself to sleep every night.

    Everything in my husbands life is a secret. He refuses to allow me to have access to any of his personal accts such as emails, bank accts, Facebook, credit card bills, etc. We have separate checking accts because he refuses to have a joint acct. I am not and never have been an over spender so I have no idea why he refuses my access, unless of couse, he is hiding something…

    Even before our first date I told him about my struggles with alcohol because I didn’t want there to he any secrets between us that could possibly hurt our relationship down the road. However, I did not learn of his long term porn addiction until after we were married and I caught him in the act. He admitted to me, after being caught many other times, that he has been addicted for many years but has never gotten any help for it – he doesnt think he needs help.

    When we argue, which is ofen, he ALWAYS blames our every problem on me and my past drinking. I continually own my “stuff” and I have apologized until I am blue in the face. I continue to do my best at making amends to him by doing the next right thing, staying sober and working a program of recovery.

    I feel worn down, defeated and hopeless. We live like roommates and and I feel like he has become a stranger to me. We do not live or act like husband and wife. We have only had sex 3 times in the last 9 or so months and I know that is not normal. I have expressed my feelings with him many times, telling him that I long for his touch and I crave his affection, but, he never responds to me, not even one.single.word. He just stares at me… I am sad and I have become very, very bitter. I feel like I am beginning to hate the man I once loved. I feel so alone, so rejected and absolutely abandoned. He is not the man I fell in love with and married – and this grieves me deeply.

    I am truly at a loss. I want to leave him… forever. I would rather be alone all by myself than to be alone with my husband sitting right next to me.. I just don’t know what to do…

    Sincerely yours,

    Laura –
    A heartbroken and lonely wife

  • January 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I just find it amazing that virtually every Christian marriage site will talk about the evils of porn and adultery, but only very rarely will anyone ever talk about the sin of sexual refusal. It is in the same Bible, but no one will ever talk about it. Joe has briefly touched on it, but he seems to be the rare exception. However, I have only seen one article on this site about it.

  • January 28, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Hi, this story sounds like me , but I’m not an alcoholic or on porn , but the rest my husband in a truck driver and is never home.


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