There is a common misconception that pornography is a harmless practice that hurts no one. Many people even believe that it is a healthy outlet for sexual desires. However, in marriage, when one partner views pornography, the desires that should be fulfilled within that relationship are being substituted with something or someone other than intimacy with spouse. Sex between a married couple is one of the most effective ways to increase intimacy, build unity and generate love and happiness and is therefore a vital component of a healthy relationship. Pornography steals from that relationship and redirects those desires onto the page or screen, usually in secret. As a result of this dishonesty and infidelity, emotional and physical distance begins to develop. It drives couples further and further apart, often to the confusion and bewilderment of the other spouse.
The following suggestions will help you to address this issue in a loving way and support your spouse as he or she works to overcome this harmful and destructive addiction.
1. Determine if this is an addiction or just a selfish habit
Is your spouse dishonest in other areas of your marriage? Does your partner usually do things he or she knows will upset you? If you answer "no" to these questions, then it is likely that your spouse is addicted to pornography. If, in general, your spouse is a committed and loving partner who is concerned with your happiness, he or she is probably trapped in a pattern of behavior that seems impossible to break. When someone is addicted, that addiction takes precedence over everyone and everything, regardless of that person’s values or desire to quit.
2. Sit down and talk to your spouse about the issue
Explain how hurt and offended you feel. Tell your spouse that you believe that he or she is addicted to pornography and discuss ways to overcome the addiction together. Reassure your spouse of your love and commit to provide help and support. Agree that all sexual experiences should be done together and used only to strengthen your marriage.
3. Make the source of the addiction unavailable
Someone who is trying to quit smoking knows that they will not succeed if they leave cigarettes lying around. In the same way, a pornography addict should not have access to their addiction either. If the Internet is the source, block access with passwords that only you know. Place the computer in a public place to reduce temptation. If necessary, cancel your Internet service until you feel that your spouse has the problem well under control. The same holds true for television. Block all adult channels or cancel your cable service. The time you used to spend watching TV or surfing the web can now be spent doing meaningful things together.
Overcoming addiction is extremely difficult. He or she may experience depression, increased anxiety or even anger. This will pass in time, but until it does, try to be supportive and loving despite your partner’s moodiness. Encourage him or her to find activities that will fill the void during this difficult time. Even though this will be a challenging process, it will make your marriage stronger in the end.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.