Reading: Should You Divorce Because of Your Spouse’s Porn Habit?

Relationships & Divorce

Should You Divorce Because of Your Spouse’s Porn Habit?

A family and divorce lawyer on what she most often observes when porn enters a marriage.

By Elise Buie, Esq.

There’s a stereotype: single men are the biggest consumers of porn. But while many single men use porn, they’re not alone. Married men, men in relationships, and women (though not to the same extent) all view pornography. According to some estimates, 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites, suggesting that usage is prevalent and not limited to single men.

While some argue there are positive benefits to viewing pornography, namely, that it could add spice to your sex life and serve as a how-to manual of sorts, I remain skeptical. As a family and divorce lawyer and guardian ad litem, I frequently meet with males and females of varying ages from all walks of life. After digging deep into the dynamics of their marriages during the divorce process, one recurring theme I’ve noticed in troubled marriages and homes is the prevalence of pornography usage by one or both of the parties.

This observation has caused me to ask the following questions: Does pornography usage lead to a troubled marriage? Does a troubled marriage lead to pornography usage? Or are the two entirely unrelated? According to a 2016 study, starting to use pornography during a marriage would almost double the likelihood of divorce (from six percent to 11 percent). It would nearly triple the likelihood for women (from six to 16 percent).

Still, these numbers do not offer a clear-cut answer as to which comes first: pornography or marital problems. All they suggest is a correlation between the two. Many more studies have attempted to distill the relationship between pornography and failing marriages. However, because conclusions vary, they fail to answer my questions decidedly. 

What I can conclude is that our inner voice rarely lies. So if you think your spouse’s porn use is negatively impacting your marriage, it probably is. 

How can pornography affect a marriage?

Functionally speaking, pornography can serve as a substitute for sex. It may not be as pronounced an effect for those uncoupled, as there is typically no steady supply of sex available for single people. But when people are in a relationship, sexual intimacy, generally considered a healthy part of a relationship, can be compromised. 

One aspect of pornography is that it isn’t intimate or emotional: it treats sex as a bodily function and those who engage in the act, particularly women, as objects used exclusively for sex. The mindset that people, particularly women, are things to have sex with is potentially dangerous because it can decimate the mutual respect necessary for a successful marriage. 

The pornography industry puts a lot of effort into glamorizing sex, making it difficult for married women in real life to compete with on-screen expectations. That can lead to wives suffering from low self-esteem and feeling inadequate, as their husbands expect them to fulfill their unrealistic sexual requests. Men risk the same, as their wives don’t meet their perceived needs. 

When should you worry about pornography’s impact on your marriage?

A relatively unknown aspect of pornography is that it physically changes the chemistry of viewers’ brains. A 2013 study at Cambridge University revealed that brain scans of pornography addicts appeared to be the same as the brains of other addicts, such as those addicted to drugs and alcohol. By some estimations, as many as 200,000 Americans have a porn addiction. If you suspect that your spouse is one of them, it may be time for you to sit them down and voice your concerns.

In my experience, I see pornography usage as a bad omen when it comes to marital health. Porn generally does not do much good for marriage but can invite a host of problems. While there are few divorces where porn is the definitive cause, it can be one of the significant factors contributing to a marriage’s downfall.

From that same 2016 study I mentioned earlier, the researchers found that when married women discontinued pornography use, their chance of divorcing decreased (from 18 percent to six percent). For me, that suggests porn usage increases the risk of divorce, and if you hope to minimize that risk, it may be in your best interest to limit porn or give it up entirely.

Final thoughts… 

There are numerous ways to switch things up in the bedroom, the most obvious of which is to focus on your spouse. Without the distraction of pornography, you will be able to see your partner — for all they bring to your life and what they don’t. Then make an informed decision about whether the person in front of you is for you.

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