Marriage (or Deciding to Divorce) When Your Spouse Suffers from Pornography Addiction
Pornograhpy is ubiquitous- according to some estimates, porn usage is 50 percent to 99 percent among men, and 30 percent to 86 percent among women (Source: Gert Martin Hald, PhD, and colleagues in The APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology Volume II).
What does the research say?
Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of Missouri did a study that included 617 heterosexual couples to examine the relationship between pornography consumption and relationship satisfaction. They found that male pornography use was negatively associated with both male and female sexual quality, whereas female pornography use was positively associated with female sexual quality (J Sex Res. 2013;50(1):72-83. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.648027. Epub 2012 Mar 26.)
Does pornography impact every marriage in the same way?
The “rules” each couple sets on sexual behavior within and outside the marital bed vary. In some marriages, monogamy is practiced. In others, partners agree to an open marriage or additional partners (also known as polyamory). In some marriages, some pornography is viewed by one or both spouses and it is agreed by both spouses that this acceptable. In many marriages, especially with couples who are religious or monogamous, any pornography usage by either spouse would not be acceptable. Even in cases where both spouses have agreed that some pornography usage is acceptable, it is still possible that one person could start using pronography in an excessive or addictive manner.
What are the signs that someone may be addicted to pornography?
Please note, just because your spouse displays any of these behaviours does not mean that they have a secret addiction to pornography. Any of these signs may have another explanation. If you are concerned, communication with your spouse is essential.
- Excessive time spent online. This is especially worrisome when someone withdraws from social activities or misses work or other important events to be online.
- Your partner is emotionally absent, especially during sex. If your partner starts “checking out” mentally or always seems far off or distracted during intimacy, this could be a sign of an unhealthy preoccupation with pornography.
- Change in sexual tastes, especially wanting (or demanding) your participation in more rough or extreme sexual acts. It’s no secret that people who excessively use pornography may tend to seek out more extreme types of material over time. Habituation is the name for this phenomenon that also describes the root of many other addictive processes. Habituation means that repeated presentations to an addictive stimulus (pornography, drugs, alcohol, etc.) decreases or ceases a person’s responses to this stimulus. In practical terms, this means that a person who does drugs may require more to achieve “high”, and a person who is aroused by a certain type of pornography may eventually require a more intense or extreme type of pornography eventually to achieve the same level arousal. A spouse who is suddenly interested in rougher or more extreme sexual acts that you are uncomfortable with may have had their sexual preferences altered by their usage of pornography.
- They are no longer interested in marital intimacy, they have withdrawn sexually. They may even become newly critical of their partner’s body or looks, as they start to prefer the look of the persons in the materials they seek out.
- Evasion, secrecy, lies. Someone who is trying to hide an unhealthy relationship to pornography may become deceptive. They may become angry or defensive when you try to communicate with them. Trust your intuition, and trust that you are entitled to know what is going
What can I do to save my marriage and care for myself if my spouse suffers from depression?
- Get clarity on what your boundaries and limits are. What do you want? What is acceptable to you and alright for your marriage? This is a very personal decision. It’s alright to decide that you are not willing to tolerate any porn usage. You can also decide to set a different boundary. But you need to decide what your objectives are first.
- Have a conversation. As much as possible, broach the topic in a way that will keep the lines of communication open. If your spouse is actually addicted to ponorgaphy, its like they feel a lot of shame already. If you attack them as your bring the topic up, it will likely cause them to be defensive and shut down communication.
- Get professional help. If you can, consider seeing a qualified and licensed counselor, psychologist, or LCSW. You might also seek out the help of your religious clergy for spiritual guidance. You can seek this help alone, or along with your spouse, if they are willing.
Divorce when your spouse is suffering from depression
Ideally, if your spouse is addicted to pornography, they can work with a professional to overcome their addiction and you can work with your spouse to renew your marriage. If your spouse is unable to respect your boundaries and limits for pornography usage in your marriage or is addicted and refuses to seek treatment, this may cause you to consider ending your marriage. In any case, deciding whether or not to divorce your spouse is an intensely personal decision that only a person in that situation can make for themselves. The choice to stay and the choice to leave are both right for different people.
Do you have a divorce or family law question?
Call our office today. John A. Bledsoe is Orange County’s premier divorce attorney and a certified family law specialist. Our firm offers a confidential initial case evaluation. Call (949) 363-5551 to learn more.
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