The Story Has Become Commonplace
I couldn’t breathe. My world started to spin around me, frantically, closing me in at all sides. No, I thought, this can’t be happening. This can’t be real. My eyes burned from holding back the salty tears that threatened to fall at any second. How did I not know? How could I have been so blind? How could he do this to me? To our marriage? To our family? Fear and anger swelled within my being. I’ve been betrayed, I thought, bitterly, he cheated on me. He cheated on me without even leaving the house.
The façade had gone on long enough. I was tired of pretending that everything was fine, when it obviously was not. I was tired of feeling broken, not good enough, and unappealing. I was going to confront my husband about his addiction to pornography, and we were going to make things right. We were going to salvage our marriage.
My experience of having a husband with a pornography addiction isn’t uncommon. As much as I would love to say that it is, in reality, it’s getting more and more common everyday. The average age that a child is first exposed to pornography is age 11. That’s a child who hasn’t even entered middle school! In addition to the shockingly low age, there are also a shockingly high number of viewers. There were roughly 14.7 billion visitors to Pornhub, the most popular pornography website, in 2013.2 With that kind of popularity two years ago, imagine where those numbers are at today! And that’s not even counting all the other pornography websites available!
Face the Facts
In 2000, a study was done to address the problem of compulsive internet pornography use, and to bring to light how that behavior affected the partner and children of the user. A survey was sent out to the partners of the addicts asking about the effects of pornography on their partners and their efforts in fixing the problems, either by themselves or as a couple. It also asked about the effects that they personally felt by the addict’s use of pornography.
17.6% of survey respondents reported that their partner’s pornography use had progressed to live encounters with other people, such as chat rooms, visits with prostitutes, and affairs. Many spouses said that their partners did not believe they had a problem or weren’t motivated to do anything about it if they did recognize it as a problem. Because of this refusal to recognize the problem or go to counseling, many spouses separated, divorced or were planning to leave. Many significant others described “some combinations of devastation, hurt, betrayal, loss of self-esteem, mistrust, suspicion, fear, and a lack of intimacy in their relationship…feeling sexually inadequate or feeling unattractive and even ugly, doubt one’s judgment and even sanity, severe depression, and, in two cases, hospitalization for suicidality.”
Another study was done to measure the correlation between pornography exposure and family values. By the end of the study, the researchers concluded that exposure to pornography made the subjects “more accepting of premarital, extramarital, and extracohabitational sexual engagements” compared to the controlled group. The exposed group also accepted the idea of nonexclusivity more than the control group, and compared to perceived notions regarding married couples held by the control group, the exposed group believed that married couples were less faithful and engaged in more affairs. After the consumption of pornography, “fewer persons considered marriage an essential institution” and 36% considered marriage to be obsolete and abandoned eventually compared to the 15% of participants in the control group. The desire to have children was also decreased after exposure to pornography (65% compared to 77.7% in the control group).4
Why Does It Matter?
If this is the kind of reaction pornography use is having on marriages (emotionally abusing partners, accepting the practices of marital affairs and premarital sex, as well as having a lesser desire to get married and have children because users don’t view it as important), then pornography is a huge threat to children and families. Marriage will become just a piece of paper instead of an institution based on love, mutual respect, and commitment, making it so children won’t be born into a home with married parents, if they’re even born at all.
What’s even more of a threat are those who speak up about the “good” effects that pornography can have for your relationships. These are they who claim pornography leaves couples happier and in better relationships with higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of distress when their partner is honest about their pornography use and they view it together. They say that “couples who engage in watching porn together and have a mutual agreement on what’s considered to be acceptable pornography are more likely to have thriving relationships because of their level of honesty and communication.”5
So, what can we do? How can we combat a $13.3 billion industry6 that continues to make the very videos that are sucking people into their addictive vices? How can we combat the claims that say pornography is actually healthy for marriages and relationships?
We can fight for policies that crack down on explicit websites. We can fight for policies that will help addicts receive the necessary help to recovery. We can fight for policies that educate the public on the destructive nature of pornography from actual studies that have been done.
We can keep raising our voices for change. Because if we don’t, who will?
My husband and I ended up going through the process of recovery from his pornography addiction. It was hard and taxing, but so worth it. Are there still times when I feel those same hurt emotions I had after discovering my husband’s addiction? Yes, there are. But it’s not nearly as often as the relief and grateful feelings I feel for getting the help that we both needed in order to heal and rebuild our marriage. Recovery is possible for anyone and everyone, not just me.
Tashara Carnahan is a wife and mother of one, as well as a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho with a passion for family advocacy. She started to become more aware of family matters that are happening in our world once her own daughter was born and felt inspired to share her findings with others. She enjoys reading, writing, and defending the family, as well as encouraging those around her to do the same.
3 Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of cybersex addiction on the family: Results of a survey. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 7(1-2): 31-58. doi: 10.1080/10720160008400206