by Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., SATP, CSAT
When it comes to pornography use and marriages, there are several myths that need to be dispelled. Doing so can improve a couple’s ability to heal and restore their personal lives and their marriages. Here are eight common myths I’ve found in the couples I’ve worked with over the years.
Myth #1: Viewing Pornography is More Exciting and Fulfilling than Healthy Marital Sex
One of the major myths the pornography industry tries to make people believe is that the fantasy world of pornography is better than real sexual intimacy between loving partners. This has led many people to not want to get married. They believe that true happiness and fulfillment will only come from having thousands of sexual experiences with multiple sex partners. The reality is that the sex in pornography never truly satisfies. If it did, pornography users would not need to constantly search for more exciting sexual experiences online. I compare sex to fire. Viewing pornography is like lighting a match. It flares up brightly and is exciting, but then goes out just as quickly. It never fulfills. Sex in a healthy marital relationship is like building a slow-burning fire that grows over time. It may not be exciting all the time, but it always satisfies and fulfills. It’s the loving intimate relationship that accompanies marital sex that makes it fulfilling. The sacrament of marriage also adds grace to marital sex, which makes it even more fulfilling.
Myth #2: People turn to Pornography because “Sex is a Need”
One way that people try to justify their pornography use is by claiming they need sex. The truth is that sex is an appetite, not a need. For example, food and water is a need. If you don’t have it, you die. If you can’t have sex, it might be a difficult cross to bear, but it won’t kill you. As an appetite, sex must be experienced in its proper context. This is within a healthy marital relationship. Not being able to have it whenever you want actually makes it more special and fulfilling.
Myth #3: If a Person Uses Pornography It’s His/Her Spouse’s Fault
Despite what might be going on in a marriage, a person’s pornography use is NEVER the fault of their spouse. Some people claim they turn to pornography because they feel lonely in their marriage, are angry with their spouse, don’t get enough sex, don’t feel respected/ appreciated by their spouse, etc. Each of these excuses explicitly or implicitly blames the spouse for the pornography use. These are weak copouts. The fact is that we are each responsible for our behaviors. If a person decides to view pornography, that is his/her decision and responsibility alone. No one else can be blamed.
Myth #4: Pornography Addiction is Only a Men’s Issue
While the majority of pornography addicts are currently men, it is a growing issue for women. About one third of visitors to pornographic websites are women. About 70% of women keep their cyber activity a secret. It is often difficult to identify pornography addiction in women. This is because they are attracted to a broader variety of pornographic media than men. While men are attracted mainly to visual pornography (pictures and videos), women are also attracted to chat rooms, blogs, erotic stories, romance novels, and social media for pornographic content. Another reason why this addiction is difficult to identify in women is the great shame they experience. They mistakenly believe that this is a man’s problem so something must be wrong with them. The truth is men and women are both hardwired to be sexual beings, so why should we be surprised when women struggle too? Thus, many women addicted to pornography never come forward to seek help. They suffer in silence.
Myth #5: Pornography Addiction is Nothing More than a Selfish Sin
When one is devastated by having a spouse who is addicted to pornography, it’s easy to view it as nothing more than a selfish sin or a moral failing. However, like alcoholism, we must view pornography addiction as a disease. As such, it must be treated as a disease. Moreover, it’s a disease that affects the entire family. Many experts even refer to addiction as a family disease. It is important for addicts and spouses to seek professional help immediately. The sooner they start a recovery program together, the greater their success in healing and restoring their marriage. By viewing it as a disease, it’s easier to let go of shame and seek the help that is needed for recovery.
Myth #6: An Addicted Person Uses Porn Because He/she Wants More Sex
It’s easy to believe that when one compulsively views porn he/she simply wants more sex. However, the truth is that pornography is really not about sex. It’s simply a drug that is used to cope with difficult feelings/situations. Just as a person can turn to alcohol, or overeating, or gambling as an escape one can turn to pornography to escape. Here is where the saying “the problem is never the problem” applies. The pornography use is merely the symptom. The real issue(s) could be loneliness, stress, anger, fear, boredom, shame, abuse and a need for intimacy.
Myth #7: A Person Uses Pornography because His/Her Spouse is No Longer Attractive or
This is a common belief among spouses, especially wives. Because porn stars are very young and attractive, a spouse might believe an addict views pornography because he/she is tired of their spouse and finds them no longer attractive. They might also believe the addict wants to replace them with a younger person. This is hardly ever the case. The addict’s pornography use is rarely about his/her spouse’s attractiveness or wanting to replace them. As stated above, pornography is simply a drug that is used to cope with difficult feelings/situations. It has little to do with the spouse.
Myth #8: If He/She would only Stop Using Pornography Our Life Could Get Back to Where it Used to Be
Many spouses view recovery as simply ending the pornography use and getting back to where their lives were before the problem was discovered. However, most often the pornography use predates the marriage. Often pornography use begins in childhood or adolescence. In any marriage, both spouses need to be healthy to have a healthy relationship. If one or both enter into it unhealthy, they cannot have a healthy marriage. Thus, if the pornography user was addicted prior to the start of the relationship, it was never healthy to begin with. Having a healthy marriage does not mean going back to the way things used to be. It means forging a new, better and flourishing marital relationship. While this can be work, it can also be exciting as the couple works together to create the marriage they’ve always wanted!
Kleponis, Peter C. (2018). Restoring trust: A couple’s guide to getting past porn. Huntington, IL: Our
Sunday Visitor Publishing.