Research has found that marriages in which one person has a porn problem or sexual compulsion are often plagued by less intimacy and sensitivity, as well as more anxiety, secrecy, isolation, and dysfunction in the relationship. And since many porn users end up losing their jobs as a result of looking at porn on a company computer, these marriages often end up with less financial security as well.

Life as a pro basketball player looks pretty good. The pay is great, you’d get to wear shorts to work, and your professional goals would include things like dunking more. So let’s say you decided to make that your plan: become a professional ball player by age 21. Chances are, you wouldn’t start preparing by picking up a cigarette habit and switching to a donuts-only diet.

So what does aiming for the NBA have to do with porn? The point is, most of us have an idea of what we want to do in life, and for the majority of people, that plan involves having a family. In fact, more than 80 percent of young adults say that getting married is an important priority in their life plan. [1] And considering married people are far more likely to say they are “highly satisfied” with their lives, it’s probably not such a bad goal. [2] The problem for porn users is that healthy marriages and porn don’t mix well.

Research has found that marriages in which one person has a porn problem or sexual compulsion are often plagued by less intimacy and sensitivity, as well as more anxiety, secrecy, isolation, and dysfunction in the relationship. [3] And since many porn users end up losing their jobs as a result of looking at porn on a company computer, these marriages can end up with less financial security as well. [4]

In fact, many women—regardless of what their religious beliefs are—see looking at porn as a serious threat to being able to stay married at all. [5] Why? For one thing, when a partner is using porn often, it takes away time they could otherwise be spending together. [6] On top of that, many partners consider it cheating—or close to cheating—when their partner is using images of someone else’s body to get aroused. [7]

And virtual cheating isn’t the only thing user’s spouses have to worry about. Studies have found that married porn users are more likely than non-users to have sex with someone other than their spouse, [8] and men who look at porn are also more likely to go to prostitutes. [9] As one researcher said, “Men witness the abuse of women in pornography constantly, and if they can’t engage in that behavior with their wives, girlfriends, or children, they force a [prostitute] to do it.” [10]

And even if a user never goes that far, people who look at pornography are also more likely to be more sexually permissive—such as being OK with having lots of sexual partners and dangerous kinds of sex—which is associated with having less stable marriages later in life. [11]

As a result, divorces related to porn use have “exploded,” says Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist who has been working with porn addicts for 30 years. [12] In a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers taken in 2002, 62 percent of the divorce attorneys surveyed said that obsession with porn had been a significant factor in divorces cases they had handled in the last year. [13]

Whether or not a porn user’s marriage falls apart, their spouse isn’t the only one affected. Children are often victims, too, either by being directly exposed to pornographic images or by being neglected by a parent who uses the time they could be spending with their kids to instead sit alone in front of their computer. [14] In a 2004 poll conducted by Ellemagazine and MSNBC.com, one in five of the male respondents confessed that porn was taking away hours that used to be spent with their partner or kids. Among users that spent five or more hours per week looking at porn, that number shot up to 37 percent. [15]

Not everyone will or even wants to make it to the NBA, but most people want to be happy (See Porn Leaves You Lonely) and to have a happy family as well. And the more we learn about porn and its effects, the clearer it becomes that a porn habit makes both of those goals harder and harder to reach.

Click For Citations

[1] Hymowitz, K., Carroll, J. S., Wilcox, W. B., and Kaye, K. (2013). Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America. University of Virginia: The National Marriage Project, 14.
[2] Hymowitz, K., Carroll, J. S., Wilcox, W. B., and Kaye, K. (2013). Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America. University of Virginia: The National Marriage Project, 32.
[3] Wildmom-White, M. L. and Young, J. S. (2002). Family-of-Origin Characteristics Among Women Married to Sexually Addicted Men. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 9, 4: 263–73.
[4] Dr. Mary Anne Layden, PH.D., Center for Cognitive Therapy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, in a testimony for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, November 18, 2004
[5] Bridges, A. J., Bergner, R. M., and Hesson-McInnis, M. (2003). Romantic Partners’ Use of Pornography: Its Significance for Women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 29, 1: 1–14.
[6] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 155.
[7] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 163.
[8] Wright, P. (2013). U.S. Males and Pornography, 1973–2010: Consumption, Predictors, Correlates. Journal of Sex Research 50, 1: 60–71; Zillmann, D. and Bryant, J. (1988). Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values. Journal of Family Issues 9: 518–554.
[9] Malarek, V. (2009). Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It. New York: Arcade, 193–96; MacKinnon, C. A. (2005). Pornography as Trafficking. Michigan Journal of International Law 26, 4: 999–1000; Monto, M. A. (1999). Focusing on the Clients of Street Prostitutes: A Creative Approach to Reducing Violence Against Women. Paper submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice.
[10] MacKinnon, C. A. (2005). Pornography as Trafficking. Michigan Journal of International Law 26, 4: 999–1000.
[11] Carroll, J. S., Padilla-Walker, L. M., and Nelson, L. J. (2008). Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among Emerging Adults. Journal of Adolescent Research 23, 1: 6–30.
[12] Interview with Dr. Gary Brooks, Oct. 23, 2013.
[13] Dedmon, J. (2002). Is the Internet Bad for Your Marriage? Online Affairs, Pornographic Sites Playing Greater Role in Divorces. Press Release from The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.
[14] Paul, P. (2010). From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 3–20). Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute; Schneider, J. P. (2000). Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a Survey. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 7, 1 and 2: 31–58.
[15] Paul, P. (2007). Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Henry Hold and Co., 155.

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