fbpx Skip to main content
Blog

This Couple Struggled with Porn, Here’s How They Both Finally Quit for Good

"My isolation saw to the destruction of my marriage. I took what was entrusted to me and broke it. My nightmare became reality. But I wanted to fix it."

By November 8, 2022No Comments

Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.

It's not often that we get to hear both sides of a story, but this husband and wife have teamed up to share their experiences with us. Both of their unique stories show how shame inhibits change and healing, while honesty and support encourage healing.

Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. No Porn November is all about giving visibility to these facts and empowering individuals to choose to be porn-free. Learn more by clicking here.

Countless studies consistently show that porn consumers tend to struggle in their relationships.

From poorer relationship qualityWright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108Copy Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7Copy Perry, S. (2017). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-YCopy  to an increased likelihood of cheating,Rasmussen, K. (2016). A Historical and Empirical Review of Pornography and Romantic Relationships: Implications for Family Researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy  research suggests that porn plays a major role in fueling unhealthy relationship dynamics.

Here, we hear from two partners who had their own unique struggles with porn before they got together. Their early exposures to porn and subsequent struggles shaped the way they viewed the world and relationships, for better or worse. See how they each overcame their struggles with porn and reconciled with each other the difficulties it brought to their relationship.

To preserve their identities, we’ve changed their names to Alex and Carissa.

BHW - The Heart

Alex’s story

Growing up in a loving home with both of my parents and three siblings, my parents worked tirelessly to provide for us while both working full-time. They tried to be healthy examples of what connection and intimacy looked like. Unfortunately, where communication lacked, the influence of school and neighbor friends distorted what I had been brought up with.

One of the first times I was exposed to porn, a middle school friend’s father forced us to watch a movie with nude women, and that lead to us searching out explicit images on the internet under the guise of humor. We didn’t realize the damaging impact this could have on us.

In another instance, my friends had ripped out pages from porn magazines and gave them to me. When I brought them home, my brothers found them. What I didn’t know how to articulate at the time was how much shame I felt over seeing porn at such a young age.

Related: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding of Healthy Sex

All of these incidents without any healthy conversations with my parents lead to a distorted lens on true connection. The insecurities and shame I had never experienced previously became so heavily overwhelming to the point of almost taking my own life.

The thing about shame is that once you keep doing something enough, the shame fades and you become numb to feeling like you need to change. In every relationship, my insecurities kept me from being true to myself, and while I desired a relationship, all I could think about was myself.

Porn shaped my understanding of the world

As I entered high school, porn didn’t become a habit for me. But what I didn’t know was that the past exposure and not dealing with the images it created in my mind created a distorted view on how I saw girls my age.

I saw them as unapproachable commodities, which is a difficult lens to remove. It’s a hollow feeling that removed value and humanity from them and only made me feel dead inside. And as I kept trying to change how I was, it was near impossible for me because I had no support system. I was alone.

Related: How Porn Can Normalize Sexual Objectification

When I finally met my wife years later, we were honest with each other about how we were both exposed at a young age to pornography. To finally speak about my past to her felt like the first glimpse of freedom. Unfortunately, without a support system, it wasn’t lasting freedom.

The burden I had placed on my wife to be what I needed only lasted so long. She was never meant to carry that weight.

When we finally got married, my porn obsession paused—at first. My beautiful and incredible wife was everything I thought I needed to be freed of this burden, but she wasn’t.

It’s tough to start conversations about a porn problem when, for 30 years, I never did. Only when I made it a priority did it get easier to talk about my struggles. Healing only can happen when you admit to yourself that there is a problem.

How my struggle escalated

A few years into marriage, the shameful memories haunted me. I had just quit the military to transfer branches and after months of unemployment and a new baby, I became so lost in my addiction I cheated on my wife. The guilt became so unbearable that after getting physically ill the next morning, I admitted to her what I’d done.

We worked through the affair and I started my new job, but the pornography was still a problem. I decided to keep fighting this battle internally alone—but to no avail. When she found out months later that I still struggled, she was done. She took our son and left. The hurt I had caused her made her feel she could no longer trust me with our boy.

I was alone in our trailer with my wife’s leftover things and my son’s scattered toys, realizing I had nothing to offer him right now. These constant reminders of what my addiction had led me to were the very things I feared most. Isolation, especially.

Related: How Porn Can Become an Escalating Behavior

The consequences of waking up alone and walking around my house not having my family and being faced with the ramifications of never truly dealing with my problems made it nearly impossible to face myself.

A friend I worked with helped me and put me in contact with a mentor that really put things into perspective. He told me I needed to work on my healing and also accept the consequences that I may never see my family again. I had to realize that I depended on the forgiveness of my wife, but that this time was different. I had to accept that my actions could lead to divorce.

My isolation saw to the destruction of my marriage. I took what was entrusted to me and broke it. I allowed my family to be trampled over by my own struggles and the unquenchable yearning for more. That’s what it took for me to see clearly. My nightmare became reality. But I so badly wanted to fix it.

Finding healing, choosing reconciliation

It was six months until I saw my wife and son again. Between that, my wife and I started talking again and began the work of rebuilding what I had destroyed and trying make amends with friendships I had also destroyed because of my addictions.

Once we moved to a new location, I made two definitive decisions: I traded my smartphone for a flip phone, and I immediately began counseling. I was done trying to use my own willpower to say”‘no.” That was the difference that helped.

You see, healing is possible. It hurts, but it’s necessary for the painful process to begin. It’s challenging but only as challenging as we’re willing to be honest about and willing to trust our partners with our vulnerabilities.

Related: How Porn Can Negatively Impact Love and Intimacy

I had to show her that she could trust me again by first making practical choices. I had to be able to trust her with the darkest parts of myself, hoping she would see me for the person I was working to be and not the one who shattered our life. This took commitment on both our ends.

Forgiving yourself is probably one of the toughest parts, but working together and rebuilding the connection IS POSSIBLE!

Working through this together encouraged vulnerability, honesty, and healing. We have only gotten to this point because of that work we both put in.

Carissa and I both agree that this is the happiest we’ve ever been. We’ve connected and healed through the pain, and that dedicated work in the face of adversity is what will be instilled in our sons for the years to come.

Alex

BHW - General

Carissa’s story

I had two loving parents and a younger sister. It would seem as though there’s an indifference in my generation about what we were exposed to at such young ages—and even a seemingly healthy household isn’t exempt from the darker stuff.

My parents and sister are close and our parents loved us, but unfortunately couldn’t protect me from the world and technology. This wasn’t by a fault of their own, but people just were not as aware back then. I was about five when I came across pornography for the first time.

Related: How Porn Can Hurt a Consumer’s Partner

I had cable tv in my room, and late at night one time, something came on that I didn’t understand. My dad came in, quickly turned it off, and asked if I was okay and explained that what I saw was not okay.

Of course, at such a young age the complexities of that conversation made it difficult to fully explain, especially coming from a generation who rarely spoke of sex at all, let alone to their kids. But even confronting it at that age should have provoked more in-depth and healthy conversations—unfortunately, it didn’t.

The shame of being a woman who struggled

Fast forward to high school, and my parents were going through a devastating separation that left me begging for answers and acceptance while dealing with peer pressure and partying.

I felt isolated and alone and fell deeper into the universe of chat rooms which lead to watching  porn. As if isolation and depression weren’t enough, the shame of being a girl who watched porn with the word “slut” being thrown around so callously was more than enough to keep me completely alone. I had friends, but I kept the relationships at surface level for fear of hurt and rejection.

I continuously subjected myself to hooking up and sending nudes because I felt that it was all anyone would want from me. I remember some sexual encounters where we’d never even kiss. This furthered the isolation and depression, and gave me great disdain for any sort of committed relationship at all.

Related: My Lonely Journey as a Woman Who Struggles with Porn

I cheated because I needed guys to know I was never going to amount to anything they had envisioned for us, and I allowed my anger and shallowness to deny any sort of true relationship.

When I was 18, I felt like I was finally free of my shame and guilt. I worked on healing from my past warped view of love, and by the time I married my husband, Alex, I was 22.

I’d like to say I was healed completely—of the initial addiction and shame I was, but the shame of the images that still lingered in my mind was a longer process to heal from. It’s a part of why I believe so many people wonder if they’ll ever be rid of what seems such a disease of the mind.

We started out as friends but I fell in love with his passion and quirkiness and what manifested in our relationship as well which was hope for the future and a desire to do more with our lives.

Store - General

Having patience for my husband’s struggle

We both discussed from the beginning of our relationship our individual battles with pornography and I fully believe it’s what gave me the patience to help my husband battle his addiction, which was much more difficult than my own.

Because I knew what he dealt with internally, it gave me the ability to love and respect him as he continued to work through his problem. I tried to never take it personally even at the most devastating parts of our marriage because I had dealt with my own insecurities and shame before we’d gotten married.

And knowing it had nothing to do with the people on the other end of my dysfunction propelled me to work with him through his battles.

Related: How Porn Can Impact Mental Health and Fuel Loneliness

I had to be willing to trust the process of healing and rely on my gut that told me it was possible to heal from what he was going through. The practical steps he took to work on his addiction were evidence he was willing to even do what seemed to be simple solutions (getting rid of his smartphone and hiding remotes for the smart tv) so we could focus on getting to the roots of the issues through counseling.

And while he still holds his flip phone without a thought, through great work, we don’t have to continue with baby steps of taking away remotes, because at some point we will still have to deal with the world that throws frivolous objectification at us at every turn.

Discovering true joy, together

While we dealt with issues at separate times, I truly believe it was what gave us the chance to recover and now, four years later, we can live authentically and wholly with one another find meaning and purpose in our marriage.

We’ve discovered the manifestation of what’s supposed to be two imperfect but healthy people, bringing individual experiences together to cultivate a healthy life cohesive life together. To be free internally of shame, guilt, and addiction has given us the gift of joy with one another that no human should ever be denied.

We desire to give hope to a world that begs for healing in marriages, and the key for us was being willing to dig into the deep parts of our pasts and hurts, being patient with one another in our shortcomings, and going through the trenches of our problems to desire to heal.

Related: Fighting Against Both Porn & Shame is More than Possible, It’s Necessary

It took the shattering of the facade what we had created, and rebuilding something much stronger so that, in turn, our two sons will grow up benefitting from our stories. We want them to be able to fight internal battles as healithy and normally.

Restoration is possible, it’s plausible, but it takes both people 100% committed to the healing process. I’m so grateful that ended up being our story.

Carissa

Porn hurts partners

To some extent, we all share the desire to love and be loved in healthy relationships. So, how does porn fit in with our biological instinct to connect with others? The reality is—not so well.

To start, dozens of studies have repeatedly shown that porn consumers tend to have lower relationship satisfaction and lower relationship quality.Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108Copy Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7Copy Perry, S. (2017). Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence From Longitudinal Data. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 46(2), 549-559. Doi: 10.1007/S10508-016-0770-YCopy 

Porn consumers tend to experience more negative communication with their partners, feel less dedicated to their relationships, have a more difficult  time making adjustments in their relationships, are less sexually satisfied, and commit more infidelity.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing sexually-explicit materials alone or together: associations with relationship quality. Archives of sexual behavior, 40(2), 441–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-009-9585-4Copy 

Research also shows that porn consumers tend to become less committed to their partners,Minarcik, J., Wetterneck, C. T., & Short, M. B. (2016). The Effects Of Sexually Explicit Material Use On Romantic Relationship Dynamics. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(4) 700-707. Doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.078Copy Lambert, N. M., Negash, S., Stillman, T. F., Olmstead, S. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2012). A love that doesn't last: Pornography consumption and weakened commitment to one's romantic partner. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), 410-438. doi:10.1521/jscp.2012.31.4.410Copy  less satisfied in their relationships,Wright, P. J., Tokunaga, R. S., Kraus, A., & Klann, E. (2017). Pornography consumption and satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 43(3), 315-343. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12108Copy  and more accepting of cheating.Rasmussen, K. (2016). A Historical and Empirical Review of Pornography and Romantic Relationships: Implications for Family Researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy 

Related: 50 Good Reasons to Stop Watching Porn For Good

Meanwhile, partners of porn consumers also report negative effects, such as lower self-esteem, worse relationship quality, and less sexual satisfaction.Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young adult women’s reports of their male romantic partner’s pornography use as a correlate of their self-esteem, relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 67(5-6), 257-271. doi:10.1007/s11199-012-0164-0Copy  Research also suggests that porn consumption can undermine trust in a relationship and fuel couple conflict.Carroll, J. S., Busby, D. M., Willoughby, B. J., & Brown, C. C. (2017). The porn gap: Differences in men's and women's pornography patterns in couple relationships.16(2), 146-163. doi:10.1080/15332691.2016.1238796Copy  Obviously, relationship problems like these are not new and are not solely caused by porn. Yet, research shows that porn can play a substantial role in fueling these issues—and that’s not something that should be ignored.Maddox, A. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2011). Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone Or Together: Associations With Relationship Quality. Archives Of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 441-448. Doi:10.1007/S10508-009-9585-4Copy Perry S. L. (2020). Pornography and Relationship Quality: Establishing the Dominant Pattern by Examining Pornography Use and 31 Measures of Relationship Quality in 30 National Surveys. Archives of sexual behavior, 49(4), 1199–1213. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01616-7Copy Rasmussen, K. (2016). A historical and empirical review of pornography and romantic relationships: Implications for family researchers. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 8(2), 173-191. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12141Copy 

With less trust, poorer communication, and less relationship satisfaction—all of which are important pillars of healthy relationships—it becomes clear why many porn consumers tend to struggle in their relationships.

In fact, research also shows that porn can negatively impact whether or not couples stay together. Reports consistently show that porn consumers are twice as likely to later report experiencing a divorce or breakup—even after controlling for marital happiness, sexual satisfaction, and other relevant factors.Perry, S. L. (2018). Pornography use and marital separation: Evidence from two-wave panel data. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(6), 1869-1880. doi:10.1007/s10508-017-1080-8Copy Perry, S. L., & Davis, J. T. (2017). Are pornography users more likely to experience a romantic breakup? Evidence from longitudinal data. Sexuality & Culture, 21(4), 1157-1176. doi:10.1007/s12119-017-9444-8Copy Perry, S. L., & Schleifer, C. (2018). Till porn do us part? A longitudinal examination of pornography use and divorce. 55(3), 284-296. doi:10.1080/00224499.2017.1317709Copy 

Related: How Porn Can Harm Consumers’ Sex Lives

The research is clear—porn is not a harmless pastime, especially when it’s hurting a romantic partner. But the research is also clear that shame is not an effective way to motivate someone to change.Brown, B. (2012). Understanding and combating shame. Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.Copy 

According to one study of individuals trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame actually predicted increased pornography consumption while guilt predicted sustainable change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. 18(1), 12-29. doi:10.1080/10720162.2011.551182Copy  So if you’re trying to give up porn, be kind to yourself and be patient with your progress. Like anything, it takes time for the brain to recover, but daily efforts make a big difference in the long run.

Fortify

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

Help for partners

If your partner is struggling with porn, you are not alone—know that there is hope, and there is help. As you navigate this difficult situation, there are supportive communities and resources available to you. Below is a non-exhaustive list of several resources for those experiencing hurt because of their partner's porn consumption. Note that this isn’t a complete resource list.

Bloom    Addo Recovery

Disclaimer: For those who may find themselves involved in this sensitive situation, their responses can differ. This is why resources need to fit the specific needs of whoever is seeking them. Some of these resources are gender-specific, others are religiously-affiliated, others use a variety of approaches. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization hoping to provide access to resources that are helpful to those who need support. Including this list of recommendations does not constitute an endorsement by Fight the New Drug.

If this article inspired you to have a conversation with your partner or someone else about porn, check out our step-by-step interactive conversation guide, Let’s Talk About Porn, for tips.

Support this resource

Did you like that article? Help us keep our educational resources free to access! Fight the New Drug is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means the educational resources we create are made possible through donations from people like you. Just one dollar can make a difference!

Give $1