Is Pornography Disrupting Your Marriage?

Marriage and couple struggling

The debates about pornography us in marriage are fierce! Is, or isn’t pornography a problem? Does it affect our sex lives? Does it change our ability to be intimate? Why should we care if it is a secret? The list goes on.

Researchers and therapists alike hold a number of positions, yet there seems to be trend towards exposing the damaging affects of pornography—which I would argue is a good thing to expose.

Leading couples therapist John Gottman, who has authored many books, and developed a whole theory of couples counseling has spoken out against the use of pornography for couples.

In his “Open letter on porn” Gottman speaks about six problems that pornography can create within a couple’s’ relationship that ultimately sink intimacy and ruin sex!

1.  Our brains can’t handle the “supernormal stimulus”.

Dopamine is released within the brain when we are aroused, or find pleasure in something. The problem with porn is that it is unlike most stimuli—it is vast, rapid, unregulated and never ending. It becomes “supernormal” in that it exceeds our brains’ normal expectations for dopamine.

The immense “rush” that is generated becomes intoxicated and cannot be match by the “lesser” sexual experiences in a couples’ bedroom. What a conundrum! A brain drenched in porn can become predisposed to respond and be enthralled only by this “supernormal” stimulus—porn—and therefore your partner becomes boring to you!

This can result in erectile dysfunction, disinterest and more, which you don’t need me to tell you, will ruin a couple’s’ sex life.

2.  Porn makes us turn away from the relationship

One of the greatest strengths a relationship can have is two people who readily turn towards one another, in the small and the big moments. This is relational glue that binds people together and lets them feel accepted and valuable.

When we stop turning towards our partner and turn to porn, we are turning outwards from the relationship and compromising our ability to have intimate connection, in small and in big moments.

3.  We grow unrealistic expectations of control

Sign in MarriageThe online world of porn gives mastery and control to the user. A click here, or a scroll there can lead you right where you want to be. With the vast and varying types of porn everyone can become the governor of their sexual world and ask the “other” (porn) to perform exactly as they please.

This is a selfish position and demands no ability to consider the other person. Sex can quickly become about your own needs and the ability to empathize can be compromised. This is relational doom.

When we are in the position of not being heard, accounted for, or given a share of the control we are no longer relating to someone, but under someone. Relationships cannot thrive under these lopsided expectations. Relationships need give and take—compromise and care.

4.  We assume our partner is always “game”!

Porn never fails to “get it up”, “get going”, or “be ready for action”, but real people do! In fact, it is not so much a failure, as it is the norm. People’s ability and willingness to engage sexually is not an absolute, like an on—off switch.

Frequent use of porn causes us to forget that relational, physical and emotional variables are present which affect how likely our partner is to engage in sexual activity with us. When we forget this we can quickly take it personally, or be offended if someone doesn’t seem to be “game”.

5.  Satisfaction can trump intimacy

Many people use porn to masturbate and achieve orgasm—satisfaction of sorts. When this is seen as harmless or helpful, the person involved is forgetting that one of the primary functions of sex and orgasm is intimacy.

Oxytocin is released at orgasm and is the “bonding” neurochemical. It’s job is to make you “fall for” the one you are with and become emotionally connected. When orgasm happens outside of the relationship you are connecting with something or someone else, and neglecting the intimacy of the relationship.

6.  Porn reduces trust and hikes up the rate of affairs!

Once we start sexually engaging people outside our relationships (porn), then comparison and dissatisfaction creep in. One consequence of this is an increase in objectifying body parts, and looking for the “perfect” sexual being.

Behaviors that stem from this shift (like scanning people in public) quickly erode trust in a relationship and can lead to affairs. These shift occur subtly but infiltrate our sexual consciousness.

Love sign in the coastAs a result of these concerns, Gottman states that he is “led to uncond
itionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony.”

Whilst many people are still hesitant to outright reject pornography within the context of couples, it seems to me that it is far easier to enjoy, safeguard, and thrive in your relationship if you do. If you need help to do this, seek out expert help from a trained therapist.

Support groups are also critical in overcoming any addictions that may have developed around sex. Change can happen, and relational intimacy can grow, and so can deeply satisfying sex!

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

What has helped you and your spouse overcome challenges presented by a pornography addiction?

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of where you can find his guide, or contact him.


[1]: An open letter on porn. (Accessed January 4, 17)
[2]: An open letter on porn. (Accessed January 4, 17)

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 5, 2017.
Published on

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.