How My Porn Addiction Affected Our Marriage

​If you type ‘Impact of pornography on marriage’ into your search engine, a long list of articles will appear. Many of these have great advice or research focused on making marriages stronger. However, a closer inspection reveals a nebulous gap in the writers’ understanding.

Every article shows an image of a man behind a computer screen.

Pronouns are exclusively masculine.

Every page assumes the husband uses porn, and the wife feels betrayed.

Even articles that begin with gender inclusive language such as ‘the spouse who uses porn…’ all eventually fall into the stereotypical male porn addict narrative.

It’s no wonder women struggling with pornography feel such a deep sense of shame. Even the internet won’t talk about it.

In light of this, as a woman who has struggled with pornography, I’d like to share how my addiction affected my husband, our marriage and even our dating days.

We were unique

Lukas knew I had struggled with pornography before we started dating. I was able to avoid the process of having to work up the courage to confess my struggle after we were ‘official’.

We had been close friends for nearly seven years. I’ll never forget the evening Lukas shared his desire to pursue a relationship with me. He spoke about the value of dating your best friend; he said ‘Alice, I know your past, I know all of your crap. And that doesn’t scare me at all’. It was a precious moment, one I never anticipated.

At this point in time, I had two years of sobriety under my belt and had been participating in counselling and recovery work for some time. This didn’t mean I was immune from mistakes, though.

Purity

Pursuing purity in dating is pretty tough for anybody. We found it particularly difficult for a number of reasons, one being that I had serious struggles with lust. By viewing porn and masturbating whenever I felt the urge, I programmed myself to be a slave to my desires. When temptation arose, I found it much harder to say no. Thankfully, we kept it in our pants until the honeymoon, but it wasn’t easy, and we did make some unwise decisions.

Body Shame

Porn breeds shame in so many insidious ways. Body Shame is a powerful manifestation of this.

Pornography basically presents two body types. Firstly, you have the desirables. You know who they are. They’re young, thin, waxed and sport (somehow) perky Double D’s. Surgery, makeup and editing enhance these features. Alternative body types are generally fetishized. These include women of colour, those who are plus-size, tattooed or even disabled. These women are presented as a freak show, only desirable as a ‘special interest’ fetish.

Every time a woman watches porn, this body-hierarchy is reinforced. In reality, most women don’t fit the aforementioned ‘desirable’ mold, and this is where self-esteem begins to rot away.

As a single woman, I loathed my body. It looked nothing like the women on my screen. Once gaining a boyfriend, my struggle intensified. The reality that he might see my body one day was terrifying. I had so many reservations about my body hair, rolls of fat and how my breasts sat (or rather, slumped). There were parts of me I could never imagine allowing Lukas to see or touch. Porn had convinced me only one body type was acceptable, and I didn’t have it.

This issue very well could have extended into our marriage and caused a lot of stress. Thankfully, before we were engaged I was forced to deal with the issue head on. I came out of this battle, fighting for my body and not against it. I am incredibly thankful I was able to walk into marriage without the crushing weight of body shame, but I know many other women still struggle with this.

Sex

I wrote in detail about this experience here. Basically, we had a rough start to our honeymoon. We found sex difficult and frustrating. It didn’t live up to the hype. This was not exclusively my issue, his history with porn impacted us too. We discovered that by masturbating regularly and viewing particular porn, we had programmed ourselves for quick, intense, self-focused pleasure. This didn’t work so well in marriage.

I knew I could reach orgasm in a few minutes by doing ‘ABC’. Meanwhile, Lukas was doing ‘XYZ’, and it became frustrating for both of us.

The solution? Mid-honeymoon we sat down and cried together. We had a frank conversation about expectations and feelings. After praying together, Lukas and I were able to ditch the pressure we were feeling, and focus on the joy of being vulnerable together. Ironically, after dropping the expectation of achieving orgasms every time, we ended up having the best sex yet.

Every day since, our sexual intimacy has improved and grown. We know we have much to learn over the years, but we think we have pretty great sex now!

Fantasy

Married women will know achieving an orgasm can be a little more difficult for us than our male counterparts (only 29% of married women are having orgasms!) When Lukas and I are struggling to reach that destination, I need to be wary of where my mind goes. It would be far too easy to let my mind wander back into those vaults of images still burned into my brain from my porn watching days. I could pretty easily fly off into a fantasy land in the hopes of having an orgasm. I defy this by saying ‘no’ in my mind, and focusing on being present with my husband, and the sexual connection we share.

Intimacy Disorder

Pornography addiction isn’t simply ‘bad behaviour’ but a symptom of an intimacy disorder. Many women turn to porn or sex as a way of medicating inner pain. I know I did. It is the result of some form of ruptured intimacy, leaving a wound and sense of abandonment. When we discuss the impact of porn on marriage, we need to consider heart issues, not just physical or behavioural ones.

We all experience unique pain. Mine circulated around feelings of parental abandonment, feeling unheard and restricted, bullying and sexual shame from a previous partner.

I spent many years working through these issues with a professional counsellor and have found some deep healing. I no longer feel these emotions so acutely, nor do I need to flee from them by using unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, I can’t ignore the fact that some of my current behaviours can be attributed to the pain of the past. While I no longer bleed, I do see faint scars.

My history and experiences make confrontation and conflict difficult for me. I struggle with anxiety and find meeting new people a little overwhelming. I can be extra sensitive to feelings of loneliness and rejection, and occasionally I am triggered into feeling abandoned when I’m not.

I am also aware that my history of medicating pain with sex makes me more likely to use it as a method to deal with conflict, distance or as a way of getting attention, which may not be helpful.

It has also led me to being a deeply compassionate and empathetic person. I have learned to listen well, and understand grace. It’s not all doom and gloom.

When the negative effects appear in our marriage, we face them head-on with honesty and a listening ear.

Love and Trust

There are very real and potentially damaging ways my porn use has affected my husband and our marriage. However, by far the greatest impact has been an increased sense of intimacy, trust, love and respect.

We have no secrets. It has caused us to communicate truthfully and compassionately. We both know we can share our deepest pain and never be judged or pushed aside. Any confession will be met with forgiveness and grace.

Unlike many other wives, my experience has given me a personal and deep understanding of my husband’s struggles, too. Whilst we were dating, Lukas occasionally struggled with porn. It did cause me distress and heightened anxiety about my body. However, I was always able to acknowledge it wasn’t about me, or my value. I understood triggers and the addiction cycle. I was able to support him in finding freedom, because I was experiencing the same thing. Shame and judgement have no place in our marriage.

On top of this, my porn addiction (and his) forced us to be intentional. Rather than floating into our union believing a great marriage and sex life would come easily, we were aware of our need for help. We sought the wisdom of others to repair our faulty beliefs and expectations, we asked tough questions during our engagement, which prepared us for the mysterious journey ahead. Of course, we still made mistakes, had wild expectations and will continue to do so, but ironically, our histories with porn ended up giving us the upper hand in marriage. Obviously, It would be far better to gain that advantage otherwise, but that was our reality.

Conclusion

Each individual and couple have their own unique experience with porn, and the way it affects them. No two stories are alike. The journey I have shared is not a one-size-fits-all tale, but is uniquely ours. It’s the Taylor’s Tale.

If you are wrestling with anxiety, or struggling to believe a healthy marriage and sex life are possible for you, I want you to know it can be a reality. It may not always be easy, and certainly there will be some trial-and-error, but it is possible. Just because you’re a woman who has struggled with porn, doesn’t mean you are doomed to singleness, or a dysfunctional marriage. It doesn’t alter your femininity or worth. Struggling with porn or having a sexual history doesn’t mean you have to forfeit a happy, healthy and exciting marriage and sex life.

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