Pornography use is at epidemic levels among men and women. The problem is staggering. This is not an issue for a few “dirty old men.” This is an issue for many men today, even in the church, sadly – and, it is increasingly a problem among women, as well.
You can check out some interesting statistics here at www.covenanteyes.com about people’s online pornography watching habits to see how widespread this is. If you are a parent, you need to read this piece, and, please read the more complete statistical information that is linked at the bottom of that post, as well, to see what teenagers are facing today.
Pornography is addictive, exactly like an illicit drug. Many young men (and girls, now, too) are exposed in their elementary school or middle school years. Once the addiction is born – it is always a battle. Porn use alters nerve pathways in the brain permanently that are involved in arousal, ideas about sex, and women. Porn use triggers dopamine release in the brain exactly the way that crack cocaine does. That is a big problem. It makes the user feel good, or better (at least temporarily) emotionally and mentally. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved with pleasure and reward signals in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone that creates bonding for men during sex with their wives (or during masturbation with pornography). This is the same hormone that is involved when a mother nurses a baby that allows her to bond to her baby. So, porn use delivers a powerful dose of neurotransmitters and hormones that reward a man and cause him to feel more bonded to the porn habit. It is an counterfeit to God’s good design for human connection and intimacy. Some argue that pornography may be one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. Of course, with God, all things are possible!!!!
The best way to avoid addiction is to completely avoid exposure.
Currently, the average first age of exposure to porn for boys is about 9-10 years old, according to our student minister at church earlier this year. Yes, you read that right. 🙁 How heartbreaking!!!!!!! How I pray God will give us wisdom to shield our precious children from this destructive, addictive, filth. Porn is destroying countless people, marriages, and families today.
THE REAL ENEMY
Our husbands, our children, our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with addictions of any kind need our prayers. They are not the enemy.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
If we are not careful, we will turn on those we love most as if we are so much better than they are, if we don’t struggle with this particular temptation, treating them with scorn. It is easy for someone who has other temptations to look down on someone with a porn addiction and think, “I would NEVER do THAT! He is such a horrible person!”
Of course, we may forget much too quickly that we were also wretched sinners before Jesus rescued us. And we may forget that pride and self-righteousness are ugly sins, too. Jesus spent more time rebuking the Pharisees for their pride and self-righteousness than He did rebuking prostitutes and thieves. God hates ALL sin. But He loves each of us dearly. I pray that we will hate all sin the way God does – even our own sin. I pray that we will love others, including our husbands, with His love. I pray that we might approach our husbands humbly, gently, respectfully, and be on their team against the true enemy, realizing that the ground is level at the foot of the cross and that we are not “better than” our husbands, we have no good in us apart from Jesus, either.
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
- Some men come into marriage addicted to porn from a young age. This has nothing to do with their wives, their desire for their wives, their happiness in the marriage, or anything about their families. It is a deep-seated addiction, just like a drug addiction. Many men say that their porn use has nothing to do with their love for their wives and are surprised that their wives take their porn use “so personally.” It is interesting to me to hear how men view porn use at times and how they can see it as being completely compartmentalized from their marriages and their wives. I have also heard from women who struggle with visual temptation and porn describe that their addiction is not related to their desire for or love for their husbands, as well. There is a wide range of the level of addiction people have to pornography. Some are occasional users – that is pretty easy to quit. But others use it every day or multiple times per day – which makes for a much more difficult situation.
- Men who struggle with an addiction to pornography tend to turn to porn in times of great stress, depression, boredom, spiritual weakness, times of exhaustion or loneliness – as a “comfort.” This is similar to the way that some people turn to food for comfort, perfectionism/control, romance-addiction, erotica, romantic books/movies, pleasure-seeking, an insatiable longing for an emotional connection with someone (even someone outside the marriage if someone is feeling very lonely), flirting with other people, an obsession about having a baby, popularity, power, wealth, materialism, false-religions, shopping “therapy”, social media addictions, insecurity, neediness, or any number of destructive addictions for short-lived “comfort.” Of course, only Jesus can truly meet the deepest needs of our hearts. We will never find contentment in anything but Him alone.
- I have seen husbands who feel disrespected by their wives turn to porn. I have heard from MANY men who say, “When my wife disrespects me, I have ZERO sexual desire for her. I don’t even want to be around her.” But they still have a sex drive. What are they going to do with that? They are responsible and accountable to God for their own sin. But many times, there is a cyclical dynamic in a marriage where one spouse’s sin feeds the other and then both add destruction to the marriage.
- If we are refusing our husbands sexually (unless they are involved in adultery, we are apart and unable to be together, we have a major medical problem, or some legitimate reason we cannot be available to them) – we may be contributing to increasing the temptation for our men. (I Corinthians 7:1-5, God desires husbands and wives to be sexually available to each other and not to defraud one another by withholding sex.) Not only does a man not have anywhere legitimate to turn with his sexual appetite when his wife rejects him, but he also feels further away from her, unloved, disrespected, and often, like “less of a man” in every area of his life. Some men feel like they have “no choice” but to turn to porn if they desire sex with their wives, but their wives refuse them or don’t enjoy sex with them. (Of course, God can empower any of us to overcome temptation, thankfully. But if a husband is not Spirit-filled, he may feel very weak when facing temptation when he feels rejected by his wife, just like wives may feel very weak against temptations to hold on to anger and unforgiveness or resentment when they feel lonely and unloved in ther marriages and are not Spirit-filled.)
- If we are pressuring and demanding that our husbands give us sex often, and they reject us, we may be pressuring them so much that they may feel disrespected and may decide to turn elsewhere rather than feel forced into sex. No one enjoys sex when it is demanded of him/her. (Keep in mind, some husbands just have a naturally lower drive than other men. That is not wrong. Sometimes we think that every husband wants sex every day or something is wrong with them. There is a wide range of normal. We will be miserable and make our husbands miserable, too, if we expect them to want sex every day but they simply have a lower drive.)
Many husbands do not feel safe sharing their struggles, weaknesses, and temptations with their wives because many of us do not have any grace for our husbands on these issues, unfortunately.
We often expect them to be just like we are and not to have temptations or needs that we don’t have. We want our husbands to have much grace for us even though they can’t personally relate to our hormonally-based temptations during PMS, pregnancy, menopause, etc. And we want them to be understanding and supportive of us if we have our own addictions or temptations, even if they don’t have the same ones. Since we often can’t relate to struggling with visual temptation, we may tend to be condemning and to assume our husbands are “worse sinners” than we are because they have different sin struggles and temptations than we do. How we must be so careful here not to slip into the sin of self-righteousness or pride! We are not better than our husbands. We all desperately need the blood, forgiveness, mercy, victory, power, and grace of Christ Jesus.
I am not saying that anyone is justified in using porn. Sin is never excusable in God’s sight.
We have no free pass to sin – men or women. God commands us to be holy as He is holy! (I Corinthians 3:10-15, I Peter 1:16) If we are in Christ, we are now dead to sin and alive to God through Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we can choose to be slaves to righteousness because of all that Jesus has done for us! Thankfully, there is every reason for hope in Christ. No sin is beyond the power of the blood of Jesus! He is able to give us victory over any and every sin, stronghold, and addiction!!!
HOW DO WIVES’ REACTIONS AFFECT THEIR HUSBANDS AND MARRIAGES?
Unfortunately, a wife’s reaction when she discovers her husband has been using pornography can make often make things worse. Wives are understandably often very upset, and most respond by not wanting to be sexually intimate with their husbands, condemning their husbands, and completely emotionally/sexually withdrawing in pain – often for a long, long time. He is sinning against her and against God. I definitely understand a wife needing to wait for a time – and wanting to see real repentance, accountability, and transparency from her husband before feeling safe enough to trust herself to him sexually again. The pain is very personal for wives – it feels like a personal violation, exactly like adultery from our perspectives. Husbands often don’t see it that way at all. That may be surprising to us.
If we react in horror and we shame our men, refuse them sexually for prolonged periods of time, label them as perverts or “worse sinners” than ourselves, and heap contempt upon them – we are unwittingly pushing our men back towards the very temptation we hate so much. Many wives try to control their husbands’ every thought and access to the computer/phone/tablet. Many of them interrogate their husbands constantly trying to keep them from lusting in their hearts. But we as wives cannot control our husbands’ sin or their thought life. If we act like an angry mom, the only thing we can really do is repel our husbands.
Reality check – We can’t even control our own sinful thoughts apart from God’s power! So, we can ask for what we need respectfully, kindly, and calmly. We can ask for accountability and transparency respectfully. But if we lash out in anger, self-righteousness, resentment, unforgiveness, and hatred – we are guaranteed to make things worse instead of moving toward healing for both of us. If we respond in sin to our husbands’ sin, it only leads to greater destruction and more pain. In fact, as Dr. Tim Keller says in Grace Filled Marriage, bitterness and unforgiveness destroy more marriages than porn or adultery do. Our sin is destructive, too! All sin is destructive and hurts people and grieves God.
“We are most tempted to sin when we have been sinned against.” Gary Thomas – Sacred Marriage
I know this is hard for many of us to relate to if we have never struggled with a porn addiction. Maybe we can think about sinful thoughts or temptations that we tend to turn to when we are feeling super hormonal, emotionally spent, spiritually weak, sick, lonely, depressed, discouraged, or very tired. Our temptations may be different. Maybe we are tempted toward self-loathing, eating for comfort (idolatry of food), compulsive exercising, compulsive cleaning, chocolate, shopping/spending lots of money, anorexia/bulimia, control, bitterness, hatred, fear, or believing lies and rejecting the truth of God’s Word about Himself, our husbands, and ourselves.
When we are weak, don’t we long for our husbands to be spiritually strong for us, to extend grace and understanding to us, to wrap us in their arms and point us back to the truth of God’s Word – even if they, themselves, don’t struggle with the temptations we do? When our husbands are weak and tempted – don’t they need the same kind of support from us?
A COUNTER-INTUITIVE RESPONSE
I would love for our husbands to feel safe, welcome, valued, cherished, honored, respected, accepted, and able to turn to US with their sexual needs, desires, and struggles. It is my prayer that we might be willing to approach this sin as a team WITH our husbands – with both of us working together to defeat this addiction/temptation.We are teammates with our husbands and God to bless our men and to encourage them in their walk with Christ in the way God calls us to in His Word.
- What if we rallied around our husbands and apologized for our own sin (if we have anything to apologize for) and became accepting wives who joyfully engage in sex with our husbands and don’t withhold sex to punish them?
- What if we were careful NOT to tell everyone in our families and among our coworkers and friends about our husbands’ sin, in order to prevent gossip and show loyalty and respect to our husbands? (If we were caught in a sin, wouldn’t we appreciate our husbands not announcing our sin on Facebook or to our friends and family?) If we need to talk to someone for help, what if we find help anonymously online or from one trusted, godly wife mentor we know will not share with anyone else?
- Or, if our husbands feel pressured too much for sex, what if we backed off a bit without condemning them and try to bless them in the ways that are most helpful for them?
- What if our men saw the light and faith in our eyes for them, and the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of Christ in our hearts?
- What if they found acceptance and understanding in our arms and our expressions? Not acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them.
- What if they found that, by the power of God’s Spirit in us, we will help to gently restore them from their sin instead of judging and condemning them as more evil than we are
- What if we approached our husbands with humility, understanding the massive sin debt we owe to God ourselves?
- What if we became a safe place for our husbands to share their struggles and fears?
- What if we offered life-giving words instead of crushing our men when they stumble?
Our husbands’ sin is NOT our fault. It may not even have anything to do with us – except that it hurts us deeply, of course. We are only responsible for our own obedience to God, being filled with His Spirit, and our own sin. Thankfully, in Christ, we might actually be able to be a huge part of the solution if our husbands do battle pornography addictions. I pray that we might respond in the power of God to our men, even when they sin – so that our marriages might grow stronger and God might be greatly glorified!
If a husband has a severe addiction, you and he may need experienced, godly, biblical help, accountability and guidance to work through this addiction.
This is a safe place if you need to talk about what is going on and need some prayer, love, direction, encouragement and resources. 🙂
If you know of helpful resources, please share them with us!
If God has giving you and/or your spouse victory over porn – we would love to hear your story, anonymity is fine!
has a book available to help men and their wives find victory over porn addiction in his e-book section
has a wealth of Christian resources for couples where one is struggling with porn addiction, lust or sexual addictions
has resources and accountability software available to help those who struggle with porn addictions online.
Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel has an entire chapter about how wives can extend grace to husbands who have fallen into porn use and how to see God heal their marriages.
For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn has a chapter that explains how visual men are and the struggles they face.
Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn is specifically for men to help them overcome the battle with visual temptation and lust, but may be helpful for wives to read and to better understand the spiritual battle that men face.