Feb 22, 2011
neil

The relationship wrecker or what porn does to a marriage

The on-line edition of Time Magazine has a feature this week on the damage being done to relationships between men and women because of pornography.  It seems at last that the secular press is waking up to the realities of the consequences of life in a sex-mad culture and how the very thing God has given to bring us together (sexual intimacy) is pushing us further apart (sex without intimacy).

Countless men have described to me how while using porn, they have lost the ability to relate or be close to women. They have trouble being turned on by “real” women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse.

So writes the author of one recent book on pornography.

Tim Chester’s book Captured by a better vision exposes just how damaging pornography can be to our relationships and marriage in particular.

Not only have you committed adultery against your wife, but, as we’ve seen, there is every chance that porn has corrupted your relationship with her and your sex life. The secret that you hide from your wife will create a barrier in your relationship.

You will start to view sex with your wife not as the celebration of your love, but as re-enacted porn. What matters is no longer the relationship, but the performance. This means you may be committing adultery against your wife even as you have sex with her. That’s because you’re not really having sex with her, a person. You’ve reduced her to an object for your sexual gratification, or an actress in your sexual performance.

William Struthers in Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain warns that even if you could stop consuming pornography your actions still have consequences.

Sexually acting out in response to pornography creates sexual associations that are stored as hormonal or neurological habits. These associations are seared into the brain.  These memories and fantasies keep [the man] in bondage and worsen the consequences of the earlier behaviour. It can prevent him from being truly present in a marriage, being more preoccupied with the images than focused on his wife.

And because of what pornography does to our brains it’s no excuse to reason but I’m not married. Chester comments,

It you’re not yet married, porn is a sin against your future wife. You’re also creating a set of expectations that bears no relation to real sex or real marriage. You’re storing up a database of images that will compete with your future wife. You’re gifting the devil, a reservoir of temptations to use against you.

And we’re kidding ourselves to think we’ll stop once we get married because the truth is that porn is NOT just a substitute for sex.  It’s an escape from reality, an addictive search for a legal high. The reality is that not only do men access porn after marriage but it’s mostly married men who access porn.

Chester again:

Using porn is a bad way of preparing not to use it when you’re married! Every time you use porn, you’re giving it more control over your heart. You’re sowing a bitter harvest for your married life.

Delayed baggage

I once heard someone describe the biggest threat to our marriages as coming from the unexpected baggage we bring into marriage. Maybe it’s the uncommunicated assumptions as to how the marriage should work, or how chores will be divided up.  Or perhaps it’s a bad-temper that is controllable in the context of going-out but cannot be disguised in the day to day of a marriage, or even an expectation of great spiritual character that begins to unravel under trial.  There again it could be porn.

What makes it more difficult still is that much baggage in the most important of all relationships is  not only unexpected but delayed on arrival.  Like flying BA the baggage tends to turn up sometime later. The baggage of porn addiction (whether through the temptation to continue or the way it has warped your expectations of sex or the images that stubbornly remain imprinted in your mind) may well not affect a marriage in the early days, weeks or months but over time as the initial euphoria of a giddy romance fades it can do untold damage to an otherwise healthy relationship.

But you were washed…

The great news for the Christian is that, whatever our past, the gospel is big enough to deal with our sin.

William Struthers writes:

Can someone retrain their brain to respond in an appropriate manner to sexual arousal? Most certainly, but this must be informed by the mandates of Scripture and the wisdom found in the body of Christ. This must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The process of sanctification is an addiction to holiness, a compulsive fixation on Christ and an impulsive pattern of compassion, virtue and love. This is what we are wired for. This is what we are meant for.

The reality is that we will rarely find the resources to heal the past and deal with the addictions on our own. Reading a book (and I would recommend both Chester’s and Struthers’ to you) or a blog post is almost always not enough. God has given us his spirit and his people to help us do battle against sin – we need each other to bring lasting change.

If you’re struggling with pornography (in the present or from the past)

What do you need to do now? Do you accept the need to cut it out of your life? Who do you need to speak to?

If you’re a pastor or church leader

Do you ever address the issue of pornography, directly? What could you do to foster an environment in which the men of your church can speak openly about this struggle?  What could you put into place to provide the accountability  and support for men to deal with their sin?

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