Women & Pornography

Porn and Marriage: Should I Get Married if I’m Addicted to Porn?

If you read my last post on saving sex for marriage, you might have caught that this is a topic I’m becoming increasingly more passionate about. My husband and I enjoy a beautiful, strong, marriage and it’s something I honestly wish for everyone. I believe it’s what God wants for us, and so many marriages are really hurting.

I had to take a break after finishing that last post because my heart was so heavy.

This month, we’re launching into a series that will tackle just a few of the questions I get regarding pornography and marriage. 

For the sake of every post in this series, I’m going to be talking as if the woman is the one struggling with pornography. Because… that’s who I write for.

The advice may be applicable for both genders, but around here, we openly talk about women struggling. We don’t generalize and say “all men struggle” and address that with a caveat that says, “Oh, and some women struggle too.”

So, let’s dive right in to the first question and one I hear quite often from my single, dating, and engaged readers.

Should I get married if I’m addicted to porn?

Put another way:

Should I wait to get married until I’m free?

It’s one I’m often asked when I speak at college events. A young woman will come up to me afterward, engaged or dating, and confess a struggle with pornography. She wants to know if this disqualifies her for marriage. Does she need to be free first? If so, for how long? A couple months? A year? What if she falls before her wedding?

Let me just put my cards on the table here so you understand that I’m not coming from a place of piousness.

I watched porn just weeks (maybe even days) before my wedding.

That’s not something I’m proud of. I don’t say it to brag. I say it to keep things real.

I had been speaking on the topic for nearly ten years, had been walking in freedom for years. I was literally counting down the days to the altar. I make no excuses. I made wrong choices.

Oddly enough it was me worrying about knowing too much. That’s what led me to start “researching” what women were typically asking before marriage. I knew better. One thing led to another and I eventually landed on a porn website.

Did I leave right away? No, I did not.

But I did leave after just a few minutes. And the next time I talked to my then-fiancé, now-husband, I told him what had happened and asked him to forgive me.

So when I answer this question or talk about this topic, that is where I am coming from.

And when women ask me this question, or when men ask me this question about their own girlfriends/fiancées, that is the place I answer from.

There’s a difference between addicted and struggling.

A true addict is toxic. That may seem harsh, but I can’t think of gentler way to word it. One of the hallmarks of pornography addiction is that you don’t care how it affects people around you. You want it. You need it. So you take it no matter the cost. You get moody when people don’t let you have it, defensive when people question you about it, etc.

If you are addicted, you have likely lied to everyone about your struggle to some extent, including your future spouse. You have downplayed it, refused to disclose it, or cast it as something you are already free from. When you fall back into it, you don’t voluntarily share that with anyone. You refuse to get real help, still blame others for it, and see it as something necessary. It’s part of you and the rest of the world just needs to deal with it.

That’s the mindset of an addict.

And that mindset is toxic to relationships. It is the antithesis of relationships. The addicted mindset is isolation, secrecy, and a shying away from intimacy. You’d rather protect your “little secret” than the people around you.

At its worst, you want pornography more than you want marriage. At its best, you’ve convinced yourself that somehow you can have both.

If you have that mindset, it does not go away when you get married. You bring it into your marriage with you, and it will not allow for intimacy in marriage.

Should you get married? No, you absolutely should not. Maybe eventually, but not right now.

You cannot go into marriage with a pornographic mindset and expect your marriage to be healthy. You just can’t.

We have a problem with viewing marriage through a pornographic lens.

Marriage, in our minds, has become all about sex. I’ll finally be free to express myself sexually and have all of my sexual needs met and have sex whenever I want. After all, “that’s what marriage is for” and “the only reason I’m struggling right now is because I can’t have sex whenever I want to.”

No. 

The reason you’re struggling right now is because you don’t have self-control, among other things. The reason you’re struggling right now is because you’re selfish and have convinced yourself that sex is all about you and what you need.

And if you walk into marriage with that attitude, it’s not going to work.

Are you free to be yourself in marriage? Absolutely. Are you free to express yourself sexually? Yes. Is marital intimacy anything like the “fast food” you’ve been binging on in pornography? No, it is not.

Marital intimacy is different because it involves a relationship with a real person, not just sex with a real body. Sex in marriage is beautiful, but it is also complex and complicated by things like communication, headaches, distance, work, even dirty dishes.

After reading my last blog post, my husband said, “It’s so true. Sex in marriage isn’t nearly as big of a deal as you think it’s going to be when you’re single.” We both thought we’d be having sex all the time, but, there are some days when it’s just not a thing.

We love each other dearly but there are hundreds of different ways to connect. Some nights, that connection looks less like getting tangled up in bed sheets and more like cleaning up after our toddler and then drinking root beer floats on the couch.

If I were still wrapped up in pornography, those sexless nights would frustrate me. Goodness, I think even sex would frustrate me.

If you are approaching marriage thinking your husband is going to be able to essentially replace pornography in your life, don’t get married. That’s not his job. That’s not any person’s job. Your battle with pornography is yours. It’s not anyone else’s fault and no one else- husband, best friend, counselor, pastor, whoever – is going to fix it for you.

Addicted or Struggling?

On the other hand, there are those who “struggle” with pornography.

It may seem like semantics, but it’s an important distinction. I’m not the only one who draws it. Many of my colleagues, male and female, in this field take this approach because what happens is many classify anyone who watches pornography as an “addict.” That’s incorrect.

You aren’t addicted if you watched porn once last year. You aren’t necessarily addicted even if you watched porn every day last week.

I’ll get emails from young women that say, “I’ve been free for six months and the other day I fell. I can’t believe I’m addicted all over again.”

You aren’t.

You’re struggling.

The difference, in my opinion, is in the attitude. In general, an addict does not care. They may pretend to care, but at the end of the day, the moment no one is watching, it becomes about the pursuit of sexual pleasure. That’s why there are lies, secrecy, and no accountability.

In contrast, someone who is struggling cares deeply. Even if their struggle is a daily one that they are fighting to break free from, they care. It grieves them. It frustrates them.

They are seeking out help, actively taking steps to try to break free. They aren’t pretending like this isn’t an issue. They aren’t pretending it doesn’t affect people around them. They know it does. They’re honest about it and are working to eradicate it from their lives. They know their triggers and are trying to avoid them.

Could that person get married? I believe the answer is yes.

Because that person sees pornography as a threat to the marriage relationship, not as something that they need to smuggle into marriage. The struggling person understands the importance of honesty and intimacy.

Will your struggle with pornography affect your marriage? Yes.

But perhaps not the way you fear.

Pornography will never not be part of my story. It’s not an active struggle, but it also can’t be ignored either.

Because of that, we have safeguards built into our marriage that may make it look different than other marriages. We have conversations that perhaps other couples don’t have. I imagine not many love stories involve a tearful phone call days before the wedding confessing to watching porn the night before. Ours does.

My husband knew about my past when he met me. If you haven’t read our story, it’s here. And while many would say, “The past is in the past” so we don’t need to talk about it, we don’t operate like that in our relationship.

We’re both aware that our pasts helped shape who we are as people. Our broken families, how we were raised, the churches we used to attend, the struggles we used to have… all of those things affect who we are and, therefore, affect our marriage. You don’t just get amnesia on your wedding day and start over.

Porn and sexual temptation is a topic of open conversation with us. It’s part of my story, so it has to be. If we were to have the conversation before marriage and then say, “OK, that’s it. We’re not going to talk about it anymore” that’s not helpful. In fact, I think it would be very damaging to our relationship.

Even in marriage, the temptation can be real. Usually it’s something that shows up when I’m researching for this blog, or a dream, or some inappropriate message sent by someone. All are triggers I can’t necessarily avoid.

He can’t fight my battles for me, but, it means a lot to be able to reach out to him and tell him I’m feeling tempted. While the fear would be that such confessions would harm a marriage, for us, it strengthens us. I’m being honest with him; I’m trusting him. We’re brainstorming ways to cope together. That’s what it means for a marriage to be a safe place to struggle.

The question of whether or not you should get married is one only you and your future spouse can answer.

You may have to involve the objective perspective of an outside source, like a counselor. We did. As part of my personal counseling before marriage, my husband and I sat down with my counselor and we discussed how this could affect our marriage. That’s an important conversation to have.

If you want a starting point, I’ve created a little worksheet with questions to help facilitate this sort of conversation. One page is for the person struggling to answer. The other page is questions “in response” that the potential spouse can ask and that the struggling person should be willing to answer. Hopefully, it will give you a better idea of how this struggle can affect your marriage and whether or not you’re ready to step into that commitment.

Download that here.

If you both struggle, then print off two copies and work through them together- switching roles.

If you are a woman who struggles, I want you to be encouraged. This does not disqualify you from marriage, but also know that it will never not affect your marriage.

We all bring our sin nature into our relationships whether those are work relationships, family relationships, or romantic relationships. Marriage is not the union of two perfect people; it’s the union of two very imperfect people.

We bring with us our fallen tendencies- like pride, anger, jealousy, selfishness, rage, lust. And we may have a handle on them for the most part, but that doesn’t mean they never creep up. Having a battle plan with your battle partner before the battle starts will be extremely valuable.

Tags: