Too many people who struggle to overcome habitual pornography use believe that marriage will solve their problem. “Once I get married,” the reasoning goes, “I’ll have a God-given way to enjoy sex, so I won’t need porn anymore.”
But in nearly every case, those who go into marriage hoping that an ongoing problem with pornography (or other unwanted sexual behaviors) will disappear once they’re married are gravely disappointed.
The reason may surprise you, but it’s actually very simple: Sex within marriage is about connection, pornography is about disconnection.
Let me explain.
God created sex to be a part of the intimate relationship between husband and wife. When a man and woman marry, they are joining their lives together. The two are becoming “one flesh.”
In pornography, sex is not about joining one’s life with one’s spouse, but about using others’ bodies as a way to disconnect from real life and real relationships and enter into a fictionalized reality that centers around only one person—the porn-user.
Sex releases a powerful cocktail of neurochemicals in a person’s body that make a person feel awake and alive, satisfied and peaceful, connected and comforted. Porn hijacks this process so that a person can feel at least some of these things on demand. Over time, a person’s nervous system adapts to recognize that when life gets difficult, emotions become painful, the body hurts, or the heart longs, the person can dissociate from real life and real relationships and by “plugging in” to the sexual arousal of porn (or other sexual behaviors).
So for the person who has made a habit of using porn or sex to dissociate, the marriage bed becomes a place where he moves away from his spouse even while he is moving toward her sexually. This is a recipe for marriage problems for sure.
If dissociation has been how you’ve used sex, marriage alone won’t fix that. Your brain needs to “rewire”—to learn to equate sex with connection rather than disconnection, with intimacy rather than intensity, with love for your spouse rather than just pleasure for yourself.
So where do you go from here? Here are three simple ideas to get you started:
- Begin practicing reconnecting with yourself. Rather than seeking to dissociate from hunger, pain, longing, or the other things you feel, become curious about your feelings and feel what you feel.
- Practice sharing your feelings with other trusted people in your life, including your husband or wife.
- Begin practicing connecting with your spouse’s feelings. This isn’t about fixing your spouse or even necessarily fully understanding why they feel the way they do, but it is about being with their feelings. Learn to let your heart, mind, and body to be with your spouse’s emotions.
- Finally, seek to be intentional in your marriage to make space to connect emotionally and relationally, not just through the physical act of sex.
If this is all new to you, you will likely need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it from a counselor or experienced spiritual coach.
Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of His day about how they praise God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. In a similar way, don’t be satisfied with bringing your body close to your spouse while your heart or mind are elsewhere.
As you grow in this area, your marriage bed can become a place that is increasingly about sharing and giving yourselves to each other, rather than disconnecting and using each other. In this way, your face, arms, and body can become a place of more authentic comfort, peace, refreshing, and love for your spouse, and theirs for you.
Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Fragments of You