Have you ever thought you won’t need or want pornography anymore once you get married?
Many men and women have.
The idea seems logical: If I go to pornography because I want sex, then once I’m married and having regular sex with my spouse, it will be easier to leave pornography behind.
But most of the time, tying the knot doesn’t fix the problem at all. Sometimes, it even makes it worse.
Understanding why can help you grow in sexual integrity, whether you’re married or single.
So why doesn’t marriage cure a pornography problem? The reason may surprise you. Your problem with pornography is not really about looking for sex, it’s about looking for dissociation.
Dissociation means to mentally and emotionally disconnect. Dissociation can be healthy to a point, like when you “unplug” from the stress of the day by going for a run so you can come back to the stressors with a clearer mind. Dissociation becomes a problem when it’s used to avoid rather than face real-life challenges and the emotions that come with them.
Related Reading: Women Watch Porn Too
For example, instead of facing feelings of inadequacy when doing homework, instead of sitting in sadness when you’re missing a loved one, instead of addressing the tension in a relationship, you may dissociate by turning to pornography. For at least a few moments, you feel better.
What happens to this habit of dissociation when you marry? Nothing. It remains your go-to in how to walk through difficult times.
Let’s unpack this further.
God made sex to be a part of a husband and wife’s intimate relationship. When a man and a woman marry, they unite their lives together. The two become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
But in pornography, sex is not about joining one’s life with a spouse, it’s about using other people’s bodies to disconnect from real life and real relationships.
Sex releases a powerful cocktail of neurochemicals in the 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, the nervous system adapts to recognize that when life gets difficult, emotions become painful, the body hurts, or the heart longs, the person can “plug in” to the sexual arousal of porn (or other sexual behaviors).
A brain that has been conditioned to dissociate using porn will dissociate during sex with his or her spouse. In turn, the marriage bed becomes a place of separation, where one spouse moves toward the other sexually but away from them mentally and emotionally.
This is why marriage alone won’t fix a porn habit. Instead, the brain needs to “rewire” to equate sex with…
- Connection rather than disconnection
- Emotional closeness rather than emotional numbing
- Relational vulnerability rather than self-protection
- Intimacy rather than intensity
- Love for your spouse rather than pleasure just for yourself
So what can you do to begin to rewire your brain toward these ends?
This is a process that will take time, and it will require facing life’s difficulties where you have become accustomed to avoiding them. Depending on when you first started to dissociate as a way of coping with life–even if the dissociation did not initially involve pornography–it may also involve facing aspects that go far back, even into your childhood.
For now, you can begin here:
- Instead of just paying attention to when you experience sexual temptation, begin noticing when you feel tempted to dissociate from what you’re feeling.
- See if you notice any patterns around the kind of feelings you most commonly want to get away from.
- Practice staying connected (or reconnecting) with this part of yourself by becoming curious about your feelings and why you feel what you feel.
- Risk sharing your feelings with other trusted people in your life, including your husband or wife if you’re married.
- Also, practice connecting with the feelings of those closest to you (including your spouse if you’re already married). This isn’t about fixing them, trying to make them feel better, or even fully understanding why they feel what they feel, but simply to be present with them where they are without dissociating.
Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of His day about how they praised 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 should become a place of sharing and giving to each other, allowing for more authentic comfort, peace, refreshing, and love.
Whether you’re married or single, if these ideas are new to you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Our team of men and women coaches would be a great resource for you on this journey.