WHY MARRIAGE WON’T CURE YOUR PORN PROBLEM
For many of us who have grown up with the presence of pornography from a young age—magazines, movies, or the Internet—marriage is sometimes viewed as the healthy “cure” to end a pornography habit.
“I’ll stop when I’m married” or “I won’t bring this into my marriage” is usually the rationale. The problem is that there is no superpower in that wedding ring that will magically imbue you with the discipline (and the freedom) to renounce pornography; your ring is not forged in the fires of self-mastery. There’s no switch thrown on your wedding day that will make you impervious to temptations. Nor will your spouse magically satisfy all the illicit sexual fantasies that porn trains your brain to expect.
Marriage will not cure your porn problem; your porn problem will undermine your marriage.
You bring into your marriage who you are, and that includes your daily habits and behaviors. Good habits and bad habits alike take time to cultivate. I have to make a conscious effort to floss my teeth everyday for a few weeks before the habit can take root into an internalized behavior. I have to deliberately stop gossiping or disparaging my coworkers before the actions become habitual and improve my character. And I must take seriously my battle with pornography long before I am ever married; otherwise that habit will shoot down my marriage before it starts.
Thank God, that’s exactly what happened for me.
Several years before I was married, I decided that my chastity (and my future wife, and my soul) was indeed worth $10.99 a month for accountability software. So I installed Covenant Eyes and asked a close friend to be my Accountability Partner. I didn’t want pornography to come anywhere near my vocation (whether it was marriage or the priesthood), and so I took the necessary steps to purge it from my life. It wasn’t an overnight story of victory, but it was a huge first step and the necessary action to be free of porn years before I met the woman who would become my wife. But I had to first admit that I needed help and needed the motivation of protecting my prospective family before I could act.
We’re a culture with a widespread porn problem. That much has been well established by churches, psychologists, and a few honest media outlets. Deceitful magazines and talking heads will still tell you that bringing pornography into your marriage will help you, not hurt you, but this is an evil lie that is losing more and more of its steam.
Pornography, by its very nature, undercuts the commitments needed to love one’s spouse faithfully. It negatively influences behavior and leads to a perpetuation of brokenness, mistrust, and heartache. If the habit of viewing pornography has been well established for many years, the daily stresses of marriage and family life will only stir those temptations and can call for release. Many wives have been abused or even raped by their husbands because of the poisonous influence of pornography. And if the person conditioned by pornography finds no willing release from his or her spouse, then the person will look elsewhere to feed the disordered appetites. This is not authentic love.
In my church we teach, “Grace builds on nature.” Human and spiritual growth happens in tandem. The graces poured out upon a person on their wedding or ordination day are only effective insofar as the individual has been conforming to God’s will. If you haven’t cultivated a habit of prayer, nothing magical happens on the day you become a pastor. If you haven’t addressed why you’re running to pornography and subsequently rooting it out, you’ll return to it after a disagreement with your spouse or an evening where you’ll feeling lonely.
God desires to bless us with the strength we need, but we also have to put in the work.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). God does not hijack our natures, but His grace will pour down once we welcome it and make room for it. And it is often through our weaknesses—say, a habit of viewing pornography—that we are humbled and willing to accept God’s strength. He continually invites us to surrender control and not rely on ourselves for our own redemption.
Beyond merely building on, grace also perfects nature. We must first make the steps necessary to own our porn habit and increase in discipline, call for help when needed, and rely on God always. God’s grace will perfect us in our weakness; where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).
We need to have cultivated discipline and mastery of self before we take our marital vows, not after. For love of your family and love of God, root out pornography now to save your marriage before it even starts.