PORNOGRAPHY: It can affect your marriage

Pornography is that compulsive behaviour which destroys your marriage by slowly deteriorating the bonds of love and trust

Couple watching TV

Let’s take a look at two case studies.

Aparna was married to Amit for eight years. After the initial few weeks of marriage, Amit started compelling Aparna to watch blue films together, and had sex with her only after getting adequately aroused on seeing pornography. He would fail to get aroused and attain an erection whenever they were away on a holiday and could not get to see such films.

Pradip and Priya were married for 10 months, when Priya was brought by her mother to us for the “non-consummation” of her marriage. What we heard from Priya was shocking. Her husband Pradip, was addicted to watching blue films every night till late and had not touched Priya sexually even once since their marriage. He would masturbate a couple of times while watching those films right in front of his wife, but would not attempt any intimacy with her.

These are two examples where blue films or pornography became the epicentre of a painful marital storm.

It is virtually impossible not to be affected by pornography

Many people think that pornography is just harmless fun and that it has no ill-effects. Research has shown that pornography and its messages are involved in shaping attitudes and encouraging behaviour that can harm individuals and their families. Pornography is often viewed in secret, which creates deception within marriages that can lead to even divorce in some cases. In addition, pornography promotes the allure of adultery, prostitution and unreal expectations that can result in dangerous promiscuous behaviour.

Let us try to understand various psycho-relational dimensions of this problem.

Sexual problems or relationship problems?

Sexual excitement is a natural reaction to certain conditions. When those conditions are absent or inhibited, so is your natural sexual response. Sex is a great barometer for telling you how well your relationship is working, and when it needs more attention.

Some books say that if you are not turned on by your partner, you should fantasise about someone else while having sex or watch blue films. These things may work to improve your sex life on a temporary and superficial level. As you become more and more dependent on outside stimulation, you decrease your natural ability to feel turned on by your partner. You may feel turned on while being with your partner but not by her or him.

If you think that the biggest problem in your relationships has a lot to do with “sex”, you are probably mistaken. One of the serious mistakes most people make in their relationships is attempting to isolate a part of the relationship, like sex, from the whole, thinking that when that one part is fixed, the whole relationship will get better. This is the cover-up approach to dealing with problems. The real problem always lies in the relationship, and not in the bed.

Most sexual problems are just symptoms of problems in other areas of the relationship. If you try to hide or suppress the problems or weaknesses in your relationship, they will emerge in bed. Yes, many things could be suggested to create more excitement in the sex life, but they will not work. Sex is just a mirror of the rest of your relationship.

Blue films as stimulants

Many people have come to rely on using pornography to become sexually stimulated. This is often because they have spent so much energy numbing themselves emotionally that they cannot really feel unless they have a huge amount of stimulation. In my work with couples, I have found innumerable sexual problems and resentments stemming from the use of pornography. The wife cannot open up to her husband in bed because she knows that he has a collection of erotic videos, which he sees frequently. It makes her feel like she is not enough for him.

It is definitely a sign of sexual immaturity when one looks for excitement in pornographic films. For such a person sex is only skin deep. He is not adequately sensitive to the psychological and emotional components of sex.

Let me add that outside inputs are necessary when there is a lack of “love” between partners. when sex is merely a physical activity. This lack of love cannot be blamed on only one partner. Love happens between two sensitive human beings. Both the partners need to deeply examine their relationship, either on their own individually, or with the help of a good counsellor.

Very often wives look down upon the husband and simply engage into the blame game. As counsellors we advise them to change their focus from the other to oneself. They are told to ask themselves “what can I do to bring more depth into my relationship and make it more than sex — a sharing of intimacy”.

Pornography: A form of sex addiction

Pornography is a special class of “sex addiction” distinct from promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, anonymous sex, pedophilia, phone sex, fetishes or voyeurism. Sex addiction is not like any other addiction because sex involves your most personal and complex emotions.

Pornography, like any other sex addiction, becomes the user’s fix. The user becomes so enraptured, they end up destroying good relationships, spending hours and sometimes days surfing the Internet for porn and throwing out thousands of rupees on illusions.

At first it is impossible for someone caught up in a pornography addiction to believe that he or she can find real sexual enjoyment and better sexual pleasure with a person instead of a fantasy. However, with effective counselling, a genuine relationship does become the preferred sexual interest of the pornography-addicted person.

Some people addicted to pornography would rather have sex with their partner than with a pornographic fantasy. However they just don’t know how to overcome their addiction. For them, learning and applying the principles of overcoming addiction is the issue.

Some pornography addicts believe they have the best of both worlds: their relationship and their addiction. Their belief is mistaken.

Pornography and sex crimes

The general content of pornography supports abuse and the rape myth [that women enjoy forceful sex] and serves as a how-to for sex crimes. For example, in America, in the Phoenix neighbourhoods where “adult” businesses were located, the number of sex offences was 506 per cent greater than in areas without such businesses.

Dr Mary Anne Layden, director of education, University of Pennsylvania Health System, pointed out, “I have been treating sexual violence victims and perpetrators for 13 years. I have not treated a single case of sexual violence that did not involve pornography.”

The four stages in progression of porn

Dr Victor Cline, noted researcher and professor of psychology said as early as the mid 80s: “I have treated about 225 individuals over the past years who have had their lives disrupted because of their involvement with pornography. I have found a special syndrome associated with immersion in the world of pornography that repeats itself again and again.” He found that there is a four-step progression among many who consume pornography.

Pornography progresses through the following four stages

  1. Addiction: Pornography provides a powerful sexual stimulant or aphrodisiac effect, followed by sexual release, most often through masturbation
  2. Escalation: Over time, addicts require more explicit and deviant material to meet their sexual “needs”
  3. Desensitisation: What was first perceived as gross, shocking and disturbing, in time becomes common and acceptable
  4. Acting out sexually: There is an increasing tendency to act out behaviours viewed in pornography.

Where it all begins

Some therapists say that pornography or any form of sexual addiction is simply an excuse to justify lack of control and unwillingness to conform to acceptable norms. Other psychologists and psychiatrists maintain that it is a “compulsive behaviour” that has its roots in early childhood and can afflict both males and females. It is believed that people who suffer from this disorder come from “dysfunctional families” that failed to provide security, to reinforce the child’s self-concept and self-esteem, and in which there was an absence of trust. The child experienced an empty feeling and also felt abandoned and vulnerable. There is evidence that a high percentage of people who experience the need to have a continuous compulsive urge to watch pornography, were physically or emotionally abused as children. Generally, these children were brought up to believe sex was shameful, and that fantasising and masturbation were unacceptable. They also did not develop social or dating skills. An intricate psychological pattern seems to emerge when they become adults. These people are involved in watching blue films, which provides a temporary relief but that feeling turns into disgust very soon, resulting in more shame and anxiety. Then they become determined to control their urge, which results in over-control that cannot be sustained. They experience an inability to cope, the upshot of which is that they seek a sexual “fix” again, bringing them back to square one.

We can therefore safely conclude, that viewing of pornography can in no way truly enhance the quality of sexual relation, but can only cause deep hurt in the partner, and grave harm to the relationship as a whole.

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Minnu Bhonsle
Dr Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, is a Mumbai-based consulting psychotherapist and counsellor. She conducts training programmes in Personal Counselling [Client-centred Therapy] and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, and also workshops in Stress Management, Art of Listening, Couple Therapy, and Communication Skills. Minnu has co-authored the book, The Ultimate Sex Education Guide along with Dr Rajan Bhonsle.
Rajan Bhonsle
Dr Rajan Bhonsle, MD, is a consultant in sexual medicine and counsellor. Along with his wife Minnu R Bhonsle, PhD, who is a consulting psychotherapist and counsellor, he runs a unique therapy centre


  1. I am in divorce proceedings currently due to my husbands addiction to pornography and it has torn our marriage appart. It definately destroys a marriage.


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