By Rory Reid, PhD, and Dan Gray
Licensed Clinical Social Workers
In today's world many parents and spouses are concerned about the availability and easy access of pornography. The negative and destructive influence of pornography has adversely affected many lives. You may share these same concerns. You may suspect, through actual evidence or an intuitive impression, that your spouse is using pornography. Accurately discerning whether or not a spouse is struggling with pornography is a difficult, yet important first step in confronting and coping with the suspicions you may have.
Does My Spouse Have a Problem?
Determining whether or not there is a pornography problem is a careful balancing act. Because of incomplete or insufficient information, some spouses dismiss behavior that should be confronted. One woman, despite her frustration and disgust, excused her husband's pornography habit because she inaccurately assumed it was part of normal male behavior. When his habit later led to further problems, she expressed regret about not confronting the behavior sooner. Another woman grew suspicious of her husband's late-night computer activities, which he said were "work related." Rather than expressing her concern she quietly went to bed each night. A few months later she discovered that her suspicions were accurate and her husband had been viewing pornography. Both of these examples represent situations where more information should have been gathered and behavior should have been confronted.
Signs of an Existing Problem
Often, suspicions arise long before an inappropriate behavior is discovered. There are several signs that may indicate a problem with pornography or other related behaviors. These signs, some of which have been suggested by the National Coalition Against Pornography, may include:
- Loss of interest in sexual relations or insatiable sexual appetite.
- Introduction of unusual sexual practices in the relationship.
- Diminished emotional, physical, social, spiritual, and intellectual intimacy.
- Neglect of responsibilities.
- Increased isolation (such as late-night hours on the computer); withdrawal from family.
- Easily irritated, irregular mood swings.
- Unexplained absences.
- Preference for masturbation over sexual relations with spouse.
- Unexplained financial transactions.
- Sexual relations that are rigid, rushed, without passion, and detached.
If these signs are present in a marriage, it is possible there is a problem. Awareness of these signs is important. Additionally, accurate and complete information about the problem should be gathered. One spouse became extremely agitated when she discovered pornographic images in the temporary Internet files folder on the family computer. She assumed her husband was indulging in pornography and imagined the devastation that the marriage would now suffer as a result of his behavior. When he came home from work, she burst into tears and immediately began attacking him. As the details unfolded, the family discovered that their son's teenage friend was responsible. Even if the friend had not confessed, there were other possible explanations for the images being present. For example, there are various Internet marketing techniques using new computer technology that can send pornographic images to a home computer without anyone's knowledge. Thus, it is always important to gather sufficient information and consider various possibilities before concluding there is a problem.
If you suspect but are unsure if there is a problem, it is appropriate to communicate your concerns to your spouse. Perhaps some of the signs listed previously may be part of your concerns. Listen and be prepared to give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt. If there really is a problem, time will usually reveal any inappropriate behaviors. If material is being used to facilitate fantasies about other women (or men), this is inappropriate. If you are hurt by such behavior, remember that your feelings are valid and need to be expressed.
It is important to remember that change is possible. The motive behind confronting the problem must be born out of hope and love. The goal must be recovery, healing, and repentance and the restoration of true and healthy intimacy. Such recovery and healing is available to all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.