Pornography As Grounds for Divorce

Is my spouse’s use of pornography the same thing as marital infidelity? Jesus said that even looking with lust is committing adultery in your heart. My husband’s porn addiction is a huge problem, and I want to know if it’s a valid reason for divorce.
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Is pornography addiction grounds for divorce? Probably not. A temporary separation might motivate your spouse to deal with his problem, but we couldn’t say for sure without more details about your situation.

We don’t say that to discourage you, though. We know that you’re hurting — and that something has to change. So let’s look at:

Understanding the context for Jesus’ words on lust and adultery

You’re right: Jesus says that lust is the same thing as adultery. And He does follow this up by making allowance for divorce in cases where extra-marital sexual activity has violated a marriage (Matthew 5:32).

But Jesus is speaking here primarily in spiritual terms. He’s talking about our accountability in the eyes of God. He’s trying to show the Pharisees (legalists) that literal law-keeping won’t necessarily justify them (make them righteous and pure). Instead, the heart’s condition is what matters.

Now, of course it’s good to examine ourselves with this heavenly perspective in mind. However, we run into problems if we start judging other people according to this standard — or try to make it the basis of a social or legal code.

For example, consider Christ’s statements about murder in Matthew 5:21-22. Yes, it’s true that murder begins in the heart and that all of us who think hurtful thoughts about our neighbors are guilty in the eyes of God. But that doesn’t mean that we ought to arrest people for getting angry.

The same observation applies to using heart-lust and porn addiction as legitimate grounds for divorce; we simply can’t jump from one to the other. Still, that doesn’t mean the problems of pornography aren’t real or should be ignored.

Pornography: What’s behind it and how it hurts a marriage

Every day we hear from husbands and wives who struggle with the fallout of pornography. You hit the nail on the head when you said it’s a huge problem. And it’s a problem whether it’s used infrequently or is a full-blown addiction.

We all have a basic human craving for relationship. Unfortunately, that God-given need gets twisted when we try to escape emotional pain and fall for the lie that depersonalized sex can satisfy the longings of our hearts.

One reason porn is powerful, progressive, and relentless is because it offers a form of intimacy and attachment. However, using pornography is not the same thing as having an authentic, healthy connection in the safety of a loving marriage.

Marriage expert Greg Smalley points out three ways porn affects marriage:

  • Intimacy is sacrificed.
  • Real relationship is abandoned for an imitation.
  • The true purpose of sex gets twisted.

You already know the pain, though. What you need are practical steps to deal with your husband’s addiction.

Steps toward healing

Instead of jumping to the conclusion that it’s time to get a divorce, we encourage you to hold on to hope. Help is available — for your husband, for you, and for your marriage.

The first step is to find a licensed professional counselor who specializes in treating sexual addictions. We recommend that you do this as a couple. The most successful course of treatment takes a family systems approach with intensive therapy followed by regular, ongoing counseling sessions.

Call our Counseling department to get started (it’s free!). They can give you referrals to qualified therapists in your area.

Another key to recovery is to have a trusted friend or group of individuals who will give you and your husband support and accountability.

Above all, remember that God loves you and your husband, and He cares about your future and your marriage. May His peace and wisdom sustain you.

 

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Intimate Deception

Unburdened

The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help Is Not Enough

False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction

Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life

Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Marriages in Crisis

Nothing to Hide: Hope for Marriages Hurt by Pornography and Infidelity

Digital Pornography Addiction: What You Need to Know and Where to Find Help

Overcoming Sexual Brokenness (resource list)

Referrals
Pure Desire Ministries

Hope After Betrayal Ministries

Be Broken Ministries

Covenant Eyes

Articles & other media
Pornography and Virtual Infidelity

Restoring Trust After a Confession of Pornography Addiction

Discovering God’s Freedom From Pornography (video series)

No Porn Marriage (podcast)

Copyright © 2010, 2020 Focus on the Family.

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