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It’s summer, and the marriage business is booming. During these hot summer months, wedding venues are cashing in and years of Pinterest dreams are finally becoming a reality.

But all year round, wary Millennials and hopeful newlyweds want to know the secret to making intimacy and marital bliss last. Among the many secrets and tricks for safeguarding your marriage, there is one piece of advice that often falls through the cracks, but interestingly enough, it’s divorce lawyers who are raising the alarm.

There, at the dreaded end, around a table full of grievances and wounds accumulated throughout the years, divorce lawyers have begun to notice a trend: Porn is ruining marriage.

In an informal meeting survey in 2002, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers questioned 350 divorce attorneys and found that roughly 60 percent reported that internet porn played a significant role in the divorces, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.

It’s not just lawyers who are picking up on the trend. In 2005, Dr. Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sexual addiction, pornography, or betrayal trauma, brought her research on porn and its connection to divorce before the Senate. According to Manning’s research, 56 percent of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

John Mathews*, Family Law and Divorce Attorney, has also found porn to be a prevalent problem within his practice. Mathews explains that, in most cases, spouses deny porn use. But during discovery, a process wherein each spouse is given a list of questions to answer under oath, and during the back and forth between spouses as he tries to understand the complaints, he sees clearly the role porn plays in crumbling marriages.  

Mathews explains that porn is most often cited amongst complaints of “Constructive Desertion,” meaning the spouse is at fault for emotionally abandoning their partner and withdrawing from sexual intimacy. Mathews says that he has had several cases in which a husband can’t stop engaging with porn, causing him to withdraw from quality time that could be spent with his wife. Most often, Mathews explains, porn use takes its toll by creating false expectations for physical intimacy. “I have had many cases where the husband won’t even touch his wife and several cases in which the spouses have not had sex in three or four years,” Mathews says.

In recent years there has been plenty of research documenting the addictive powers of porn and its ability to ruin sexual intimacy. But it’s eye-opening to hear it from lawyers who document the couples’ stories, from “I do” to the piles of paperwork at the end.

The burning question then is: If divorce lawyers have been raising the red flag on porn use in marriage since 2002, why are we only just starting to hear about it in the past couple years?

In a humble and heartfelt open letter to readers in 2016, Dr. John Gottman explains that even today there are varying theories on how to manage porn use in marriage. According to Dr. Gottman, many marriage counselors recommend that couples merely accept porn use, especially by men, as natural and harmless. In fact, Dr. Gottman admits that in the past, he had even recommended porn use in the hopes of increasing intimacy for couples who were struggling with intimacy after the birth of a child. But, in his 2016 letter, Dr. Gottman corrected his recommendation and now stands by research that indicates porn is indeed destructive to intimacy.

“First, intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people. But when one person becomes accustomed to masturbating to porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography, the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse (see Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski). This is unrealistic as well.”

Dr. Gottman’s years of research on marital intimacy align with what divorce lawyers have been witnessing for at least the past fifteen years: Porn use destroys marital intimacy and significantly increases the chances that your marriage will end.

For those of us Millennials who are looking toward marriage with a discerning eye, this warning could not come urgently enough. The chances that your partner uses porn is high. According to a 2006 study, 84 percent of people ages 18 to 49 view porn. Yes, that likely includes that nice guy you met at church. Porn use is addictive, and you shouldn’t shame or vilify your partner if he uses, but when it comes to having a healthy relationship that can stand the test of time, couples who talk about porn and create boundaries to protect their marriage from it are much better off.

Want to know how to discuss porn with your partner? Read on.

*Attorney’s name was changed, at his request, to protect the privacy of his clients.

Photo Credit: Shelby Deeter