In a moment of intense desire and loneliness, pornography seems like such a reasonable solution for many. It provides satisfaction — albeit fleeting — and, at least in the moment, doesn’t seem all that harmful. But that is perhaps the greatest lie surrounding the content so readily available at the click of a button.
The far-reaching impact of that struggle was made no clearer than in a recent column on the website Love What Matters, by Christian blogger Claire Dalton, who canceled her wedding and cut ties with her former fiancé after learning just days before their planned ceremony that he was struggling intensely with pornography.
While not every detail of the couple’s story is spelled out, it’s likely Dalton’s would-have-been husband had been struggling with — and hiding — his weakness toward the siren call of pornography for years. Dalton wrote in a follow-up blog post that she felt “betrayed” and “cheated on.”
“Someone I loved and cared for deeply had been expertly lying to me for the entire length of our relationship, and possibly longer since we had been friends for so long,” she wrote. “All at once, I was with a stranger instead of the person I thought I knew so well. In an instant, I could never trust those lying eyes ever again.”
Dalton has every right to feel hurt — she was betrayed. Her partner gave away the purity he had promised her. She isn’t responsible for his actions, but the impact of his choices will echo through her story indefinitely.
But is there room for forgiveness? Is there space for reconciliation?
Those questions are complex and their answers nuanced and not necessarily universal. Dalton’s story, though, points to the importance of recognizing marriage doesn’t occur in a vacuum. On the best day, it’s a perfect partnership entered into by an imperfect man and woman.
Unfortunately, pornography has become so mainstream, it’s baked into our cultural cake. Recent data shows more than 60 percent of men admit to viewing pornography on a monthly basis, and the numbers are trending in the wrong direction.
Some studies are even suggesting a certain amount of explicit content can actually be good for men, though nothing could be further from the truth.
But given it’s pervasiveness in our culture, one has to wonder if there’s room for forgiveness, grace and ultimate reconciliation in a marital or even pre-marital relationship, as was the case with Dalton and her ex-fiancé.
There certainly should be — and needs to be — room for grieving, but is there space to walk through this heinous habit in unity, even if from a distance? After all, we are imperfect. Like the rest of life, marriage doesn’t come baggage-free.
Dalton, in her column, pointed to research from licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Manning, Ph.D., who argued one partner could develop what she described as “betrayal trauma” after, among other things, finding “evidence of a spouse’s sex addition.”
That’s certainly possible and experiencing such an emotional injury should not be dismissed. However, it’s also critical that two imperfect people don’t seek to enter into what is a perfect institution and erroneously assume the result will be unblemished.
Marriage is tough. Love is not an emotion; it’s a decision. It takes time and it requires an attempt at selflessness with the understanding that neither partner will ever fully meet that standard on this side of eternity.
The holy bond of marriage and the love it commands requires brutal honesty and is, as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, “patient,” “kind,” “does not envy,” “does not boast,” “is not proud,” “does not dishonor others,” “is not self-seeking,” “is not easily angered,” “keeps no record of wrongs,” “does not delight in evil,” “rejoices with the truth,” “always protects,” “always trusts,” “always hopes” and “always perseveres.”
At different times in the relationship, both partners will fail to meet that perfect standard. But both should always strive, with Jesus at the center of the marriage, to personify that biblical portrait of love.
Not only is pornography a sin against God and your own body; it’s also a sin against your current or future partner. It doesn’t have to end a relationship, and if both partners walk with integrity, it can bring incredible healing, though that final decision is up to the afflicted partner.
As for Dalton, she and her former fiancé were not yet married. For her, the sin of pornography was unforgivable. It doesn’t have to be, but regaining the trust stripped away by sexual transgression is not an easy task.
The pain is deep and the scars are lasting. Is that moment of fleeting satisfaction worth it?