Step into any grocery store on February 14 and you’ll see them—spouses on a last-minute mission for romance. Cynics may roll their eyes at roses and balloons, but there’s nothing wrong with a lovebird holiday. We encourage it at Insight for Living Ministries!
But are thoughtful gifts enough when you’re struggling to survive a plague? For countless marriages infected with pornography, the answer is no.
Plague isn’t hyperbole. The sex industry earns more than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined.1 Its revenue exceeds the totals of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, eBay, Yahoo!, and EarthLink.2
For as much as pornography profits a few, it costs billions more. Neuroscience shows it’s an addiction, a relationship poison. Fifty-six percent of divorcees name pornography as a toxin that dissolved their covenants.3 As technology advances, this black hole will swallow even more, distorting our views on intimacy and morality. Already, our youth see not recycling as more immoral than watching pornography! 4
Between YouTube, sexting, and social media, Satan has more traps to set than ever before...and they’re ensnaring Christians at nearly the same rate as unbelievers. Fifty-seven per cent of pastors and 64 per cent of youth pastors admit they’ve wrestled with this temptation and lost.5
If pornography has a death grip on your marriage, we want to help you give your valentine the gift you both need: change.
We recently interviewed Daniel Lebsack, the associate pastor of Recovery Ministries at Stonebriar Community Church. Dan holds a degree in biblical counselling from Dallas Theological Seminary and is an associate member of the American Board of Christian Sex Therapists. Read our conversation below, then visit the “Purity” page on our website (insightforliving.ca/purity) to get help and hope for saving your marriage and healing your spirit.
IFLM: What drives an addiction to pornography?
Dan: Any addiction is a symptom of an underlying issue—insecurity, fear, pride. It’s an attempt to distract oneself from pain. Satan wants us to avoid pain, but God calls us to step into it with the hope of healing and the promise that He’ll be with us. God created us as sexual beings! But His purpose for sex is procreation and pleasure between spouses. Pornography ensnares because it releases dopamine in the brain. It’s a feel-good neurotransmitter. As with drugs, you develop a tolerance. Use follows a pattern of getting darker and darker to get that pain-numbing “high.”
Addicts of any level are experts at rationalizing, justifying, and minimizing. “It’s not really a big deal,” they reason. Yet guilt usually consumes individuals who view pornography, and the shame of any sexual sin causes people to keep it a secret, which only perpetuates the problem.
IFLM: What impact does pornography have on a marriage?
Dan: A dramatic one! You’re essentially inviting a third party into the marriage bed . . . along with jealousy, shame, and guilt. ANY time we bring something that is not of God into what God has given, decay will follow. Eventually, the excitement of your spouse won’t be enough, and you’ll need an external stimulus to “get in the mood.” Worse, you’ll stop cherishing one another. When that happens, you’ve lost the good gift God intended.
IFLM: Is there a difference between husbands’ and wives’ involvement?
Dan: Yes. Husbands usually start watching for the physical response, while wives do it out of a need to feel “adequate.” They want to be all they think a man wants, so they watch pornography to “learn how.” They, too, fall into the trap of a dopamine high.
IFLM: Can a marriage recover from a pornography addiction?
Dan: YES!! I know many who have recovered by allowing Jesus into the recesses of their hearts and working to root out sin! When done right, a couple will have more intimacy on every level. In sanctifying them, God draws them closer to Himself, which draws them closer to each other. It’s a long, painful road but one that yields tangible fruit when confession, repentance, and forgiveness happen.
IFLM: What first step do you advise to someone who wants to beat pornography . . . or who has discovered a spouse’s addiction?
Dan: Don’t try and fix this alone! There are many good church and parachurch ministries, often led by people who know this pain personally. Even if your spouse denies the severity of the problem, talk to someone! Don’t let the Enemy shame you into not telling. It’s 80 per cent of what I see, so the lie that “no one understands” simply isn’t true.
Celebrate Recovery® and New Life Ministries are biblical venues to address this from an offender or offended perspective. Every Man’s Battle and Every Woman’s Battle are excellent books.
IFLM: What steps do you recommend EVERY family take to safeguard themselves?
Dan: Complete digital transparency. Never have passwords your spouse doesn’t know. Spouses should be free to check phones or computers anytime. If you wouldn’t want your spouse to see a text, don’t send it. Same goes for websites visited and social media contacts. Never delete browser history before letting your spouse know. Same rules for children! When there’s a history of pornography, I recommend Covenant Eyes, which calls for an accountability partner who has access to all websites visited. You need a same-sex friend to walk with you through this journey.
If you’ve been hiding your or your spouse’s addiction, it’s time to drain that secret of its power. Take the first step! If others reject you, Jesus won’t. He resisted every temptation so you might go boldly before God and find mercy and grace when you need it most (Hebrews 4:14–16). You have the Holy Spirit’s power to defeat sin’s vice grip. He will embolden you to get help.
As you do, remember we’re here for you, ready to connect you to resources, listen, and give you and your valentine hope through understanding and applying God’s Word.
As Stonebriar’s associate pastor of Recovery Ministries, Daniel Lebsack is dedicated to walking alongside individuals and couples who struggle with the realities of living in a broken world, specifically addiction within marriage. Dan and Suzanne have been married for 17 years and have 14-year-old twins. He holds a degree in biblical counselling from Dallas Theological Seminary and is an associate member of the American Board of Christian Sex Therapists.
1. ABC News, “Porn Profits: America’s Corporate Secret,” ABCNews.com, http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=132001 (accessed December 15, 2017).
2. Quayle, Ethel and Kurt M. Ribils, eds., Understanding and Preventing Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (New York, NY, 2012), 87, https://books.google.com/books?id=juLGBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=un... (accessed December 15, 2017).
3. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, “Is the Internet Bad for Your Marriage? Online Affairs, Pornographic Sites Playing Greater Role in Divorces,” PR Newswire Association LLC, https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Is+the+Internet+Bad+for+Your+Marriage%3f+... (accessed December 15, 2017).
4. Kinnaman, David, “The Porn Phenomenon,” Barna.com, https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/ (accessed December 15, 2017).