Trust is one of the most important parts of a relationship, as it helps promote a feeling of safety. It is more than knowing that the other person will keep their promises, but that he or she will be present when you need them. Trust hinges on one’s partner being aware of and willing to meet needs, whether providing a stable income or being a shoulder to cry on (Zitzman et al., 2009). When trust is not present or has been broken, other aspects of the relationship can suffer.
Pornography use often undermines trust within a marriage. When one spouse uncovers their partner’s behavior, it can lead to feelings of betrayal and that their spouse has been unfaithful. Couples that go to counseling to address sexual compulsions commonly state that rebuilding trust with their spouse is the most important problem to be solved. This is true of both the partner with an addiction and the partner who has been affected by their spouse’s choices. Many of these couples also expressed a need to forgive their partner or to find forgiveness for acting out sexually (Schneider & Schneider, 1996).
Zitzman et al (2009) studied interviews with 14 women to understand how pornography affected the trust they had with their spouses. They found that these women went through a spectrum of emotions, from anger to grief, after discovering their husbands were currently using pornography. 12 of the 14 women viewed their husbands in a new light, no longer trusting what their spouse told them. One woman expressed that she no longer trusted anything that she thought she knew about her husband. Five of the subjects related that they felt that they no longer turn to their spouse for emotional support. 13 of the 14 women also reported damaged sexual intimacy. Another study of 100 women showed that they felt that their spouse not only betrayed them, but also was withholding emotional intimacy (Begner and Bridges, 2002).
However sobering this information may be, there is always hope that a damaged relationship can be repaired. If you or someone you love is involved in using pornography, you can visit https://www.citizensfordecency.org/addiction-recovery to find resources to break the dependence. Those who have been hurt by a loved one’s pornography use can find healing at https://www.citizensfordecency.org/betrayal-trauma-recovery. This site provides support groups and other resources to restore trust in others and find hope in moving forward.
Bergner, R. M., & Bridges, A. J. (2002). The Significance of Heavy Pornography Involvement for Romantic Partners: Research and Clinical Implications. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 28(3), 193–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/009262302760328235
Citizens for Decency. (n.d.) Addiction Recovery. Citizens for Decency. https://www.citizensfordecency.org/addiction-recovery
Citizens for Decency. (n.d.) Betrayal Trauma Recovery. Citizens for Decency. https://www.citizensfordecency.org/betrayal-trauma-recovery.
Schneider, J. P., & Schneider, B. H. (1996). Couple recovery from sexual addiction/coaddiction: Results of a survey of 88 marriages. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 3(2), 111-126. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720169608400106
Zitzman, S., & Butler, M. (2009). Wives’ Experience of Husbands’ Pornography Use and Concomitant Deception as an Attachment Threat in the Adult Pair-Bond Relationship. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 16(3), 210–240. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720160903202679