Wisdom4Today with Dr. Mike
Every year, large numbers of people seek Biblical counseling to address life issues. Of those who seek counseling, many want help with problems in their marriages. With marriage counseling, Biblical teaching about marriage, communication, and conflict management usually results in noticeable changes in a couple’s marriage in a short amount of time. However, in some cases, issues with unfaithfulness have arisen. When exploring the events leading up to the unfaithfulness, a dangerous trend in our culture can be seen that is not only destroying marriages, but in some cases, leading to prison time. This trend is rooted in the easy access to pornography, which is producing devastating consequences in ways unheard of a few short years ago.
It is no secret that our culture is saturated with the promotion of sexuality, unbridled lust, and unrestrictive physical encounters. It is rampant in our television programming, movies, music, and even discussed in our morning news shows. No matter where you look, it is not just there to be found, it is in your face in ways that demonstrate no limits on who, where, and how it is to be experienced. What used to be simple stories of romance have been left in the dust for a raw, edgy, obsession with the most deviant of behaviors portrayed as what normal healthy people do as an everyday part of their life.
There is no shortage of public figures, from entertainers to even our political leaders that not only practice these behaviors, but support others in their pursuit of the same. All done out of some sense of open mindedness to do what makes them happy. Many of these very people, especially in the entertainment industry, achieve great fame and fortune from their lifestyles and roles, demonstrating a willingness to share their own pornographic practices with the world. Sadly, while they promote these behaviors as being healthy, what they never talk about is how these behaviors affect individuals in adverse ways.
After the Betrayal
In practice, when providing pastoral Biblical counseling with couples who have experienced unfaithfulness, resolution and restoration is very difficult and time consuming. This is because when betrayal occurs in a close relationship, it causes deep wounds because of the level of trust that was given to the offending party. We see this mentioned in Scripture as follows:
Proverbs 18:19 (KJV) A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
Likewise, when counseling couples who have a problem with unfaithfulness, a common thread found in the majority of cases is access to pornography. Although it is usually the man who engages in viewing pornography, in recent times women are quickly approaching the same level of viewership as men. Surprisingly, some couples even admit that as a couple they viewed pornography thinking that it would “spice up their marriage.” However, what they did not expect was that in most cases, within two years of either partner engaging in the viewing of pornography, their marriages would suffer from unfaithfulness.
How the Betrayal Happens
While efforts have been made to limit access to pornography, today it is more accessible than ever. Not just on the internet, but it is difficult to watch an evening news broadcast without being bombarded with commercials promoting the latest show with suggestive titles and what used to be called soft porn scenes. Some argue that if you do not like it, then change the channel or do not watch television. In many cases believers do no watch television for this reason, but when others hear of this or it becomes known by teachers or social service agencies, there is a directed effort to communicate to them that they are unrealistic and even strange in their standards. This is because if it appeals to the flesh, there is no limit to how popular deviancy attracts or sells.
Even more surprising is that it is estimated that 50% of pastors have problems related to pornography. This explains in many cases why there is an explosion of inappropriate relationships between pastors and members of their congregations and in many cases, teens from their youth groups. This is also seen in the numbers of school teachers that are having inappropriate relationships with their students.
Many of these inappropriate relationships started with social media contacts or communication through cell phone texting. When counseling those who are intimately involved with students or other young people, a vast number of these relationships started with text messaging, which soon evolved into the sending of pornographic images of themselves between the parties. Of particular note is that even elementary school students are now accessing pornography, which is widely popular with their peers and often leads to what is known as “sexting”; the sending of pornographic images of themselves to their friends.
Appeals to the Flesh
At the human level, pornography is designed to do one thing, appeal to the observer’s physical lust of the flesh. Scripture tells us that lust of the flesh is one of three motivators that lead to sin, which destroys someone’s life as follows:
James 1:13-15 (KJV) (13) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
1 John 2:15-16 (KJV) (15) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
For the nonbeliever, death in Hell is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23).
For the believer, it is
- death of fellowship with God (1 John1:3-7; 1 Peter 3:7);
- death of their marriage (Matthew 5:27-27; 19:3-9);
- death of their testimony (Ecclesiastes 10:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27); or
- death of their physical life (1 John 5:16-17; Acts 5:1-11).
Blow #1 – Image Comparison
How does pornography lead to these consequences? As mentioned previously, pornography is designed to do one thing, appeal to the observer’s lust of the flesh. This is done through viewing it. With this in mind, the pornography industry has gone to great lengths to provide a great variety of viewing that appeals to the appetites of people of all walks of life. This is the first blow to the marriage relationship, image comparison.
Pornography plants an image and activity in the mind of the viewer that becomes the object of their lust. This is a problem for many reasons. First, it places an unrealistic expectation on their spouse to live up to the image and abilities of the pornography actors. Second, it detracts from their ability to focus on their spouse during times of intimacy. A common complaint heard from those who were either involved in pornography or had intimacy with other partners before marriage is that they struggled with their minds making comparisons with their new spouse and the memories of what they had seen or experienced in the past.
This makes it very difficult when they finally meet and marry the person with whom they want to spend their life with; they struggle with not comparing their spouse with the pornographic images or memories of past flames. Simple things such as how their spouse holds hands, kisses, or actions they experience during intimacy are unwillingly compared in their minds. Some state that is like there is a pornographic movie going on in their head during their most intimate times with their spouse and it disturbs them greatly.
Blow #2 – Mental Adultery
Eventually, couples find that their current experience does not measure up to these pornographic images and it is not long before their times of intimacy requires focused thinking about the other people in their mental images. Because the intimate thoughts and images a couple shares of each other are replaced by the thoughts and images of others, times of intimacy become nothing more than self-gratification through the use of their spouse.
Like a drug that gets someone high, before long bigger doses or more powerful drugs are needed to reach the high. Likewise, it is only a matter of time before the intimacy with their spouse is no longer satisfying and the desire to live out their fantasy becomes a driving force in seeking someone else to meet their needs. This makes their times of intimacy nothing more than mental affairs with other people, which soon leads to problems in the marriage relationship. This is the second blow to the marriage relationship, mental adultery.
Blow #3 – Physical Adultery
While some try to claim that fantasy is not cheating, this is when the temptation to be unfaithful becomes the new focus. This is because they start rationalizing the steps they take toward being unfaithful, which makes each step easier to take than the last one. Those who make these claims are lying to themselves and their spouses because they are denying that they are lusting after someone else.
Soon, the desire to get a sexual “fix,’ which comes from the lust of the flesh brought on by the pornography, produces a desire for a lustful interaction with someone else. Most claim that they saw an affair as nothing more than physical contact with no emotional connection. However, this leads to two outcomes. Either the person gets emotionally involved with their new partner or they emotionally detach themselves from the physical act. In the case of the latter, this leads to more extreme and riskier encounters, which eventually cause major problems when discovered. In either case, unless the unfaithfulness is stopped and steps are taken to restore the original relationship, the marriage is set up for failure. This is the third blow to the marriage relationship, physical adultery.
Repairing the Damaging Effects
With the detached or alienated affections, emotional death takes place in a marriage and the destructive power of pornography in the family rages. Relationships are destroyed and lives are changed. Sadly, when a faithful counselor of God’s Word is most needed, Satan will raise up instead counselors that advise that breaking up the family can be managed with the right planning. Unfortunately, focusing on the logistics of a break up does nothing for the emotional devastation is causes, especially on children. This is because when pornography is involved, the emotions are numb towards others and the desire to please self takes priority.
To repair the damaging effects of pornography, an all-out effort to isolate one’s self from the pornography must take place. This may entail drastic measures such as removal of access to television or electronic devices. Expect it to not be easy, especially since electronic devices are used in our work, homes, and other aspects of our lives. If this is the case, restricting internet access or texting may be in order.
Installation of applications or software that limit access can be done, but anyone who desires access to pornography will figure ways around it. Instead, the desire for pornography needs to be eliminated. This means that it must be attacked on a personal level. There are books written on the subject such as Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time written by Steve Arterburn or Every Woman’s Battle written by Shannon Ethridge; both are good resources. These books also come in a teen edition called Every Young Man’s Battle or Every Young Woman’s Battle. Also, Josh Harris’ book, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World and the workbooks for men and women are good study resources. Links to all of these resources may be found at Selah Mountain Ministries Resources.
While these books are good, a one on one discipleship relationship with a strong Christian who is able to integrate the application of God’s Word it critical. This person can help the person engaged in pornography to break away from the use of pornography and reestablish new wholesome habits based on the study and application of God’s Word, prayer, and reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Rebuilding a family ravaged from the fallout of pornography does not happen overnight, but taking these steps to addressing the problem through a deeper relationship with Christ will always result in victory.