FamilyLife Blog

When Wives have a Porn Addiction

by | Jun 4, 2020 | Marriage, Sex

Barbara Wilson holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and speaks here about pornography addiction and the brain’s role (neuroscience) in the addiction process for women. She speaks candidly about how women are also prone to pornography addiction and she provides hope and first steps toward healing. 

Video Transcript:

I work with a lot of women who have been exposed to pornography early on in their life. And so then, they’ve created some kind of addiction to it. Again, their brain has bonded to it. And even though we in our culture think men tend to be more prone to sexual addiction, we’re seeing a greater increase in women who are becoming addicted to pornography. 

The Imprint of Pornography on the Brain

And so what happens is… let’s say for example, I worked with a woman who was married. In her first marriage her husband would bring pornography into their lovemaking. And so she was bonding her brain, creating this bond with pornography. And associating it with lovemaking. And so your brain is starting to be aroused by that. Because we’re all very easily aroused by pornography, even if we don’t think we can be or want to be. We’re just sexual beings. 

And so here she was now in a second marriage with a godly man, and she was so distressed because in order for her to be aroused, to make love with her husband, she would have to think about the pornography from the first marriage. And she couldn’t understand why until I was able to explain to her: “Well, you’ve trained your brain to be aroused by that.” And so, for a lot of women, they bring that into their marriage. And in order for them to enjoy sex they have to think about the images that they’ve seen. And it’s so devastating for them because they want just to be able to be present with their husband and be aroused by their husbands. But their brain is over here and they’ve got those pictures in their brain. And with pornography, those pictures really become a permanent imprint in our brain. It’s like our brain takes a picture of it and puts it into the memory and it’s a permanent picture there. 

Hope: Retraining the Brain

Addiction to pornography is like any addiction, so it’s kind of retraining the brain. So it’s making strategic steps to eliminate that from your life. And in fact, there’s actually a pathway in the brain when we start using pornography for sexual arousal and release. It’s like we’re using this pathway that starts getting wider and wider and wider. So in order to shut that pathway down you have to stop that. It’s just like with alcohol. You’ve got to stop drinking. You got to stop going to places where people drink. You’ve got to remove yourself from that situation, so that your brain can heal. And then start retraining to be aroused by something else. And that’s the neat thing about God. God can heal anything! But in the piece with addictions, addictions just take a lot of work. And it may always be an area of weakness once we’ve been addicted. But with God he always gives us a way out and your brain can be retrained.

View more porn addiction resources.