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What porn did to a marriage
February 22nd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

What porn did to a marriage

The blog begins with a startling confession:

Hi, my name is John, and I was a sex addict. I’m also a believer in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and am married to an amazing and beautiful woman of God.

Church leaders have long struggled talking about sex, much less pornography. But Relevant magazine made a daring move this month when it printed a blogger’s confession about how his addiction to pornography affected his marriage.

The blogger is John Buckingham, and he is an English teacher, Relevant says. Buckingham said in the story that his addiction to pornography started when he was 12. He thought it would end after his girlfriend accepted his marriage proposal in early 2010.

Yet four months after getting married, Buckingham says he succumbed. He started watching pornography again. Burdened by guilt, Buckingham said he told his wife what he had done.

She was devastated. All the love and trust and intimacy we had worked so hard to build for the last four months was called into question and our marriage was shaken to its very core. I feared it wouldn't stand, and I wouldn't have blamed her in the least for walking out altogether. She had every right to do so.

She didn’t, and as Buckingham suggests later in his article, he didn’t give up either. He says he talked with other Christian men about their struggles but felt that they were using “softening rhetoric” (“I messed up;’ “I stumbled”) to minimize what they were doing.

He writes:

The sin of lust isn’t just a mistake, a mess-up or a problem…it is no less than an act of sin that is reprehensible to God and nothing short of honestly confessing and repenting of that sins is good enough for God.

Rachel Buckingham, John's wife, writes a follow-up blog explaining how she felt after hearing her husband's confession.

I no longer felt safe or loved. I was suddenly bombarded with lies—he doesn't find me attractive; it's my fault he strayed; I'm not beautiful; I'm not sexy; I am a horrible wife; I'm a failure; he is stuck with me; he doesn't love me ...

Buckingham writes more about his struggle. I’ll leave it to readers to decide if they think he has overcome his addiction.

But his confession left me with two questions:

Is pornography now such a pervasive problem in the church that leaders need to talk more openly about?

And can people of faith like Buckingham actually learn how to overcome their struggles while living in a sexually-charged culture where lurid images are just a mouse-click away?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Faith • Sex • Sexuality

soundoff (1,043 Responses)
  1. Ed

    Going back to the subject of the article, my wife and I watch po*rn. Mostly together, sometimes alone. What's the problem? I'll admit after 20 years together, sometimes it's nice to get a little "kick start". I don't understand the issues with this article, is this guy actually shunning intercourse with his wife for po*rn? Is his viewing of this stuff actually affecting his life negatively aside from judgements?

    March 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  2. D.W.M.

    From a medical standpoint its been proven that masturbation can help prevent prostate cancer so it would seem john was doing his wife a service by attempting to keep himself healthy :)

    March 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  3. Frustrated

    I see all these people wondering why people who don't follow a "religion" come here and question the articles and bother those who are interested in the articles. I myself have no chosen faith but I do choose to read these articles for one reason... as long as "religious" people feel the need to call me a sinner because I had a child outside of marriage, or critisize my ability to be a good parent because I don't take my child to church... I think I have every right to critisize and question the articles that SOMETIMES fuel that hatred.

    Until the day comes when people on both sides of the arguement reach a point where what they chose to do with their life is their OWN business and nobody elses, this is all fair game. If you believe that what I do will condemn me to hell... what should you care?

    I personally find it challenging to understand why so much hatred stems from religion yet people say it's about LOVE, LOVE, LOVE... but condemn, critisize and hate those who do not conform to your beliefs.

    At the end of the day, I have my beliefs, you have yours... don't knock me for my life and I won't knock you for yours.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dina

      Please understand that before I accepted Christ, I felt the same way–that Christians thought they were so good, that they thought I was such a sinner, etc. I stayed away from them because I felt I was unworthy in their eyes. When I really started reading the Bible, though, and praying for God to show me how I could go to heaven, rather than hell (yes, I knew that was my destiny), the Bible seemed to "come alive" inside. The Word of God started to make sense to me, I followed the Bibles plan of salvation: I knew I was a sinner so I confessed and asked forgiveness for everything that came to mind, then asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. I learned Jesus was the Son of God (spiritual sense). He came to Earth in human form-simply to take away the sins of the world. He lived a perfect life, thus was the perfect sacrifice to pay the cost (suffer the punishment for sin that every human deserved). Were you the only human on earth, He would still have come and given His life for you! We are all human, we ALL sin - even Christians! Anyhow, I asked Him to come into my heart, then believed that He did....simply because God cannot lie. My life changed totally.

      I had been just like you when it came to what I thought about Christians. As for me, I've always felt unwanted and undeserving. Those Christians are just too goody-goody, I thought. I apologize for those who cause hurt. Even so, they are still human...and as such, they will never be perfect. If anybody could be good on their own, then Jesus wouldn't have needed to come to earth, be unjustly accused, suffer horrific punishment (for us, actually), die, and receive punishment in hell for our sins. Wow! What love. Christians will always struggle with the world just like non-Christians. The only difference is that we took a step of faith in God's Word. Our only hope is in Jesus! We will always need a Savior because we are always human. If a believer acts holier than thou, they are wrong...and are struggling or fighting temptation as we all do. God loves you and welcomes you! It's between you and Jesus. Doesn't matter what the others say or think about you. God bless you!

      July 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Martin

    What does Charlie Sheen think? My vote is with him!

    March 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  5. Carmela

    I believe the man in the article sought help through a Bible-based 12-step program. That program is awesome as I have seen how it has transformed lives. You are never cured,,,,but applying the Steps to daily life is a "new design for living". Amen to this couple.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  6. william

    WHO CARES, she can mind her own business and he can continue to jack off in private....done....now worry about something real

    March 22, 2011 at 6:49 am |
  7. Ben Dover

    Not more god squad idiots spouting their inane and insane pap.

    March 21, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  8. Dixie

    I would recommend this website: veritas.org. Questions are articulately and maturely addressed.

    March 21, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  9. Mystical Homeless Person

    The biblical story of Onan relates that when Onan's brother died, the Lord decreed that Onan must marry his brother's wife to carry on the family name. But every time Onan was about to climax, he pulled out and spilled his seed on the ground. Yahweh killed him for his wickedness. Now isn't that special. I sincerely hope for John Buckingham's sake that his wife's sister is a hottie.

    March 21, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  10. hey hey hey

    What people failed to mention in here is that po-rn is FUN!!!!! And don't bother commenting back, because I won't be pulled into an argument.

    March 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • kburnach

      S*x with your loved one can be much more fun though.

      March 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Robert Clutch

    The sooner we all realize we're descended from the Proto-Ape, not created in the image of god, and that religion is a creation of mankind, the better we'll be able to be in confronting our mutual future seeking the truth of life together through a more accurate understanding of reality.

    March 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Dina

      So you believe a tornado just came thru a junkyard and assembled everything, male and female, with perfection. Life was just automatically perfect! Men and woman just happened to be made to "fit" and be able to create another human just like them. I have to hand it to you! That takes a whole lot more "pure faith" than believing in divine creation.

      July 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  12. MrKleanso

    America was first settled by Puritans and there is a very distinct and influential Puritanical streak still coursing through American life and politics to this day. I'm not a historian by profession, but didn't the first pilgrims leave England because the crown found the Puritans' particular interpretation of Christianity to be a tad extreme? Now here's what really intrigues me: What would America be like today if England had sent America her most progressive, liberal thinkers on the Mayflower rather than her most extreme, conservative religious zealots?

    March 20, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Dina

      America would have never made it if Mayflower people had been progressive (Marxist).

      July 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  13. jesus eleysan

    HE MUST HAVE BEEN CATHOLIC ..

    March 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • surreal

      actually i think he is bulimic

      March 22, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  14. EZ

    I Think I'm going to puke.

    March 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  15. JAFO

    i think someone seriously needs to organize an atheist political movement... if these discussions on religion on the internets are any indicator, i feel its time to bring it out in the open. The Atheists for Truth and Reason Party

    March 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Val

      you know you might be right. I think the time is right also.

      March 21, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  16. Chryse

    All I want to say is thank goodness for my parents' lust. *I* know who created me; it's on my birth certificate.

    March 19, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  17. Michael Daily

    This article is an extreme view on the subject – the religious right has created all sorts of unnecessary mental anguish for men by guilting them to death about their natural lust! While fidelity in relationships is possible and necessary, lust cannot and should not be forced into such a narrow channel – that is as immature and destructive as letting it run completely unrestrained !

    March 18, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • mathew

      OMG, a woman that actually understands. thank you for sticking up for us.

      March 19, 2011 at 4:14 am |
    • LiBra29

      I think religion has made women feel far more guilty than men about their natural urges. Who is expected to wear white at the wedding after all? Not the man.

      March 20, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • James

      Natural lust? You're so sure that it's not learned lust? Acquired lust? It is "natural" only in that when you accustom your mind to thinking in a certain way, the "natural" result is that it becomes more habitual for you to think that way. That doesn't mean that your "natural" result is a good or necessary thing.

      Training your mind to lust after women (or men, as the case may be) of every shape, size, and color, is going to have a "natural" and predictable result on the human mind.

      Think about it. Your wife cannot be tall and short. She cannot be both large and small chested. She cannot be both blond and brunette and redhead (well, not all at once anyway). She cannot simultaneously be of all races, or be all things to you. She is what she is. But if you have trained your mind to want everything, then you have trained yourself to have an unrealistic expectation of what you want your partner to be. Until she becomes able to be all the things that you have trained yourself to desire, you will find yourself unhappy, and looking for another source for all those things that she is not, and could not be.

      What is the solution? To demand that she find a way to be everything that she is not, in order to satisfy you? Or to place limits on yourself, so that you will learn to appreciate her for what she is?

      I would submit to you that it's equally "natural" for a person to commit to one, single mate. To have eyes only for that person. To allow that person to become and to be their standard of beauty. To allow themselves to be satisfied and happy with that person, rather than flooding their minds with the endless stream of alternatives and "what ifs", inflaming covetousness over what they don't have, rather than satisfaction with what they do have.

      Not my ideas: Google "David As_scherick hitchhiking for love" (underscore is present to bypass filtering, as I don't believe his last name counts as dirty language)

      March 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  18. ace from Georgia

    I googled the Barna report. Here's the direct quote, which throws out the argument that atheists and agnostics are experiencing happier marriages. They might be, mind you, but not according to the statistical research mentioned.
    The Barna report says: Thirty percent of atheists and agnostics had been married and subsequently divorced. However, the three-point difference from the national average was within the range of sampling error, suggesting that their likelihood of experiencing a dissolved marriage is the same as that of the population at-large. A representative from Barna also pointed out the atheists and agnostics have lower rates of marriage and a higher likelihood of cohabitation, a combination of behaviors that distort comparisons with other segments.

    March 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • MCArmstrong

      Actually The Barna Report clearly shows that only 21% of atheists have been divorced, which is much lower than any sect of Christianity. Nice try though.

      Just face it, Atheists and Agnostics have more successful marriages.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  19. Nathan

    The simple fact that readers have to "trick" the site by spelling it "s-ex" just show you how backward & prudish the American public really is. They let you read an article all about the S-word, but when you to post a legitimate response, it's censored as if we are toddlers. Grow up, America.

    March 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Jagged

      So true.
      It seems to me , it is MY opinion, that CNN censors lean blatently toward thier own agenda, which is in MY opinion, pro deviant behavior and anti God.
      It still is a free country right, I still have freedom of speech?
      Or am I enciting a riot?
      Get the tear gas and water cannons!

      March 17, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Jagged
      The CNN censors have no bias.
      The auto filter is simply an example of Political Correctness gone crazy!
      No matter the context in which you try to use the naughty words or word fragments, it will be put into moderation land.

      Benign statements like "The consti-tution is a doc-ument" without the dashes will be censored.

      March 17, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Rbnlegend101

      Beyond that, I have to obfuscate the word s*x, but I can spell murder, stab and decapitate without issue. I would have to talk around saying that I want to have normal marital relations with my wife, but it would be ok to say that I want to kill her. F-word her? Not allowed to say. Shoot her? Thats ok. And so many people can't see why I might thing that represents confused priorities.

      For the record, we have a healthy can't say that word life, and I do not wish any harm on my wife.

      March 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • LiBra29

      Jagged: I agree that censoring comments with the "s-word" when that is the topic of the article is stupid. But you don't have freedom of speech when it comes to CNN. The first amendment only protects you against being censored by the government. Posting on CNN is a luxury, not a right. CNN has a right to censor its comments how it sees fit. If you or I don't like it and it bothers us so much, we can make comments on a different news source.

      March 20, 2011 at 1:54 am |
  20. Phil

    I just have one question: Why do so many people who HATE religion so attracted to religious articles? That really is bizarre.

    March 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • ashertopia.blogspot.com

      Where is the "LIKE" button?

      Every time I read one of these articles I find chat room flame wars circa 1995. Makes these comments useless for people interested in discussing the articles.

      March 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Know thy enemy.

      March 17, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • Dee

      No kidding! I personally think they have true spiritual conviction to spend so much time on threads being hostile to people of faith.

      March 17, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Steve Brinkhoff

      You really don't understand it? It's not hard, so to speak. Every candidate for any significant office has to declare his or her Christianity, with a few exceptions. These are the people who make decisions that affect me. They say that they talk to God. That their decisions and their whole lives are informed and influenced by religion. I've got a direct interest in the subject. Try running for office as a declared atheist, and you'll be branded immoral, abnormal. But if you proudly say your invisible murdering friend in the sky talks to you, well, that's normal. I'm an atheist and know the Bible better than most of my Christian friends. Their level of ignorance of what their own rule book says is shocking. But their judgements and voting based on ill-informed beliefs denies rights to people and is the cause of ruinous divisions throughout the world. You bet I've got an interest in religious topics. I wish more so-called Christians did.

      March 18, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • JAFO

      maybe its because of all the death and destruction religion is causing and HAS caused. i don't know, could be a factor, just sayin'. or maybe its just because im tired of religious people knocking on my door giving me a copy of the Watchtower or whatever. funny, no atheist has ever done that, go figure

      March 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mystical Homeless Person

      The biblical story of Onan relates that when Onan's brother died, the Lord decreed that Onan must marry his brother's wife to carry on the family name. But every time Onan was about to climax, he pulled out and spilled his seed on the ground. Yahweh killed him for his wickedness. Now isn't that special. I sincerely hope for John Buckingham's sake that his wife's sister is a hottie.

      March 21, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • ghelf

      I am an agnostic and have asked myself why I feel animocity toward the religious. If a kid asks me if Santa Claus really exists, am I going to rain on his parade and say no. Of course not. If believing in something helps you get through this life than I'm all for it. However, the religious seem to have this need to export their ideas. It is this that I find very annoying but at the same time it amazes me that some stranger has convinced you the bible is the literal word of Christ. That is why agnostics follow these threads. It just amazes them that so many people just blindly follow the teaching of somebody they don't even know. Just say no to blind faith!

      March 21, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • jamie

      It takes the place of "joke of the day", that's why!

      March 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • jamie

      Where else can you get a good laugh nowadays?

      March 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Stevie

      It gives them an opportunity to be smug and bitter.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.