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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 • Evangelical • Faith • Sex • Sexuality

soundoff (1,043 Responses)
  1. Generik

    I don't see any reason this should be a problem. This woman obviously has insecurity issues judging by the quotes of her no longer feeling safe or loved. Give me a break. Either there is more to this story that isn't being reported or this marriage wasn't based on a very strong relationship to begin with.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  2. ABORTION = MURDER

    if you watch even 1 second of p0rn you will go to hell for all eternity

    February 22, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Jeff

      lol.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Robin

      I take it you've never read this one:
      Matthew 1-7:
      1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
      2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Mk. 4.24
      3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
      4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
      5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

      That's all you Christians seem to do, judge others. You have no right and if you believe in hell, you're on your way for going against the word of your own Savior.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • AllAgainstPoliticalCorrectness

      @Robin: good one...

      February 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • YammaYamma

      I have been Judged......Dredd!!!!! I AM THE LAW!!!!!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • IO

      Keep your fire and brimstone to yourself.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  3. Steve

    This is another example of how religious fanaticism clouds our thinking. People should do the right thing while alive on earth because that is the way we can all survive and thrive. Do not be too concerned with receiving some esoteric reward after you die. Let's all get real because that is what counts here and now.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  4. Vick

    It is encouraging to hear another Christian come out and speak about their struggles they encounter on a daily basis. Whether it deals with lust, anger or numerous other things. Just because one becomes a Christian does not mean you become perfect but rather you see all your imperfections like never before through the eyes of a Holy God. I've encountered many people walking around like their poop don't stink, myself included. Sin is sin in the eyes of God. The standard of the law of God is perfection and is impossible for anyone to meet on their own. It is by the grace of God alone that one can have hope for their future. We are not "saved" by anything we do or don't do here in this life. Doing good works will not get you a pass to get you into heaven. Trying to live a sinless life or trying to be holy won't get you there either. One can only be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. John seems to be hard in pursuit of following God and wanting to please Him. You are peeling the onion and for that I applaud you John.

    Matthew 5: 27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    Romans 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things

    Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

    Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

    Romans 5: 20-21 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Romans 7:21-25 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

    Romans 8:10-11 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • KELLY BAUM

      Nice!!! Funny how refreashing it is to hear something like this.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Madtown

      Quoting scripture isn't terribly different from quoting any other literary source crafted by the hand of man.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Mark

      What is this book you are quoting? Sounds like a boring effort at a stick mag (I assume its a forum letter type deal) Also sounds a bit on the gay side, I haven't heard one quote about a womens story – All Mathews, Marks, and Johns....

      February 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  5. Skeptic

    Oh give me a break...why is this on CNN? It aint news. Its soap opra and WE DONT CARE..while Im at it...we also dont care about lady gag gag...lyndsy lowlife's latest temper tantrum or Madonna's flabby arms. The world is coming apart before our eyes and the media is focused on this crap. Lets see if this story is still important by next april when gas is $5 a gallon, our recovering economy is collapsing again and we have invaded Libya (again) to stop the genocide.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Leroy MM

      If you don't like it, don't read it.

      It's called the Belief Blog, idiot. Nobody is trying to say it is headline news.

      Get over yourself and go hide in your basement until the $5 a gallon gas is gone. Make sure the boogey man is gone too before you come out though.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  6. Jason

    I stopped reading the article after the first complete sentence. This article is a waste of time, resources, bandwidth....

    February 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  7. SP

    Get a life

    February 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  8. CW

    I agree with this article from the first to the last word. A good marriage has to be based on one thing....GOD....GOD....GOD FIRST. Then you as a husband or wife have to put your spouse ahead of your own self-'ish-'ness and this is only the start. Marriage is rough...period but if you lean on God at all times including the good and the bad then He(God) will get you both through anything in your marriage.....TOGETHER...not divorced as our ME FIRST culture is now all about. P-'or-'n is something that needs to be discussed in the church...period. It is a sin that leads to other sins down the road...i.e. aud-'ult-'ery..etc.

    @ Mike,

    Wrong again....God created Marriage....he created everything..Man, woman, earth....now its right.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Johnny

      To CW
      So God is a he? Then what's the Easter Bunny?

      February 22, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Zeke2112

      I guess God can ask how your day was, bring you flowers from time to time, compliment your eyes or hair, keep you warm on a cold night, laugh at morons with you, etc, etc.

      The very problem with marriage is how religion has put it on a pedestal. It is an agreement between two people in defiance of thousands of years of biological programming and based on biochemistry more than God. The day we realize that – and that it is okay to separate the emotional aspect of love with the biologically-driven aspect of s3x – we might finally be free from self-imposed tyranny.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  9. David

    And how is this different from Alcoholism or Drug addition? Aside from the fact that the Church doesn't want to deal with those openly either. Addition is addition, the object of the addition is irrelevent

    February 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Mi Letz

      addition????????

      February 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Justin

      Some people really get off on math. It's a relationship killer...

      February 22, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  10. JonP

    The wife should put out more. That's half the reason that guys go looking for anything, because they're not getting it elsewhere. Same thing with wimmens and their attention seeking behavior. I know after not getting laid for a few days, my right hand starts looking pretty good.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Justin

      Might not change anything. A bit part of the allure isn't just an issue of frequency but of variety. Humans are NOT innately monogamous, and no amount of love can entirely stifle boredom. Not to say that love and devotion can't overcome boredom, but there's always going to be some urge to cheat.

      Some people deal with this urge by cheating (which can lead to extreme emotional torment), some with consensual swinging (which requires an understanding partner and a resilient relationship), some through outright suppression (which usually results in bitter subconscious resentment), and some watch adult films. The latter choice doesn't really come with as much baggage until you add in all the concepts of sin and guilt that religion tries to infect us with.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  11. Chocoholic

    I find it interesting the hatred being spewed here against Christians. This man obviously has a problem, and because he is a Christian, he is therefore a wimp, an idiot, a moron, etc. Wow. So much for tolerance!

    P0rn is a real problem in this country, regardless of faith or beliefs. As a marriage and family counselor, I've seen p0rn destroy more marriages than you think. It is an unreal picture of what s*x is supposed to be. It is a fantasy world that no one lives in and raises expectations beyond reality. It cheapens the s*xual relationship and intimacy between a husband and a wife. It is a horrendous lifestyle for any man or woman to be involved with, whether you are a participant or you are the one performing the p0rnographic demonstrations. S*x is a beautiful thing to be shared between a husband and wife. It is cheapened by p0rn. I'd really like to talk to those who think it's OK to view, and ask them if they want their son or daughter watching it. Better yet, how would they feel if their 16 year old daughter was bumping and grinding on film or in front of h0rny 50 year old men?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Anthony

      It is not hatred, at least from me, so much as it is frustration that we cannot as modern, rational humans leave this silly religious nonsense behind us. It's just unfathomable how such a large part of the world's population can live in a logical world and yet be so aligned with the 'teachings' of a complete mystery being somewhere in the sky or "within in" or whatever the current flavor/incarnation is.

      It's embarrassing.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Jack

      Not hatred of Christians, but rather hatred of the oppression and fundementalism that they (and nearly all religions) represent.

      Unfortunately Christianity, Islam or whatever are in the business of controlling the masses, rather than the more noble business of teaching people how to live godly lives.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Justin

      If you've seen it destroy marriages, they must have been pretty flimsy relationships to begin with, or else relationships that were infected with the toxic beliefs that religion tends to spread on the subject.

      First off, everyone should know already that it's fantasy. Do we let every piece of fiction that ends with the phrase "and they all lived happily ever after" ruin our conception of life, just because it's an unrealistic fantasy? that said, not all adult movies feature ridiculous fantasy plots and supermodels. In this modern day, anyone with a camera, a body, and an internet connection can create an adult movie, and a lot of them are pretty normal people just filming what they do normally. No unrealistic expectations there.

      But that still leaves us with the guilt, and here's something I've noticed about guilt in regards to actions that don't intrinsically hurt anyone: Non-religious people don't seem to suffer from it! I know an awful lot of people who watch this stuff, and most are in committed, loving relationships. Guilt is not an issue because they don't see anything wrong with what they're doing. And since their partners don't see anything wrong with it either, then there's no problem. You only run into issues when you inject the religious fallacy of "sin" into it.

      As for abuses within the industry itself, I'd challenge you to find any industry that doesn't have any. There are bad people who do bad things in all businesses and all walks of life. If it seems like there are more in the adult film industry, it's because the very nature of the business tends towards the sensational (this article's existence is proof of that... the only "news" here is that a Christian marriage hit a rough patch, and it'd be hard to find one that hasn't), and also because societies guilt and squeamishness in this matter essentially pushes fringe elements of the industry underground.

      And who do we have to thank for that? People like you who insist that it's a shameful, wicked problem that must be dealt with... So much for tolerance!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Frogist

      @Chocoholic: If you are a marriage counselor then you know it's bunk when a couple declares some outside influence ruining their marriage. It's not the intruder so much as what is or isn't going on between the husband and wife. There are always deeper issues that need to be solved. Because if they were strong and trusting between them, nothing else would matter. Telling any couple to put down the p0rn and their relationship will be magically fixed is unrealistic. And no p0rn or mast-rbation is a dangerous blanket statement that will not be true for everyone. Distracting them from the problem only delays the inevitable breakdown when some other factor imposes on their trust issues. As a counselor, I'm sure you are well aware that explicit material can be successfully used to treat se-xual dysfunction in couples. So for you to make a statement that p0rn ruins marriages is an unfortunate discoloration of the truth.

      February 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  12. Anthony

    I think this article was intended for Fox or one of the other overly religious media teams that caters to the less than appropriately educated.

    Such silly garbage in a modern world.

    Please save these religious nonsensical, unprovable stories for your children in the same way you tell them Santa Claus exists.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  13. Dan

    If he had to confess to wife that he had watched pron it's probably not affecting their love life or personal life and it may not be harmful. If they are trying to rule out lust, there's plenty of TV and movies geared towards lust for women that aren't pron, like S-x and the City, Grey's Anatomy, and romance books. Is she involved in watching or reading anything lustful?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  14. Entropy

    Seems like the problem here is that the husband kept his habit secret for rather a long time. Perhaps if he'd been more up-front with it, this problem would never have come to pass.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Jack

      I completely agree.

      Unfortunately being a 'Christian' means you must not only lie to others about your faults, but to most of all to YOURSELF.

      Funny, from what I have read JC himself was a very enlightened man who understood that he and all other people were imperfect beings. Too bad nobody remembers that.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Justin

      It's not that nobody remembers that. The church seems to make it a point of insisting that people remember it. They also make very certain that no one accepts it. By declaring that everything that everyone naturally wants to do a sin, and then setting themselves up as the only source of absolution for those sins, they become the ultimate gatekeepers of heaven, a concept that they themselves have manufactured. And no one can prove that you don't get anything for letting them keep you under their thumb, because your imaginary reward is only handed out after you're dead.

      It's a brilliant scam, and an extremely profitable one...

      February 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  15. MikeBell

    When people view each other as little more than evolved creatures then they don't care about the feelings or self-worth of others. Anyone outside the offender's bubble is little more than a toy, conquest, opportunity, or expendable.
    Religions are flawed because 'Churches' are managed by 'people'. But churches and religion exist because people hope and realize that there is the potential for each individual to be something greater than the dust of the earth.
    So bash religion if you must. But realize that those that seek for a greater humanity thirst for a unifying power that is likened to 'Light' that enlightens the the often too mysterious cognitive recognition of having a 'Soul'. Violating the Souls of others should trouble one's own Soul.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Q

      @ MikeBell. you said that "Religions are flawed because 'Churches' are managed by 'people"...so that means that "Religion" and "churches" will ALWAYS be flawed because you cannot have these things without people. Without people there would be no "god", which means that all of this is a manifestation of human consciousness...

      February 22, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Jack

      @Q

      Well said!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  16. Gilly

    This is the biggest pile of christian flowers cnn has published.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Leroy MM

      What's wrong with that?

      If you don't like it, don't read it. Quit wasting everyone's time commenting on it.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  17. Bill the Annoying

    If everyone just stopped having s-e-x then this problem would just go away on its own.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Mark

      You need to get laid Billy boy?

      February 22, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Jack

      Billy actually has a good point... if people stop fooling around the birth rates (and eventually the population) will plummet and Mother Earth (the ONLY true god who gave us life) will be saved.

      Will it happen... ha – no way! Although I think birth control should be a sacrement.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  18. Joebob

    Religion is living life with the blinders on. Why are attractive people on the planet? Because they found each other attractive and reproduced. You can't just shut it off and if one does, he or she will eventually give in as all of us have seen time and time again. All the oppressive thoughts by religion will eventually fail when it comes to trying to have a "perfect marriage".

    February 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  19. RobA

    The practice of criminalizing natural emotions contributes to a tendency toward "extracurricular activities." Proper education in this regard would decrease the tendency to seek darker, more forbidden sources of pleasure.

    Learn your lesson, fundamentalists...IGNORANCE IS NOT EDUCATION.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  20. AllAgainstPoliticalCorrectness

    I have been reading Boccaccio and Chaucer of late and I find it interesting how even in the 1300's thinkers were exposing the hypocracy of the church and the exploitation of the masses by the church. When reading about all of the items the church believes is a SIN I came to the conclusion that most religions use guilt to manipulate the masses and thus exert their power and influence over someone. Most 'religion' defines almost any earthly pleasure as a sin and wants a person to have no earthly pleasure whatsoever. (Gee, this sounds almost like the M*slim extremists where they ban music or any earthly form of entertainment) . Maybe this is why Europe has become so secular... because they have been dealing with the oppression of religion longer than most of the rest of the world. Religion is the most ingenious invention created. It is an ingenious way to control and manipulate the masses. There was a time in the history of humanity when it was necessary. I believe some aspects of it are beneficial (being a good person and helping your neighbor), however, you can strive for this without the need of religion. In regard to this article, I do not think the p0rn0graphy is the problem. I think it is the GUILT TRIP as a result of religious beliefs that is causing most of the problems here. These two seem to have some underlying issues whether or not p0rn0graphy was involved... there are some needs not being met by either or both. They need to sit down and talk about it honestly with each other. Religion is complicating the matter and causing them to make this a bigger deal than it really is. Men are visual... women are not... deal with it!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • KELLY BAUM

      What is gult? It is something built into you to tell you if something is right or wrong. Why then when someone tells you that is wrong to you call them lyers when you were the one feeling guilty??? But yeah it is religion's fault. No its your fault for doing something that you have to convince yourself is all right.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • fireybuddha

      Duh. Of course religion is all about social control and engineering. Look where the largest church in the West sprang from – the Roman Empire.

      Fear drives religions, not love.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Tom

      Actually you bonehead, Europe has frankly been dealing with the "oppression of religion" less than just about anywhere on the planet. A broader contextual grip of world history might serve you well before serving up your pseudo intelluctual tripe for lunch.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Johnny

      Very well said!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • MP

      AllAgainstPoliticalCorrectness: very well written. I absolutely agree with you.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:17 am |
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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.