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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. Foster

    Seriously?????

    February 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  2. CEDDY

    R

    You are so right!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  3. Tanya

    Sperm should be released on a regular basis to avoid prostate problems which are caused by Abstinence, Exposure to cold, and Gonorrhea consequences.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  4. John

    Christianity did not start with the Bible. It started after Jesus was crucified. I can't stand people that say they are "Christians" and do not even know when their religion started, and another thing, stop thinking the Bible is the word of God. If it was, and we are all created after his image, then you would think that God would not have had "humans" interpret his words for others, but would have just given us the word in our brains from the beginning. If this is true, then God is fallible and I wouldn't want to follow a God that would make mistakes.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  5. Richie P

    I'm a "religious" person myself (I put it in quotations because I don't think of myself that way, but that is what ninety-odd percent of people would label me) and I hear stories like this all the time. It really bugs me because these marriage problems are not actually the result of the po-rn itself, or even because of the sin of lust. Both spouses in every marriage are guilty of many sins, but nobody leaves their spouse saying, "He/she failed to be completely sinless." It is a profound naivety that wrecks marriages. The church is still in the dark ages when it comes to issues of addiction (especially with po-rn, but all addictions in general). They still treat addictions like a bad habit that the addict can drop as soon as he is willing enough. Therefore, if a man looks at po-rn he simply doesn't love his wife enough to quit. They don't want to admit that the addict doesn't have real control and there's no reason for the wife to take it personally.
    The fact that his man had to tell his wife about his po-rn instead of her figuring it out herself proves that it wasn't destoying the marriage. If he was spending too much time looking at po-rn to maintain the marriage, and spending so much money on po-rn it caused financial issues, that would be a different story and the marriage would have foundered without his needing to inform her.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • skm

      good perspective richie p. i doubt john and wife had much of a bond if all their love and trust was "shaken to the core." regarding this issue. these are probably two persons who weren't mature enough for marriage in the first place. it certainly doesn't sound like they had much of a foundation.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Madtown

      Richie P
      "I'm a "religious" person myself (I put it in quotations because I don't think of myself that way, but that is what ninety-odd percent of people would label me) and I hear stories like this all the time. It really bugs me because these marriage problems are not actually the result of the po-rn itself, or even because of the sin of lust."
      -–
      Good post, however I disagree with the notion of the "sin of lust". Lust is not a sin. It's a normal biological characteristic. If you believe it to be a sin, it's only because you repress it out of yourself but make no mistake....you have lust. All human beings do, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  6. Frankie

    Really?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  7. Belarius Marek

    Bloody idiots.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  8. cd

    I find this interesting # 1 how this is framed and # 2 how it is written and from a liberal left network. The man is alway wrong no matter what,has he gone out on his wife,"no" has he been on a date with someone else "no" this is all about women "controling men". This same liberal network "loves" to bring up stories of "affair's" all the time as a "mild mistake" on a women part. Just the mire use of the word "affair" makes it ok what this man did in the eye of god compare to a affair or aboration will "not" get him in the gate of any faster!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  9. pete

    "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" This marriage was in trouble from the beginning. They had worked so hard in the first 4 months? Really? If the first four months of your marriage are spent building trust you are definately not ready for marriage.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  10. Shirley

    I don't understand why this woman is so hysterical. Her husband did not cheat on her, for Christ's sake! Get over it already. What is so sinful about looking at a beautiful naked body?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • FrankLee

      Pretty understandable why this guy turned to the internet.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Jose Head

      She must have gained about 200lbs after they got married.....

      February 22, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  11. gabriel

    interesting. however, where is the retrospect of christians that are tax collectors or prison guards, those were professions Jesus abhorred, and yet we see so many christians in those positions. Lastly, lust is such a touchy subject, but another sin, gossip or gluteny is shrugged at, methinks the lust issue revolves around performance issues.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  12. bduck

    What is going on here? There are 87 comments and about 80 of them are bashing a couple for caring deeply about a successful and loving relationship! Is not the heart of this story 'love'? Is there anyone here that would say that love is a bad thing? Get real people... start talking about how great it is that two people love eachother, not about how moronic they are and how they should watch p-orn together. They are seeking to love eachother after experiencing something that put a wedge in between their relationship! Praise the Lord for couples who want to grow closer together without bringing a third person in bed with them.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Cason

      That's the point - it's about perspective. Is it really worth fighting over?

      February 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • elophi

      Thank you for your response. My husband is overcoming these same struggles and I can attest that God was the missing link in our marriage. It is a daily struggle, but we are growing in our marriage and in our faith. Philippians 4:13

      February 22, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • BroNate

      Imagine a car in which the airbags smash into your face every time you go over a 2 inch speed bump.

      I don't doubt that this situation seems dramatic to the couple involved, but if this is the worst problem their relationship ever comes across they'll be really lucky, and as an onlooker I just can't muster a lot of interest. To me it just sounds like they need to adjust the sensitivity level on their airbag deployment sensor.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • bduck

      I agree its about perspective but I also believe it is worth fighting for... it is about the greatest commandment given that is at the heart of every problem on the planet... "love God, love your neighbor." 95% of the comments on here are failing to love. Before we comment on how crazy Christians are, maybe we should examine our perspective on love. Is love important to YOU? I don't care what you think about the way Christians are living their lives... how are YOU LIVING YOURS! If we were living with love being a priority... maybe these comment threads wouldn't be so painful to see!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  13. N.L.

    What if God doesn't exist?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Bubba

      What if God watches p0rn?

      February 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • N.L.

      Amen!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • skm

      science and history would agree!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Tarzan's mom

      For God, it should be like watching youtube insect mating videos and shaking his fist vigorously! What a nerd! 😀

      February 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Ald

      The bible is real and it says only a fool would say there is no GOD.I will pray for you because it is obvious you do not know the goodness of my GOD.

      February 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  14. Frogist

    I would be just as devastated as she was if I was made a promise that my husband and I thought was vital to our marriage, and then he breaks that promise on our 4 mth anniversary. But my question is, have they set the bar too high? Rachel describes "se-xual addiction" as "a normal se-x drive that has become obssessive to the point that behaviour is out of control." But is any incidence of p0rn viewing or mastu-rbation considered "out of control" to the husband or wife? Because that is not the clinical definition of an addiction. A person who has a drink of alcohol is not automatically an alcoholic. I wonder if this couple is mistaking a normal occurence for something abusive. From their perspective "lust" is absolutely unacceptable because of their religious stance. But it is also impossible to simply not find anyone other than your spouse attractive. I believe anyone who says they do that is lying to themselves and their poor partner. But maybe Christians have a different definition of "lust" too.

    I find it kind of funny that they thought all their problems would magically disappear after they got married. And kind of conflicting too. I think it's normal to look at getting married as a cemented moment where everything is finally settled. I believe everyone looks at it in that way to some extent. But I think religion adds a certain be-all-and-end-all to the image of marriage that's really unfair. The implication that all your se-xual needs are met and fulfilled when you get married is apparently persistent in this couple's belief. And it's truly unrealistic as they are finding out now. But what's worse is that he never brought his issues to her attention till they tied the knot. If he truly has an addiction, and he didn't let her know, how cruel was he to his future partner for life.

    I also find it strange, this insistence that only "men struggle". I also find it a bit insulting. This idea that women can't feel se-xual towards anyone other than their husband is a myth of epic proportions. This idea that they don't mast-rbate or watch p0rn is a ridiculous double standard that obviously played and is playing a real role in how they have approached this issue in their marriage.

    I think this couple has some "old-fashioned" ideas about what se-x is, what marriage is, what men and women are... And these ideas are being bolstered by their religious stance. It's unfortunate, because I think the benefit of stepping back from the all-or-nothing passe ideas of marriage and gender roles could really help ease the pressure they have brought on each other. I hope they can get some counseling. Find someone to teach them how to increase the honesty and trust between them. And someone who can help diagnose whether or not he has an addiction and how to treat it. I actually wish they had someone who let them know to be a bit more realistic about their expectations for marriage. But hey, it's their first year, and I've been told that's the hardest. I wish them luck.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • David Johnson

      You are back! You have been missed!

      Good to see your "handle" again!

      Cheers!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • DeathStalker

      Religion the Bible and all that scare me. If it is really true that fornication and all other forms of sin talked about in the Bible condemn you to hell then we are all in a world of trouble. I do believe that there are some few who live up to most of what the bible teach but by few I mean maybe 10 or 20 people in the whole world living today. Out of those 10 or 20 people probably only 1 or 2 actually are Christians. Now that number could be wrong but we all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. AS it says in the bible we can be forgiven through Christ but even still how many of us sin every day. The question I have really is that non-Christians will be forgiven. Those that have been taught other religious beliefs or ones who have none at all. Even those who claim to be Christian but sin every day. Do any of us have a chance or are we all fated to die and live in eternal damnation. I pray for us all that we will be forgiven or 99.999% of everyone is going down hard.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Frogist

      Hi DJ! *hugs* Yeah, couldn't resist this one. Also severely lacking the motivation to do actual work today. I have a love/hate relationship with Belief Blog. I fill my time with it, but it also wastes my time. Maybe I'm addicted! At least I'm not fapping to it.
      Nice to see you still kicking the fundies around though.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  15. the worst

    This was seriously the worst article ever. EVER.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • JSW

      I think there was one back in the early 2000's that was a bit worse.

      Maybe not.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  16. Chuck

    John Buckingham, I will pray for you. It is my highest prayer that you will awaken from the nightmare that you are in. That you will see the error of your ways. That guilt and shame from your church and your friends/family is the price you pay to follow that god. I pray that you will find our Creator, who holds not will over you, that does not judge you, and that accepts you as the perfect human being you are, though others may call you flawed. I hope that you will find peace and happiness no matter what form it may take. May you also learn and grow from this experience, so that you may never be put asunder again.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • There Are No Gods!

      yeah pray for him, do the same thing you are doing right now. . .nothing

      February 22, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  17. DYLANSDADDY

    Just have your wife watch it with you. Integrate it into part of your bedroom activities. Problem solved.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  18. Matt

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Jesus Christ (John 3:16-21)

    Which camp are you in? Do you hate the light or do you run to it?

    February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Bubba

      I turn the light on and off, and put lampshades on it. Sometimes I even change the bulb.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • BigDeezy

      Depends on how hungover I am

      February 22, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • JSW

      Make sure you use a CFL bulb.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • The Devil

      Hey, don't forget Light Beer.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Rob

      It would be great if everyone would live as the Bible suggests, but then how could it be expected when every other teacher, pastor, and priest is either gay or a pedophile and their leader the pope would rather shuffle them around rather than remove them from "service" to God. When these people claiming to be Christians are not molesting children or cheating on their wives they are usually invading countries and killing and raping in the name of God. Personally I think anybody that follows an organized religion ought to be preemptively placed in prison to protect the more rational people in this world.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  19. rosscoe

    Nonsense!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  20. TB

    What a waste of time.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Mike

      A waste of time is an understatement. It's a completely fictionalized story written by the Editor of that DumbA*ss Christian C*RAP magazine... WHAT A JOKE!!!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • There Are No Gods!

      this whole blog is a waste of time

      February 22, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • ok.

      Typical Christians, hiding their actions and not accepting who they are. If he was a real man he would have been open with his loved one before they were married.

      I wouldn't call this a sin, since I don't believe in the concept or right and wrong, there are only the consequences of our actions.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • PROBLEM SOLVED

      If people would just talk to each other and the man takes care of what his wife wants, and the wife takes care of what her husband wants- there would be no problem. My wife may not be into it at the moment (tired) but she lets me do it since that would make me happy. In return there will be nights where she just gets a back massage and that is it. Or if I take care of my self she is probably right in front of me with a helping hand. Women are beautiful, but there is no other woman I would like to stare at then my wife, and she is willing to always be there even if my s-ex drive is twice hers....problem solved.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • test

      he climaxed

      February 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • test

      he spilled his seed on the floor

      February 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.