Can you divorce a spouse because of porn use?

Jay Dee

Can you divorce a spouse because of porn use?

Aug 07, 2015

This question came up in a discussion with some readers: If a spouse, after given an ultimatum about quitting porn, chooses the porn, is it okay to divorce them?  The questioner basically gave the answer I would, but I wanted to expand a bit on

Can you divorce a spouse because of porn useThis question came up in a discussion with some readers: If a spouse, after given an ultimatum about quitting porn, chooses the porn, is it okay to divorce them?  The questioner basically gave the answer I would, but I wanted to expand a bit on it, so, with her permission, this post is my answer.

First off, I should make it clear that in my mind, watching porn is a form of adultery in my mind, based on:

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28

Some will say that they watch porn without lust or that they’re substituting their spouse, or blah blah blah, but I don’t buy it.  That’s like saying you slept with someone else, but were only thinking of your spouse at the time, and so it’s okay.  That’s just ridiculous.  Oh, and having permission doesn’t work either.

So, let’s say your spouse is watching porn.  You know it, either by catching them, or they’ve admitted it.  So you confront them on it.

First off, I think giving an ultimatum is not a good first step.  I’ve heard many wives say that if they caught their husband watching porn, they’d divorce him on the spot.  Frankly, I think that says more about their character than anything else.  I think it shows a lack of compassion, forgiveness and a willingness to stick to your vows.  It’s also a bit naive considering over 90% of men have seen porn at some point in their life.  If you’re a wife who has said they’d divorce their husband for watching porn…well, you better hope he’s in that < 10%.  Of course, the genders could be reversed, I’ve just never heard it from a husband, and I’m not sure of the current statistic for women (but I know it’s growing).

Instead, I think Matthew 18 is a good guideline:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

In other words, confront your spouse.  Tell them you know they are watching porn, how it’s hurting you, that it’s wrong, and ask them to stop.  If they don’t, call someone else in and confront them.  Ideally someone your spouse trusts and respects.  Perhaps an elder if need be.  If they still won’t listen, then it should be brought to the church, by whatever method your church handles such concerns.

The idea is to hopefully show them how serious an issue it is.  That it’s not just the hurt spouse that is upset and perhaps biased, but that the church does not approve of this behavior.  However, if the spouse still continues in their sin, in defiance, then I think the church has no choice but to take measures and remove him from fellowship, should he be a member.  Unfortunately, I know some churches will not take these measures.  They’re too afraid of what people will think, and so they shrink back from the responsibility given to them.  But, should they do their job, and the spouse who chose porn is removed from membership, to be treated as an unbeliever.  This leaves their spouse in a difficult position. Do they stay with a spouse who has chosen porn over her, or leave?

The Bible gives two answers:

But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. – Matthew 5:32

Of course, this is the verse everyone loves to waves around.  Sadly, it’s been used to say you SHOULD divorce in the case of adultery, instead of saying it is PERMISSIBLE to divorce, and as Paul says:

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. – 1 Corinthians 10:23

To contrast this we have another verse to take into consideration:

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? – 1 Corinthians 7:12-16

This verse is a direct call NOT to divorce.

So, then we have a verse telling us not to divorce an unbeliever (whom we can’t expect to hold to God’s standards), and yet another that allows one to divorce in the case of adultery.  How do we reconcile these?

 

I think the story of Hosea is the answer.  While this book talks about the relationship between God and His people, I think we can extrapolate and see some parallels here.  Hosea is told by God to marry a prostitute, who continually goes out, sleeps with other men, and has their children, which Hosea raises.  She comes home, Hosea cleans her up, and she’s back out again.  In the end, God tells Him that it’s okay.  Give up, Hosea tried, he did his job, he gave every effort to love his wife, despite her rejection of him.  But Hosea decides to stick it out, solely because God decided to wait for His bride.  In the end, Hosea ends up buying His wife back from slavers, and she finally stays with him.

So, from this I take it that the direction not to divorce is the primary command.  You should make all efforts to repair the relationship, to continue to love, if possible.  However, if you’ve tried, if you cannot continue, if it’s destroying you, then, it is permissible to divorce, as an absolutely last resort.  Not as the threat of an ultimatum, but as a final loving gesture.  Sort of an “If I stay here, I’m going to kill you, or it’s going to kill me, so I have to leave”.

That’s what I believe anyways.  What about you?

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