Attributes of Christian Couples with a Sexual Addiction to Internet Pornography

Article excerpt

From experience in treatment of sexual addicts who profess Christianity, specific vulnerability factors previously identified as relevant to clergy also relate to the greater population of general church membership. Three aspects of vulnerability to sexual addiction are the focus of this study: relational sexuality development, isolation, and consequences. Three Christian couples victimized by sexual addiction, with the husband addicted to internet pornography were studied in this research. The purpose of this study is to better understand how the circumstances of these vulnerabilities factor into the problem of sexual addiction among Christian couples. This study adds to previous research by providing data for the theoretical constructs of vulnerability and can also help open the door to dialog about the reality of sexual addiction within the church. This study recognizes the need to move beyond the history that holds its victims in a cycle of addiction and into productive identification of circumstances that need to be addressed by the Church and by treatment and prevention programs.

Compulsive internet pornography use and sexual addiction are a growing problem among Christian couples. As is empirically and anecdotally evident, internet pornography use is a growing problem in today's culture. From our experience working with professing Christians and pornography use, it seems that there are some vulnerabilities specific to these couples in comparison to other couples. We see these vulnerabilities not only creating a unique susceptibility to developing a compulsion or addiction to internet pornography, but also creating a hurdle for them in seeking out help for recovery.

Identification of these vulnerabilities is especially relevant today. Christian publications are increasing their coverage of the recognition of the "elephant in the pew." A growing ministry, XXXchurch.com, offers an annual program called Porn Sunday (Lampman, 2005) in October to address the growing problem of pornography use among Christians. They have used the "elephant in the pew" (an idiom for an obvious, yet ignored truth) to designate a problem that most Christians do not want to address. The elephant in the pew program offers a more acceptable means for churches to acknowledge that the pornography problem exists and the opportunity to talk more freely about sex. Considering that normal, healthy sexuality (a phrase without a consensus definition within the church) has always been a taboo topic in church culture, deviance from healthy sexuality seems even more taboo. Perhaps the church's taboo is that pornography use acknowledgment would lead to addressing a definition of healthy sexuality. While this study is particularly focused on case examples of professing Christians involved in evangelical Christian denominations, we believe that the vulnerabilities presented in this research are relevant to any faith perspective endorsing doctrines that honor God.

An awareness and understanding of these vulnerabilities can help therapists be better equipped to provide recovery services. Further, assuming that mental health professionals working in Christian contexts would also be personally involved in church leadership, ministry, and church attendance, this awareness and understanding may help mental health professionals to address these vulnerabilities in their church contexts.

The purpose of this article is to examine factors that facilitate the use of internet pornography and inhibit Christian couples from seeking effective treatment. These factors include the development of beliefs about relational sexuality, a sense of isolation, and fear of the consequences of exposure. This article presents case studies of three Christian couples in therapy with the husband being a victim of sexual addiction to internet pornography. An analysis of these cases will present similarities and differences relative to the identified vulnerabilities. …