When Porn and Sex Addiction Can Lead to DivorceThe internet provides us with a wealth of information and entertainment. During the COVID-19 pandemic especially, being online has helped millions of people around the world stay connected socially, for work, for school, and countless other valuable reasons. However, the internet isn’t all Zoom meetings and social media. For many people, it does have its downsides. Over the past few decades, internet addiction has emerged as a growing problem and, as with any addiction, if not addressed properly, it can negatively affect a marriage.

The American Psychological Association (APA) discusses the question of porn use and addiction, noting that pornography is a loaded subject, but also ubiquitous in our lives (whether we like it or not). They point out, “The late sex researcher Alvin Cooper, PhD, called this the ‘triple-A engine’ effect: The accessibility, affordability and anonymity provided by the Web have put adult content right at our fingertips.”

It is important to understand when the use of anything becomes excessive – whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or internet use – an individual’s relationship with others can suffer.

What is sex and porn addiction?

Also called compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD), Psych Central states that approximately three to six percent of the general population experiences symptoms. They point out that, although the condition is often misunderstood, “Sexual addiction is best described as a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Like all addictions, its negative impact on the addict and on family members increases as the disorder progresses.”

As with any addiction, a person with CSBD may spend large amounts of money on obtaining pornography, or make up lies to cover their addiction, which can cause great harm to a marriage or relationship. When someone’s sex addiction is out of control, their actions may sometimes even escalate to sexual encounters outside the marriage, or – in worst-case scenarios – criminal actions.

* It’s important to note, however, that someone with a porn or sex addiction is not necessarily a sex predator or offender, and in the majority of cases, is not. *

Is porn addiction grounds for divorce in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, Title 36 provides 15 allowable grounds for divorce. Sex or porn addiction is not grounds for divorce. However, if your spouse acted on their CSBD and committed adultery, adultery is one of the 15 causes for divorce under state law.

If your spouse committed a felony as a result of their sex addiction, that also counts as grounds for divorce.

What are some red flags that my spouse might be addicted to porn?

If you believe your spouse or partner is having addiction issues with online pornography, experts say to look for signs like the following:

  • Becoming evasive or secretive, as many people with an addictive or unhealthy habit may attempt to hide it or become defensive when asked about it
  • Changes in sexual behaviors, including less interest in sex, or requests for unusual or extreme sexual acts
  • Increased spending, like credit card charges for internet sites, subscriptions or other purchases related to their addiction
  • Preoccupation or becoming possessive of their mobile device, where they may have apps installed and are contacting people with inappropriate or suggestive messages and photos
  • Spending excessive time online, specifically when this time causes them to miss important events like family time, work, or other appointments so they can stay on the internet

You have every right to ask your spouse about any questionable or secretive behavior going on in your shared home, especially when children are involved. Which brings us to our next commonly-asked question…

Is my child in danger if my spouse is addicted to pornography?

Your spouse is not committing any crimes unless they are viewing illegal pornography. And if they are viewing illegal pornography while your children are around, you must notify the authorities as well as your divorce attorney immediately.

However, for child custody purposes, if you do believe your spouse’s internet habit is negatively affecting your children, you have the right to request a parenting evaluation. For issues like pornography or CSBD, courts generally take things like the following into consideration:

  • Is the parent willing and able to change their behavior?
  • Is the child experiencing emotional and/or physical neglect as a result of their parent’s addiction?
  • Is the child’s relationship with their parent suffering due to their parent’s dependence on pornography?
  • Was the child exposed to danger or harm of a non-sexual nature due to their parent’s inattention from their addiction (i.e., got burned on the stove, was injured from lack of supervision)
  • Did the parent expose the child to inappropriate sexual images, video, or situations?
  • Has or will the parent make any security efforts to prevent the child from viewing or accessing any pornographic sites, apps, or materials?

There is no quick and easy way to address porn and sex addiction with your spouse. Some couples may choose counseling, some may choose to separate, some may choose to divorce.

Whatever path you choose, the Maryville family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can help. Our experienced lawyers can sit down with you to discuss your options and talk about what’s right for you, with knowledge and compassion. Schedule your free consultation today by calling a member of our East Tennessee legal team at 865-982-8060, or we invite you to complete our contact form.