Watching porn with your wife can be a serious turn on and something that keeps the heat alive in your marriage. But if you’re scouring the Internet or TV and watching solo? That can spell disaster for your happy relationship, according to research from the American Sociological Association.

In the study—aptly titled "Till Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce"—researchers collected data from thousands of American adults. Men and women were interviewed three times every two years from 2006-2010, 2008-2012, or 2010-2014 about their pornography use and marital status.

The researchers observed these changes in waves, basically zeroing in on married respondents' change in pornography use and marital status in between survey questionnaires. 

Respondents who did not report viewing porn in the past year at an initial wave, but did so in the next wave were characterized as having begun pornography use. What's more, researchers were able to factor out all other possible variables and look at how, specifically, a change in porn usage could influence the probability of an individual being divorced by the next survey wave, compared to the probability of divorce among those who didn’t watch porn at any point.

"Beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one's likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent," lead author Samuel Perry said in a press release. "Our results suggest that viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability."

Researchers also focused on how age, religiosity, and marital happiness influenced the link between porn habits and marital stability.

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TAKEAWAYS

Increased porn usage and decreased marital stability is more prevalent in younger adults. 

The younger you are when you or your wife begin watching porn, the higher your probability of getting divorced in subsequent years is.

The Rationale: "Younger Americans tend to view pornography more often than older Americans, and older Americans generally have more stable marriages since they tend to be more mature, financially established, and likely already have more time invested in the relationship," Perry said. "So, we thought it made perfect sense that the effect of pornography use on divorce would grow weaker with age."

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Increased porn usage and decreased marital stability is heightened if you’re less religious.

For men and women who didn’t attend religious services every week or more, beginning pornography use increased their probability of getting divorced by the next survey from 6 to 12 percent. Men and women who attended religious services at least once a week saw virtually no increase in their probability of divorce upon starting to view pornography.

The Rationale: "Our findings suggest that religion has a protective effect on marriage, even in the face of pornography use," Perry explained. "Because religious groups stigmatize divorce and prioritize marital stability, it is likely that married Americans who are more religious will experience a greater combination of community pressure and internalized moral pressure to stay married, regardless of pornography's effect on their marital quality."

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Increased porn usage and decreased marital stability is heightened if you’re already happy in your relationship.

Oddly enough, people who were "very happy" in their marriage in the first survey wave but began to watch porn before the next increased their likelihood of getting divorced by the time of that next survey by 3 to 12 percent.

The Rationale: "We took this to mean that pornography use—perhaps if it's discovered by one's spouse unexpectedly—could rock an otherwise happy marriage to the point of divorce, but it doesn't seem to make an unhappy marriage any worse than it already is," Perry said.

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Decreased porn usage can turn around probability of getting divorced for women.

Going cold turkey off porn was associated with a lowered risk of divorce for women. Women who reported viewing porn in the initial survey and in the subsequent wave had an 18 percent probability of being divorced by that third wave. But women who stopped watching only had a 6 percent probability of being divorced.

The Rationale: Sadly, for men, discontinuing the use of pornography had no such effect. The researchers think men tend to be more consistent in how often they watch porn, resulting in a smaller sample size for observing a possible connection.

Bottom Line: "We have no desire to push a 'ban pornography' agenda on the grounds that it can be harmful to marriages," Perry said. "We think information is helpful, and Americans should be aware of the potential consequences of pornography under certain circumstances."

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