Wives' Experience of Husbands' Pornography Use and Concomitant Deception as an Attachment Threat in the Adult Pair-Bond Relationship


pornography, pair-bond relationship, couple therapy


Evidence is growing that pornography use can negatively impact attachment trust in the adult pair-bond relationship. We employed a qualitative methodology to understand attachment implications of a partner's pornography use and concomitant deception. A qualitative analytic team analyzed interviews of 14 women in attachment-idealizing pair-bond relationships in couple therapy for their partner's pornography use. Analyses uncovered three attachment-related impacts from husbands' pornography use and deception: (1) the development of an attachment fault line in the relationship, stemming from perceived attachment infidelity; (2) followed by a widening attachment rift arising from wives' sense of distance and disconnection from their husbands; (3) culminating in attachment estrangement from a sense of being emotionally and psychologically unsafe in the relationship. Overall, wives reported global mistrust indicative of attachment breakdown. Building on this data, we build an attachment-informed model of effects of pornography use and concomitant deception in the pair-bond relationship.

Original Publication Citation

Butler, M. H.*, & Zitzman, S. T.* (2009). Wives’ experience of husbands’ pornography use and concomitant deception as an attachment threat in the adult pair-bond relationship. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 16(3), 210-240.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor