Steve and Cokie Roberts Report on Marriage: A Good Idea that Refuses to Die

Steve and Cokie Roberts have been married for 41 years. They have two children, six grandchildren, four books published, a joint syndicated newspaper column, and countless bylines and media appearances. Bethesda Magazine profiles them and four other couples in “Love stories”, July/August 2007…

Steve, who’s been the Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University since 1997, says that time and again his students come into his office and ask, “How do you do it?” The students aren’t asking how to write a snappy lead or tips on getting an interview with Al Gore. “Popular culture tells them it’s naive and foolish to think of having a lifelong devotion to someone. But they have the impulse. I’m not saying marriage is right for all people all the time, but I think it’s right for most people, most of the time. To have a partner to go through life with is one of the most elemental human desires, and these kids want to hear it’s not a pipe dream, a fiction.”

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A New Category Debuts: Love and Beauty
Our new category, Love and Beauty, will show how sex, love, relationships and people can be so much more than the narrow, blinkered version
that porn offers. Watching porn instead of seeking a loving
relationship with a real person is like being given a gorgeous race car
that can go 200 miles per hour, only to drive it backwards down the
highway at a crawl and scrape it against railings and bridge abutments.

Schwyzer on Porn: “The pursuit of everlasting novelty is the enemy of actual relationship”
Ultimately, the great tragedy of porn is that it teaches the men who use it to pursue “everlasting novelty…”

The pursuit of everlasting novelty is the enemy of actual relationship.
Real relationships are built on a very different premise from porn —
the notion that what is really sexy is not “new skin” but radical
connection with one other person. Porn
says that happiness is found by having the same experience over and
over again with lots of different women; true eros says that happiness
is found by having different experiences over and over again with the
same person.

no one, no one, no one, can just “compartmentalize, disconnect, and come back.”
Many men think they do so with impunity, but it’s the consensus of both
the theologians and the marriage and family therapists that no good
life can be lived well in compartments. We are called to
wholeness, Ethan; men — all men, even in their late teens in the throes
of lust — are capable of matching their desires, their behavior, their
Is it easy? Heck no. But is it possible? Yes. Is it desirable? You bet it is…

The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research
In North American culture, it is most common for people to select a marriage partner
according to romantic love as opposed to family arrangement or economic necessity. Research by
Roberts (1982), Davis and Todd (1982), Davis (1985), and Bergner (2000) is useful in
clarifying what romantic love entails from a social science perspective. They found that romantic
love embodies the following characteristics: (a) investment in the well-being of the beloved, (b)
respect, (c) admiration, (d) sexual desire, (e) intimacy, (f) commitment, (g) exclusivity, and (h)

…when there are violations to these
characteristics and the violations are sufficient in magnitude, partners will commonly conclude
that they are no longer loved as they once were and re-evaluates their place in their partners’
world. As Bergner and Bridges (2002) point out, many women who discover a partner’s intense
involvement with pornography engage in just such a reappraisal of their relationship…

Maurer found
three common traits that distinguish sexually satisfied couples from unsatisfied couples: (1)
acceptance of one’s own sexuality, (2) listening to one’s partner and being aware of a partner’s
likes and dislikes, and (3) open and honest communication.

Moreover, according to data from the General Social Survey in 2000 (N = 531), people
who report being happily married are 61 percent less likely to report using Internet pornography
compared to those who also used the Internet and who had completed the General Social Survey
in 2000…

following observations were made by [the 350 attendees of the November 2002
meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] polled with regard to why the Internet had
played a role in divorces that year…56 percent of the divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in
pornographic websites…

(2003) also found that both men and women perceive online sexual activity as an act of betrayal
that is as authentic and real as offline acts and that Internet pornography use correlated
significantly with emotional infidelity (N = 1,117; 468 males and 649 females)…

A Review of Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families
Many of Paul’s interview subjects said porn use made them more
judgmental of their real-life sex partners. One thrice-divorced
34-year-old subject, who had been watching porn since age 10, said that
he would break up with any woman who wouldn’t give him the kind of
pleasure he saw men getting in porn films. If the woman takes too long
to reach orgasm, or doesn’t enjoy swallowing semen, she’s history.
(pp.92-93) Other young men said they wanted their girlfriends to be
“slutty” and submissive (p.94).

In 2002, a professor at Texas Christian University conducted a
survey of straight men who spent an average of five hours a week
looking at online porn. The study found that the more porn they
watched, the more likely they were to describe women in sexualized and
stereotypical ways, and to want women to be subordinate to men…(p.92)

The women Paul interviewed, even those who considered themselves
sexually experienced and adventurous, frequently reported problems with
their partners’ porn use. One woman in her 30s told Paul that she felt
cheapened and alienated from her lovers when she noticed them using
porn-film moves on her. She could tell when a man was a heavy porn user
because he treated her as an object to be viewed, keeping her at an
emotional distance. (pp.128-29) Other women said their partners
constantly deceived them about how much porn they were watching. Women
who made the concession to watch “couples” erotica with their partners
felt betrayed and second-rate when they discovered the men were still
secretly indulging in hardcore porn. They felt anxious that their men
were not sufficiently fulfilled by a relationship with them.
(pp.146-47) Just as when a wife discovers her husband’s adultery, these
women wondered if it was their fault that the men looked elsewhere for
sexual satisfaction. (pp. 170-71) Meanwhile, acceptance of porn was a
romantic deal-breaker for many of Paul’s male subjects; they would
rather sacrifice a relationship than kick the habit. (pp.134-35) This
is a common symptom of addiction…

Porn also undermines respect for marriage vows. The Zillmann-Bryant
study [link] found that only 39% of the massive porn exposure group thought
marriage was an important institution, compared with 60% of the control
group. “This shouldn’t be a surprise: loving wives and faithful
husbands rarely feature in a porno. Pornography is the fantasy of
permanent and unfettered bachelorhood; married characters who do appear
are pursuing sexual adventures on the side. In pornography, partnered
life hampers sexual pleasure.” (p.141)

Porn use takes away time and energy that a man could be
spending on his real partner and family. In psychologist Jennifer P.
Schneider’s 2000 study of women whose partners were involved in
cybersex, 37% of respondents reported that their partners spent less
time with the children because of online porn use. (p.155) Other
researchers found that watching porn made men less enthusiastic about
starting a family at all.

“Spousal Use of Pornography and Its Clinical Significance for Asian-American Women”
Many female participants in the study by Bridges et al. (2003) noted a
diminution in their partner’s sexual desire for them and believed that
their partners had come to prefer the pornographic models to them…
They reported a decline in the intimacy of their relationship, a
diminished sense of their partner’s commitment to them, strong feelings
that their partners failed utterly to respect them or understand their
emotional distress concerning the pornography, and lastly, a sense that
they were living a shameful lie by presenting themselves to others as a
loving and committed couple… More often than not, the woman blames
herself for losing her partner to his pornographic interest. She
believes that if she were a ‘good’ enough woman, she would have been
able to keep her husband’s attentions and affections and her loss would
never have occurred…

Porn Use Correlates with Infidelity, Prostitution, Aggression, Rape-Supportive Beliefs
In 2004, researchers also reported in Social Science Quarterly that “Individuals who have had an extramarital affair are 3.18 times more likely to have used Internet pornography than individuals who did not have affairs.”

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