I encounter this question all the time, whether or not pornography use amounts to “adultery” that gives a spouse grounds to pursue divorce. In fact I was talking to a pastor this week who struggled with porn and his wife (who recently discovered it) is ready to leave him because she is convinced that his elicit consumption of Internet porn is on the same level as an actual physical affair.
Biblically I don’t believe it is grounds for divorce, and therefore to pursue a divorce based on the fact that a spouse had an online “affair” would be inappropriate (unbiblical). Having said that, I would reiterate that it is still a sin to act out with porn, and carry on a virtual affair. Is it possible this online affair could lead to an actual physical encounter? Yes for sure! It is also possible that even the virtual, affair if carried on can lead to abuse, severe neglect, and emotional, even physical abandonment which I believe would be grounds for divorce.
I know this is somewhat controversial but here’s a comment from my book, Breaking the Silence where I give futher explanation about this issue:
“While the devastation from an online addiction and a physical affair may be equally damaging, that doesn’t mean that looking at porn or having a cyber-affair is biblical grounds for divorce. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus provided a clear distinction between adultery of the heart (internal) and a physical affair (literal) when He said: “If anyone looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Clearly both are sinful activities, but the consequences are different, and how we deal with the sin should be different. It would be the same as suggesting that 1 John 3:15 is implying that the person who hates his brother is just as guilty of murder as the person who actually physically committed that act of violence. Do we impose a prison sentence upo a person for having internal hatred toward someone? We have to conclude, then, that pornography, while a serious and damaging sin, does not constitute physical adultery and therfore does not provide biblcial grounds for divorce. I would add, however, that over time a man or woman’s refusal to deal with the sin problem might require a separation for the sake of children and the purpose of working toward reconciliation. Ultimately, if there is no change, then the relationship could end in divorce.” (Breaking the Silence, page 103, 104)