Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dismaying Story #27: Raw Feelings Over Raw Images

Dear Andrew,

My husband was addicted to pornography, no question about it. He maintains it was not an addiction, even though it took a separation to get him to quit. For instance he thought it was okay to look at porn with our infant son in the same room. The baby couldn't see the computer, however.

He no longer looks at porn (without me) but I still feel we will never agree on its harmful effects on a marriage, which is unfortunate. I am interested in your thoughts on this.

Signed, Wishing He Understood

Dear Wishing,

The effect of pornography on a marriage varies tremendously depending upon whose marriage we are discussing. To many people the whole concept is completely abhorrent and any involvement would be a deal breaker. Given the financial success of adult films, magazines and web sites, other people are obviously more comfortable with this type of material and choose to partake. Some of the material is even designed specifically to be viewed by couples. The most relevant question, though, doesn't seem to be how porn might impact marriages in general, but instead how the issue should be treated in your specific marriage.

For some the difference between acceptance and revulsion might be a matter of personal taste, while others have strong moral and ethical views on the subject. I am not going to focus on these types of issues for a couple of reasons. For one, whatever opinions I might have are no more valid than the next person's. I don't consider this to be a forum to expound on my personal views. Second, these issues need not be settled in order to address the matter at hand. Instead I'll approach this from a practical viewpoint: How does this issue affect the relationship between these two people? What might be done about it?

The impact here is obvious; you hate it. Your husband's behavior is so upsetting to you that you separated for a while because of it. Even now, despite a supposed resolution of the matter, his attitude bothers you enough that you have sought advice from an outside source. You have obviously argued over this issue and your feelings remain hurt, badly it seems. The bond of trust and closeness between the two of you is no doubt weakened, which must affect everything from the general mood in your home to how you feel about being intimate with your husband.

From your husband's point of view, he probably resents the fact that your relationship is strained. He has undoubtedly said things to you like, "It's no big deal. Everyone does it." He wishes you would relax and stop treating it like the crime of the century, and he's probably frustrated that you don't.

Let's start with his assumption that all guys look at porn. Well, no, they don't. Plenty of men do, otherwise the porn industry wouldn't be raking in multi-billion dollar revenues, but that's a long way from "everyone." Let's go out on a limb, though, and suppose for a moment that your husband is right. Let's assume that every other man on the planet is a regular viewer of pornography. Does that mean it should be okay for him to do the same?

Absolutely not.

I feel like asking for a cell phone so I can talk directly with this guy. I want to say, "Listen up, buddy. What don't you get about your situation? Your marriage is in trouble. Your ... wife ... isn't ... HAPPY!" That alone should be enough to get any loving, supportive husband to sit up and pay attention.

As for him viewing porn in the same room as your infant son, you'd have to search hard and long to find many people who think that one is okay. Would you make love in the same room with your baby? I didn't think so.

It doesn't take much head scratching to understand how porn can be immensely threatening for many women. You want to feel like you are the most special person on the planet to your husband. Your relationship is supposed to be monogamous, which means his desire for intimacy should be satisfied by coming to you, not by turning to other women. When he is getting his jollies by looking at others, the implication is that you are not enough for him, that these other women are superior or more fulfilling. Worse than that, even pictures of other women are somehow preferable, when you are right there in the flesh. I could go on.

It doesn't really matter which of these many reasons applies to you; your dissatisfaction is clearly justifiable. He needs to come to the realization that your pain is real and, as long as his attitude stays the same, you will continue to hurt. It doesn't matter if he thinks porn is okay. What matters is that your marriage will never be right until the two of you are on the same page with this issue, and there is no way you will ever have a pain-free existence on his page.

Your husband must choose which is more important to him, your love and happiness ... or his belief that the nudie pix are no big deal. He must choose because it is impossible for him to have both. You will never be happy if he continues to exhibit the same sort of attitude, nor will the loving bond you feel for your husband be as close as it can and should be.

More than that, he must quit looking at porn. Period, full stop. He must swear off the stuff and say, "Honey, you are way more important to me than those pictures, or anything else for that matter. You are all the stimulation I am ever going to need." It's time for him to leave that chapter behind and start rebuilding your relationship by showing you how special you are to him.

Here is why I bring this up even though you say he has already quit. His desire was so strong it took a separation to get his attention. Your obvious unhappiness was not enough to do it. That's a powerful desire in my books. Now that you're back together, you say he only looks at porn when he is with you. It's pretty obvious you don't like the stuff, which means it was his idea. He wants it so badly that he has talked you into some sort of involvement, even though he knows it is an extremely touchy subject for you. He still has the computer, so he has the opportunity to indulge whenever you leave the house.

But he chooses not to do so?

Hmmm. That's theoretically possible, I suppose, but highly doubtful. I suspect you still have doubts too. If he were truly reformed, he wouldn't still claim it is okay and it wouldn't bother you enough to write to me.

I suggest you discuss with him the points in this article. You might even ask him to read it if you are comfortable doing so. Hopefully his love for you will be enough to steer him in the right direction.

I wish you all the best,

Is there some issue driving a wedge between you and your significant other? Send me an email if you would like to hear my perspective. Comments entered using the link below can be anonymous and the identity of email respondents always remains confidential.

Remember to submit your entry for the Ask the Faithful Readers question. I will pick my favorite response and post it on Friday with a link to the winner's blog.


  1. Andrew,
    I don't know how you found me but I'm glad I love your blog. Thanks for the well wishes

  2. All men do not look at porn but I see a use for it.
    I have seen plenty from the time I was a kid to this day.
    A lot of it is now on regular television.
    I’m not a fan and could never understand the voyeurism aspect of it.
    I would rather do it than watch it.
    But I can see your reluctance to delve into this.
    This is a broad industry that has entered society in many forms.
    Strip clubs are an offshoot of this and brothels.
    I have worked at both and watched men be idiots and throw their money away.
    I would like to thank them for the nice paycheck the supplied me with every week.
    I could rant about this.
    There was a friend of mine who used to be worse than her husband with the porn and clubs and I knew for a fact that he had been unfaithful once.
    I had asked him why once and his reply was that his wife wouldn’t try new things.
    So this makes me ask your reader why is he watching porn rather than why won’t he stop watching porn?
    Is she to rigid and indifferent to exploring new sensations, ideas?
    Is it him or is it her who has the problem?
    I have find that in most cases people do what they do for a reason.
    He may be a pervert or bored with the same routine.

    Now I have to add this as well men, are not the only ones guilty of all of this.
    Women are just the same and not only on porn sites here as well in the blog world.
    I went by a blog that had a man masturbating and the women married and single were telling him how they would love to have his dripping member in front of their faces in the morning.
    Even if they don’t mean it in real life it’s the same as cheating on your partner in your head.
    I have had women right in my comment box make me offers some are married.
    Society is changing and I don’t think it’s for the better.
    She should ask what the women offer him and they should work on spicing up there marriage and only look for new ideas in porn movies.
    Porn has its place as a learning tool but it does have pit falls.

    What I do know is that communication is the solution and only then will they get around the issue.
    She seems to have done that and moved on which was the right way to go.
    Then again he could be getting his fix from somewhere else where she can’t see him.
    Damn you were right I could write a book in your comment section on this.
    Let’s go back to vacuuming LOL
    Have a nice day.

  3. Ahhh I wrote about my issue in my blog. I also sent my husband an email sans subject and just expressed my feelings and asked him if he understood what I was feeling. I got 6 calls yesterday and 6 messages, leading into a panic (not my intention LOL) and he was eventaully scared I was leaving him. poor guy! I explained my issue and he finally GOT it. And I finally got my promise.

    You know both of my husbands have looked at porn. Neither while I was with them (well assuming they weren't lying about it :) ) My husband now told me something interesting, and well, honest. he said yes, he looked at it as a young kid and young adult, but he said he just doesn't have time now or the money to dump into it. He also says it's "haram" (forbidden) and he wants to stick to the "halal" (permissable). A wife is halal. He told me honestly that as long as I cared for him, he would not feel the need to go elsewhere-- to look at porn or another wife or anything. He also made it clear what he likes-- which is fine with me. I know what he likes, he knows what i like. I know some people freak out about thehonesty thing but you know what? if it's an important issue, just go for it.

  4. Walker, with that attitude, that a woman has to try every kind of kinky sex to keep her man happy, I bet you have a happy woman at home.

    Is there some kind of rule in the marriage contract that a woman has to put out at least once a day and try something new at least once a week, or her husband is JUSTIFIED in straying or satisifying his urges elsewhere???

    I think not.

  5. While the doctor makes some valid points, I would like to make a suggestion for you all to consider: understanding that the male sexual drive traditionally enforces visual stimulation, might not watching porn on the web be a preferable alternative to strip clubs, or even an affair?

    Of course, none of these should happen...the dude should be able to extert control. However, it seems he is the type that cannot. Perhaps his wife should look the other way for some non-hazardous porn viewing versus having him bottle up his libido and causing a greater offense.

  6. Andrew, thanks for visiting my blog!! And I love the common sense of your responses to your subjects.


  7. Hi Dawn: Welcome aboard!

    Julianna: It's refreshing to hear that honest communication won the day. Good for both of you!

    Walker and Jaws: Let me be crystal clear about this -- THIS IS NOT HER FAULT!!

    Every couple has things they need to work through now and then, and these issues could be about money, Christmas, housework, the in-laws, or yes, even the bedroom. This is normal and expected. The response should be to work through the issues -- talk about them, explain your hopes, fears, wants, needs and dislikes. Negotiate a mutually satisfactory solution, find a common ground where you can both be satisfied, driven by a mutual desire to see each other happy and fulfilled. Sure, you stick up for your own needs, but you compromise, fully accept the deal and move forward together.

    I've heard this argument before, often with respect to cheating: "It's her fault. She couldn't keep me satisfied." Baloney! Having an issue within the marriage in no way justifies destructive behavior. Instead, turn your energies to working on a solution.

    As to the implication that a woman should have to "explore any new sensations" her husband might desire or he's justified in being dissatisfied, that's malarkey as well. (The same goes for him being obligated to do respond to her every whim in life.) Again, it's all about working together to define how things will work best for the two of you as a couple, and then both of you committing to that, in the same way you are committed to each other.

    So, sorry Walker -- I come down firmly on the side of Jaws on this one.


  8. Thats ok Andrew, in a good debate its not about winning but more of understanding both sides of the fence.
    The only problem is its only one sided here and hard to see it in proper perspective.
    There is two sides to every story.
    But the fact that he is on the computer looking at sites instead of spending time with her says alot.

  9. Spencer4:46 PM

    I've been married, will be 35 years come March. that should qualify at least my comment. with all the temptations out there in life, I find that still my greatest temptation is my wife.because i choose to. somehow, i think the good life as its called has destroyed more lives than its made.instead of ever learning about each other. God Bless

  10. well, i would have to say - the red flag here was the word addiction in her letter

    people - not just men - whom i have know that have addictions can rarely think about anything but that addiction..it destroys lives because it has to be under control before a person can do anything else including have a healthy relationship with another person

    so, what you are asking of him may not be possible -- to think of her feelings in this matter. my experience would be he will do anything, say anything in order to keep both his addiction and her...which is evident by the compromise where he will only view porn with her -- this coming from a man who didn't have the common sense to not look/listen to porn while his child was in the room

    this doesn't mean he doesn't love her - it means that porn is controlling his life to the extent that his feelings for her are secondary

    my suggestion would be to make conditions of his living with her - going to a 12 step group along with private counseling...and i think she needs it also, if their relationship is to survive...

    until he sees that the porn is ruin/running his life, he will never stop -- and asking for help and getting it would be the first step in this process

  11. I got 'introduced' to porn via my ex husband...nothing on the hard side...soft sexy footage, enough to start up the spark of a stale sex life. Because it was feeling stale, for both of us...mundane, routine, life and it's madness getting in the way of us relaxing and feeling good..lack of energy etc.

    He suggested it, and after some thought (being rather squeaky clean at that point and not having a lot of experience), I agreed. All for a good cause I figured. If he'd been pushy about it, I'd have dug my heels in and refused. The least I could do was try.

    In my view, both sides have to be willing to give it a go and be open minded about it. Compromise is a good thing on all levels unless of course your compromising your self respect.

    Wishing is not happy about it and as far as I'm concerned why should she do something she's obviously not comfortable with? Furthermore, why would her husband want to put her in a position where she is feeling SO uncomfortable? What if she got turned on by him dressing up in women's clothing? (yeah I know, but let's just say ok? lol)...and he HATED the whole idea? Would she expect him to do it anyway, just to placate her wishes? I'll hazard a guess and say, I don't think so.

    She's made it more than clear that she's not interested in his fetish for porn or her taking any part of looking at it. In my opinion, he needs to listen to his wife and understand that what works for some people does not necessary work for others.

    He also needs to sort out his priorities and decide what's more important...his wife and marriage, or his fantasy world. So far he appears to have them around the wrong way.

  12. I have no problem with men or women reading or looking at porn. If your man is home every night and his interest is with his wife - what is the issue? I say find out what he enjoys about it and experment a bit. I truly don't think it's a male vs. female issue though.

  13. My Ex was addicted to porn. <---key word: Addicted.

    Although not alone did this ruin our marriage but it did bother me when it came to my own confidence and self esteem. He did take it out of the home and blew tons on money at strip joints, working girls and 900 #'s.

    Looking back his addiction was mental with a physical underlying cause. He had an insensitive penis due to nerve damaged causes by his circumcision. Sex was enjoyed from the get go via mental stimulation more so than the physical. It sure was a tough situation.

  14. Wow, this topic has certainly stirred up some opinions. Thanks to everyone for contributing and making this a lively forum.

    Julianna: You're right. Honesty can be incredibly powerful. Good for both of you for working things out as you did.

    CC Esq: If he needs some visual stimulation, might I suggest looking at his wife? I didn't say anything about him bottling up his libido, merely that he should direct it towards his warm, responsive, loving, flesh and blood companion instead of toward an air-brushed image on the computer screen.

    Walker: Hopefully it's obvious that I'm all for looking at both sides of the issue, and if I don't then I have all you Faithful Readers to play devil's advocate.

    Spencer: Sounds like you have achieved some clarity in those 35 years. Thanks for that.

    azgoddess: That is a good insight. If his desires prove too difficult to master alone, then your suggestion is definitely one they could consider. Thanks!

    Lisa: I love the way you turn the tables and ask how things would likely work if she asked him to do something with which he is totally uncomfortable. That throws a new light on the whole affair, doesn't it?

    Penrick: IF his interest is in his wife... You're right, but that's a big "if" in some cases. I suspect many women are made to feel that his interest is in those young nubile girls on the computer screen rather than on them. Everyone's comfort level is different I guess. Thanks for pointing out that point of view.

  15. Again, your even-handed listening-oriented responses are commendable. Hmmmm. Addicted. I know something of that personality type. Moi. To paraphrase Stephen King, the lumpy couch is what addiction's all about. Let me explain. When I put down booze, plenty of other stuff like alcoholism keep popping up, just like those springs in an old couch. Ow!

  16. James Dobson, PhD in psychology interviewed Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer the last days of his life. Bundy said that his perversions started with porn and escalated from there to murder. The sheer exaggeration of sexual conduct led him to believe that he had to do worse and worse things sexually to enjoy sex at all. I wouldn't want my darlin' hubby to throttle me in order to enjoy me. Sheesh!

  17. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I was also worried about the addiction of my husband, but he found out that some important issues in his life that are not of a sexual nature had to be changed - like his isolation, boredom, depression ... . We came upon those topics by reading an eBook of Mario Brocallo: www.brocallo.net.tf .