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ASK THE THERAPISTS: My husband’s porn hobby is leaving me cold

Stock photo of woman, man in bed. He's watching something on laptop, she's frustrated, angry.
A reader asks if she should just accept that her husband is more interested in online porn than real-life sex with her. - 123RF

I’m embarrassed to share this, but it’s really affecting my relationship with my spouse.  I always knew he was into pornography, but it’s gotten to the point where he’s become more interested in sex on the screen than being with me in real life. Outside of our sex life, we have a pretty good relationship, so do I just accept this as our life now or do I say something about it?

Jenny

It’s not easy to quote exact numbers on the pornography industry, which include everything from big film companies to small scale contributors, not to mention the side benefits gleaned from phone providers, TV companies, hotels etc. What we can discern is that a whole lot of people are consuming porn on a regular, if not daily basis, even more so than Netflix or sporting events. 

Thank you for sharing your embarrassment in your question, because humiliation and shame are often linked to this form of entertainment, which can corrode one’s self-esteem and negatively affect one’s relationships. For men, pornography can lead to a prevailing craving for sex versus love making, so you’re likely not alone in feeling the way you are. Pornography is a powerful force in many people’s lives, and I believe as a culture we’re not talking enough about the potential risks and pitfalls. 

What we know about porn, gaming and social media is that they are all designed to hook your innocent curiosity and longing to feel good into a full-blown addiction. With revenues escalating into the billions, the porn industry is clearly succeeding, at the cost of many relationships.

It’s one thing to use an occasional sex flick to kindle the passion with your partner, whatever floats your boat, right? It’s a whole other situation when you’re consuming porn instead of connecting intimately and lovingly with your significant other. I can relate to your situation, as my first love was addicted to porn and it took a major toll on my sense of value as a woman. If you’re feeling the same, then it’s certainly not an issue you should just let slide, or it may be the demise of your relationship, as it was for mine.

Yes, we must be aware of the broader impact porn has on our relationships, and of course on our children, who can gain access to it accidentally if it’s in the home. Many children as young as 10 have already been exposed to pornography, which features adult sexuality from start to finish, with little foreplay, exploration or consensual conversation. What’s more, many believe that porn today is the main ‘how to’ educator for our children, presenting explicit expectations of what should happen in a sexual encounter, which many adolescents just aren’t ready for. 

Ultimately, I believe sexuality at its finest has the potential to be a unifying experience that nurtures emotional and spiritual connection between you and your partner. If it’s not fulfilling your needs and desires, it’s important to you have a conversation about it and work to create a sex life that is based on connection and care. 

Blair

As I answer this question, I want to be clear that I am not supporting any form of entertainment that degrades or assaults anyone, which some pornography does present.

This takes me back to a time when Jenny and I were taking a relationship counselling training program. The leaders, who were a husband and wife team, touched on the topic of pornography and shared with the group that they actually viewed it together. I have to admit that this made us, and other participants feel uncomfortable, but I did appreciate their openness about a culturally clandestine habit. Perhaps you could suggest that you share this time together.

Through my counselling with men, I’ve noticed a long-standing challenge for many to view their wife as the mother and house holder, as well as the lover. This is why we have so many situations where the wife is in the home, caring for family, and the mistress is the one who satisfies his lustful desires. Perhaps the pornography is your husband’s way of keeping the two separate, so you could have a conversation about bringing more of the passion back into your relationship, where you want it.

If you believe your spouse has an addiction to pornography, then the only way to deal with it is through motivation. You need to have an honest conversation about your feelings, how his behavior is affecting your relationship and what you need in order to move forward with him. If that isn’t something you’re comfortable with, you could go to couples counselling together, where you can both voice your concerns in a safe environment. 

It’s also important to consider that excessive pornography consumption might be a symptom of other issues, not only within your relationship but also within the user, as it can be an avoidance tactic or coping mechanism for a deeper matter.  

There are many well-adjusted people who use erotica as a way of keeping the flame alive within their intimate relationship, so we have to be careful about impressing our judgments and values on others. It does become an issue, however, when it has adverse effects on the individuals involved, so good luck in finding a resolution that suits both of you.

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