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My Fianc?e Left Me Because Of My Past Porn Use

Question:

My fiancée just left me. She was everything to me. I loved her more than I knew was possible. I thought I was wholly and unreservedly devoted to her and our dreams. She left me because she found out I had lied about when I stopped looking at internet porn–I stopped when she came to live with me, but I had told her I had stopped long long before that. The combination of the shock of finding the evidence on my computer, and the realization that I had lied to her face, made her leave. She went back home, 2000 miles away, and I think we are really over, and I don’t know how to deal with it–deal with knowing that I threw destroyed both our dreams and wounded her, perhaps permanently. I never wanted to do anything wrong by her. I would have served her and honored her and shared myself with her completely. But apparently there is a division in myself that I don’t understand or I never would have lied to her to begin with. How do I make something right out of this? How can I live with this?

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Answer:

First of all, let me say simply that I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your relationship. It sounds like you were very devoted to your fiancée and attached to her, and it must feel very devastating to not have her around in your life anymore. Time tends to heal these sort of wounds, but some times a very long time must pass before this occurs. I hope that you will experience a speedy recovery from the emotionally painful place you find yourself in.

You are grieving right now. Something big and very important to you has died, and it will take time for you to adjust to your new reality. Allow yourself time to grieve, please. It is okay to grieve. You can view our Grief topic center for more information on the grief process.

Sometimes there are small silver linings present inside dark clouds. You have learned something about yourself that you were not aware of before. More or less what you have learned is that though you were indeed devoted to your fiancée, you also have a porn habit that you are devoted to. I’m not making light of you by saying this or trying to judge you. Simply taking inventory of the things you find yourself devoted to. You may not have wanted to admit this second devotion to yourself before now (or at least acknowledge it in the detail you are presently forced to), but I’m of the opinion that ultimately, self knowledge is a good thing. You can’t take seriously what you don’t acknowledge.

You are by no means alone in your porn habit. A great number of men have porn habits. Men don’t tend to talk about their porn habits for a variety of reasons which I will comment on in a moment, but they are there nevertheless. The anonymity of the Internet, and the ease with which porn can be accessed on the Internet have made porn habits more common and perhaps more involved than they used to be (pre-internet), but even in the old days, pornography was a multi-billion dollar part of the economy.

Despite its popularity, porn is not a respectable habit. Anonymity and porn are connected, because there is so much shame attached to porn use.

Many (most?) women don’t like it when men use porn because they interpret porn use by their partners as evidence of their own failings, and as a variety of adulterous behavior (along the lines of an actual sexual/emotional affair with another woman). They also tend to feel a strong betrayal of trust when they learn their men are using porn; they are offended that there is a part of their partner’s sexuality that they have not been invited to participate in, and offended that secrets have been kept.

For their part, men tend to not talk about their porn use with other men, or with their partners. One reason for this is because men are not generally socialized to become expressive talkers and self-disclosers. Another is because porn use is generally about masturbation, and masturbation is not the type of sexual behavior that earns a man bragging rights among his peers. Those men who are inclined to brag about sex will brag about seducing women (or other men – depending on their preferences); There is nothing particularly studly about "making the scene with a magazine" as the singer Tom Waits once put it.

Porn/masturbation also seems to be associated with a different sort of sexual need than regular partnered sex. Partnered sex, even with a very understanding laid-back partner, is a performance, or at least it is a social event. Consequently, there are typically various social anxieties associated with the act. Masturbation, on the other hand, is a solo event done in private (most of the time). It is not associated with any of the anxieties or performance pressures that come with partnered sex. It can simply be about release, pleasure and the freedom to indulge in private sexual fantasies. The men I have talked with about these things typically report they are interested in both partnered and solo forms of sexuality. They don’t, however, typically feel comfortable discussing their solo sexuality desires with their partners (in part for reasons described above).

From these motives and fears comes the disconnect between how men regard porn differently in private and public contexts. Your own experience would appear to be typical. At times in your life, you have found porn to be compelling, I’m guessing, because it has met particular needs for you that you are not keen on sharing with others. I’m guessing you were not honest with your fiancée about your porn use because you were ashamed of it even as you desired it, and because you feared that she would react negatively to you if she knew you had used it. If your assessment of why she has left you is accurate, you weren’t wrong.

While it was dishonest of you to lie about your porn use, we have to place that lie in context, I think. Many people are not entirely honest about their pasts (or even presents), even with their most intimate partners. A certain amount of so-called "white lies" are told so as to keep the peace, and because people are not typically brave or blunt enough to make full, unvarnished self-disclosures. It is also the case that relationships can bear different amounts of truth at different stages of their maturity. It is almost never a good idea to be completely and absolutely vulnerable and honest with a partner when in a newly formed relationship. To do so is almost certain to frighten the partner away. A more mature relationship, with more mutual investment, can bear more weight, but sometimes even when partners appreciate that this is the case, they are still frightened of "rocking the boat", sharing too much, and frightening their partners away from them. And some partners cannot easily face (or perhaps more generously, are prone to misinterpret) the naked truth, unfortunately (forgive the pun). It would have been very brave and very confident and very blunt of you to have told your partner about your porn use. It might have also been the end of your relationship. In my experience, many people are not entirely brave, at least not when the alternative of a white lie seems like it will keep the peace better.

You have no control over what your fiancée does next. You can invite her to come back to you, and you can promise (quite sincerely) to make changes in how you relate to her that she will appreciate. You can actually make those changes. The one thing you can’t do is force her to return to you. You do have control over how you choose to use porn in the present, and in the future, and (perhaps more importantly) what you choose to tell future partners about your porn use. You also have a choice in the future as to whether you will choose to seek out (or stay with) a partner who cannot tolerate the idea that you use (or have used) porn. Not all women find porn offensive, and not all women find porn offensive based on its sexual content. Some women seem to find the idea that their partners were not truthful with them to be the most painful part of coping with porn. Your present predicament seems to have been caused by a number of factors, primary among them the particular attitudes held by your fiancée, and your decision to not be entirely honest with her. In the future, you can choose to be more honest than you were in this recent instance, and you can decide to not stick around to invest in a relationship with a woman who is uncomfortable with your actual sexual desires and behaviors.

In closing, I want to point out that porn use does seem to have quasi-addictive potentials (it can easily become a difficult to dislodge habit) and that some men (and women too, I suppose) end up using it "responsibly" while others don’t or can’t. If your porn use becomes compulsive and/or threatens to disrupt your life and important relationships, the best course of action you could take would be to hire a professional therapist (I believe a behaviorist or cognitive-behaviorist therapist would be the best choice) to help you get yourself under better control.

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Comments
  • Pat

    Your comments and information has been very helpful to me. I understand a lot more now about the role of pornography in our lives.

    The description of how the woman feels betrayed and left out of an important part of the partners life is exactly what I have felt.

    Thanks again.

  • Ang

    I am a 40 year old women and have bean married for nine year my 39 year old husband has always looked at porn wish he knows bothers me he prefers oral porn movies. He works from home and starts his day with porn its the first thing he looks at every day. The problem is that he is now bringing what he watches in to are sex life all he wants is oral sex and asks for it every day like it's no big deal it's the only way he can have an orgasm i don't give him what he asks for . It's so hurtful and selfish to me that i have no interest in him anymore we had a great sex life for the first few years he was loving and caring with me i have talked with about this but he doesnt seam to think i should make a big deal out it .I cant make him understand how much it hurts me and our marriage i feel sick just thinking about it .

  • Manny

    Understandable why a woman would feel offended by her husband's use of porn. But as a man struggling with this I can tell you that when you say "I won't give him what he ASK for", you are simply creating a new excuse for him to turn to porn. Porn is bad for wives, but it allows husband a sense of control. In porn, No women saying that "my way is the only way" in MY bed room. No women saying "I'm affaid to do that their for the answer is NO". Porn is wrong, but what it provides to the user, is exactly the opposite of what a "love partner" wants to give out. You want honesty and openness from your man, and when he does you compare it to your own values and make him feel alienated.

  • Lisa

    Hi, Ithought this was an interesting and measured response from the doctor, but I thought I would add that there is also a political dimension to this. Many women feel that the pornography industry as well as specific articles of pornography objectify women in unacceptable ways - and that it does tend to be a very one way thing, ie it is a male dominated industry catering to the interests of men, which is then reflected in the content. Read: a lot of what women see in porn is the objectification and violation of the female body. It is however true that not all women believe this, but most instinctively (in my experience of having talked with other men and women) do - although it's also true that many women, particularly younger women, may feel pressured to like porn, because they may be told that they are too uptight. Hmm, I guess their dislike as porn could even be represented as a turn-off and thus a reason in and of itself to turn to porn. (From memory suggested by a man below.)

    So there's a few things going on: a masturbation ritual with porn in a private world that in the individual's experience is not intended to cause harm to anybody and is part of their sexuality. Then we have a woman who finds porn offensive, whether for a political reason or otherwise, who has been lied to about porn. I'd like to throw a few more things in there. One is the way that men and women have been socialised, so are different in their habits, generally speaking, and there may be a biological element, although I wouldn't say that alone is the determining factor. Women's relationship to sexuality is generally somewhat hampered by a virgin/whore dichotomy where she is damned either way. It can really take a long time for a woman to start to really enjoy having sex! Statistics show that an alarming amount of women have never orgasmed, and certainly not during sex. A lot of how sex is approached is looking good enough for any man to want to have sex with you - except not having sex with all those men having such a vibrant personality that any man would want you as his lover, so that one could not be "used" for sex and then "disposed" of afterwards and how to be so "good at" sex that one is unforgettable, etc. Sex can be loaded in terms of power and there are undeniably very different gendered paradigms in relation to this and this *does* effect how women approach sex and likewise porn. Most women will find it threatening and it is not necessarily an empty threat. As a feminist, I generally consider porn offensive - I feel that even if it flicks a switch, it does this at a sort of loss of morals. I also have known people who have engaged in sex work etc who only did so because they were down and out, so I do view the female subjects as having feelings (again, not all of them will be subjugated, but some certainly are).

    But, I know for instance that a man can feel threatened by the likes of a dildo! And that women tend to appreciate written erotica, generally written by another woman with attention to certain details and sensibilities. Furthermore women do masturbate and some women rely on such erotica much like some men rely on porn. (Perhaps included in this is the notion that it is arguably a relatively moral interface in terms of its production processes and consumption.) In my opinion masturbating is a worthy solo sport and for women is useful to help them know what suits them best so they can "achieve" orgasm during sex. Statistics show that women are more likely to have sex that is emotionally and physically satisfying the older they get! and also once they have been with a certain partner long enough to really trust him. Not all men like the available porn either, it's worth mentioning some also find it distasteful.

    I think what I'm driving at here is that it's worth being a little bit more expansive in relation to women's sexuality and how that affects the interplay here. I would say a loss of trust in this kind of context is major and even if a relationship didn't end, it would be felt instantly in and out of the bedroom - although it may be approached constructively as an opportunity to have some real dialogue and for both parties to consider whether they are open to different things. (Rather than it being all about a woman cramping a man's style... heh heh...) What I'm trying to say is that there's ways to self-eroticise without porn, and that there are ways to be more expansive when it comes to sexuality. You never know, your partner might surprise you in the most unexpected ways if you are prepared to deal with her unselfishly and allow her to trust you fully whether porn is included in that deal or not would obviously depend on the woman. For what it's worth, it would be such a major turn-off for me that I would probably think, "not for me," but that's me. Just like use of porn may be you.

    The other thing I wanted to mention though is that mental health definitely plays into this too, and in particular women who have been raped, sexually harassed or experienced childhood sexual abuse and/or incest, may suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and sex may trigger off a lot of issues. This scenario is very much not hopeless... though a lot of awareness and insight helps. But the impact of this should not be underestimated: sorry to cough up generic "statistics" again but a range of these have consistently shown that a substantial amount of women have experienced the above, hardly a slight minority. It is worth bearing in mind that this not only affects sex, but could frame the use of porn in a way that appears very personally threatening - it could cause memories, bad associations, anger, dissociation and so on.

    Women are complex but we're worth it!

  • Janet

    Any man who expects a woman to stick around without complaint when he has broken her trust with porn use and/or also wants her to enjoy doing some of the things he sees in his porn hunts, must be slightly dense. Women are people, not just two breasts, a mouth, a vagina, or an anus for his using/abusing pleasure. If you love a woman, treat her like she is a valuable person. I am glad the fiancee found out before and not after she had married. While counseling helps during such problems in marriage, it doesn't completely help a woman loose her pain overnight. If you love her, you will dump the porn and any attempts to get her to do what you have been viewing if you love the porn and don't want to dump it, let her go so she can find someone hopefully who can really love and appreciate her.

  • alicia

    my husband would rather masturbate then have sex with me, im pregnant and really horny all the time and i find him in the bathroom jerking off and it really pisses me off and i din'tknow what to do about it, is this normal?? i want the sex and he would rather masturbate alone!!!

  • Anonymous-1

    im too tired to do all that to identidy mysel, cause i have to work like crazy since MY FIANCE KICK ME OUT WHEN I FOUND HIS PORN

  • Jennifer

    Wow! I am both very thankful and upset that I came across this website. I FINALLY, FINALLY feel like all of my feelings (both positive and MOSTLY negative) regarding porn are understood and not only by just one person, but many. And it's not only my "opinion", but those of many. What's even better, there are many facts, reasonable explainations, statistical information and lots of "other" stuff that help me feel like I am not alone. I am not wrong for having SO MANY NEGATIVE FEELINGS regarding porn. I am not wrong or weird or different for having my feelings. The negative body image (although im 5'0, 115lbs, prev did sum modeling yrs ago), my occassional self-hatred and feelings of absolute disgust for my body and sexuality I continue to work on and fight against and probably will forever. When ur spouse (or close lover, etc) exhibits this type of behavior and then sum, it most certainly doesn't help the woman to feel any better.

  • Ron

    Porn is just one click away from our work, TV news, southpark, MOvies and the photo collection. The easy accessability has put porn in much more focus in our lives - at least in mine - than 10 years ago where you needed to go to the video store to rent a video, make a conscious decision to go to the porn section of the store, choose between all these dull covers a video you would not really know what you would get (today, the decision that this is a bad porn that does not fit into my desires is also just a click away), then look in the clerks face and leave with a feeling of shame.

    Ever since I was a 12 year old and watched my first porn, I always intuitively thought that porn is not something that helps my inner most being to grow and feel uplifted. Masturbation has been a part of life since I could remember - i must have been five since I started to play with myself, having no clue about what sex is but having very weird fantasies and feeling the pleasure of satisfaction. Once I got bit older and started to realize how men and women relate to each other sexually, my fantasies changed into that of innocent and intimate love. When I was faced with the reality of porn i instantly understood that there was nothing of those true feelings involved (although in the abundance of the porn cyberspace I once in a while see a video that reflects true passionate sex that depicts women and men in roles that i consider natural and positive for both). But i still felt the urge of looking at it, although i would never have rented a video or both a magazine - I never did all my life. I always encountered porn through friends. Web 2.0 changed that of course!

    Anyways, for the last five years i have started to use more and more porn. The less I have been involved with women at the same time. I had two longer relationships in which i would not feel the urge in searching for it, but once solo I would get bored with life and look for compensation. There were always phases were i would not use it at all or even form a habit of consciously chosing to stay away from it and rather use my own fantasies, but in the end, I would become weak and come back to it. Of course, this has a lot to do with my inability to connect with women - this discussion would take to long to elaborate on that now. Unnatural as it is for most men, as well as for most women - there are exceptions and people certainly have different libidos - I end up masturbating and lacking self discipline I end up typing porn into the search browser and off I go...

    And I observe that this really is just like a drug habit. The urge to do it again and again until I am totally exhausted and feel so bad about myself is mind bugging. I act against my inner voice but it is the rush that i seek that stands for something much larger here - and I argue that this is probably the same thing for most men. Dopamin which is a adrenalin type of chemical which the brain produces when we watch porn and have natural sex too, produces the rush that makes me seek the short pleasure in watching porn. Spiritually I feel exhausted by it.

    I am not a religious person by no means. But I certainly think that sex that is diminished to the level where it is just about the rush of dopamin that we seek - and the porn industry is nothing but to exploit on the superficial layer of our humanity - then we do not give our sexuality a meaningful perspective where we positively grow with it.

    We only have to look into ancient philosophies that have given sexuality a meaningful purpose in the metaphysics of life. Of course we have to look to the Orient because the Occident - the WEstern hemisphere - has been destroyed by stupid pundits like Paulus who declared the body a sinful vessel. (Looking at the history of the last 2000 years in the context of how Christian dogmatism destroyed Western man's natural ability to see sex as something that can be used as spiritual form of connection and renewal is another mind bugging fact). In ancient INdia, CHina or Japan sex was seen as a very powerful way of learning to deal with the energies that make us so alive and human. Within this sphere, sex is part of a much larger context within humans seek to become beings of an inner truth and self knowlegde and where it is not the plain orgasm, the rush of dopamin, that we seek within sex but rather the openess, the attitude of not expecting anything, no orgasm (that is especially important for men) and that it is the range of positive uplifting emotions that will cleanse us and provide us with a positive meaning.

    Of course, porn is not naturally bad - even in this context. As I said before there are a few examples where the 'actors' seem to enjoy what they do, are not motivated by lust and money - I say I see that in the way of their natural innocence that they radiate in this clips. And within this context porn becomes a model where we can look at and get inspired. Then the energies within the actors and the viewers would be channeled in a positive way, that is, the viewer would not simply jerk off but would at least frame within his/her consciousness a state of being that plays with the energy and is not just driven by plain lust that is seeking satisfaction. Unfortunately, probably less than 1% of porn that is produced today is driven by that kind of spirit.

    However, even watching the private videos of people on youporn doesn't take away the fact that it is most likely the horneyness of the voyeur that has driven the viewer to look at it. In the tantric system an act like that will actually result in a negative or downward flow of energy. We do not have to believe in this model but it gives us an idea of what is going on. On the other hand, the ancient Indian culture that came up with a systematic understanding of how the sexual energies work within us is by far greater and suits much better an holistic understanding of our nature than the narrow attempt of modern science and psychology.

    Finally, porn in my personal expereince is like any drug a compensation for the dissatifactions that I endure in life. I have always been a daydreamer and therefore daydreamed and fantazised on sex. Although, I had many affairs throughout my teens and twenties, i was mostly unable to be in a relationship. As I get older, I am less interested in random encounters but at the same time getting more afraid in connecting with women. And the older I get I think it is unnatural and spiritually unhealthy for me to live on my own like that. I guess Im also afraid of being responsible and losing my freedom being in a relationship - I know that this is also bullshit, but anyways... BUt the thing is, I am most likely to fall into the porn trap when I am dissatisfied with the fact that I am alone and do not have a partner. Another important factor is to be satisfied and be hopeful with life in general. If I feel in control of my path I am less likely to fall into it.

    In the end, I still hope that I wake up some day and lie next to someone I feel I have a deep connection to and who looks at sex in a much larger context. If we then watch porn together is a question that needs to be answered by us both together but I would rather like that we feel inspired by i. e. ancient drawings of postions and let our fantasies play out the game.

    Anyway, thanks for this forum where we all can share our thoughts on this currently very important topic.

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