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Sexual Issues With Husband

Question:

Last night, my husband and I were talking about the possibility of separation. We have been having sexual issues and I need some advice as to what to do because I am exhausted trying to figure this out. The issues are twofold. First, I am a survivor of incest (my father throughout most of my childhood until 14) and sexual assault as a teenager. Currently, I have restarted therapy in dealing with these issues. The other issues have to do with the role pornography and sexual fantasies have played in our relationship. When we first started dating, my husband had thousands of nude pictures of women which he looked at for hours on a daily basis. He told me that doing this and masturbating was more arousing and exciting than our sexual relationship. He spent more time and had more interest in doing that. He also told me that he constantly fantasizes about other women from his life both when we are together and when he is unable to look at pornographic pictures of women. I responded by trying to participate in his fantasies and porn with him. However, I found that to be nothing more than me acting like an aid for his masturbation and I started to feel used. Eventually this issue became very upsetting so I told him that I wanted him to choose porn over me which he did. Begrudgingly, he deleted his picture collection after acknowledging how much it was hurting our relationship. However, he told me that if he was to do this, he would need me to be sexually available to him whenever he needed me to. I agreed, but ended up feeling very used again. I’m not sure I made the right decision when asking him to give up his pictures. Since then he’s gone back to masturbating to pictures of naked women a few times telling me that I am not fulfilling or exciting enough. A few months ago, he told me that he was wrong for doing this and for telling me that I should have sex with him whenever he wants. However, my self esteem has dropped dramatically and I am having big trust issues that I am who he really wants to be with in a sexual way. Since all of this has happened, I have not wanted to have sex very often. I used to enjoy being sexual almost daily. As a survivor, I find myself struggling to figure out what is healthy sexually. I’m not sure if I am being too close-minded about the pictures that he likes or if I am being too sensitive by feeling used. I am having difficulty with depression, crying all the time and having trouble going on dates in public with my husband because I am wondering if he is having sexual fantasies about the people around us. I have told him about my feelings and he gets frustrated with me, but especially if my emotional reactions seem to be extreme and out of nowhere like breaking down crying uncontrollably while we are trying to have sex. I would like to make things better between us and for myself but I am not quite sure how to go about it. Sorry this is so long, but I would greatly appreciate any advice. Thank you.

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Answer:

Thank you for your very thorough and clear explanation of your difficulties. First, I must remind you that you, alone, cannot make things better in your marriage. The task of improving your marriage is a joint effort. I sense that you are open to change in order to resolve the marriage problems but, based on what I have read here I have doubts about your husband.

Looking at your issues that result from the terrible things done to you as a child, it is important for you to know that trust is a major issue. When you add your husband’s pornography issues to your lack of trust, who could blame you for believing he is fantasizing about other women when you are out together? What I am suggesting is that your husband’s behavior towards you has added to your history of having been abused.

In fact, from the things you write in your E. Mail, it appears that your husband has been fairly verbally abusive. For example, telling you that you are not stimulating enough and that he finds his nude photos more stimulating than you, is a good example of verbal abuse. Do you realize how mean that comment was?

Given his verbal abuse and his preference for pornography over you, is it any wonder that you feel depressed? That is why your emotional reactions are not extreme! His statements about fantasies about other women from the past is an equally abusive thing for him to tell you. He does not sound like a very nice man, at least not in relation to you.

I want to suggest to you that you have attempted to all you could to be close and involved with your husband. Your willingness to join into the porn and to do the kinds of sexual things that he likes are examples of your being very open to him.

However, no matter what you did, he continued to treat you with contempt and abuse. That is why you feel depressed, become emotional and feel over whelmed.

I do not say this next thing lightly or easily but, it is very possible that separation and divorce are the best for you. After having said this, I will suggest that, if he is willing to enter marriage therapy with you, the marriage might have a chance of success. However, he has to be willing to change. You cannot do this alone. He has a childish or adolescent connection to pornography instead of a mature sexual relationship with you, his wife. I know I may sound harsh, but, I suspect that he needs to do a lot of growing up. For you, there is a need to recognize abuse and to be firm in rejecting that abuse.

Do you know the Helen Reddy song, "I am woman, I am invincible…" Listen to the song, it has a message you need to hear.

Best of Luck

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Comments
  • Anon for a reason

    First, congratulations on surviving your past and working to confront it. I wish you all the best with your healing, and I hope that your marriage can be saved as well.

    Second, you are not alone. I am a husband whose marriage has very similar issues, and I have had friends and neighbors with similar issues. I have no formal background in this (all comments below are strictly IMHO I am not diagnosing or prescribing anything), other than my own experience, but some of the comments you made struck a chord with me.

    "He told me that doing this and masturbating was more arousing and exciting than our sexual relationship"

    No woman (or man for that matter) can compete with porn on porn's terms, and no one should have to compete with it, either. It never has a headache or feels bloated. The lights are always on. There is no unwanted period to worry about. He will never be too small for porn. Porn will never be too saggy for him. Simply said, it ain't real. I'm pretty sure even porn stars don't have day-in, day-out sex lives they portray professionally.

    Although I'm sure his comment was hurtful to you, at least he was candid. In fixing things, you are both going to have to share (and accept) some things that may be ugly. Dr. Schwartz is obviously more knowlegeable here than I am, and I respect his comments on verbal abuse, but I wonder what context the comment was made in. Sharing or confiding an intimate secret? Admitting an embarrasing truth about his habits? Reacting angrily when confronted?

    Porn can be a healthy part of a couple's or individual's sex life, but only as an adjunct to it, not a replacement for it. Doing anything over and over reinforces it in our minds and bodies. His continual focus on porn appears to be desensitizing him mentally and physically, warping his perception of "less exciting" sex with you. He needs to change that. The wonderful subtleties of intimacy with you are probably lost on him if he has conditioned himself to respond mostly to pictures and his own touch (been there, done that). It may take awhile to start to rewire things, but patience pays off. Over time, the good news is that learning to appreciate intimacy with you can be as pleasureable as learning to acquire or sharpen any other taste, like how to appreciate fine wine.

    Going from "me-centered" masturbation and porn to a "we-centered" sexual focus may be tough, but hopefully he realizes that it will be worth it in the long run. If I were him, I would focus on creating fantasies centered around you. Fantasizing about others is normal enough, and can add wonderful spice to things, but you shouldn't have to be a stand-in for the picture in his mind all the time.

    However, he told me that if he was to do this, he would need me to be sexually available to him whenever he needed me to.

    Aha. Here's what my crystal ball says: He wants you to be as reliable as his porn collection. That's not a realistic expectation. He can't just delete his collection and then substitute you in for it. He has to work on his own expectations. IMHO, If you are normally happy being sexual almost every day, and are open to some fantasy play and erotica, he should be able to find a way to be happy with that.

    Since then he's gone back to masturbating to pictures of naked women a few times telling me that I am not fulfilling or exciting enough. A few months ago, he told me that he was wrong for doing this and for telling me that I should have sex with him whenever he wants.

    Reading tea leaves now: It sounds like he has a porn addiction. It may not simply be a matter of porn is more stimulating, or old habits dying hard, but compulsion as well. He seems to feel guilty. He knows something is wrong, and is causing him to make inappropriate demands on you.

    However, my self esteem has dropped dramatically and I am having big trust issues that I am who he really wants to be with in a sexual way. Since all of this has happened, I have not wanted to have sex very often.

    Almost verbatim some of the issues my wife and I have had/are having. I can totally understand your reaction, and it as far as I can tell, it is completely natural, given the circumstances. However, the decrease in your sex drive will probably also exacerbate things if he is worried about letting go of porn and trusting that you will fulfil his needs. You both will need to trust to make this work. Leaps of faith can be scary, but please don't let that stop you.

    As a survivor, I find myself struggling to figure out what is healthy sexually.

    Considering your history of abuse, your approach to sexuality seems remarkably good. You seem open to accomodating your partner's wants, and prior to the recent drop in desire, seem to enjoy sex frequently. You seem to have a desire for a healthy, two-way relationship. It is indeed possible that past abuse makes you more sensitive to feeling like you are being used, but in this case, it sounds like anyone would have adequate reason to feel that way.

    I am sure there is a lot more to the story, and there are probably solid reasons that he feels frustrated. Hey, we all have reasons, right?

    If your husband wants to stay in this marriage, he should seek counseling for his issues. He needs to adjust his expectations of marriage and sex (hard, but worth it). He needs to break his old compulsions (ditto). He needs to rediscover how wonderful it can be to be with you. You both need to make that leap of faith that you can both be fulfilled in each other. For what it's worth, tell him I said to go for it.

    It will take lots of faith, patience, forgiveness, and understanding from both of you. Good luck. I hope it works.

  • Debbie

    Hello,

    When I read your story I seen myself. When I first met my husband he had tons of naked pictures on his computer. I tried just as you did to check out porn sites with him to see just what the fasination was. I tryed to enjoy it with him since that is what made him happy. One day I deleted every picture he had saved and he didn't call me for a couple days. When he did call me he was furious and STUPID ME appoligized!!!! FOR WHAT? I don't know but it was early in our relationship. If I knew that I would STILL be dealing with the porn after all these years I would NEVER have married him or even continued with the relationship. Now I just want to leave for a while so he can see what its going to be like without me if he doesn't stop. He just isn't taking me serious anymore. I NEVER in my life had a boyfriend or husband (I was married once before) treat me like this. I ALWAYS had a high libedo and would have sex at least 3-4 times a week everywhere in the house and outside the house because I felt wanted and beautiful. My 1st husband always told me how beautiful I was and NEVER made me feel like I wasn't his # 1 girl! We would watch porn together because it was "we-centered" porn not "Me-centered" porn. He wouldn't look at the girls and think of them while being with me he always looked at MY FACE and made love to ME. My husband now never looks at me, he looks away as if he is trying to imagine someone else. Not a turn on...and kind of sad. I am 43 years old and I will not live like this the rest of my life. I want to be with someone who honestly loves ME. I think he says I love you so that I will stay because he doesn't want to be alone. I was alone for 5 years with just me and my children after my 1st husband died. I did it then I can do it again. The problem is I do love him but more than he actually loves me... and there lies the problem.

    He waits until I go to bed or I go to work and sneaks porn sites even though he knows he is going to get caught. When I do catch him he doesn't say anything even though he knows it is very hurtful to me. He just doesn't care how it makes me feel. He at one time told me that it is normal....(more excuses).

    If I did something that I KNEW was hurtful to him I would stop it immediately because I love him. It just shows how much he doesn't love me. Our sex life is maybe 1 time a month now because I just don't want him to touch me if he is thinking about other girls and there bodies.

    I do love him but I love myself more than this. We have been married since 2003. I think what hurts more than anything else is that my whole family just loves him and thinks he is the greatest (which he is except for the porn that they don't know of). If they did find out then I would look like a fool also because I STAYED WITH THE IDIOT FOR THIS LONG!!!!

    I did tell him that he needed to get rid of the computer because it is coming between me and him and he told me he is NEVER going to get rid of the computer. NOW WHAT?

    I know EXACTLY where you are coming from but Im ready to do something drastic to get through to him to show that I mean business. I just wanted to let you know that you are NOT alone!! I will let you know what ends up happening...and you do the same.

    With you in sadness,

    Debbie

  • Pri

    You are not alone girl!! I have been suffering with the same issue for a long time. I always felt bad, because it made me feel like very conservative towards his opened sexual life style.One day, long time ago, I got home and caught him with the porn video playing and of course, him, masturbating... And it made me feel really weird, but I felt, maybe this normal, this what is called living with a man, so I complained but didn't make him feel bad. Later, one afternoon I was napping and he played a video next to me without me realizing, and he came on my face, and I woke up, feeling sticky, and realized what had just happened, then of course I felt very disrespected, but he only said sorry, and laughed. Instead, I got sad, but didn't impose me as I should.

    Well, I could tell you much more, but I'll say, that one day after complaining a lot he decided to throw the dvds away, they were many.. But I had no idea that his porn thing was beyond that.. We decided to have internet, and came along porn, so to make him stop,I could no longer have internet in my house, but, I started feeling that I was suffering too much for his porn addiction so I started to punish him, not having sex, because of course he doesn't think on me when we are having sex, he thinks on those people, he wants to be nasty, and show me at the window, and be nasty, and I want to be romantic, listen to music, be cared, have candles, spend time, touching each other, but he never wants to wait for me, to be in the mood, if he is feeling like, he doesn't care that is not comfortable for me, or sometimes painful, he just wants to go to the fact.

    Sometimes I feel that he doesn't love me, but he says that he does love me, but, I just don't understand why he is so abusive, very controlling, he took control of everything, in all matters.

    I try to talk, but he gets offensive, and thinks that there is no problem, that all couples have issues, but I just can't stand, anymore.

    In my opinion the porn industry should be more controlled. My marriage is almost ruined for all of that.

  • Anonymous-1

    I hear you all. It is so tough and even worse when you have kids. My husband of 19 years is also a porn addict and blames me for it. That because I don't show him enough attention this is the only reason he looks at porn. We would have sex at least 7 to 12 times a week and he was never satisfied. It was never long enough, passionate enough, regular enough. He would scream at me if I asked for a night off saying when is he going to have a night on and then would continue to yell at me all night about how the sex we have is only sex and not love making and that I am abusing him because he wants it 5 times a day and I'm only giving it to him maybe once a month as all the times we have sex it means nothing to him because it is only sex. Not passionate enough, long enough, frequent enough.

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