Cecilia Ford Ph.D

Dr. Cecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for us in many articles over the years. Here, she counsels a woman has been devastated by the discovery that her husband visits porn sites.

 Dear Dr. Ford:

My husband and I are both 52. We used to have a satisfying sex life two or three times a week. We both have long workdays, but are home by 7 p.m. most nights and have dinner together. He has a Scotch before dinner and two glasses of wine with dinner every night, and then heads to his “computer room,” which was formerly our daughter’s walk-in closet. He doesn’t come out until I am asleep. We never have sex now unless I initiate it. I look good, and, if I say so myself, I am good in bed. My husband has no erection problems once I begin the foreplay.  

I accidentally found his computer room unlocked and his computer still on last week and saw that my husband has been visiting porn sites and apparently chat rooms for people interested in porn. This has just made me sick.  I feel so violated. I have not told him that I know and I have acted the way I always do.

Just for your information, I don’t need to be married to him to have a comfortable enough life financially, and the kids are grown and out of the house, so I am really torn about what to do next. Is there anything really that can be done to heal the loss of trust in our marriage? Do people who get involved in porn relationships ever find normal sex and a wife enough? What steps would you suggest to someone with a problem like this?

Jennifer

 

Dear Jennifer:

What you have described is a very widespread problem. In fact, the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) will include a new category, Internet Use Disorder, reflecting how common it is that people are finding themselves “addicted” to the Internet in its many offerings (porn, games, gambling, social networking, etc.). Brain imaging studies have revealed that subjects’ brains show patterns that look like a “high” among these users.

Although it’s clear that you feel shocked at, and betrayed by, your husband’s behavior, we don’t know how often he visits these sites. Obviously, he spends a lot of time on his computer, and your sex life is different than it was when you were younger—understandably, this is making you suspicious. But many people in their fifties find that frequency of intercourse wanes, particularly if they have long work hours. Your husband’s drinking also contributes to his diminished libido, no doubt. While there are many people who are addicted to Internet porn, there are also millions more who are only occasional visitors to these sites, and your husband may be one of these.

There are treatments available for those that are dependent or addicted, and it is not impossible, as you suggest, for “normal sex” to be appealing to men who have a history of porn use. Your husband may not be initiating sex for a number of reasons, including that he feels ashamed and that keeping a “secret” from you has damaged your intimacy, as it always does.

This discovery has raised serious doubts for you about your trust in your marriage, and for this reason I would recommend that you consult a professional before confronting your husband. It would be a good idea for you, before that contfrontation, to have some idea how you feel and what  you want, since you don’t know how he will react. The degree of your reaction, including your willingness to contemplate divorce, leads me to believe that you may have some ambivalence of your own to explore. It could be worthwhile to be aware of this when you talk with him.

In your letter you have indicated that you feel so violated that you are not sure you can imagine repairing the trust in your relationship. Many women (and men, too) have found themselves feeling this way after a betrayal, yet have later been grateful that they have found a way to forgive their partner.