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.

 

  • Tena Dupree April 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I Agree with Roz Warren, I don’t know how I feel about her throwing around words like broken trust and things like that when she was obviously snooping. She seemed a bit quick to suggest “she didn’t need him for his money” too…

    Both of these shed a not so pleasant light on her as a person in my opinion. I think Therapy would be a good thing for them.

    Many people enjoy looking at porn both of the hardcore and softcore varieties, that don’t have a problem. It is just another thing they enjoy. Looking at Porn, in and of itself, is not a problem just like drinking is not a problem until it is excessive and starts to control a person.

    Reply
  • Roz Warren January 31, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    I was under the impression that most guys enjoyed porn. And lots of women too. And speaking of trust, what was she doing snooping around in his computer viewing history? Even if the room wasn’t locked, if it’s understood that this was “his” space, she had no business being in there. A good couples therapist would have a lot to work with here.

    Reply

Join the conversation