I found my husband watching porn and now I feel betrayed

The question I walked in on my husband watching porn and now I feel extraordinarily hurt and abandoned.

My grown-up children have left home and I have managed to have a rewarding career. However, having a good relationship always eluded me until I was in my 50s.

I have been married before and I am in my early 60s now. We have been together for a while. I thought we were ecstatically happy and that, at last, I was in a truly fulfilling and equal relationship. I now doubt all this, and have lost respect for my husband. We have tried to talk about it, and he is only sorry that I am upset and doesn’t seem sorry that he used porn. He must know women are often exploited and always objectified in these situations. He says his love for me is as it ever was, and says he’ll stop if I want, but I want him to want not to do it

You’ve discovered that you and your husband have different views about porn – and this may have triggered your teenage trauma

Close view of senior couple having a serious conversation. The focus is on the woman who is talking to the senior man. She looks concerned and worried. On the left, the man is in soft focus and looking away. They are casually dressed. Only head and shoulders are visible.
‘It is important that you have sympathy for each other’s points of view.’ Photograph: John Kirk/Getty Images
Philippa Perry

Philippa PerrySun 30 Jan 2022 17.00 AEDT

508

The question I walked in on my husband watching porn and now I feel extraordinarily hurt and abandoned.

My grown-up children have left home and I have managed to have a rewarding career. However, having a good relationship always eluded me until I was in my 50s.

I have been married before and I am in my early 60s now. We have been together for a while. I thought we were ecstatically happy and that, at last, I was in a truly fulfilling and equal relationship. I now doubt all this, and have lost respect for my husband. We have tried to talk about it, and he is only sorry that I am upset and doesn’t seem sorry that he used porn. He must know women are often exploited and always objectified in these situations. He says his love for me is as it ever was, and says he’ll stop if I want, but I want him to want not to do it.

https://3d09d839eee721b8aa61957788225513.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

I experienced a serious trauma when I was in my teens and have had bouts of depression since then. I have not been good at choosing the right men to have relationships with, but with years of counselling I managed to turn my life around. I really thought that this time, by being with a kind and interested man I had at last got it right, but now I’m unsure.

I feel betrayed by my husband using porn. It is as though he has been cheating on me.

Philippa’s answer I’m not saying using porn is right or wrong, because me declaring judgment on it won’t change anyone’s behaviour. It is more useful to understand it. And yes, I dislike the objectifying, potentially exploitative side of the porn industry. But I can also understand it’s nice to have a little private pleasure. A bit like having a lovely, satisfying poo that you wouldn’t necessarily tell anyone about.

You mentioned your teenage trauma, so I’m thinking it is still relevant. What trauma can do is shatter previously held beliefs such as: “Most people are good and trustworthy.” After the trauma, you may have developed rigid rules like emergency measures that come with new beliefs such as, “I shouldn’t trust anyone.” I’m wondering whether discovering something new about your husband which is hard for you to understand means you’ve reverted to this type of emergency-mode way of thinking – thinking in very “all or nothing” terms. You’ve gone from “ecstatically happy” to what sounds like panic – that marrying was a mistake, as though your discovery may have reactivated this old trauma and tipped you into an emergency trauma-mode mindset.

https://3d09d839eee721b8aa61957788225513.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

What you are doing is discovering something new about him. It’s a part of him, it’s not all of him. Some of us tend to assume that sex means the same thing to our partners that it does to us. This is not done consciously but in a sort of take-it-for-granted way, and it is often left unsaid. This is why it can be a great shock when differences are found. You might be feeling excluded because he kept this part of his sexual life a secret. Maybe you find it disgusting and feel contaminated by it. It might be tantamount to him having sex with someone else. But for him, porn is probably nothing to do with his real-life relationship with you, but instead about his relationship with himself.

Beware of seeing the issue in terms of just right and wrong

The thing to remember is that each of you will have formed different attitudes to relationships and to sex and to porn: this might be difficult to explain or talk about because both of you might not have been in the habit of putting non-conscious assumptions about sex or porn into words (perhaps not even to yourselves). But I want to encourage you to keep trying, so that each of you can understand the other. I don’t think you’ll ever be on exactly the same page, but I do think it is important that you both really understand what is on your respective pages and have sympathy for each other’s points of view.

He has probably been watching porn in private moments all the time you have been together, and all the while you loved and trusted him and felt “ecstatically happy”. He may need private time to masturbate, but whether you want this to be kept secret from you is something else to talk about. There is a difference between privacy and secrecy. The former is OK and the latter can feel like betrayal. I hope you can find a way of talking about how you each do privacy, how you need it and how you use it. It might enrich your relationship.

Porn can be destructive when it is addictive, but as he offered to give it up if you wanted him to, it does not sound like he has an addiction to it.

Beware of seeing this issue in terms of just right and wrong, and keep the dialogue open. Porn is what the genitals enjoy in private. This might be very different to who we each are with each other.

You’ve discovered that you and your husband have different views about porn – and this may have triggered your teenage trauma

Close view of senior couple having a serious conversation. The focus is on the woman who is talking to the senior man. She looks concerned and worried. On the left, the man is in soft focus and looking away. They are casually dressed. Only head and shoulders are visible.
‘It is important that you have sympathy for each other’s points of view.’ Photograph: John Kirk/Getty Images
Philippa Perry

Philippa PerrySun 30 Jan 2022 17.00 AEDT

508

The question I walked in on my husband watching porn and now I feel extraordinarily hurt and abandoned.

My grown-up children have left home and I have managed to have a rewarding career. However, having a good relationship always eluded me until I was in my 50s.

I have been married before and I am in my early 60s now. We have been together for a while. I thought we were ecstatically happy and that, at last, I was in a truly fulfilling and equal relationship. I now doubt all this, and have lost respect for my husband. We have tried to talk about it, and he is only sorry that I am upset and doesn’t seem sorry that he used porn. He must know women are often exploited and always objectified in these situations. He says his love for me is as it ever was, and says he’ll stop if I want, but I want him to want not to do it.

https://3d09d839eee721b8aa61957788225513.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

I experienced a serious trauma when I was in my teens and have had bouts of depression since then. I have not been good at choosing the right men to have relationships with, but with years of counselling I managed to turn my life around. I really thought that this time, by being with a kind and interested man I had at last got it right, but now I’m unsure.

I feel betrayed by my husband using porn. It is as though he has been cheating on me.

Philippa’s answer I’m not saying using porn is right or wrong, because me declaring judgment on it won’t change anyone’s behaviour. It is more useful to understand it. And yes, I dislike the objectifying, potentially exploitative side of the porn industry. But I can also understand it’s nice to have a little private pleasure. A bit like having a lovely, satisfying poo that you wouldn’t necessarily tell anyone about.

You mentioned your teenage trauma, so I’m thinking it is still relevant. What trauma can do is shatter previously held beliefs such as: “Most people are good and trustworthy.” After the trauma, you may have developed rigid rules like emergency measures that come with new beliefs such as, “I shouldn’t trust anyone.” I’m wondering whether discovering something new about your husband which is hard for you to understand means you’ve reverted to this type of emergency-mode way of thinking – thinking in very “all or nothing” terms. You’ve gone from “ecstatically happy” to what sounds like panic – that marrying was a mistake, as though your discovery may have reactivated this old trauma and tipped you into an emergency trauma-mode mindset.

https://3d09d839eee721b8aa61957788225513.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

What you are doing is discovering something new about him. It’s a part of him, it’s not all of him. Some of us tend to assume that sex means the same thing to our partners that it does to us. This is not done consciously but in a sort of take-it-for-granted way, and it is often left unsaid. This is why it can be a great shock when differences are found. You might be feeling excluded because he kept this part of his sexual life a secret. Maybe you find it disgusting and feel contaminated by it. It might be tantamount to him having sex with someone else. But for him, porn is probably nothing to do with his real-life relationship with you, but instead about his relationship with himself.

Beware of seeing the issue in terms of just right and wrong

The thing to remember is that each of you will have formed different attitudes to relationships and to sex and to porn: this might be difficult to explain or talk about because both of you might not have been in the habit of putting non-conscious assumptions about sex or porn into words (perhaps not even to yourselves). But I want to encourage you to keep trying, so that each of you can understand the other. I don’t think you’ll ever be on exactly the same page, but I do think it is important that you both really understand what is on your respective pages and have sympathy for each other’s points of view.

He has probably been watching porn in private moments all the time you have been together, and all the while you loved and trusted him and felt “ecstatically happy”. He may need private time to masturbate, but whether you want this to be kept secret from you is something else to talk about. There is a difference between privacy and secrecy. The former is OK and the latter can feel like betrayal. I hope you can find a way of talking about how you each do privacy, how you need it and how you use it. It might enrich your relationship.

Porn can be destructive when it is addictive, but as he offered to give it up if you wanted him to, it does not sound like he has an addiction to it.

Beware of seeing this issue in terms of just right and wrong, and keep the dialogue open. Porn is what the genitals enjoy in private. This might be very different to who we each are with each other.

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