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Porn and the Otherwise Lovable Husband

I received a lengthy comment today from a reader dealing with her husband's viewing of porn on the internet.

I suggested looking up Mark Laaser, Phd, who has written some helpful stuff on the subject after finding himself getting sucked into it. One of his books is The Pornography Trap: Setting Pastors and Laypersons Free from Sexual Addiction..You can see him in this Smart Marriages 2010 video or purchase a recording of the rest of his talk plus one on Sex in the Age of Twitter by Pat Love from Smart Marriages and iPlayback.

Mark will tell you what the porn industry does to take a man from a simple, normal fantasy right into an addiction. More importantly, he tells men how to come back out again, instead of losing their wives and their integrity.

But there is more I want to say to her, because porn is not her biggest problem. Her husband promised to stop it. There is nothing more for her to do about it, except forgive if he fails but keeps trying.

It feels like something is missing from her life, and it has for a long time. When her husband came home from long hours at work and did nothing more than watch TV, she begged him to "do more things together" with her and their children. She nursed her resentments and carried on with a superficial marriage. After the kids were grown and it was just them, and the internet had joined the TV in his life, she began to wonder if she still loved him.

Forget the porn. What we have here is a man who worked to support his family, but never mustered enough energy, enthusiasm, or drive to do anything more. He retreated into electronic entertainment day after day. He withdrew from life and from his marriage. Is he a bad man for this? Hardly. He did nothing to harm them. His resentment never turned to rage or physical abuse. He never gambled everything they had and lost it trying to fuel some excitement. He never stopped his wife and kids from finding their own joy. He just never led the way.

And we have here a woman who tried to engage him and raise a family, but never mustered enough energy, enthusiasm, or drive to do anything that delighted her or drew him closer. She would implore him to do something together, but she had no passion he could join in with. When he said no thanks, she withdrew in resentment. She expected him to get up and lead, and he failed her.

She had no clue her expectation caused her resentment, and she had no clue her resentment took from him what he expected: respect. She asked him to talk about his feelings. He had no idea how to do that, and he feared hearing her feelings, because people who are happy with you seldom ask to talk about it. He withdrew from any chance of hearing his wife was unhappy with him, never realizing that withdrawing is as tough on her as losing respect is on him.

And now, years later, we have two people still waiting for the other to lead the way to a life of shared good times.

And neither is ready to lead, in part because they are not sure how. More importantly, though, both appear to feel they cannot lead until he is sure of her approval and she is sure she matters to him.

But while she disapproves, he will be uncertain how much she matters. And until she's certain, she will not approve.

If you are the man in this scenario, one that happens in many marriages between otherwise wonderful people, for Pete's sake, tell your wife her real-life body means more to you than any air-brushed photo or seductively lit video. When you pass up the opportunity to boost your libido by looking at others, know that it matters to her and makes you a bigger man in her eyes.

If you are the woman in this scenario, for Pete's sake tell your husband he is and always has a good and worthy man. When you pass up the opportunity to complain or talk about feelings, know that it matters to him and makes you more lovable in his eyes.

And no matter which you are, turn off the TV and the internet for a week to break the habit of letting others entertain you. Plan things you can do together some of the nights and things you can do separately on others to give you two something to talk about when you come together. And schedule some time and energy for sex.

Make it a no complaint, no escape week. If you are out of ideas, check this date night post or these geek date night ideas or these inexpensive date nights. You might just rediscover why you fell in love.

Comments

Patty,
You couldn't have had more perfect timing. But what we need to know is where to find professional compassionate help without judging for individuals who are sex addicts and couples therapy to get them through this. We are in round 2 of this situation after presumably a 4-5 year "clean" period, but like any addiction, it's back again. I have the hardest time with his lies and the particular porn addiction he looks at.

Wow, I've got goosebumps again from reading this blog. Carol, there is nothing but professional, compassionate help without judging out there. In the end though, they might not even give you as good a plan as this one Patty is offering. The inner conversation going on in each of you is killing the forward motion. Most people don't lead themselves out of the jungle because they don't know what to do or which way to go. The steps at the end here would work to connect almost anyone in any trouble and can be started immediately.

Carol, you have my deepest sympathies. Any addiction takes its toll on both spouses. I do not have the expertise to make a referral, but you might try asking Dr. Laaser for one at http://www.faithfulandtrueministries.com/ or checking with some of the pro-marriage couples therapists in your state at Bill Doherty's Marriage Friendly Therapists site: http://marriagefriendlytherapists.com/ Both come highly recommended by people I trust.

You might also check out Dr. Steven Stosny's Compassion Power boot camps, books, and webinars, especially for yourself as you deal with your hurt and anger. Dr. Stosny has a really different angle on resentment with some remarkable results.


Thank you, Patty. I have learned so much from you, and the books & websites you have suggested. I am using this information and working hard to improve my marriage. In addition, I am working on improving my feelings about myself and discovering something I can be passionate about. Sometimes it is slow-going, as it is very difficult to overcome insecure feelings that have been ingrained for decades. Plus, daily responsibilities interfere with time to read and visit websites. I will keep at it. I am hopeful for the future. Thanks again for helping me along the way!

You are most welcome, Lilian. Want more passion? Use your Signature Character Strengths to help someone else. You can discover them at http://authentichappiness.org

For me, it was Wisdom/Perspective. Every top-of-the-world moment in my life turns out to have involved a chance to use it. Now, I seek out opportunities for it.

And try Barbara Sher's H-levels test. All day long, ask yourself how happy what you see, taste, smell, hear, and do makes you, on a scale from one to ten. If it's an eight or better, write it down in a notebook. Then watch for patterns to emerge. Lots of my 8's, 9's, and 10's involve puzzles of various sorts. For others, the high H-levels all have something to do with words or food or freedom or animals.

Jon, I've experienced some couseling by women who I fear think that I am weak for staying with my husband. But I feel that I am stronger than ever, and quitting wouldn't help my family. I do get what you mean by the "inner conversation inside of us is killing the forward motion". That is the hardest part and I am working on being a better, more compassionate wife/person. Thanks for your advice!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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