As someone who writes about sex and relationships (despite the fact that most people who read my column can generally come to the correct conclusion that I know very little about the latter) I am asked about how to deal with the private use of pornography by men quite frequently.
I’m going to be honest about this–once upon a time, it bothered me, too. I was in a relationship that I considered more than sexually adequate and one day, I walked in on my boyfriend getting off watching porn. I couldn’t understand it–was I doing something wrong? Was he lacking something? Also, WTF. I was in the next room and he couldn’t even invite me in to participate? What kind of bull is that?
I chewed him out.
And since I have had a blog since I was, like, five (total exaggeration, by the way, but close enough), I ran over to the computer and asked my humble couple hundred readers what the deal was. And that’s when I found out from several married, older women what was then the shocking truth and what I will tell you now: “honey, don’t panic. It has nothing to do with you.”
Mark Goulston, a couple’s counselor over at Psychology Today offers his take on it:
You might not like what I am going to say, but please hear me out. For women, verbally venting their frustrations is a great stress reliever. No one knows why; it just is. Well, for men, an orgasm is a great stress reliever (not to say that that isn’t also the case for women). No one knows why; it just is (Actually in an upcoming Usable Insight, you will discover that there is a reason why these work, based on recent findings in neuroscience).
There are two kinds of sex — sex with love and sex just for sex’s sake. Many husbands feel guilty about having sex just for sex’s sake with their wives, because they feel like they are using her as a thing (as opposed to making love to the person they care about).
So instead of using their wives as things, many men use pornography and masturbation (and often feel ashamed or even pathetic for doing so – one man in a couple’s session when confronted yelled in embarrassment, “Meet Hilda!” and pointed to his right hand).
I’m not advocating it or saying it’s a wonderful practice, I’m just saying it’s fairly common and not always unhealthy. Pornography and masturbation (in moderation) have probably saved more marriages than they have hurt. I think it’s pretty sad, but it’s just a fact of modern life. The trick of course is to do it in moderation rather than letting it become a full time substitution for real sex.
To give you an idea of the stress men feel, one man asked me a few months ago if I knew what the definition of a shower was. I told him I didn’t. He told me: “A shower is the place where grown men go to cry when they’re afraid they can’t keep the promise they made to their wives and children to always take care of them and don’t want their family to see how afraid they are.”
If you can show your husband that you understand the pressure and responsibilities on him, he may feel less alone and less stressed out. And if he feels less stressed out, he may not need to resort to pornography as much. Take him aside and say to him: “Nobody, including me, knows how awful the pressure from all your responsibilities makes you feel. And nobody, including me, knows that sometimes — even though you love me and our children — you wish you could be single and have nobody to worry about but you. Isn’t that true, honey? I’m sorry it’s so tough.”
From there, you may be able to start a dialog about what is worrying him and help him find positive ways of dealing with the pressures in his life.
Information from Psychology Today.