Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on August 9, 2011

Is his porn addiction destroying our marriage?

I’m trying to understood my husband’s need for pornography. I never reject his advances and I often initiate sex, and sometimes we watch porn together to enhance our sex life. But, although he tries to hide it, he appears to "need" to watch porn and masturbate on his own, and he always needs to fantasize about others joining us in order to climax during our sexual encounters. I want him to want me alone and to love me during our encounters. Why is he incapable of joining love and sex and understanding my need for it? I know he loves me and we’ve been together for more than 15 years.

answered by
Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD on August 9, 2011

Thank you for sharing your important questions. Your concerns are probably best explored with a couple’s sex therapist...but, in the meantime, I’m happy to offer you some possible insights into your situation.

Perhaps you and your husband have trouble sharing and discussing your personal fantasies. Many people have sexual fantasies early on in life, which can inform our sexual lives as we get older. It doesn't mean we always masturbate to them, but we often find fantasizing very pleasurable.

For example, it’s not unusual for men and women to enjoy pornography for masturbation. Many boys and young men begin masturbating to visuals that most people would label as pornography. Perhaps your husband has been getting aroused this way for a very long time, and maybe his fantasies as a young man included multiple partners pleasuring each other...and now, as an adult, those same fantasies come to him when he’s sexual with you.

What are your fantasies? Something that many women begin doing early in their sexual lives is reading love stories in novels or watching them in movies. Or perhaps your personal fantasies are of a different nature. Whatever they may be, if you and your husband can share your fantasies with each other, it might help you reach a deeper understanding of what (and why) each of you needs to be sexually fulfilled.

You mention that your husband masturbates without you. Masturbation is a very different sexual arousal and sexual act than partner sex and intimacy. Many people enjoy it in part because there is no pressure to please your partner...instead, you can use whatever fantasies work best for you. So just because your husband masturbates doesn't mean that he doesn’t love you or enjoy sex with you...it’s could be that it’s just a different sexual activity that he enjoys doing alone. Perhaps there are some sexual acts that you enjoy alone, too?

Keep in mind that men sometimes feel pressure to “perform” during sex. Masturbation may be your husband’s low-pressure way to explore and enjoy his sexuality without feeling that pressure...it’s not necessarily a reflection on you, how he feels about you, or your relationship.

On the other hand, a report by the Witherspoon Institute shows that masturbation can become probelmmatic when it’s excessive, and when it affects other areas of a person’s life. According to Victor Cline, PhD, a nationally-known clinical psychologist, there are four phases to so-called porn “addiction”:
  1. Early and frequent exposure, combined with masturbation.
  2. Even more frequent exposure to porn, and a possible preference of porn over sexual intercourse.
  3. “Desensitization,” meaning that the addict considers his or her behavior normal, whereas once they would have considered it inappropriate.
  4. The final “acting-out” phase is when the addict is at risk of realizing their compulsions in real life.

Communication is key. To get to the bottom of whether your husband has a serious addiction to porn that needs to be addressed, or whether the two of you simply need to find new ways to share in each other’s sexual needs and fantasies, try being open, honest and specific in your communications with each other. For example, you could talk about each other’s history and evolution of erotic arousal before you met each other, and ways to change things up to keep the level of sexual intensity high.

Hopefully this information is a good starting point for you and your husband. I wish you both the best of luck in transcending this issue, and reaching a place of mutual sexual and emotional fulfillment.
 
 
 
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Annette Fuglsang Owens, MD, PhD

Dr. Owens is an AASECT-certified sexuality counselor. Her areas of expertise include the medical aspects of human sexuality and sexual problems, as well as the impact of STDs ⎼ and other diseases, illnesses and disabilities ⎼ on sexuality. Dr. Owens was educated at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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