What It’s Like To Be Married To A Porn Addict

What It’s Like To Be Married To A Porn Addict

Men often feel defensive when confronted with their porn addiction, but it’s not just their problem: It becomes a burden for their entire family — especially their hurting wives or girlfriends.
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I once walked in on my husband masturbating to a screen. It’s as awkward as it sounds — which is to say, after a decade of marriage, I still found myself stunned yet muttering apologies, embarrassed for both of us. He shifted, slammed his computer shut, and laughed uncomfortably as if neither of us saw what he had been doing.

I wasn’t even that angry; I didn’t yell at or belittle him. Mostly, I was hurt. An odd reaction, perhaps, but it felt painful to see him enjoy a computer image.

I wasn’t the typical “I have a headache” wife about sex. I had been a willing partner who regularly initiated. Still, even though the signs had pointed not just to occasional porn use but to a porn addiction, I didn’t want to see them, and I certainly didn’t want this kind of confirmation.

Porn Doesn’t Just Affect Men

People like to say there are two kinds of folks regarding porn: Guys who see it, even search it out on occasion, but still love their wives and have regular, committed, loving sex with them. They wouldn’t argue porn is a boon, yet neither has it appeared to adversely affect their minds or relationships.

Then there are addicts: They watch it daily, once or more. That camp of men (and occasionally women) ranges from guys who get turned on by galleries of naked selfies or videos on Pornhub, to guys who will even pay to talk to porn “stars,” secretly spending thousands of dollars to satiate their thirst.

But I’d argue there’s a third person in these scenarios: the woman in the lives of the porn addicts. We often talk about what porn does to men, how they find it, how it rewires their brains, whether or not we should ban it, and if so, how? (As the current Twitter debate shows, it’s a topic that ignites both sides.)

But what does it do to the women they love? Turns out, a lot. I know not only from firsthand experience, but since I began to identify as “wife of porn addict,” women in similar positions have come out of the woodwork (excuse the bad pun) with shared tales of humiliation and struggle.

Like any addiction, but especially with the invention of the internet, porn can find its way into a man’s mind anytime, anywhere. It meets a deadly criteria: accessible, anonymous, and initially affordable. Like other types of addictions, the earlier it occurs, the harder it is to kick. If men discover it at a young age, many are so hooked, they can’t begin to consider giving it up.

Because it’s about libido and the very personal nature of sex, men tend to get defensive about this topic, justifying their habit for various reasons. If they knew what it was doing to the women they love, however, perhaps they would be willing to change their ways.

What’s it like to be married to someone who gets his kicks from a fantasy? It’s humiliating and disappointing, and after therapy, I learned it had not only hurt him and our marriage but changed my habits and behaviors too.

What Does Porn Addiction Look Like?

To understand what porn does to a woman married to a porn addict (occasionally, a husband is married to a female porn addict, but that’s rarer) it’s important to see clearly what porn is. Pornography comes from the Greek word “porneia,” which refers to prostitution.

Interestingly, as it relates to the ongoing Twitter feud, per the Encyclopedia, “In ancient Athens prostitution was legal and was taxed, although it was considered both illegal and shameful for freeborn citizens.” So it’s not just nudity but sex, or the selling of it, as prostitution is an act of buying and selling a “product.”

Many people quibble over the semantics of porn. I’ll let you decide if porn is naked selfies posted publicly on the internet, Pornhub videos on an X-rated URL, or interactive paid-for porn — I’m not interested in that debate. You can pick your poison, but as far as I’m concerned, if any of those becomes an addiction, you can expect to see signs.

Some signs of porn addiction are more obvious, such as spending more time on the computer. But I encountered other signs that might help other women better understand what’s happening to them — and why they, too, begin changing to counter this addiction. Here are a few, taken from my experience and common among searches online:

  • He seems emotionally detached or uninterested in your emotions or needs.
  • He becomes increasingly vague, cagey, dishonest, and deceitful.
  • He uses inappropriate sexual humor and innuendo in public conversation more.
  • He loses interest in sex entirely or is unable to achieve an erection.
  • Conversely, he demonstrates an increased libido but seems preoccupied with sexual deviancy or pushing boundaries.
  • He shows an unusual temper, is irritable, or is easily angered.
  • Money seems inexplicably tight, or he has secret credit cards or access to a private bank account.
  • He becomes increasingly neglectful of his normal responsibilities, his children, his work, his hobbies, and has few friends.

The latter is probably one of the hardest things to grapple with, and even those in favor of porn use often fail to recognize how this addiction can seep into every part of a man’s life. In her book about being married to a porn addict, Laurie Hall, author of “An Affair of the Mind,” wrote:

The idea that porn is victimless is a cruel joke. Forty percent of professional men who are involved with pornography are going to lose their jobs due to their involvement with porn. The more you fantasize, the more you become disconnected from what I call common sense. It affects your business judgment and it affects your ability to interact properly with other employees.

What Does Porn Addiction Do to a Spouse?

If the wife is too unaware of the addiction to confront her husband and so he continues, or she confronts him and he simply ignores her pleas but the two remain together, any spouse living with an addict will begin to counter the addict’s behavior with their own as a coping mechanism.

A spouse may begin to feel jealous, paranoid, and crazy if her husband refuses to admit his addiction and she continues to suspect it. I probably asked my husband a thousand times if he was addicted to porn or if he just watched it on occasion. He always denied it, and it made me feel nuts.

If the addiction continues and suspicions increase, or if she catches him, she will usually first lash out at him and then almost immediately feel bad about herself: I should have lost more weight. I should have worn more lingerie. I should have initiated sex more.

I knew no matter how good I looked, I could not measure up to the way women looked or behaved in porn. No matter how illogical this is to women, it will still ignite a feeling of worthlessness.

The husband, feeling defensive, may pile on and say he began the addiction just after she had children, or when she couldn’t lose the last 20 pounds, or that time she was recovering from illness and they weren’t intimate. She’ll continue to feel insecurity, shame, disgust, and despair about herself while also feeling angry with and betrayed by him, particularly if she was a willing sexual partner.

If she does not receive therapy or treatment during this time, and his addiction continues, she may begin withdrawing entirely, sinking into despair, overeating or undereating, continuing to emotionally detach, or conversely, looking for affection, affirmation, or even intimacy outside the marriage. One article about spouses of sex addicts reads:

The betrayed spouse does not know where to turn and will often struggle alone. The spouse’s identity, security and stability are destroyed. This type of trauma shatters the internal world of the spouse of an addict. All aspects of her life are affected. Her ability to function with employment, household duties, and parenting is disrupted. Her sense of self is altered. Often her spirituality is impacted. The experience is very traumatic and her responses to this type of wound typically fall in the category of a ‘trauma response.’ A trauma response can be defined as an emotional response to a perceived threat.

For many years, I couldn’t understand why my husband would vacillate between no sex drive and a hypersex drive with many months between. I longed to connect with him emotionally, but even when we did have sex, I never felt like we were on the same page. Over time, I watched him pull away from his kids, alienate his employer, and lash out at anyone who suggested he get help for what everyone thought was anxiety or depression.

When I did discover his addiction, he shrugged it off like it was no big deal. “All men do it,” he said, and implied I was lucky he still wanted me sexually. Still, I took it personally and began to obsess over my appearance and fantasize about what it would be like to be with a husband who connected with me physically and emotionally, not on a transactional basis.

Men often feel defensive when confronted with their porn addiction, but it’s not just their problem: It becomes a burden for their entire family. I encourage men to seek help if this is their plight. Even more so, for the women married to them, whether their spouses seek treatment or not, they should undergo therapy to understand how to cope and move forward.

This author is a regular Federalist writer who asked to publish this anonymously for obvious reasons.

This byline marks several different individuals, granted anonymity in cases where publishing an article on The Federalist would credibly threaten close personal relationships, their safety, or their jobs. We verify the identities of those who publish anonymously with The Federalist.

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