Help! My husband is watching porn!

Oops! You’ve caught him red-handed. Before you go bananas, calm down – we’ve got expert advice to help you

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Oops! You’ve caught him red-handed. Before you go bananas, calm down – we’ve got expert advice to help you

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True Story

When Pamela discovered her husband Adrian was watching porn on his iPad when she wasn’t around, she was horrified. Didn’t he find her attractive anymore? Wasn’t she good enough in bed? How could he watch such “dirty” stuff? And worst of all, she thought, had their whole marriage been a big fat lie? It’s hardly surprising that more couples are struggling with issues around pornography today. Pornography is more accessible than before. Unlike pre-millennial times, when you needed to purchase X-rated videos from the black market, you can now stream them anywhere, anytime, especially with your smartphone. The World Wide Web is heaving with content: 12 per cent of all websites are pornographic; 25 per cent of all search engine requests are pornography related; and 35 per cent of all downloads are of the adult variety. And what’s online now is “gonzo” porn – no-frills clips that have scrapped any pretense of a storyline to focus on close-up action. Men generally have a greater tendency towards porn. Not all of them though are upfront with their wives about their predilection for X-rated content. So what do you do when you find out your husband is into porn? The Weekly consults Ang Thiam Hong, a family coach at private clinic Edora, with 18 years’ experience counselling couples, to find out.

Take A Deep Breath

You may be high on a potent cocktail of emotions – shock, hurt, anger, betrayal, disgust and more – all at once. This is understandable, so take charge of your feelings and above all, stay calm. “Instead of jumping to conclusions, talk it over with him to clarify any misunderstandings. Talking about it, admittedly not easy for some couples, can also raise awareness of each other’s sexual behaviour and needs, and this in turn helps address any insecurity issues,” says Thiam Hong.

It’s Not About You

Don’t take it personally. For some men, looking at porn is just part of their sexuality and fantasy. “It is helpful to understand that men are more stimulated visually than women and that’s why more men are drawn to porn. But it is best to talk it over amicably with your husband to clear up any misunderstandings and raise each other’s awareness of what’s going on. Conversations on deeper issues that concern each other can draw a couple closer,” advises Thiam Hong

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Examine Your Own Attitude

You may have issues with pornography from a feminist’s perspective or perhaps you object to it for religious reasons. So try to work through your feelings before attempting to discuss the issue. Thiam Hong suggests you try the “DESC” approach: “Describe (D) the situation, express (E) how you feel, specify (S) how you would prefer differently and gently mention some consequences (C). It can sound something like this: ‘I was on the laptop and I came across the website history. I was rather concerned that you’ve been watching such clips and would have appreciated it if you had talked to me about it beforehand. Otherwise, this may strain our relationship unnecessarily.’” Give your partner a chance to respond, and use this as an opportunity to understand why your partner developed a liking for porn.

How Does It Affect Your Marriage?

Some couples choose to view such videos to spice up their marriage, but it’s not for everyone. “It can be helpful if it enhances a couple’s sex life, and in cases where both partners are open to discussing it, it can improve communication. But it isn’t helpful if it strains the relationship – if it makes the wife feel insecure, leads to unrealistic expectations, or develops into a clinical obsession that distracts the husband from regular activities like work and family time,” says Thiam Hong. 

Establish Your View

“Watching and talking about it can help a couple understand and know each other’s limits: What is and not acceptable,” says Thiam Hong. “True intimacy isn’t just what happens between the sheets; it’s the level of trust.”

When Porn Is A Serious Problem

Although some men consider watching porn a bit of harmless fun, there are instances when it’s anything but. Here’s when you should seek professional help.

Your partner is addicted to porn: There’s a huge difference between casual porn use and being obsessed with porn. It’s been estimated that around 10 per cent of regular users become addicted, and studies show that porn addiction is on the rise. If you discover your husband has been watching porn when he’s told you he’s doing something else, or missing work and avoiding time with the family in order to indulge in porn, seek counselling.

Your sex life is in the doldrums: If your partner is disinterested in having sex with you but getting busy on a screen in the next room, Thiam Hong says you’re facing bigger problems in your relationship.

Your partner’s behaviour changes dramatically: “All of a sudden he’s moody, secretive, demanding things sexually that you don’t want to do and getting aggressive if he can’t get it, you’ll need to talk about it or seek professional help,” says Thiam Hong.

It’s Either Porn Or Me

You’re adamant that pornography betrays the marriage and your husband won’t stop watching porn – what happens if the issue cannot be resolved? “It is unlikely that the couple will be happy together down the road,” foresees Thiam Hong. “It’s up to them what becomes of their marriage. Do they want to be happy, miserable, or just end it all? I would suggest that they try to resolve the problem by working it through together, along with seeking help from professional counsellors.”