My name is Allie and I am currently engaged to a man named Nathan. Our wedding date is in August. Nathan and I have been together for three and a half years, and have always had an incredibly strong relationship. Despite our young ages, we have had more than our fair share of struggles. We have both made our mistakes, but nothing that we didn't feel we could work out between each other. We believe that as long as our love is true, we can work through anything together. For example, about two years ago, I had sex with a co-worker. Nathan was very mad, but he knew we could work through our problems. I've worked very hard to no longer be the same person I was when I decided to cheat on him. Several problems stemmed from my mistake. Nathan became much more flirtatious with other women (flirting was never acceptable in our relationship), he spoke to me with a nasty tone at all times, he tried to kill me (after which there was a restraining order placed between us), and he began to look at porn.
About 6-8 months ago, Nathan began to forgive me. He quit treating me badly and he quit flirting with other women. The one habit he kept was looking at porn, but it was under certain conditions. He only looks at it when he is feeling "rejected" by me - in other words, when he wants to have sex and I graciously decline. After a couple of months, I realized that the only way to keep him from turning to porn (although he swears it brings him no sexual pleasure, and so I guess I believe him), and the only way to keep him happy with our sex life was to have sex whenever he wants. I know he tries to do it minimally for my sake, but I still find myself going at it when I'm beyond not interested.
Every single time he has ever looked at porn, I have found out. And when I confront him, he is always honest (we are ALWAYS honest with each other). He never says it must be his brother's, or his dad's, or his friends...whatever. Not only is he honest, he is usually very embarrassed and ashamed, and very sorry. He says he knows it is wrong, and he doesn't like that he looks at it at all. I know he really is sorry, and he told me he would make sure to stop, even if he is feeling hurt. About a month later, we got engaged, and I believed that now that we'd taken the next step in our relationship, his change was genuine.
The problem is, last week I found it on his computer again. And it couldn't really be because he was unhappy with our sex life - he has complete control over how much we do it now. When I asked him about it, and by ask I mean I started crying and yelling, he started crying and said he had almost forgot he had looked at it (even though it was earlier that morning!) and he was so sorry that he'd hurt me again. He realized what a blow it was to our relationship, especially now that we're engaged, and he has been trying so hard to make it up to me. We've gone out to dinner three times this week and I now have a new cell phone! Not to mention his constant apologies, even when we're not talking about it. I guess I just don't understand what his mindset is that he keeps looking at porn even though it makes us both miserable. And I was also wondering if our sex life is normal. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I don’t want to do it 5 times a week. And I was wondering if that's okay, because we always fight about it. Thank you!
Let me start by saying I admire your honesty in talking about such a personal topic. Sexuality is often a cause of difficulty in relationships, whatever people’s ages. The definition of “normal” in relation to a couple’s sex life will vary enormously, one version of normal may not match another. What is more important is what you are both comfortable with. It is all too easy to judge yourself or your partner based upon what you have been told by society is “normal”, what is “acceptable”.
It sounds like there are a number of different issues involved here. Obviously your partner’s use of pornography is unsettling to you, but also your slightly differing levels of appetite for sex is important here. What seems to be happening at the moment is that you are having sex when you do not really feel like it – this is presumably having some emotional effect on you. But it sounds like you feel obligated to consent to sex in order to prevent him from looking at porn.
Have you talked to him about why you find his use of porn so upsetting? Being honest with him about this may help him see your perspective. As for why he chooses to use porn, many people the world over use it, it is not unusual or abnormal. Most of the people who use it are men. There could be many reasons for this, but I believe there are some fundamental differences between male and female sexuality. These differences have arisen over a millennia as a way of ensuring the survival of our species. Men are genetically inclined to seek as many partners as they possibly can to ensure the continuation of their genetic code. But this is not usually condoned in modern societies. Hence many men find pornography a relatively harmless way of fulfilling their desire for many sexual encounters, without ACTUALLY being physically unfaithful to their partners. Women have slightly different priorities in their sexuality – their priority is finding a mate who they can depend on to successfully rear their children. But this is only one possible explanation.
It sounds slightly concerning that you say he has complete control over how often you have sex. Perhaps you could talk to him honestly about what you would prefer, and even talk about what he might do to get you more interested in sex in the first place.
Then perhaps you would not feel so compelled to have sex when you don’t want it, and if you were therefore both enjoying your sex life more, he may not feel the urge to use pornography quite so much. I would imagine (though of course I don’t know) that if you are not really wanting to have sex, then having sex will not be as pleasurable for him as it would if you were more willing. But as I’ve said, he is also responsible for turning you on – your lack of sex drive is not entirely your responsibility.
It sounds like he feels guilty about his use of pornography, and maybe this guilt affects your sex life too. Maybe there is a compromise you could come to whereby he won’t feel guilty about using pornography, you won’t feel threatened by it, and it won’t affect the sex between the two of you so much. Good luck in finding a solution which both of you are happy with.