I've been dating and living with my boyfriend for the past 2 years. We are both 24 - he was my first sexual partner, but he had 3 sexual partners before me. Everything in our relationship is great aside from the constant struggle we share with his porn addiction and his "out of site, out of mind" mentality that impacts his refusal to discuss uncomfortable or embarrassing issues he'd rather not address.
I found out about his porn addiction 1 year ago on my birthday of all days. His laptop had broken and we were sharing mine. I found out that he had been visiting interactive cam sites and responding to craigslist ads to solicit cam sex from strangers. I found and read through various conversations and videos he had saved on these sites - the hardest was reading transcripts of him telling the performers how much he wanted to f*ck them, or that they had a great ***/rack, etc. We talked about it for a while and he explained that he had been compulsively visiting porn sites since he broke up with his previous girlfriend about 4 years prior and really wanted to stop but just couldn't for some reason.
To make it all worse, there was a small history of infidelity that made this discovery more difficult. A few months prior to this I had found text messages showing that he had also been sexting with previous partners and even found an IM he had sent to his previous sex partner talking about how much he wanted to sleep with her even though she knew he was dating me. He apologized through tears explaining that he has always had a thing for "sneaky sex" and deviance and apologized for ever hurting me and swore never to do this again as long as we were together. He swears that he never cheated and said that he could never "actually" do that to me (i.e. never meeting up and sleeping with anyone; although to me it still felt like cheating because he was engaging in sexual activity -albeit remote- behind my back). He has come a long way and I know that this hasn't happened again, but the fact that he was talking to "real" people about sex has always affected my level of trust as well as the context with which I understand his sexual addiction.
As a self-identified feminist, a former psychology major, and someone who works with sexual violence survivors, this is really difficult for me to handle on my own. It's especially difficult because he is the only sexual partner I have had, as mentioned above. I want to find a therapist in the area to talk to but have a hard time finding someone who shares my feminist perspectives and uses client-empowering and mindfulness focused counseling philosophies. My partner on the other hand is very quiet and keeps everything inside. He's an introverted, poetic soul and doesn't feel comfortable talking to anyone about this stuff and has a hard time doing so with me. It would also be extremely difficult financially for us to both invest in therapists, but I think it would be worth it for us to seek some form of outside assistance on the matter.
We're at a point where he has told me that he doesn't want to do this anymore and it makes him feel gross, guilty and disappointed in himself when he does. He has consented to computer monitoring software to hold him accountable since he refuses to meet with a counselor for this purpose. I really wish he would though as I often feel like I have to police the situation. Although I told him that honesty is the most important thing to me (due to his borderline-infidelity in our past), he rarely comes forward and tells me that something has happened and has done so only twice in our many conversations after things are discovered.
I think the hardest thing for me is the internal struggle I have between understanding sexuality and sexual needs as a very personal, private and human part of who we are and my desire to be in a committed, trusting relationship where I feel respected. Although I know better, because he is my only sexual partner I also struggle with internalizing his addiction as something I'm not providing him with sexually, although I also know addiction is a very personal, private issue that has to do with compulsion and that masturbation is a private, personal thing - and that neither can have anything to do with me.
Today, I saw that he was looking at an artsy nude photoblog and texted him about it while he was at work. We talked about it on his break and he said that he was trying to make better decisions when he felt the need to cave to these impulses (rather than turning to cam sex or objectifying porn sites, he thought self-submitted photo art would be a better source of pleasure). He told me that he'd rather not cave but wants to find a healthier way to do so when it happens. I'd really like to resolve this whole issue in a compromise where I don't feel like I'm suppressing his sexual needs (as I do now). I am planning to sit down with him and establish a list similar to one mentioned in a Scarleteen response to a similar issue where we decide what is ideal, okay and a deal-breaker to each of us in this relationship. I think we're going to have a productive discussion about what is and isn't okay and find compromise when he gets home tonight, but still feel like I could use some support from a source I trust and another perspective so I don't drive myself crazy trying to stand up for my needs, respect his AND help support him through an addiction he has stated he wants to end.
I know it's a strange situation, but I really think we can see things through. Aside from this challenge, we are really happy together and we have both discussed marriage as a serious event in our near future. I'd really like to work through all of this in a way that keeps us together and addresses each of our needs in a respectful way, but also feel a need for outside support while resolving it.
I'm also very interested in hearing how other couples compromise with each other regarding sexual desires and ways to find other "secret sex" or deviant sex we can have together that would fulfill a need he might be trying to satisfy in other ways without me. I want to be a part of this as his partner!
However, I do know that there is an important privacy to one's sexuality. I'd like advice on how I can help transition into a personal mentality of trust with the knowledge that he will occasionally look at nudie sites and masturbate according to the guidelines we set in tonight's discussion. I need help transitioning from someone he's asked to police and hold accountable to someone he's asked to accept and respect according to the agreement we set. Can someone assist me with support and affirmation for this "I'm respectful of your sexual autonomy" perspective without feeling like I'm lacking in something if he turns elsewhere for sexual fulfillment?
Many, many thanks for your help!!!
Posts: 2 | From: Houston, TX | Registered: Jul 2012
| IP: Logged |
Volunteer Assistant Director
Member # 90293
HI cayanne88 and welcome to Scarleteen.
I'm sorry that it took a couple of days for someone to get to this post. WE are, unfortunately, a little short-staffed right now.
There's a lot to unpack here , so I'm just going to start with a few thoughts.
First of all, how did the discussion go, with regards to establishing what is, might be, and isn't okay for each of you?
It might be helpful to reframe what is going on with your boyfriend. You may or may not be aware that there is actually a lot of debate around the idea of sex addiction. Addiction and compulsion are not the same thing, and many therapists and educators feel that compulsion is a more accurate way to describe sexual activity that a person feels they don't have control over.
While the situation being asked about is different, this advice column from our site offers some thoughts about the idea of sex addiction that you might find helpful.
Finding the balance between each member of a couple having their own individual sexuality that they're allowed to express separate of one another, and establishing a mutually trusting, rewarding sexual relationship as a couple is a challenge. Every couple is going to have different things that are or are not okay for each individual to do. For example, in some couples, it might be absolutely okay for one of the partners to go to a strip club with friends every once in a while, while another couple would agree that their relationship can't handle that.
I see a lot about your boyfriend's sexuality in what you've written, and about your feelings about that. What about your own sexuality? Also, how is all of this affecting the sex life you two share on a day-to-day basis? In other words, you have strong feelings about this, but I'm not really sure how it's affected your relationship except that your boyfriend feels bad and you want it to change.
I'm also wondering if you'd like to talk about looking at different sexual practices as merely different sexual practices, not necessarily as bad or deviant? What do you think?
It does sound like you and your boyfriend could benefit from therapy. While long-term individual therapy may not be an option for you financially, there are options to do short-term therapy as a couple, which would be aimed more at giving the two of you a safe space to talk about things with the support of a neutral party and giving you some communication tools you can use moving forward.
-------------------- Robin Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011
| IP: Logged |
No worries, I posted on the weekend and a Monday morning answer is much quicker than I expected.
The discussion went okay. I always have a hard time getting him to really discuss these things with me because he's usually so embarrassed about this issue. He's also just not a very talkative guy. In case it helps put the situation in context, according to the Myers-Briggs, I'm an INFJ and I'm pretty close to certain he's an ISFP.
I went ahead and drew out the chart with what I'm comfortable with (in ideally, okay, not okay columns). A lot of what he'd done in the past I put in the not okay section because it made me uncomfortable. I decided that I would feel comfortable with occasional (& non-habitual/patterned) use of non-degrading nude images to assist in his personal self-pleasure. Ideally, I have a longer list that includes that I'd ideally like to be involved in helping satisfy his sexual urges, exploring them with him, etc.
Although our actual conversation was short, it was for the first time much more comfortable and laid back than before. He admitted to recently ordering a pay-per-view movie that he thought he could secretly pay for but it was charged to our cable account. He said he felt so guilty he didn't even watch it. This was one of the few times he's really come forward with something on his own without any leading questions from me preceding. I think the conversation we had felt good because it was the first time we'd been in a position where we comfortably met in the middle and he felt like imperfection could be accepted in a way that didn't hurt. Since we'd been approaching it from an addiction perspective, where abstinence from the addictive behavior is normally required, he felt like it was just setting himself up for failure upon relapse. He'd been doing really great for a few months and recently relapsed about a month ago.
I really appreciate the distinction between addiction and compulsion. He definitely has compulsion issues and has had difficulty ending unhealthy habits and starting healthy ones in other aspects of his daily life. Part of me thinks this is a contributing factor to his guilt when he gives into his sexual compulsions. I really think success in another area he has compulsion issues with would help him realize that he does have control over his actions and choices. I've seen similar issues tied to self-esteem and personal hurdles (re: health, school, finances, etc.) bring him down before in other ways.
I think the hardest part for me is the history of mistrust related to past sexual compulsion decisions he made. I've never had a problem with self-pleasure itself, but rather when it is done in concert with another person behind my back - even if this person is a performer which in some past cases I briefly mentioned above, he knew the individual he was talking sexy to. Because it began with a hint of infidelity, it has been hard for me to know where to draw the line in what I am and am not comfortable with. I think the important pieces (not interacting with someone else sexually; not using demeaning photos or videos but pro-feminist ones where the individual is displaying her sexual empowerment) were communicated in our down-to-the-point conversation. We also talked about how we felt about our sex life as it is and we both agreed that we felt happy with one another in the bedroom and that it has been getting better recently, if anything.
As far as my sexuality, I'm still learning a lot about it. Both he and I are such indecisive people, and one thing he asked in our conversation was for me to make more direct decisions in our sex life (i.e. don't always ask what position to get into, choose myself). I am happy he said this because I think it will encourage me to make more empowering decisions about what I want. Since our talk on Saturday we've had some pretty mind blowing sex so I think it's working.
However, one thing I've noticed is that I always have to get on top/lead to orgasm during intercourse because he will either get too tired or need to cum before I am able to do so when he leads. We've both been wanting to determine a steady exercise schedule for many reasons, and I think this would really help us in terms of stamina and also in forming a healthy habit as a model for personal habit control.
Okay, now back to my sexuality because we still really haven't gotten there yet. As mentioned in my original post, he is the only person I've really slept with. However, I didn't really feel like a "virgin" when we started dating because I think virginity is part social-construct & part personal-perspective. I think virginity is naturally much more emotional and intimate than it is about where things go. Yes, having intercourse with my boyfriend for the first time was a special experience, but it has been ever since! I'm still learning about what I like, but I'm also pretty verbal about it too and he understands that I'm open to discussing new things. I think the biggest place for improvement is being directive in those in-between moments (changing positions, etc.), and also generally coming up with new things and ways to enjoy each others bodies. Since I started taking yoga classes recently, I've felt more in tune with my muscles and personal strength and have noticed that it's helped me enjoy sex a lot more because I carry the mentality of personal power and awareness of your body and its surroundings with me. Each of us have also independently expressed interest in finding new places and ways to have sex and also introducing toys and other accessories.
One way this whole issue could potentially be affecting our sex life is my need for eye contact during sex. My boyfriend as a person just generally doesn't make much eye contact to people he's talking with. I personally thrive on that type of connection and communication. I remember him mentioning that he had a hard time looking me in the eyes back when he was borderline-unfaithful and noticed him making eye contact with me much more after we had talked everything through then. Now, I think I carry that with me into our personal life and also into our sex life. I also think it helps me know he's really enjoying ME while we're having sex (although I know it can feel way better to just focus on the feeling) and since guys are typically stimulated by visual imagery and because of his compulsion to pornography, I feel like I need him to watch me as I orgasm sometimes. I personally get off on making out and eye contact during sex. In our most recent conversation I mentioned these desires as something I'd like him to better provide and he not only warmly agreed but has since proved that he was listening. He did a great job last time, but he still hasn't held my gaze through the whole thing. I'm definitely going to reiterate this desire and why I find it so significant next time.
I'm definitely interested in looking at different sexual practices (& not necessarily bad or deviant ones - thank you). I think there is a level of excitement that comes with doing something you "shouldn't be doing" that can easily be tied with sex. Something as simple as finding a way to have sex outside or somewhere new would be enough to satisfy this need for him. That's one thing he's mentioned before in a half-joking way I straight-up recognized as a serious desire. I'm just the kind of person who has reservations about doing something that could get you in trouble and would need to feel comfortable that nothing too serious or negative would follow the decision to have sex somewhere outside of our apartment. One thing I know really turns him on and that I've been wanting to explore is dirty talk but I can never seem to find enough things to say. I'm sure a lot of it is just practice, but any tips on resources to expand your sexy-speak would be greatly appreciated!
In most aspects of our relationship, we're pretty settled. We're both big homebodies and practically already live like we're married. Our sex life usually exists in the bedroom of our one bedroom apartment and in a similar fashion each time (foreplay, penetration, switching between a handful of positions 3 - 4 times until one of us cums then switching once more until the other does). I'd purchased a 30 nights of great sex book at the recommendation of a friend who's been in her current relationship for 11 years, but it was too much of a "boring married couple" -esque resource for him to get on board with.
If there's anything else you think would be helpful to unpack or explore, please let me know. From "talking" with you, for now, I'm going to focus on: -open communication around sexual desires -being more directive in the bedroom -more sexy talk -breaking other bad habits and starting good ones as an example to show it's possible -replacing "addiction" with "compulsion" in all future discussions to help emphasize internal need rather than external dependency -continue rebuilding trust -reminding myself that he is entitled to his own form of sexuality as long as it's not hurtful toward me or our relationship and making sure he has examples of ways to fulfill his own sexual needs in ways I wouldn't find hurtful -continuing to explore my own sexual desires and sexuality and become better at verbalizing this -find a new way to encourage short-term couples therapy, possibly as a "clean up" to leave the hard parts behind us and continue rebuilding trust
Hi cayanne88! A few things in your post really stood out to me and I wanted to address them. Do excuse me if I've misinterpreted anything you said, or if you were already aware of what I'm about to say.
While talking about what you are or are not okay with in regards to your boyfriend's sexuality, you mentioned that you want to be included in satisfying his sexual urges and exploring sexual desires, etc. If you mean that in the sense of satisfying his EVERY sexual urge and exploring EVERY sexual desire and fantasy he has, ie. to the point of masturbation and/or porn being "unnecessary", I just want to check in with you to make sure you know that that's not really a realistic nor healthy goal to have.
Everyone has their own individual sexuality away from their sexual partnerships, and you really can't expect yourself to be able to completely "fill in" his sexual needs or urges or what have you. That wouldn't be fair on you OR him! Especially considering how complex sexuality is, one thing I think is good to keep in mind is the knowledge of how different sexual fantasy and what one actually wants to do -- in actuality, with a real partner -- can be. A lot of people have some sexual fantasies that, although they find them super sexy in porn or while imagining them, they have no interest in taking part in in their sex life. So how could you possibly satisfy every single sexual fantasy/desire he has if some of them are things he doesn't actually want to take part in? You see what I mean?
That's not the only reason that it's an unrealistic expectation, but hopefully it makes it pretty clear that you're just not going to be able to "satisfy" every sexual urge he has and that's just fine and, in fact, to be expected
I also saw you talking about how you've learned about yourself and your desires and what you like or not during sex, when Robin asked you about your sexuality. However, I didn't see you mention anything about your sexuality outside of your relationship with your boyfriend. Sexuality isn't just about sexual partnership So, what about your own sexuality -- aside from with your boyfriend?
Do you masturbate, and if so, do you fantasize or view porn or read erotica or use sex toys or something else that works as a masturbation aid? (that was a rhetorical question, just think about the answers, you don't need to tell us if you don't want) How do you feel when you masturbate and/or use those masturbation aids, or when you think about doing that -- do you feel any guilt, around the acts themselves or in regards to your relationship with your boyfriend? Do you feel that the sexual urges you are/would be satisfying while masturbating "should" be satisfied by your boyfriend instead? Why/why not? Do you feel that if you were to, or when you do, use masturbation aids, it is saying something about or taking away from your relationship with your boyfriend? Why/why not? Do you personally feel like your boyfriend should be able to satisfy every sexual desire/urge/fantasy/whatnot that you have? Why/why not?
Copyright 1998, 2014 Heather Corinna/Scarleteen
Scarleteen.com: Providing comprehensive sex education online to teens and young adults worldwide since 1998
Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.