Dealing with complicated marriage problems....

Dear anon:

I’m not going to reprint your messages, because they are personal. Thank you for letting me know that before you got married, you had been molested, he was addicted to porn and masturbation, and both of you were physically intimate while you were dating. God bless you for hanging in there for these years, even though the problems have been getting worse and worse.

Just from these details alone, I can tell you that you both walked into this marriage with a lot of expectations on each other. Those who have been sexually abused look to be “nursed” and “rescued” by their partner. But your husband is not meant to be your hero who knows how to heal you and put your scarred life back together. A husband is a normal guy who loves you, but he does not necessarily have the skills to teach you how to start to trust people after being betrayed as a child. Certainly, a husband cannot fill your dad’s shoes, and will never make up for the loving daddy that you never got to have.

He, for his part, has seen women in porn who are not real, and they do things which are degrading in order to pleasure men. Porn addicted men cannot deal very well with real women because they (the real women they marry) never seem to measure up to the porn stars, because their wives also demand respect, and because healthy women want a sexual relationship as husband and wife which is very mutual, very considerate to each other’s needs.

The worse a porn addiction is, the more difficult it is for a man because being with his wife is insufficient. He becomes dependent on visual images, and they must be more bizarre in order for him to have a sexual life. And normal and healthy women do not want to engage in the acts their porn addicted husbands ask for.

It is very urgent that the two of you attend some kind of marriage counseling, preferably referred to you through your church, and perhaps a weekend experience of “Retrovaille” can be undertaken in case the therapy by itself does not help. At the very least, set up an appointment to go and speak to your pastor.

I also very strongly suggest that your husband enter a 12 step program for sex addiction, if something like that is near. And if the priest knows of a professional whose specialty is helping to break porn addiction, even better. There are websites which you can find on my blog by clicking “porn addiction” in the search box.

At home, I would try to do as little to project anger or apathy toward your husband. You have a right to be angry, or apathetic, but for the purpose of saving your marriage, which is the #1 priority here, that behavior is just not constructive. It is not necessary to appease him in everything. Rather, what I mean is that when you have an urge to pick a fight, just let it go unless you absolutely must get something off your chest.

Then, when you do have to communicate, try to use that time to see where he is coming from, so you can understand him better, as opposed to having fights where one person has to take the blame for something and one person has to be the “winner.” Many marital disagreements do not need a winner and in fact, many such fights do not really need to begin in the first place.

The angrier he gets, or you get, or the more hurt he inflicts, or the more hurt you inflict, that much more is going to cause you both to retreat into your own worlds, and then it will be even harder to rescue the affection and intimacy of the marriage. I do not recommend any vows of celibacy as that does not usually belong in a marriage.

In the presence of a third party who is a therapist, or your parish priest, the two of you should draw up a mutual understanding of what is helpful. For instance, if him being on the computer for five hours is very damaging, then the two of you can agree that computer time in the evening will only take place for one or two hours at the most, and the rest is time for each other. 

Yes, it is normal for many young couples to begin to feel, after a couple of years of marriage, that “this is not what I signed up for.” We fell in love in a time when our spouse was excited and happy to be with us. Now, as the pressures of marriage mount, they show their built up resentments, angers, frustrations, depression, and then before you know it, you both feel like failures.

I could go on and on. But anon, ask yourself, “is what I am about to say or do going to build my spouse up and help them to want to be around me, or is it going to make them feel like a failure, and regret even more that they married me?” He should ask that question often, too. Both of you need to go and see a third person, and see what you need to do to rebuild each other, because you have both probably pulled each other down in this marriage in one way or another. God bless and take care! Fr. Angel

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