“My husband is addicted to gay porn and meets men in saunas. Is he gay?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

I am a 38-year-old woman, married for three years, with three children under the age of four. Six weeks ago I discovered that my husband has been chatting to men online via Gaydar and other similar sites, and emailing one man in particular. When I confronted him he confessed he visited a gay sauna on four occasions while I was pregnant and started emailing a man he met there. He said he has been addicted to pornography for over a decade (long before we met) and this had been making him have urges he had difficultly controlling. I had an inkling he watched porn, but had no clue as to the frequency (daily he was even bunking off work and watching it in public loos). He swears he isn’t bisexual or gay, and says he’s watched so much porn his appetite has increased for more taboo and risqué stuff and that he just compartmentalised everything and didn’t think about the effect on me and the children. He is seeking counselling, has gone cold turkey on porn and will do anything to win me back. But I have alarm bells ringing and am at a loss as to what to do, with no one to turn to.

 

This problem first appeared in the Observer.

 

You begin with your age and the fact that you have very young children, immediately flagging up that you are probably exhausted and perhaps overburdened. You don’t say whether you are also working but, in any case, the first line is stressful in itself and I get the feeling that you are about to say you are somehow at the end of your tether.

 

You say you ‘discovered’ that your husband had been chatting to men online. The fact that you know which sites he used, that there is more than one and that he is talking to one man in particular suggests that you were going through his computer without his permission. This means you already had suspicions as to what you might find. You say you ‘confronted him’ and that he ‘confessed’. This sounds as though you were angry and challenging and that his position was of the weaker party. Confession suggests a desire for forgiveness and he sounds rather spineless in your description.

 

There is something interesting going on here in terms of power balance. Though you must have been terribly hurt and upset you do not say so. There is a very castrating feeling to this confrontation with you accusing and him confessing. You have the weapon of discovery and he flounders. You don’t say what you accuse him of. You already had the evidence of the websites so I wonder what you proceeded to ask him? What question provoked his sauna confession?

 

What is unsaid here is as interesting as what you say. Underlying your words is the question about your husband’s sexuality – we know he uses gay websites, consumes gay porn and goes to gay saunas. We know he talks to a particular gay man by email. The fact that you were going through his computer suggests that you already don’t trust him and already suspect he is gay and yet you force a confession out of him.

 

‘I had an inkling he watched porn.’ What gave you this inkling? He was an addict before he met you but you weren’t sure he watched porn? This doesn’t sound true. This is a time-consuming addiction (and, in fact, more time-consuming than you thought) and it seems that you did already know about it. His excuses sound rather frantic and it’s not clear whether this is because you were demanding answers very forcefully or whether he was scrabbling around for what to say when he got caught – presumably a combination of the two.

 

The fact that he didn’t think about the effect his behaviour might have on you and the children is hugely significant – he is an addict and did not care about you or the children while he was fuelling his addiction. It seems you knew he watched pornography and it is apparent from your letter that what you mind about is that it is gay porn. I would suggest that it is largely the addiction to this kind of pornographic sex – a grotesque parody of love – rather than the gender of the participants that is the problem for your family.

You say your alarm bells are ringing and you have nobody to turn to. From your first line it sounded as though you were alone with small children in a difficult situation. Whatever the reason, your husband has chosen his addiction over his family and his job. The idea that he is neither gay nor bisexual seems absurd in the circumstances, but you don’t say whether you would necessarily mind if he were bisexual? There is a feeling that you wouldn’t mind as much if he were addicted to straight porn but this isn’t completely clear.

 

You have not been married very long and you had three children in very quick succession with someone who was already a serious addict. I suspect that you, at least unconsciously, knew this and I therefore wonder what damage in yourself you are projecting into him. Perhaps if he is the damaged addict then you can feel like the powerful one in control (as you sound in the confrontation) and disown the damaged part of yourself as being in him instead? Or perhaps you wanted to care for and change the damage in him, recognising something of your damaged self in him?

 

It also seems (wild conjecture now) conceivable that your father was addicted or damaged in some way and you are trying to keep him with you (did he leave?) by creating a large family very quickly, a home where this time things will turn out okay.

 

It is possible that your father was gay and you felt rejected by him during the Oedipal period and want to prove that it wasn’t/isn’t true by in some way recreating your home scenario and making it right.

 

On a more practical level, if he is going to meet men in saunas it is an issue that isn’t going to go away with counselling (though the porn addiction might well be helped). It feels very much as though you will have to accept his fluid sexuality if you want to stay together. I wonder, is your own sexuality fluid in a way you prefer to see in others than accept in yourself? Clearly he needs help with his addiction. For yourself I would hope that you could find a way to look at what you are getting out of the relationship and what you would like to get out of it? Is there some way in which being with someone bisexual and addicted suits you, allows you to wield power and be the parent in control, however lonely and difficult that might be? It might be that having a denigrated partner with catastrophic sexual issues leaves you feeling alone and powerful where a genuinely intimate relationship with someone available, free from addiction, who really found you attractive would terrify you, leaving you with too much to loose.

 

Proper Advice via Skype or Email: anna@blundy.com

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About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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