My husband and I have been married for just over 4 years, with this being his first marriage (at age 53).
The last two years or so, he has developed a habit, that feels highly offensive to me, and has led to fights and a lower self esteem for myself.
A couple of years ago, I walked into the living room to find him taking a picture with his cell phone, of one of the attractive female weather forecasters out there. He denied doing it, when I asked about it. Following this, I “caught” him doing so other times, female TV anchors, female weather girls, members of The Today Show…etc.
The thing about it is, he sneaks around and lies about it. And, it always seems to happen when it is a special occasion…such as going out for my birthday, our anniversary, etc. He also takes photos with his cell of women in person, or rather, parts of their bodies. I happened to see his phone once (which he hides as well as locks down his computer) and there were many folders of various women….mostly what I would call porn, or TV personalities.
I do not know why this bothers me so much (I find it creepy to be honest), but I have told him that it does. I am very open and honest with him, and I have a real difficult time with being lied to. Also, we are combined in money and all else, so his secrecy is highly suspicious to me. When I have tried to talk with him (there have been other issues as well as this), I have to walk on egg shells or he gets quite angry really quickly and blows up.
When he gets angry, I receive a tirade of insults, slurs to my character, or anything else he can come up with. He then wonders why I do not feel close to him….creating secret stashes of photos of other women (as well as sites on the web) and verbally abusing me.
He refuses to go to marriage counseling, and says it is all my problem. He says that now he is “working on it”, but I saw him taking a picture of the TV just this past weekend…I have not said anything. *:( sad I feel our marriage is falling apart over my developed distrust of him, for lying to me. I find myself watching what he is doing. This has never been like me in the past.
Above all else, I must first address your statement, “I do not know why this bothers me so much.”
Your Feelings Are Valid!
You need to know that your feelings towards this situation are valid. You do not need to be ashamed by these feelings of insecurity, sadness, anger or resentment. I feel them for you while reading your question, remembering similar places I have found myself in past relationships.
Less than 100 years ago, when a man entered into a marriage union, the common saying was that their female counterpart “made an honest man out of him.” This phrase and more importantly, its meaning has been lost in current society. There is a cultural injustice happening in our time today. It is that of the “cool girl,” the “chill girl” who is easy going and okay with anything her man likes – strip clubs, pornography, wasted days dedicated to xbox, etc. It is a trap, one that I have fallen into myself before.
The ideal woman has become this empty shell casing who is desired by men for her “easy going nature” and “chillness.” The sad part is that hundreds of girls and women are falling into this trap. They fear that if they don’t fill this role, their lover will find another who will. But this image is a facade. It isn’t real and it isn’t sustainable. One may be able to fudge such a personality trait in the beginning but, eventually, it will come out that you are indeed a human woman and certain things do, will, and should bother you.
No longer does a good woman make an honest man, but she gradually chisels away at her standards and expectations in a sacrifice for love, because we are told today that those expectations are unrealistic. How can we expect so much from one man? So we expect nothing at all or mute our feelings, letting them slip into destructive behaviors we fear addressing. This is not only a grave disservice to ourselves, but to our partners as well.
Let’s Look At the Issues At Hand
First, let’s start by looking at and analyzing the issues at hand:
1.) His Denial And Sneaking Around
You mention that you have “caught” your husband doing these things several times and that he denies it and then “sneaks” these behaviors in order to keep them from you. When someone is sneaking around or denying a behavior, there is always some underlying feelings of guilt associated with the action, some sense of wrong-doing.
To an extent, I am less concerned with the fact that your husband finds these TV personalities or porn stars attractive, and more concerned about the hidden, locked down files he has stored away, and especially, those “real life” pictures of women’s body parts that he takes in person.
Not only is this a gross invasion of privacy, but a perpetuation of his behavior on a deeper level – one in which the fantasy world fuses with a more concrete, real place.
I like to refer to actions such as your husband’s as cheating behaviors. I don’t mean cheating in the sense of having an affair, but more that these actions cause one partner to feel cheated, slighted, less than, and insecure. This is an awful place to be in. Trust me I know, I have been there.
The distrust, the questions, the wondering and the awful tricks our minds play on us set the snowball flying down the hill, leaving us unable to stop until we become this version of ourselves that we can’t stand. It is a powerless feeling and one that can consume you and devour your relationship in the process. It becomes a catch-22, a back-and-forth destructive pattern where your insecurities take over, often resulting with your partner feeling suffocated or trapped, causing him to pull away from you and retreat into himself even more, which in turn only perpetuates your insecurities and fears. It’s a downward spiral.
Trust is the glue in a relationship. When this begins to break down, it is a very fast and slippery slope to its demise. So, it is no wonder that you feel your marriage is dissolving because of the lies and the deceit that you have experienced.
2.) His Refusal for Marriage Counselling
You mention that your husband refuses to go to marriage counseling and says that it is all your problem.
This could be due to several different things. One being that he knows what he is doing is wrong or unacceptable and the thought of having to admit these behaviors to a stranger, let alone you, seems horrifically inconceivable.
Accusing you of being the problem may be him displacing his fault onto you, arrogantly telling you that it is your problem if you don’t like these actions and to just deal with it, or it could be something deeper, something else entirely. Could he be referring to some other type of problem, even if subconsciously?
3.) Commitment and Intimacy Issues
Another red flag that went up for me is that it always seems to happen on special occasions such as your birthday or an anniversary. This is disconcerting, yet interesting.
I wonder, is it coincidence or something more? Speaking with a Psychology background, there are so many possible underlying issues here that it is inconceivable for me to assume any based on 420 words. However, if there is actually a correlation between these behaviors and intimate occasions, it leads me to believe there are certain commitment and intimacy issues at play.
Perhaps these TV personalities are “safe” portals for your husband; mere photographs onto which he projects his fantasies because he knows there is no real risk at play, no rejection.
There are several ways you can go about confronting the problem you have with your husband and it all depends on what outcome you desire and/or okay with. It sounds to me that you want to save your marriage at all costs (judging by the fact that you are walking on eggshells to do so) and so the following proposed actions are in accordance with that route.
1.) Change How You Approach Him About This Issue
I want to emphasize your use of the word “caught” here.
Being caught in an undesirable action, feels much like being backed into a corner. When anyone feels trapped, they automatically get defensive and will lash out. Think of it is as a protective animalistic instinct. It is a very instant and normal reaction, one that happens in the moment that may be regrettable after the fact when we have the time to reevaluate the situation.
Please don’t misunderstand me. There is no excuse for verbal abuse and attacks on your character, but if this lashing out always happens in response to you “catching” him or confronting him about these behaviors, I would suggest to change tactics in how you approach him on this matter and the wording/body language that you use while discussing it. (That being said, verbal and emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse and if this is something that is happening frequently outside this issue as well, it is not to be taken lightly.)
When we can’t understand our partner’s behavior, especially when their actions involve other women, we tend to automatically start picking ourselves apart, scraping at anything to make sense of why – why the object of our affection is behaving this way and seeking pleasure elsewhere. We inevitably, therefore, feel not good enough, or lacking in some way. We begin to turn on ourselves, allowing our insecurities to grow and break down the certainties that we once knew about our relationship, our sense of self, and who are partner is.
2.) Start Having Free Flowing Conversations With Him
The key to getting to the root of the behavior and the issues in your marriage is to break down the damn to allow for a free-flowing stream of conversation between the two of you.
If he won’t go to marriage counseling, we will just have to try to bring that atmosphere to him. Ask him if you can sit down, open up a dialogue, setting all judgments aside to just have an honest conversation about this issue.
It can be very hard to be the bigger person in an argument, especially if he is verbally assaulting you during it. But, to resolve tough issues in a marriage such as this one, someone has to commit to being that person who sets aside their pride and diffuses the bomb. I have found that making yourself truly vulnerable, no matter how scary it is, is the only way that this works.
Create a Safe Atmosphere for the Conversation
Try to bring your husband into a safe atmosphere of open and honest discussion. Tell him that you are not there to judge him or get angry, but simply to understand why he feels drawn to engage in this behavior. Assure him that you know that it is natural for all of us to find individuals other than our spouses attractive and even sometimes slip into fantasies about these scenarios. Set an allotted amount of time to just talk freely.
Assure him that you will leave all animosity, anger, criticism and any other negative feelings at the door and ask him to do the same. The goal of this discussion will be to get him to open up to you so that you may find insight into why he is attached to this behavior and the idea of these other women.
Before asking questions, show vulnerability by telling him how these things make you feel. Show your insecurities and your fears in a raw and honest way; show him where your self-esteem is really at (honestly) and tell him why these behaviors hurt you. By placing the emphasis on yourself, you are minimizing the “fight or flight” response to attack. It is very hard for someone to be defensive when you open yourself up this way.
Use Directive Questions Sensitively
Once he feels safe, he will begin to open up to you. Use directive questions sensitively to guide the conversation when necessary (remember, the goal is to understand why.)
You say he has developed this habit in the last two years. But, could this be a habit he has kept for a long time- before you met him? Maybe, you have only noticed it in the past 2 years.
It can be very hard to break old habits/ porn addictions that have been en-grained in a person’s behavior for so long. Even after they get married. Or is this something newly developed, and then, if so, what sparked it? Does he feel that there is something missing from your relationship that he gets from these fantasies of other women? Is it some form of escape? Is their something holding him back from being truly himself with you?
This Will Not Be Easy But You Have to Try
Because you’ve clearly been hurt by this for awhile – the sneaking, lying, verbal abuse in response to your questions – it may feel unnatural to open yourself up in a naked sort of vulnerability.
Our minds are amazing things when it comes to matters of the heart and your defense mechanism will naturally be to protect yourself, to have your dukes up ready to block and punch when you’ve been conditioned to anticipate an attack.
But incredible things can happen when, against your mind’s better judgment, you fight that urge, lay down your weapons and show yourself in pure vulnerability.
In the animal world, attackers are calmed when their prey plays dead; suddenly, the urge to fight is vanquished on an unwilling opponent. A human’s natural instinct and response to their opponent’s vulnerability is also a calming one. Heartbeats lower, the boiling of blood slowly simmers, and guards are let down.
Being honest and open with your husband will allow him to open up and be honest in return. If you show him that you are not there to judge, attack or reprimand him, he will be allowed to speak freely and, hopefully, you both will be able to reach the core of this problem. Often times, couples will discover underlying issues that they never even consciously thought of or addressed. And perhaps, then, he might be the one willing to try marriage counseling.