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Dear Mary: I feel betrayed by my boyfriend's porn habit

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Library Image. Photo: Getty Image

Library Image. Photo: Getty Image

Library Image. Photo: Getty Image

QI'm a 30-year-old woman in a generally happy relationship. My boyfriend of nine months has a good job, treats me well, and we've talked about moving in together. Having spent most of my 20s drifting in and out of various aimless liaisons, some of which tended to be destructive, I feel pleased that my personal life finally seems to be on track.

There is one issue that keeps emerging that I feel really uncomfortable about. Until now, we've had a good sex life -- and from the beginning I made an effort to suggest that I was open-minded about discussing fantasies and that sort of thing. However, it has emerged that my boyfriend is a big fan of pornography. I know this is pretty normal in this day and age, but lately he's been pushing to incorporate his private habits into our love life.

The problem I have is that I hate porn. He introduced the idea by showing me a stash of magazines he has, and while I tried to act nonchalant, the truth is that each picture made me feel more and more upset and queasy. Thinking about him lusting after the perfect, naked women on the pages makes me insecure, and feels like a bit of a betrayal. I've begun to believe I'm not enough for him in the bedroom, so lately have been avoiding sex altogether. Last week, he took things a step further by suggesting we watch a DVD of his together. He says it might be fun to spice things up a little, but now I'm wondering if that means he feels there is not enough spice between us in the first place.

I don't want him to think I'm a prude, in case that drives more of a wedge between us in the bedroom. What can you suggest?

Mary replies:

WHEN couples meet and find that they like one another, things are kept at a fairly superficial level to begin with. They then discover that they have interests in common, they share tastes in music or food or sports and very often have a shared set of values. This then leads to a deepening of the relationship and, in time, they let each other into the more private areas of their lives. For instance, one wouldn't admit to having an alcoholic mother on a first date, but later on would test the water by mentioning that sometimes mother drinks too much, so that when eventually they meet the partner has been forewarned.

This, in effect, is what has happened in your current relationship. You developed a much more meaningful relationship -- more than you have had previously -- and in doing so let each other in at a much deeper level. Your partner checked out your responses by showing you his collection of pornographic magazines, and you pretended that this was fine by you.

He took this as approval and went to the next step, which was suggesting that you might watch a DVD together. You were secretly appalled but you have not said anything to him, so he still thinks everything is fine, although he must wonder why you have begun to make excuses when it comes to having sex.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with somebody using fantasy in whatever way they wish. However, when a partner is involved that is where things are slightly different. Nobody should have to do anything that they don't want to do in the sexual part of their lives, and you most definitely do not want to watch porn with him. So you will have to tell your boyfriend that whereas you thought you were fine with the whole area of pornography you find that you are not, and that it is not something that you can do with him.

This will come as a shock to him, particularly when you were quite open to talking about fantasies with him at the beginning. Explain that you find yourself feeling very vulnerable when you think of him fancying these unknown women with their perfect bodies and that you have surprised even yourself with this discovery.

You may wish to suggest a compromise to help things along, and say that what he does when he is on his own is no concern of yours, but that when you are together you are not at all comfortable with any sort of porn. It is important that you get this sorted out before you move in together because otherwise you are not telling it like it is, and he deserves to know.

Sunday Indo Living