BEL MOONEY: Do I have to put up with my husband’s porn habit? 

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Dear Bel,

After my divorce I met a lovely guy whose wife was (sadly) very ill.

We became friends, continued after his wife’s death, and later he told me he loved me. We became partners and married 13 years ago. He made me feel very cherished and we enjoyed life.

Nearly six years ago we sold my house and moved to renovate a ‘wreck’ and create a home we both loved. I’m 69, he’s 66.

We had a very enjoyable sex life until two years ago when my severe medical problems changed things.

Thought of the day 

There was an Old Man in a boat,

Who said, ‘I’m afloat! I’m afloat!’

When they said, ‘No! You ain’t’ he was ready to faint,

That unhappy Old Man in a boat.

From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear English poet and illustrator, 1812-1888

 

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I felt so unattractive that making love slipped until it rarely happened. Yes, my fault.

However, he’s always been supportive and tells me that he loves me deeply and I’m still the only one for him.

But Halloween has really been a nightmare as he confessed that while playing a game on his computer a website popped up with young women stripping naked and using sex toys, while men watch.

He joined up and for the past few days has been using the online tokens provided to persuade a young woman to strip etc while he watches.

Now he can’t stop talking about her — yet says it’s just a fad and he loves me deeply. He wants to keep watching and talking to her until he’s had enough.

I feel that this is a type of pornography — and we are so often told that porn is addictive.

I have tried to remain calm but can’t stop feeling more and more hurt and I certainly don’t feel cherished any more. I usually can work out solutions to problems, but this has me in such turmoil that I cannot think straight at all.

It doesn’t help that in two weeks time I’m due to have an operation. Why does fate throw so many things at us at once?

GWEN

This week Bel advises a reader who wonders how to cope with her partner's porn habits

This week Bel advises a reader who wonders how to cope with her partner’s porn habits  

Many people have been asking that last question — and I wish I had the answer.

Those of us perfectly happy in life are finding the latest Government restrictions depressing, so how much worse must it be for you — with such a problem plunging you into emotional turmoil while you’re unwell. I send you much sympathy.

The husband you love is making you very unhappy, and there is no excuse for it. You hesitantly say, ‘I feel this is a type of pornography’ — which naive statement shows how little experience you have of this kind of stuff and what it can do to men and to their families.

There are very many people who still believe porn is harmless — even a good thing. There are also too many men (and some women) who’ll opine that if a bloke isn’t getting enough sex from his wife, then of course he’ll use porn.

Frankly, I’ve been thinking and writing about these matters since the Seventies and am sick of the excuses made for a vile trade which makes millions for unscrupulous people — while destroying lives. Make no mistake, porn is certainly addictive and its use can escalate dangerously.

Your beloved husband tells you he loves you, but that he feels compelled to perv over a young woman using a sex toy for money and talking dirty while he watches. Nice.

Some might say that what goes on between those two consenting adults is their business — but what about the third person in this marriage? What about you — hurting and sick in body, heart and soul?

Are you not worthy of his consideration — or must the stirrings within a man’s trousers take precedence over all other feelings of kindness, care and decency?

Is it ‘your fault’ that you were ill? That you feel belittled and threatened and hurt? That you hate what he is doing and wish he would stop?

Is it your fault that you will be driven mad with stress and sorrow when you go to have that operation — knowing what he is doing at home while you are under anaesthetic?

He has no right to make you so miserable — and you have to tell him. Put simply: if he really does love you, he will not continue with the sleaze that’s making you so unhappy. Tell him he must choose. Ask if he wants to be a lonely old man whose only ‘relationship’ is with a sex object. Because that’s the way he’s heading.

 My shouty son scares his 12-year-old

Dear Bel,

My 50-year-old son works in a care home, so the past few months have been very difficult and stressful. He doesn’t cope well — in fact, he was on medication for stress and anxiety several years ago. It resulted in his marriage breakdown.

Since he and his wife broke up, they have co-parented their two sons very well (the boys live nearby with their mother). My son sees them whenever he wants as well as at weekends. Christmas and birthdays are spent as a family.

The boys are nine and 12, but my son seems to be taking out the stressful nature of his work on them. The 12-year-old especially appears to be bearing the brunt. He gets shouted at for the slightest thing and can’t seem to do anything right in his dad’s eyes.

I realise that 12 is a difficult age and that ‘tweenagers’ can be hard to live with. But it’s reached the point where the boy doesn’t want to spend time with his dad and is scared to tell him for fear of upsetting him.

I love the boys and am distressed to see my grandson upset in this way. He’s now told me he’d rather be here at ours than at his dad’s. My dilemma is, do I have a word with my son and point out that he is alienating his own child? Or do I mind my own business (as my husband says) in the hope that things will settle down?

Should I take the bull by the horns and speak to my son, or leave well alone and let them sort it out between them?

LENA

The widely used African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is quoted with approval on the website of NHS England.

‘This wonderful saying beautifully captures how an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. It encapsulates the interconnectedness of our society, across the generations and across all aspects of our lives.’

‘The generations’ surely means you — and that’s why I believe your husband is wrong.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

In the past, I’ve often mentioned the difficulty of apparent ‘interference’ in family matters. But it all depends on the circumstances, on who’s doing the speaking out and how it’s done. There are no rules — except that the welfare of children has to come first. Always.

Plenty of children bear the brunt of their parents’ bad moods, poor work-life balance, selfishness, inadequacy and so on. Parents are human — and some are ill-equipped for the job. There’s no suggestion of that here. That your son has a job that makes him extremely anxious is hardly his fault — although I suggest that since this was an issue ‘several years ago’ (before Covid) he might be considered unsuitable to deal with the care of vulnerable people.

That is a whole other issue. What matters here is that you think your grandson is unhappy — not ill-treated, just unhappy — to the point where ‘he doesn’t want to spend time with his dad’.

Yet the 12-year-old is also afraid of ‘upsetting’ the father he clearly loves, so says nothing. The boy’s mother also says nothing — even though these are good parents who have handled their separation well.

You are keeping quiet, too — even though a caring mother and grandmother. Surely this collective silence must be broken?

There are two people who would surely benefit from some sort of tactful, caring — but authoritative — intervention: both the boy and his burnt-out father.

You don’t say whether you have a good relationship with your son — and I understand what it’s like to feel you must walk on eggshells around an adult child. Still, you are the one who loves them both and so I think you could speak to the dad. But not in a confrontational way at all. Don’t even think of talking about alienation, or ‘pointing out’ anything.

If I were you, I would seek a way to have a one-to-one conversation with your son and tell him you want his help with a problem that’s worrying you.

Explain that you know how busy he is and that the horrible virus has made life tougher for everybody, especially those working in a job like his. But your grandson has confided in you that he is fed up — and you want your son to help you find out what’s going on.

Tell him he’s the best person to do this — but that you’re also worried about him. He might well brush you off — I know that. But gently persist with a quiet conversation about how you can all help each other.

It might also be good to say you would love to see more of the boys, and so perhaps they could stay with you on some nights in order to give their dad a rest.

This 12-year-old is probably more resilient than you think, but it may be that his problem with his dad is a wake-up call for the whole family.

And finally…Give people a break — and forgive

It was both touching and sad that so many of you responded to last week’s letter from ‘Sue’ — so sad because her colleagues sent only texts for her 40th birthday and didn’t bother with cards or a whip-round, despite her own generosity to them.

I was touched by your sympathy, but sad because so many identified with poor Sue’s feeling of being overlooked.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]

A pseudonym will be used if you wish.

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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Sue thought her problem trivial, yet it struck a chord. And the message is that ‘small’ problems loom large in an individual life — and therefore must be taken seriously. Which (of course) I did.

My advice to Sue was sympathetic but conciliatory; I didn’t think it would help her at all to be so angry that she refuses to chip in for the next collection for someone else. Two readers got a bit cross with me because of that tone. Wendy took me to lengthy task because: ‘Sue has put up with shoddy behaviour for far too long.’

Wendy says she should stand up for herself because ‘if you act like a doormat, you will be used as one’ — therefore Sue should refuse to give to the others. This is a valid viewpoint.

SG was more succinct: ‘Why should she not complain? You should have been a bit more bracing and told her to get a new job where the people aren’t so vile.’ Sorry — ‘vile’? Remember, Sue wrote: ‘They are nice people and would be horrified that I’m upset’.

And to be honest, SG, I don’t know what world you live in when you think that in the current climate it’s that easy for people to move workplaces — even if they want to!

Sue doesn’t want a new job. She just wants to be treated with thoughtfulness.

I bet each one of us could be accused (at some time or other) of being ‘vile’ or ‘shoddy’ for being thoughtless — but that level of abuse would not be fair. It doesn’t help anybody to get angry.

We need more mutual understanding — and more forgiveness for failings. A dose of resilience, too.

 

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