Bringing the problem out of the closet

Q. My spouse went to see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey on the sly. I am angry with him. Not only because I think he went for the wrong reason, such as watching titillating images of intimate sexuality, but mainly because he went without telling me. My spouse, 39, cannot afford to behave this way. We have been married for 15 years, and his behaviour has not always been exemplary considering he is married and has three children. Without going into detail, I could say he sometimes walks on the edge of marital fidelity, and also harbours a voyeuristic streak.

He works as an electrician for a large commercial firm, sometimes in the evenings. Consequently, I don’t always know what he is up to. But I have no interest in trying to keep tabs on him. It is his responsibility to live an honest and healthy family life. His last misdemeanor was four months ago when I found a raw pornographic magazine under his bedside cabinet. I chose not to confront him because our discussions are often fruitless. But I can only live so long with someone I cannot trust.

He is not aware I know, and I am pondering how to respond. We have had a reasonably interesting sex life throughout most of our married life, so I am at a loss about his behaviour. But I am angry because of his inability to discipline himself, and for putting me again in a position of mistrust! A part of me just wants to ignore it. At the same time I am realizing I may not care enough about him anymore to gather up the required energy to address the issue.

A. I hear your exasperation and disappointment with your spouse. This is not an easy issue to address if there are no practical gains or no more peace of mind when all is said and done. Your bottom line is that your love for him is waning because of his distrustful behaviour over time; you are skeptical that any kind of discussion can be beneficial.

Rather than emphasizing the mistrust for a moment, ask yourself if your marriage and family life is worth saving. Take some time and page through family photo albums and pay attention to what comes up for you in terms of your feelings and overall well-being. Also, commit yourself to prayer for hope and comfort during this trying time.

At the same time, I believe you need to bring the problem out of the closet and seek professional help. Your spouse may well have a sexual addiction, which is prevalent in our permissive culture. You are not doing him a favour by not addressing it. An addiction of this kind thrives in an atmosphere of secrecy.

You need to confront him. But you have to prepare ahead of time what you need to say so that you will not get off track.

It could be something like:

“I would like you to listen to me without interruptions for five to 10 minutes.

When I learned you went to see Fifty Shades of Grey without checking with me, I became very angry. Considering your behaviour in the past you cannot afford to put me in a position of distrusting you again. And yet you did. Are you aware that when you choose to behave this way, I wonder what else you are up to that I do not know about?

And so, this is what I need from you now: I need you to take responsibility for your behaviour. I need us to see a therapist to deal with this ongoing issue. I am no longer able to keep this problem between the two of us, since it’s possible you have a sexual addiction problem.

I also need you to go along with my suggestions because my love for you is waning and that troubles me.”

You will need courage to carry this out, so I wish you all the best. My prayer for you is that he will go along with your suggestions.

If he does not, you may want to connect with your pastor.


  • Arlene Van Hove

    Arlene Van Hove is a therapist, a mother of four adult children and a grandmother to an ever-increasing brood of delightful grandchildren. She also belongs to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, a subsidiary of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which raises funds for grandmothers who are raising the next generation in countries devastated by the Aids epidemic.As a writer Arlene hopes to provide a comforting voice for all those who struggle with the complexity of life. At the same time, she believes one of the roles of a columnist is to unflinchingly challenge 'the map when it no longer fits the ground.' And while she has less advice for others as she herself is aging, she hopes her columns will encourage her readers to develop questions and answers for themselves that continue to be worth asking and answering in the 21st Century. She is a member of the Fleetwood CRC in Surrey, B.

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