Should love be willing to share?

Should love be willing to share?

That depends on what you mean by love and what love means to you.

One illustration is the question asked by a Rose (on the Yahoo site):

Help! I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend and I are slowly starting a Taken In Hand relationship. Most of our relationship is already great, except for one thing. His friends from work go out to the strip club occasionally, and he likes to go with them. … He knew I had a problem with it, but I finally told him I wouldn’t mind if he went because I felt guilty about keeping him from his friends. I got so disgusted that I didn’t even want him to touch me. We got into a huge fight the next night about it. So my question is: am I supposed to submit to his wanting to go, or is he supposed to care enough about my feelings to not go?

The replies to this question show that some people think that this is about pornography and “co-dependence.” Both of these issues are relevant, but I think that it all comes down to:

Is he supposed to care enough about my feelings?

Visual pornography can still have significant effects, even if most people don’t end up having it dominate their lives. For example, one of the replies to Rose echoed a common complaint:

Do you also tell him he can’t look at porn or masturbate without you being present?

But this begs the question of why it should be expected that a man in a sexual relationship with a willing woman would want to masturbate while looking at porn.

And the New York Magazine article The Porn Myth provides an articulate, coherent and reasonable answer:

For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women.

Today, real naked women are just bad porn. …

The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman. Mostly, when I ask about loneliness, a deep, sad silence descends on audiences of young men and young women alike. They know they are lonely together, even when conjoined, and that this imagery is a big part of that loneliness. What they don’t know is how to get out, how to find each other again erotically, face-to-face. …

If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. …

I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend [with waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair] who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. … “Only my husband,” she said with a calm sexual confidence, “ever gets to see my hair.” … the sexual intensity in the air was archaic, overwhelming. It was private. It was a feeling of erotic intensity deeper than any I have ever picked up between secular couples in the liberated West. And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day—in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman’s hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

Compare that steaminess with a conversation I had at Northwestern, after I had talked about the effect of porn on relationships. … [a boy explained] “I prefer to have sex right away just to get it over with. You know it’s going to happen anyway, and it gets rid of the tension.” “Isn’t the tension kind of fun?” I asked. “Doesn’t that also get rid of the mystery?” “Mystery?” He looked at me blankly. And then, without hesitating, he replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Sex has no mystery.”

Visual porn can defraud men by diverting them from experiencing deep intimacy, to instead using a woman merely for masturbation. But even if porn didn’t desensitize, it would always “program,” because of the way that the brain processes images.

When you watch a performance, you are engaging mentally with the presentation and at least subconscious expectations are being created. But the same is not true for stories, which can be a great way to communicate, become enlightened and get new ideas. Stories allow you to picture your partner in those scenarios, while expectations remain somewhat vague. So pornography can be beneficial, as long as it doesn’t become a second-hand participant instead of a template.

As RhodeIslandRose said:

To us, the use of pornography is that it helps to express fantasies or desires that perhaps we’re embarrassed or don’t know how to express on our own. … What I’m trying to say is that there is nothing really wrong with porn (IMHO), so long as it is something that is bringing you together instead of keeping you apart.

So instead, what we do now is make our own porn, so to speak. We don’t take dirty pictures or anything, that’s not really our thing. But, for example, I’ve been known to send my husband an email describing one of my fantasies in the middle of the work day. He’ll whisper his into my ear when we’re curled in bed together at night ...

Experimenting, and laughing together as you make inevitable mistakes, brings you closer. And being anywhere close to perfect is never the point; a relationship is not a performance.

When a couple watches a porn video together, they can end up with preconceptions and expectations about how they should act and respond, from a stylized and edited presentation, instead of being able to freely imagine and anticipate, as they would from stories, or messages sent to each other. But whether this will create problems depends on the people involved.

On the other hand, inevitable problems arise when only one partner finds porn beneficial or even acceptable. If we are our minds and not just our bodies, a mental almost-relationship, like masturbating over porn or fantasizing about other people while having sex with your partner, is a form of infidelity—infidelity in the heart and mind.

This can be the most devastating to women, because the casual-sex justification that it was “only physical” doesn’t apply.

Another comment to Rose was that “Additionally, he should NOT give much weight if any to those feelings you have that come from ‘within your own head’ and aren’t the result of any direct actual impact on you or your life.”

All feelings exist in our minds. They can be expressions of our nature and needs, such as compassion and vulnerability, and they can be a response to an external injury, and so on.

The actions of an unrelated person, unless someone is being coerced into an involuntary transaction, are none of your business.

However, when a person intentionally enters into a personal relationship with you, the behavior of that person can never be completely independent of you, because it will have a “direct actual impact on you and your life” through your emotional connection.

As one Taken In Hand reader said, “My DH says he buys porno to get himself in the mood to do me, but what is wrong with me that he needs that? He says he only does it occasionally, but it is insulting and hurtful, even if it is only once a month or once a year.”

And, regardless of whether this is because men become desensitized or for some other reason, for those women for whom this would be devastating, it will harm them, the relationship, or everyone involved, because it is such a difficult issue. And it makes them feel not only unattractive and ugly, but inadequate as a woman and even worthless. It also makes many devastated women feel suicidal, and pushes some into parasuicidal behaviour, like wrist slashing, burning themselves, anorexia/bulimia, etc.

A woman should never have to justify her feelings, or debate why her feelings and needs should have value. If her man loves her, he values her and will change his behavior to protect her and help her to heal. But if he decides to disregard her well-being by demanding that she devalue and suppress herself to satisfy his whims, she is in a destructive and self-destructive situation, and should leave him and find a true partner.

Being dominant and having the final say in decisions does not become some narcissistic right to second-guess a woman when she reveals her vulnerabilities. Indifference is proof of an absence of love, and a person without the capacity for empathy is not fixable.

There are many ways to generate erotic intensity, but two very simple and effective ones recognize the natural modesty of many women. Make your woman feel so loved and valued that she becomes serenely confident, confident enough for it to stop occurring to her to feel self-conscious. Provide the boundaries and security of exclusivity, a loving and loyal relationship within which she can reveal and revel in her innate sexuality without feeling like a slut.

One “mystery of sex” is how increasing the psychological connection can redefine the intensity and scope of an orgasm. Bodies have rather limited capabilities and different ones offer little actual novelty. “Variety” is not the repetition of a mindless routine with an endless parade of similar detached partners. But emotional and mental possibilities are unlimited, and can dramatically amplify any experience and create deep connections with a trusting and willingly vulnerable partner.

For example, beyond taking her in dominant Taken In Hand ways, my fantasies are less about doing something specific to my woman, and more about exploring with her and discovering what she finds arousing and thrilling, what excites and scares her, and especially what she is embarrassed to admit that she desires, and then “controlling” her into fiery orgasms by pushing her limits, increasing the intensity to a bit beyond what she would have chosen for herself, to the point where she is begging for it to stop while hoping that it will continue.

The form of the emotional and mental intensity would be tailored specifically to her, and it would magnify her experience way out of proportion to the actual physical effects.

She would know that she was loved and completely safe, while neither being given a choice nor being overwhelmed, so she would have the confidence and “permission” to surrender and reveal herself by letting go completely. Trust followed by surrender results in mind-blowing experiences; and vulnerability that is protected and treasured creates profound connections.

And I would be responding to the thrill of having power over her, to her arousal, and especially to her desire and willingness to reveal herself to me (and note that this is not the same as simply submitting to me).

But this isn’t something that I would be doing “to” her. Instead, we would both be participating equally, but in different ways, in activities that would allow us to connect at ever deeper levels.

These levels are possible because focused interaction feeds back on itself. Her enthusiastic participation, her desire and arousal, and especially the attention and energy that she directed at me, would energize me and then be reflected, amplified, back at her.

And while intensity would ebb and flow, just like everything else in life, this ping-pong reassurance and reinforcement would be continuous, not just sexually, but in every aspect of our life. But this wouldn’t be possible if we were widening our focus, instead of concentrating on engaging with each other.

And this can be taken much, much further, in direct proportion to the bonds that have been built, and the understanding and trust that have been developed.

It can be taken to the level of being able to live primordial emotions, to the level of his being a “predator” and of her experiencing the arousal, helplessness and even fear that she desires, as reality in the moment, without having to protect themselves in any way. It would be primeval and without safe-words, but with a constant protective undercurrent of unspoken communication, an almost-psychic connection, that allows him to sense immediately if anything starts to go wrong.

She is able to let her guard down completely, without reservation, and make herself more vulnerable than many people can imagine, because she knows, with absolute certainty, that she is his only value and that there is no chance that she will be injured, deliberately or negligently, physically or emotionally. This involves a level of awareness, confidence and willing vulnerability far beyond anything possible in a relationship with a wide focus, or one in which there is the possibility of being cut with words that can’t be unsaid (including as “teasing”), or one that is dealing with elementary issues of trust and worth, such as being devalued by porn and strip clubs, and so on.

As someone on this site wrote:

In a sexual relationship, you can choose to concentrate your focus on one person, magnifying your attraction to that person and attuning yourself sexually ever more to that particular person, or you can focus your attention and arousal more widely, actively looking at, thinking about and fantasising about others. For most people, when you do the latter, sexual exclusivity is more likely to feel like a suffocating prison, and when you do the former, you get more and more sexually-connected with your spouse.

Noticing is different from actively and intentionally seeking arousal. It is quite unusual to become actually aroused by admiring a nice body on the street. It is a fleeting thing, it is not intentional and you do not engage with it actively to any significant degree. But when you deliberately watch a porn film or go to a strip club, you are intentionally setting out to arouse yourself with someone other than your partner.

And, in many cases, the man is doing this despite the fact that he knows that his woman can’t handle it. He does it anyway, and the woman’s distress is discounted as control and little empathy is forthcoming. But wouldn’t a good man care that his actions are actually causing distress, instead of engaging in debates about why his activities shouldn’t be causing anguish? And doesn’t this highlight his priorities and what he values most?

And which would be more of a sexual connection between a man and his woman: thinking about someone else while having sex with her body, or thinking about her while masturbating alone?

Positive fantasies about your partner increase your attachment to your partner, and you can indeed “connect” through a fantasy because it is model in your mind of what you find appealing or at least would like to explore. And fantasizing about your partner in an optimistic way can improve your connection, because you are reinforcing favorable attitudes, and mentally experimenting and rehearsing various possibilities as templates for real life. In a similar way, actively and intentionally fantasizing about someone else (but not just having a fleeting thought or image “pop into your head”) can diminish your attachment to your partner.

Another common opinion was that Rose must still need to “grow up,” since she got so disgusted that she didn’t even want him to touch her. One reply even instructed her to go to the strip club with her boyfriend, in a sexual way, because he would move WAY up in the standings with the guys, which is great for the ego.

And yet, as Ayn Rand said:

Physically, sex is merely a capacity. But how a man will exercise this capacity and whom he will find attractive depends on his standard of value. … [emphasis mine]

Sex is an expression of a man’s self-esteem, of his own self-value. But the man who does not value himself tries to reverse this process. He tries to derive his self-esteem from his sexual conquests, which cannot be done.

Rose is the mature and sophisticated one in her relationship, and she became disgusted because she correctly inferred his values (at least as they are now), and realized that, in a way, she was equivalent to his lowest common denominator.

And “co-dependency” seems to be a favorite default criticism, such as the following comment to Rose, by those looking for a way to evade naming what they are and what they do.

For any person to go around modifying their thoughts, words or actions out of fear over someone else’s “feelings” … is by definition co-dependent.

In the thread Is co-dependency a bad thing in a relationship?, 'the boss' wrote:

The co-dependence idea seems to get out of hand at times, with some being so fearful of being in a co-dependent relationship that they go to enormous lengths to assert their independence and end up never actually having a deep relationship. It seems to me more interesting to risk a little of what some might exaggeratedly call co-dependence, or at least, to be in a fully engaged relationship rather than maintaining all your barriers and defences and ensuring that you remain rigidly separate.

To me, it seems as though those who feel such a need to retain this sort of so-called independence are actually the individuals whose psychological autonomy is fragile. Some of those who can risk a bit of what is pejoratively called co-dependence can be paradoxically more deeply independent and autonomous.

However, this is not always the case. There are plenty of unhealthily co-dependent individuals living miserable lives with no self respect and highly dysfunctional psychologies and behaviours. This is definitely not what a Taken In Hand relationship should be. These individuals are not happy by any stretch of the imagination, and I can quite understand why some Taken In Hand folk make a point of avoiding any hint of co-dependence.

“Co-dependency” is a technical term with relatively narrow applicability, which is explained quite nicely by a professional psychologist, Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., in How the Co-dependency Movement Is Ruining Marriages.

But, outside its legitimate use, it is often used incorrectly to disparage healthy interdependence, which is frequently a hallmark of Taken In Hand relationships. And people who take these smears at face value can be scared into avoiding any hint of co-dependence.

In healthy interdependence, self-destructive behaviors (such as substance abuse) are not being enabled or facilitated, and both partners are actively taking care of each other (so one isn’t being emotionally starved by the indifferent other who is claiming “suffocation”).

Beneficial interdependence is life-affirming, and its prerequisites are the strength to take responsibility for understanding and caring for the needs of your partner (you certainly can’t sleep through this type of a relationship!), and the strength to allow yourself to be ever more vulnerable to your partner without protecting yourself by “having one eye on the end of the relationship.”

As someone on this site wrote:

I met a woman who had never gone anywhere without her husband the other day. She was 76 years old … As she talked about her late husband, her eyes shone. They had been married 58 years. She had been exceptionally happy with her husband and it showed in her face. Who would give up a gloriously happy marriage in the name of acting as though it will one day end?

In a relationship between soul-mates, taking care of your partner’s needs is the opposite of a burden, and there is no self-sacrifice involved when both individuals in a relationship are putting each other first. They both end up being the center of attention, and are able to relax and fully enjoy “love-based service” without guilt. And they both get more than they would have as self-centered individuals, because energy given is energy multiplied (and even chocolate tastes better when it is a gift from your love).

A common negative rationale is that “it is impossible to get everything that you need from just one person.” And “everything that you need” is intended to conjure images of an unending list with minutiae that nobody could possibly match. But, in reality, people have relatively few needs, which can be satisfied in many ways. You could easily write down all of my needs on the palm of your hand. What about yours?

I think that two people, if they are true equals or have unlimited potential (which amounts to the same thing), and have the desire, can indeed and absolutely grow into being able to satisfy all of each other’s emotional, mental and physical needs. This wouldn’t happen overnight but, for me, the point of the journey would also be the journey itself. Experiencing the love in her struggles would give me more pleasure, and release more energy that would be dedicated to her, than if she didn’t have to strive and learn, and could do everything perfectly from the start.

And it is natural and healthy for two people who invest in each other, and especially those who are willing to put all of their energy into satisfying each other and being available only for each other, to be protective and possessive. “In fact, who in the hell would want a relationship in which there were no possibility that either party would ever feel jealous? To be so blasé about everything … What kind of relationship would that be? It is time to stop pathologising perfectly natural and healthy jealousy.”

In this type of intimate relationship, both of the people involved progressively diminish the occurrence of jealousy in the other, not only by being faithful and loyal, but also by consistently and actively focusing all of their personal attention, interest and energy only on each other. They actively and enthusiastically look for ways to create and deepen their connections; simply “being in sync” isn’t even close to being enough.

I am not saying that this type of relationship is the “one true way” or that it is appropriate for everyone. But, when it is appropriate, it tends to be essential, and it has absolute prerequisites and unavoidable tradeoffs.

And I rather suspect that many women who are derisively called “clingy and needy,” or even “suffocating and obsessive,” are actually just trying to create this level of intimate relationship, but with an unsuitable or inadequate man.

I like a clingy and needy woman because having her around reduces my stress and releases my energy. And I think that women have been conned, sometimes to the point of damaging their relationships, into thinking that there is actually something wrong with being “needy.”

I try to tell him how I feel but as I get ready I can’t get the words out ... I chicken out and email him things only because I can’t say them without having this needy feeling about me ... I guess I don’t want him to see me as a needy person ... [from beb222]

Masculine men, especially those of the Taken In Hand variety, need to be needed, and they like to protect and take care of their women. And when a woman who has such a man deliberately hides her needs, she is unfairly and unnecessarily depriving both of them of part of a fulfilling life together.

Many of the most intelligent and capable people I have known were women who were quite needy in their personal relationships. It always seemed to be that the women with the greatest wisdom, resilience and strength of spirit were the ones who were brave enough to reveal the full extent of their need to their men.

And a Taken In Hand woman chooses to have her man make decisions for her because this gives her peace and security, but only after he has earned her trust and demonstrated wisdom in judgment, and has shown her that she would not only be his “possession” but also his only treasure.

But Rose was even told to go to the strip club with her boyfriend because that was the way to “stake a little territory over [her] man with the strippers,” and that:

Yes you are supposed to submit. That is the agreement you have made in a Taken in Hand relationship. He is supposed to “factor in” how his actions directly affect you and thus your feelings. [But] he probably won’t factor them in to the degree that you want because our own feelings are always WAY more powerful feeling to us then they are to anyone else.

In a Taken In Hand relationship, it is the woman who is taken and protected. She is definitely not expected to fight for possession of a wayward man, or to have her needs met by accident. Taken In Hand is a relationship, unequal in power, between mutually dependent partners who consider each other equal in value and with an equal right to dignity, respect and self-fulfillment.

Narcissists and bullies always seem to remember that, in a Taken In Hand relationship, it is not the woman’s place to dictate to her man, but somehow conveniently forget that it is the man’s place, and his highest responsibility, to protect his woman’s emotional and physical well-being.

The basis of Taken In Hand is male leadership, and not merely the thrills of control and sexual conquest. A good leader will be dominant and in control, but not domineering or controlling. He will realize that he isn’t omniscient and will seek his woman’s input and wisdom, and only then make the decision that he feels would be best for their relationship. And a good man will value her needs and desires, and especially her happiness and quality of life, at least as much as his own.

Isn’t taking care of each other and enjoying each other’s happiness the point of a life-affirming relationship?

A loving relationship never seemed to me like something that could be just another part of life, just another variation stapled onto the rear end of a collection of other equally important stuff. Instead, it always felt like it should be the difference between existence and life.

A woman becomes vulnerable by opening her heart, by no longer pretending or pushing away in order to protect herself, by saying, in a sense, “this is all that I am,” and trusting that she will be essential and that she will be enough.

If you give away something of value, then you value the reaction or the recipient more than the treasure itself.

And I think that being with your love is being alive, and everything else is everything else.

So, no, I don’t think that love can share.

John

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Comments

Feeling hot

It all depends what turns you on I suppose. For some women, it might be a turn-on to have to go around in a long skirt and a headscarf. For me, it would be a frightful irritation. It would undoubtedly make me hot, but uncomfortably so, fancy having to dress like that in a boiling hot climate! My husband, for instance, has the desire to show me off rather than cover me up, he nurses the delusion, bless his heart, that other men will see me as a desirable woman and envy his good fortune.

We were in Spain in the summer on a beach where a lot of ladies were going around topless, and he made spasmodic attempts to get me to remove my top. "Not at my time of life" I said firmly. "But you've got better tits than any of those women" he replied. "You ought to show them off." I find it immensely gratifying that he still considers me desirable, and that he wants me to expose my ageing body rather than concealing it. He undoubtedly enjoyed looking at the topless ladies, but that was fair enough as far as I was concerned, because I was most distracted by the Spanish policemen, swaggering around in tight trousers, festooned with guns and truncheons and handcuffs. English policemen just aren't as dashing as that.

I tend to agree with the young man who said he liked to get sex out of the way, I always felt that way about it when I was young as well. Have sex and get it out the way, then you can relax and get to know someone (assuming you want to).

Masturbation isn't something I really have any strong views on, I don't know whether my husband does it when I'm not around, and I don't much care. He, on the other hand, is definitely turned on by the idea of me masturbating, whether he's there or not.

As for the woman who's never gone anywhere without her husband, sorry but I think that's totally weird. What, she never went out with friends, with the children, with anyone except him? That's really strange. However did she cope after he snuffed it?

Louise

How do I feel better if it's not like that.......?

Louise I appreciate your comments but what if it's not like that? ...... What if your husband not only enjoyed looking at topless beach beauties but in addition likes to read mags like Playboy (where the girls are the same age as your sons' girlfriends.....) and he doesn't say things like what your husband says to you that make you feel desirable and his use of these mags makes you feel ugly and not enough for him? ....... This is how it is with us and I don't know what to do to feel ok with it......? What would you do Louise? John, you seem to understand alot about how women like me tick ....... but can you advise me on how to feel differently about this so I can go on with my life with my husband........ What would you say to a woman like myself who doesn't want to leave her husband (I love him and he's not a bad guy- really!! we're working on the Taken In Hand thing and we're getting there-........ slowly), who's husband's not willing to discuss this and is not able to be like Louise's husband....... and who wants to be happily married. Please help.

Playboy etc

I don't really know how I would feel if my husband read magazines like Playboy, but the only magazine he ever buys is 'Model Engineer' which is a bit short of women either clothed or unclothed.

Does your husband not take any interest in you sexually? Does he know how much his reading of these magazines upsets you? Does he care? If not why not?

Perhaps when he gets his Playboys out you should get out some magazines with pictures of attractive men in and start drooling over those? maybe that might give him pause for thought? If he starts to compare you unfavourably to the women in his magazines, you could do the same with the men in your magazines? What's sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose, as they say.

Louise

Re: How do I feel better if it's not like that.......?

You seem to be asking how to do away with part of who you are in order to be able to embrace what your husband does, because his voluntary actions are hurting you.

Even mere compromise is appropriate only after you have a fundamental compatibility, an actually complete relationship. Your building blocks of marriage, your innate and involuntary needs and values, are non-negotiable in the sense that compromise would leave you empty inside and eventually destroy you or the relationship, or both, anyway.

And why should he “not be able to” compliment you and reassure you and make you feel desirable? What does it mean if seeing your eyes light up and watching you lose your battle with that “I am so pleased but I don’t want to admit it” grin isn’t a huge thrill for him? And don’t forget that kind words cost nothing.

If your husband wants you to be happy, and this is an unavoidable part of “being happily married,” then he will be accepting and supportive, even when he doesn’t understand your needs from personal experience, and whatever makes you happy or is important to you will become meaningful and important to him.

If your husband is worthy of you, he will learn and grow, and change his behavior to nurture you and help you to heal. But if he disregards your well-being by demanding that you devalue and starve essential parts of yourself, then you are in a destructive and self-destructive relationship.

Is your relationship feeding your spirit? Do you feel strong and optimistic?

Your questions make me think that you have been deceived into being afraid and believing that you aren’t good enough. As his_princess said:

What could possibly cause a man, who promised to love and cherish you above all others, to prefer looking at images on a computer and masturbating to having sex with a real, live woman who was willing to do anything to please him?

The only way I could answer that (and yes part of it must have come from a problem within my own psyche) was ... there must be something wrong with me.

But I don’t think that there was any problem within her psyche at all. It is simply human nature that repeated words and actions that make you feel unworthy tear and wear you down, and knowing that there is nothing wrong with you doesn’t really help.

You would be treasured by any man able to appreciate the significance of your attitude, and you are the type of woman who would simply blossom in a supportive relationship. You deserve a true partner, one who needs and values you as much as you need and value him.

Kind-hearted women flourish with men like me, because whenever they place themselves at our feet they end up on our shoulders. But they tend to do poorly with those who have narcissistic tendencies.

What do you need to be happily married? Are you getting what you need to feel alive? Are you being honest with yourself?

I appreciate what you think that you are trying to do, and I like you very much. But you are actually asking me how to get over needing to be valued and cherished, how to get over needing to be shown that you are essential and enough by the one man who is supposed to love and care for you above all else. And even if I knew how to do this, I wouldn’t tell you.

I wrote off an entire part of me, a part of myself that I had always been happy and fulfilled by. At some point I decided that I could not live my life never experiencing that part of me … When I met my current partner … [t]hrough his patience with me, and my own hard work, I have regained that part of myself. [from his_princess]

Your spirit needs what it needs in order to live, and pretending won’t keep it from withering away. And, if you need to deceive yourself in this way, doesn’t that mean that your soul-mate is still out there somewhere? And wouldn’t he be worth the search and even the wait? Being in love with love shouldn’t have to be enough. You deserve everything else, too.

Best wishes,

John

Thanks for your article

It is really wonderful to see there are men out there (or at least one) that understand the pain it can cause women when men focus on pornography or go to strip clubs. A lot of men do not understand this, and it has made me feel really awful in the past when a man I loved went to strip clubs and had a subscription to Playboy. I was ashamed that I felt bad about it and wished I could be the cool girl that was totally fine with these things. I even pretended for as long as I could that I was fine with it, while being terribly hurt on the inside. Even though he still showed interest in me and told me I was beautiful, it hurt that he needed to have a subscription to a magazine full of perfect naked women. I thought I could never compare, and I wondered why he would need these magazines if I was enough for him. I understand that men look at other women on the street and get turned on by attractive women. But it is totally different in my mind for a man to go to a stripclub and have a naked woman dancing on his lap and go home and think about her, or stare at a magazine of airbrushed perfect models on a regular basis. How can I ever feel totally comfortable naked in this situation, when there are so many other images I have to compete with for his sexual attention? Thank you for understanding this. Your article made me realize that its okay to want a man that focuses his sexual attention on me just like I do with him. Thank you again.

The hunt

John, I wish I had read this article 30 years ago. It took 25 years of unhappiness to discover the truth of what you have just (well not so recently) written here. I did not have exactly the same problems with my ex looking at porn, but he was mentally abusive and made me feel the same things. Now that I am finally free of him, I realize that no, it was not my fault and that even a strongly alpha traited female like me could fall into the pit of abuse and not see the way out. As you have mentioned, it is the constant wear and tear of hurtful words that breaks even the strongest of us. I am now in that search for my soul-mate and even if I do not find him, I plan to enjoy the hunt!

Libby

My husband, for instance, has

My husband, for instance, has the desire to show me off rather than cover me up, he nurses the delusion, bless his heart, that other men will see me as a desirable woman and envy his good fortune.

Louise, I adore reading your posts and articles. I just wanted to say so.

Response to one part of your post

And, regardless of whether this is because men become desensitized or for some other reason, for those women for whom this would be devastating, it will harm them, the relationship, or everyone involved, because it is such a difficult issue. And it makes them feel not only unattractive and ugly, but inadequate as a woman and even worthless. It also makes many devastated women feel suicidal, and pushes some into parasuicidal behaviour, like wrist slashing, burning themselves, anorexia/bulimia, etc

This is something that I personally have experienced with my ex.
I never thought I had a problem with porn, I had dated men who had an interest in it (I never even asked most of the men I dated had an interest, I just didn't care).

I had always been confident, and had been a very sexual person all of my life. I am far from perfect but always felt sexy and beautiful.
At some point in our marriage, porn became a huge issue. It wasn't so much looking at porn that bothered me, it was the fact that he preferred it to me. What could possibly cause a man, who promised to love and cherish you above all others, to prefer looking at images on a computer and masturbating to having sex with a real, live woman who was willing to do anything to please him?

The only way I could answer that (and yes part of it must have come from a problem within my own psyche) was...there must be something wrong with me. I went from a sexy, confident woman to an overweight, frumpy, non-sexual woman. I literally felt like nothing...for years.

I wrote off an entire part of me, a part of myself that I had always been happy and fulfilled by.

At some point I decided that I could not live my life never experiencing that part of me (yes I tried to work on it with him, and yes there were other problems).

When I met my current partner, I made it very clear that I was damaged by my experience. Through his patience with me, and my own hard work, I have regained that part of myself. As you mentioned, our sexual relationship is the way we connect to each other. Now don't get me wrong there are times when we just want to get it on, or use it as release, but it can be so many other things as well.

For my ex, I feel pity that it will never be anything more than a fantasy with some random woman on the internet.

You could say that my situation was only because the ex had a problem with porn, and I would absolutely agree with you. However, with the availability of free porn, the anonymity of the internet, and the decrease in the social stigma of looking at porn, I wonder how much more prevalent people who have this problem will become? The article you quoted seems to indicate that for younger generations it will become more of an issue.

Thank you!

Thank you so much for this article. You have no idea how emotionally draining it has been for me thinking that I would have to hide the fact that porn and strip clubs hurt me to the core. Again and again I've heard "It's natural," "All men do it," "Get over it." But I don't want the sexual energy between my partner and me to be diffused and diminished by things like that.

I was deeply hurt thinking that I'd have to deal with it if I wanted to be with anyone. I'm glad to see there are men out there who understand. TRULY understand.

I feel so much better now.

Thank You for the Excellent Article!

I asked my husband to stop looking looking at porn last year:

Him getting aroused by me is highly arousing to me, driving me to being better able to satisfy him, by opening myself up and pushing those limits. When he viewed porn before sex, I was self-conscious, nervous, and not able to enjoy fully because I felt like merely masturbatory aide. His behavior simply didn't make me feel good about myself or about us.

Love is very rarely about right and wrong and more a thing of perception and feeling that we cannot gauge alone:

'Sharing' love or not, it can be said that the absolute truth of it is that behaviors have consequences, negative and positive. If your behavior is viewed as hurtful by your partner, the consequence yeilds a negative impact on your relationship. We may not always agree with why we've hurt our partner, but we also do not live in a vacuum, so that we must put aside the 'right and wrong' of that hurt and do our best to help heal that hurt.

When we are caught up in judging a feeling as valid, we put relationships in vacuums. And nature abhors a vacuum...

My husband obliged me and packed up the porn. Almost instantly, our relationship improved not just sexually, but emotionally when he gave up the porn.

Recently, I surprised him with videos and pictures of me doing just the things I know he likes and 'secretly' (but I pick up on his cues) fantasizes about. It demonstrates that I understand his needs, even the unspoken ones, and am eagerly willing to meet them. He then made sure that I had plenty of batteries for the camera to continue meeting those needs.

To both of us, its more satisfying that the redundant, cold, impersonal material out there. How amazing it is for us that while I'm the mom, the ever serving wife, room mother, family nurturer, I'm also his slut, submitting to his sexual desires. He can leave for work in the morning with a request that I do this or that on camera and in the next breath ask me to pick up his dry cleaning.

Doing this is not about getting off or spicing things up. Its about showing devotion to each other- he is my only viewer and I am his only porn star. It's one more thing for us to share, one more piece of the exploration and limit pushing together puzzle.

Just one more perspective

I do sympathize with women who experience discomfort at the fact that their man enjoys porn or masturbates, and I feel sympathy for those men who are desensitized by porn in a way that makes it more difficult for them to feel more connected and less empty in a relationship.

I would like to offer one additional perspective.

I believe that men are taught that their sexual expression is dirty. I believe that there is a "nice boys don't" and that it is just as powerful for my husband as "nice girls don't" is for me.

When I mean that men are taught that their sexual expression is dirty, this is what I mean:

-- Growing up, ejaculating in the sheets on his bed—even if his arousal happened while he was asleep—is so universally considered something shameful that it's the basis for comedy routines.
-- They get it drilled into them that masturbation is pathetic and something you would never do if you had a real partner. And nobody told you that when you do have a real partner, she might find the sight of you masturbating A) extremely arousing and B) highly instructional, as it's an incredibly powerful way of demonstrating to her what kind of rhythm and pressure actually works (most women don't go fast enough and don't dare squeeze a man's shaft firmly enough). If you feel that scenario lacks the kind of power exchange that you want in your relationship...just have her kneel while you do it. Presto change-o, it's now incredibly hot for both of you and fits into the dynamic each of you has freely chosen for your relationship.
3. They're told that their interest in porn is crass and that they should hide it.

Why are the sexual expressions of men so derided? For me, coming to accept my husband's sexuality JUST AS HE IS, RIGHT NOW, including the fact that, yeah, he does find some porn hot...well, it's something that helps us feel profoundly bonded to each other. He trusts me to see him as he really is, and to react to that not by shaming him but by accepting him and by being truly willing to open my mind to things he finds arousing rather than "suffering through them." That's not always easy, because for some women, me included, seeing the fact that my husband is aroused by female performers who don't have a single ripple or bump on them is hard for me. Those girls really are hotter than everyone—because that's their job and when I think about how much effort it must be I can only say that I have profound respect for their work ethic.

Sitting in our darkened bedroom together, naked, on the bed, a single laptop across our laps while he shows me his favorite porn clips? I know it sounds crazy, but for me that is a place where I experience real wonder, the wonder and awe that I always should have had for the depth, variety, and scope of my husband's sexuality, and for the courage he has to show it to me without shame. My man watches porn: and I love him all the better for it. I wish I had half the sexual courage he has shown in our relationship.

Best,

Lily

The Essence Of Taken In Hand

Lily, I found myself agreeing with everything you wrote until I reached the last two paragraphs.

Semen on the sheets after a wet dream, masturbation to relieve loneliness and through lack of a willing mate and early morning erections are all perfectly natural and normal and no man should ever feel ashamed or dirty because these things are a part of their life, but porn?

I am a woman who is enormously aroused by aural stimulus, that is to say when my husband talks to me in that certain way, describing what he wants me to do or playfully scolding me my arousal takes flight; with that in mind is it OK if I sit naked on our bed in our darkened bedroom while some unknown man talks to me over the phone about all the ways he could tie me up, take me and spank me while my husband sits there complimenting the depth, variety, and scope of my sexual exploration—of course not. Sometimes we just have to rise above our base instincts, grow up and do the right thing.

A life without porn is hardly unbearable especially when we realize that what we stand to gain is far more valuable than what we're "sacrificing" then it ain't that hard to do either.