Julie (late 30’s) had been living with Harry (also late 30’s) for 6 months when she discovered that he often snuck off to his computer room in the middle of the night to look at internet porn. They both have good jobs and Julie says the sex is good, so what’s with Harry? Harry says that there’s no problem; it’s perfectly normal and it’s no big deal. It doesn’t affect how he feels about her; it’s on his own time and there’s no reason for him to stop. She shouldn’t be so judgmental.
Julie can’t find a good reason to justify her dislike of it, but she’s concerned about where it might lead.
What would you do?
Julie shouldn’t debate about what’s normal or try to convince Harry that her feelings should matter.
She should see clearly what’s ahead and get out of there. She has already gotten her gut response to the question, “Do I want to be with someone who leaves our bed and sneaks off to look at porn?” She should trust her gut response of “No.” Her feelings are sufficient for her to act; she doesn’t have to convince him she’s reasonable or right.
She may be getting along well with Harry now, but in addition to dealing with a person who leaves their bed to look at internet porn, she’s also dealing with a narcissistic, covert, stealthy bullying boyfriend.
When there are problems or pressure in the relationship, he’ll choose porn over her. He’ll withdraw from the difficulties of face-to-face intimacy and turn to virtual, not real, reality. Later, as a stealth bully, he’ll get blaming, manipulative and demanding. He’ll try to make her feelings sound wrong, old fashioned and uncaring. He’ll claim that his porn habit is her fault. He’ll say that she should stop nagging and trying to guilt-trip him. If she only gave him what he needed, he’d stop. But no matter what she does, it’ll never be exactly right or it’ll never be enough for him.
Why do I predict that? Experience as a coach and therapist. I’ve seen it over and over. And it also happened in this example.
Julie should focus on behavior she wants or doesn’t want in her environment; not on philosophical arguments. She’s never going to change him. Later responsibilities as a husband and father won’t change him. He’s a bullying, narcissistic control-freak who’s addicted to porn. She doesn’t need to convince him that he needs therapy to end his addiction. She should get the coaching she needs to get away as fast as she can.
Julie needs coaching to decrease self-doubt and self-bullying (Case Studies # 8 and 9 in “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks”). She also needs counseling to get past her fear that Harry is right; if he leaves, she’ll never find anyone else. She should ignore her self-bullying; that little voice that doesn’t like her, that tells her that Harry might be right.
She needs to start living the life she wants to lead. Just like Lucy in case study # 14 of my book, if she doesn’t trust her own guts, she’ll get sucked in. The longer she goes on Harry’s roller coaster ride, the harder it will be to get off. Does she want to settle for Harry as the best she’ll ever get? Does she want the pain?