Dear Dr. Love,I have been with my husband for approx. 10 yrs. He has strong sexual fantasies including voyeurism. He has difficulty becoming aroused without the thought of acting out these fantasies. He relies heavily on pornograghy and has a history of wanting to hide this from me. It feels almost obsessive to me. Obsessiveness seems to permeate other areas of his life as well-example-time on our home computer. He believes counseling is not effective. What leads to obsessive behaviors? What is the best method for treatment and where can I go with my questions?Thank you, The confused wife who doesn’t want to be prudish but….
It is not easy to feel shut-out in your own home. I commend you for having the strength and the courage to write me about this problem. It sounds like your husband suffers from a paraphilia, which means outside the usual love. Some paraphilias are similar to behaviors that most of us engage in and do not find disruptive to satisfying interpersonal relationships. Examples of such nondisruptive paraphilias include a man’s greater arousal when his wife wears black, lacy underwear. This kind of behavior only becomes a problem, and is called a paraphilia, when the object or behavior is required for arousal and satisfaction, thus interfering with the development or maintenance of an intimate relationship between two whole, responsive, loving individuals.Many people have voyeuristic tendencies and enjoy watching videos and erotic films in which other people engage in sexual activity. But, here’s the catch, most people don’t need this form of activity to become aroused. It sounds like your husband does.Since your husband doesn’t want to go to counseling, you can start talking to him yourself. The first question I would ask him is why he feels the need to hide his interest from you? Is he ashamed? Does he fear that you would be angry? How would he feel if you stepped into the fantasies with him? Would he allow you to watch the videos with him?It is believed that voyeurism begins in childhood–when a boy masturbates while spying on his parents while they’re making love. By repeating this activity, the child becomes conditioned to link peeping with pleasure, and, soon, peeping is needed in order to become aroused. Because spying on one’s parents is a forbidden activity, shame, guilt and an urge to hide one’s sexual activity becomes woven into that person sexuality. The fact that your husband hides his activity from you makes me wonder if he has spied on his parents and feels ashamed and guilty.By talking openly with him, you can help him to come out of the closet, which should soften his shame and guilt. Eventually, he may feel willing to incorporate his fantasies into your lovemaking as a couple. That is if it’s all right with you. I did have the sense that you were not entirely thrilled at the idea of jumping into his voyeuristic fantasies. I suspect that you feel shut-out by his voyeurism.Which brings me to my second point. It sounds like your husband unconsciously uses voyeurism, as well as other obsessive activities like the computer, to keep you at a distance. How can we tell if his various activities are all designed to avoid intimacy? One way to know is to offer to jump into his voyeuristic fantasies. If he is afraid or unwilling to let you join in, then we have a pretty good idea that he is afraid of closeness.If it turns out that your husband uses various obsessive activities to ward off intimacy, I suggest you search my Advice Archives and read the articles which discuss why certain people are terrified of intimacy and what can be done about it.In addition to driving away intimacy, obsessive behaviors often serve another function. They help people manage their own internal emotional states. If a person is riddled with anger or anxiety, for example, obsessive behaviors can push down these unwanted feelings. Once you talk with your husband, you will have a better idea of whether he is terrified of intimacy, warding off unwanted feelings in himself or merely recreating his first sexual experiences of childhood.I would look upon his various obsessive behaviors as symptoms which mask other deeper issues and struggles. Our job is to get him talking about those deeper issues. After you open the dialogue, and find out more about what are the real issues, you and I can do a private consult and discuss what options are available for you. I will talk to you soon.