My Husband Had Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction

My Husband Had Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction And I Didn’t Know For Years

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The first time I had sex with my husband, he didn’t come. I found out much later that this was standard for him — for most of his sex life, he got hard, but then lost it halfway through. As our relationship got serious, the sex got better, but it never seemed to feel like it should for me. Even when we were two young honeymooners with no kids and tons of time, we didn’t do it as often as I wanted. There were still times he didn’t come. He blamed it on dehydration, alcohol, work stress, lack of sleep, or worrying about my orgasm.

After a couple of kids and no time, inevitably we did it even less. He rarely asked for it. And if I asked for it, it was a crapshoot whether he would be into it. The timing had to be just right — he had to be well rested, not too drunk, not too full, not too busy. I told myself he probably had a low sex drive, and took what I could get.

Over the years, I only found porn a handful of times. He was crazy good at hiding it. But there was still a nagging feeling, a block in our sex life that I couldn’t figure out. Once we were laughing about the infamous Seinfeld masturbation episode, and I jokingly asked him how many times he jerked off per week. He looked uncomfortable, and admitted to 4-5 times per week. I was stunned. I of course wondered: How does he have the energy to jerk off that much but have no energy for me?

One day during an Internet research deep-dive into relationship and sexual issues, I read an article on porn addiction and porn-induced erectile dysfunction. In that moment, even without a lot of proof, I knew.

I told him about the article. To my shock, he told me that he’d long suspected he was addicted to porn, and that he used it most days of the week as a way to cope. He said he’d tried to kick it over the years, but couldn’t seem to, and he wanted to stop once and for all, with me and for me.

Now that I understood more of the extent of his relationship with porn, I felt terrified, betrayed, kind of horrified, but timidly hopeful. After he first quit, he said he felt empty and blank and wasn’t interested in sex. This, I found out, is a common response to quitting porn. But in the months that followed, he changed physically. He got harder than he ever had, and he came quickly and way more easily. He wanted sex more often. I told him how different his body seemed since quitting porn, and I think he was glad, but I also think it was extremely painful for him to realize the damage porn had done not just to our relationship, but to all of his past relationships and ultimately, of course, to himself.

A few months after he’d agreed to quit, we got into a fight. When we had sex after we made up, he lost his hard on. I knew it was the porn. He was more defensive than he had ever been when I confronted him, saying that he was under pressure at work and if he needed porn sometimes as a release, he was going to do it.

At this point, I didn’t know if I could stay married to him. He had promised to quit, and he didn’t. On top of feeling betrayed, I felt this pressure to behave a certain way so he wouldn’t be tempted to turn to porn. I obsessively monitored him for signs of porn use. I checked his phone when I could guess his passcode. I listened outside the bathroom door when he’d been in there for a while. In a moment of desperation, I sniffed his underwear to see if I could detect semen.

Eventually, we started to find our way back to each other. Things seemed better in bed. But then about a year later, we had the worst fight of our marriage. We were disconnected, two withdrawn zombies going through the motions of taking care of children and living in the same house. After a few weeks we reconnected, but the sex was off again. He held me as I sobbed in bed after he couldn’t come. He admitted he did go back to porn, just while we were fighting, and he was sorry, that he wanted us to be close.

The next night, I told him that I couldn’t be married to him if he didn’t stop the porn. I told him it was a bottom-line, non-negotiable for me, that it felt like infidelity in the sense that he was spending sexual energy on something that wasn’t me, and in secret. I told him that while porn might be healthy in some relationships, in ours it’s poison.

He promised he would stop for good. That was over a year ago now, and since that time only once have we talked about the porn again. One night he couldn’t come, and I fell apart. I told him when he doesn’t come, I am afraid he is back on it. He promised he isn’t. But I have no real way to know this is true. Porn is a constant, untraceable threat that can be conjured up at any moment, on any device. It’s also really freaking hard to quit. As one Reddit user put it, “It’s like trying to quit smoking and having a pack of cigarettes in your pocket.”

Sex with him remains loaded for me. Each time he gets slightly soft my stomach turns. We still don’t have sex as much as I’d like, and I never initiate it. When he watches an R-rated movie with bare tits and then wants to have sex, I feel a bit disgusted. I try to convince myself that it’s good he’s bringing his sexual energy to me rather than jerking off in secret.

Sometimes I wish I’d listened to my gut that something was off and gotten out earlier. Sometimes I wish I’d held out for someone with a healthy orientation to sex, who could meet my needs and beyond, who could grow with me sexually with full trust and respect. It will never be like that in my marriage. In an insidious, invisible way, porn destroyed the possibility of those things, and I mourn the loss of them.

But I have come to a kind of cautious acceptance. I had to first grieve the marriage I thought I had, let it die and move through all the stages to get to this place. I was in denial and then angry for a long time. I think the obsessive monitoring may have been a kind of bargaining. Then I fell into a sadness where I felt sorry for myself, wallowed in being a victim. I move back and forth between the stages, and I probably always will. I have come to accept that the porn is part of the story of this marriage, and to know that it isn’t my fault, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it, just as there is nothing I could have done to prevent him from a different addiction or illness.

I am not here to judge porn or jerking off. I’ve had relationships where porn was healthy and fun, and masturbation can be awesome. But it’s different with my husband. He found porn at age eleven and started using it as a way to cope with his shitty childhood, and it was mired in secrecy and shame. Over time he needed more of it and more extreme types of it to get off. And sure, it aroused him sexually, but that wasn’t why he used it. He used it to escape, to numb, to get a release from expectations and anxiety. When I finally realized this was when I realized that just because he’d stopping jerking off to porn didn’t mean he’d want to have sex with me 4-5 times a week. Porn and sex have two very different purposes for him.

That said, it’s complicated when porn takes away someone’s desire and even physical ability to have sex with their partner. I put it this way to him once: imagine he found out I’d been secretly shopping or gambling or otherwise siphoning money away from our net worth for years (he grew up in a very low income household and money is his top worry), and we’d be many thousands of dollars richer if I hadn’t been doing that. If he never found out about it, was it hurting him? When I presented him with this scenario, he could see the problems with both the betrayal and the secret draining of a resource that belonged to the relationship. So even though the porn wasn’t about me, and way predated me, it still affected me, and it still felt like he needed to make a choice: me or the porn.

And I felt (and continue to feel) like I had three choices: leave him and thus ruin ours and our kids’ lives, stay with him and be consumed with a suspicion that would probably destroy me, or stay with him and decide to trust him and move forward. I chose option three, and it’s the best I can do for now.