Dr. Sheck,

My husband and I have been married for six years, and have a three-year old son. My husband watches porn videos regularly and by himself. He’s been doing this since before our marriage. I’m not a prude and I can accept his habit. In fact, I wanted to share this part of his life with him, but he prefers to “practice” in solitude. It’s the rejection that hurts me so much.

Our sex life has been steadily declining since our son was born and now we have sex at most once or twice a month. I’m becoming very depressed, detached from him, and feel very insecure about myself as a woman now. I’ve told him this and he tries to reassure me, saying that he will stop, but he doesn’t. Is my husband a sex addict? What can I do?


Dear Abandoned,

It certainly wouldn’t be appropriate for me to diagnose your husband as a “sex addict” by email. And while the term “sexual addiction” is used more and more often these days, it still has no psychiatric definition. I encourage you to explore self-help groups, such as Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), and educate yourself about “sex addiction” and how it is defined. The groups can be of tremendous support for you and your family.

Labels and diagnoses aside, what is clear, is that your husband is using the pornography as a way to avoid intimacy (sexual and emotional) in your marriage. And that is what needs to be addressed. Perhaps this has always been his way to avoid intimacy, to avoid reality. What’s just as important is for you to discover how you avoid intimacy, what your part in this might be.

Many couples experience a reduction in their sexual activity after the birth of a child. Everything changes and this is perfectly normal. The focus is on a third being now, instead of on only each other. And frankly, as I’m sure you know, the first few years of a child’s life are exhausting for the parents. If the couple doesn’t deal with the changing dynamics, their emotional connection may become stretched quite thin.

It is much easier to get lost in the fantasy of perfection, of meaningless sexual release with a video woman (or a number of them) with perfect breasts, perfect ab’s, perfect rears, doing whatever you’d like them to do. It’s not reality! None of us are perfect and even if we have “perfect” bodies, we won’t have them forever! Masturbating alone to videos has nothing to do with intimacy, trust or communication. Building intimacy, creating a family, going through crises together – that’s hard, painstaking work. It’s not easy!

It’s just rewarding and satisfying to know that when the day ends, that you’ve done your best for yourself and those you love. So, enough lecturing and philosophy. This is an intimacy issue, not a sexual issue. It needs a psychological and/or spiritual solution. And from my perspective, it’s too big for you and your husband to deal with on your own. You need professional help — a mental health professional, a spiritual advisor, a self-help group, perhaps all three.

And whomever you may find to support you in this, please make sure that they are compassionate and judgment-free (this unfortunately may rule out certain spiritual advisors, hopefully not). Your husband doesn’t need to be judged on a moral basis for this, but understood on a psychological basis. The two of you need to nurture your relationship to a more connected, more healthy place, with strong, yet tender facilitation. Please keep me posted on how you are doing with this issue.

Dr. Adam Sheck

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