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My Husband Frequents Sex Sites on the Internet

QUESTION: My husband has been frequenting sex related sites on the Internet early in the morning before the rest of the family is awake. I have talked about this with him, and while he agrees that it is wrong, he doesn't stop doing it! I am hurt because it seems to be just a different form of having an affair! He is excited about sexual acts that I don't want to 'perform', and I have told him that. While I try to be open minded and willing to 'experiment' to some degree, I don't feel that I should have to do things I am uncomfortable with. What can I do?

Your husband is expressing conflict between what he believes is "right" and his own actions. Since his behavior is in conflict with his beliefs, it is appropriate for him to seek professional help to understand the meaning of the behavior he is seeking, but unable, to control.

Your feelings of hurt and rejection are understandable, and the good news is that you are talking openly about this situation. Your husband's attempts to hide his activities from you by accessing the Internet early in the morning before you awake suggests some sense of shame which is important for him to recognize and resolve. His actions may represent an addiction of some kind which needs treatment. If this is the case, the addictive behavior is often used to stimulate a person out of a depression. Naturally, these attempts only lead to deepened depression, as self-esteem deteriorates and emotional needs remain unmet.

Ask your husband to seek help for his internal conflict. Do not take on responsibility for "experimentation" that makes you uncomfortable. Do, however, consider any emotional meaning his "Internet affair" may have for your relationship. Is he honest with you about his needs in other areas outside of sex? Does he feel he is your equal partner in decision making in your lives together? Sometimes, men fail to assert themselves in relationship except in the sexual sphere. Could he be repressing his needs for self-expression in the marriage for fear of conflict with you? If the meaning of his behavior is rooted in powerlessness in the marriage, there is work to be done together!

Your husband is fortunate to be the recipient of your love and consideration. He may need your help along the way, if it becomes clear that treatment for an addiction is in order. But remain open to any possibility that his sexual focus may also mask difficulty expressing his needs directly in other areas of the marriage. By seeking his own therapy, he will benefit from understanding himself. This should help him determine his needs and shed light on the best course of action for himself and your relationship. It is probable that couples' counseling will be beneficial at some point in this discovery process.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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