by S., Australia
Quite some years ago, when my second child was aged one, I came upon an intense period in my relationship with my partner. At this time, we shared a computer and had a room set up as an office. One day, when my daughter was at pre-school, my son asleep and my partner out, I was on our home computer; I had been looking something up several days before and so I visited the web history to go back to the page I was on. I stumbled onto something there that completely took me by surprise.
I was not suspecting anything and was certainly not looking for anything. As far as I was aware I had nothing to be concerned about, but I discovered that my partner had been looking at porn on the internet.
Up until this point, the only relationship I had had with porn was once as a teenager; I was with one of my friends and we went to visit her boyfriend at his friend’s house. There was a group of boys there, centred around a television, watching a porn movie. On this occasion, I found this quite interesting to observe… not the film, but the boys. I felt it was quite strange how here they were, all together, watching this for fun. But it was also like they were so far removed from it that it was like watching a game of football or a soap opera. They were just ‘numb’ and ‘blank’ in front of the TV. I caught a glimpse of the images on the TV, which I found bizarre to watch – it seemed from another world.
But here I was, sitting at my computer – faced with the shock of feeling what my partner had secretly been up to. I felt a myriad of feelings in a short space of time. I felt betrayed, like he had been with other women. I felt dirty and ashamed, as though I had been a part of this, even though I had not. Then there were feelings of wondering what was so wrong with me? I felt so deeply hurt that I didn’t even dare let myself completely feel what was there to feel – in full.
As I sat in front of the computer, I saw that he had looked at page after page over many days; as far as my computer history showed me, of various things, mainly pictures. I felt drawn to look at them, trying to see what he was seeing in them. Looking at the types of women he had been looking at, wondering, are these the types of women he finds attractive? It was a very confusing moment as I could feel my sense of self-worth suddenly start to plummet. I started questioning myself, who I was, what I looked like, was I boring, was I a ‘prude’? And at the same time sitting in front of a computer looking at these images, I could feel how intensely hooking these internet pages were.
I couldn’t wait to bring this up with my partner. I wanted to address it as soon as possible. But what was I going to say? How would I approach this when I still felt in such a spin about it? The spin was taking me on a descending spiral, focussing on what must be wrong with me – with our relationship.
When we had the time later that evening, alone, when the kids were asleep, I had my opportunity to bring it up. I realise now that I wasn’t ready to do this, because I hadn’t given myself the time to feel it for myself before speaking with him, and because of that – it didn’t go along the lines I had imagined. I had not yet stopped and honoured what I felt and the fact of how devastated I was, before I proceeded to the next step.
When I addressed what I had found with my partner, I could sense he felt exposed, but perhaps he didn’t know how to express what he was feeling. I was still very much in the hurt of it and didn’t dare show the depths of what I felt either – I was protecting the feelings of rejection that were there. He defended himself, saying things along the lines of our intimate relationship not being often enough, saying he needed more. The more he said, the more hurt I felt. In fact the hurt was cementing itself here. I wasn’t holding to what I felt, in fact truthfully – I hadn’t yet given myself the chance to really feel it.
The final clincher was, “well, you know, I’d much rather look at this – with you”. I felt this, even at that time, as the ‘throwing me a bone’ that it was. This was his way out of an awkward situation – offering a solution to a problem or issue that needed to be addressed in the relationship. But I could feel this wasn’t the way. Unfortunately at that time, the doubt I had in myself, the lack of confidence and low self-worth, all contributed to me agreeing with this temporary solution. I had a rush of past experiences flashing before me, voices echoing “You’re so boring”, “you’re so straight”, “you’re no fun”.
So from there, we agreed to look at some pictures online together at some point. I remember feeling his delight and my feeling so, so sad, but I didn’t choose to stay with the true feelings I was having – the feelings of sadness, that this was where we had come to. But instead I chose to go with the feelings that came from the lack of self-worth.
Our phase of looking at this was very short lived, a matter of weeks. My partner was very into it, he found it very much a ‘turn on’ and very exciting – he even felt like we were breaking new ground. I, on the other hand, had difficulties with it. For me, it felt like we were going backwards or really just getting further away from having a lovely, intimate connection. We were searching online for different images / videos, but nothing ever felt right, I wasn’t finding it a turn on – but a turn off. It was awful to feel the way the people were with each other, particularly how the men were with the women, but also how the women were with themselves. I found I wanted to avoid all of the images of men, and found that the images of women alone or women with women were more bearable, even though I had no interest in women in an intimate or sexual way. I found my breathing would change, it would feel erratic and not the normal gentleness of breath I was used to. I would also feel anxious and stimulated, as though I had drunk coffee (which I hadn’t done for many years, as I didn’t like that racy feeling).
I found that I couldn’t look my children in the eye anymore. I felt so ashamed. I had no judgement of anyone else taking part in this, but my insides felt like they were screaming how wrong it felt for me.
Over these weeks, as I had the time to feel clearly that I did not enjoy this, and honoured the fact that this was normal for me, I again broached the subject with my partner. I realised that seeking this type of intimacy was not the solution for me. For me it felt far more natural for us to connect to one another, as the man and woman we were, in a raw and open way.
So, I confronted him and I said I can no longer take part in this. I told him all about how it had affected me, how I even felt uncomfortable around our children when they were naked. I felt like somehow I must be imposing that onto them; I didn’t know how or why I knew this but it was a very strong feeling. It was like I could feel the energy of what we had been part of – around me, around us. I expressed my feelings so clearly, that he really got it then – how devastating it was for us to take our potential to make love to an expression that was all about sex, stimulation, body parts, and relief. There was no heart-felt connection in it.
This experience was a big learning for me. I got to feel what happens when I take an issue that is going on outside of me and bring it inside of me. This is what I did when I chose to react to what I found, to take it personally by making it about me and the fact that something must be wrong with me – rather than accepting it as it was, and dealing with it from there.
Even at that time, I did not have the awareness I have now – my approach to that situation in hindsight, would have been completely different. I would have been more honest about what I was feeling and why I wasn’t always interested in sex / intimacy and would have allowed him the opportunity to express what he was feeling and why. With that type of dialogue we could have grown so much; in fact this took a few years more to really begin.
What I always knew deep inside, was that being intimate in this way was about making love, but at that time, we had to feel just how far away from love-making we had gone. The lack of true connection and love-making was the key to why we were both discontented in our intimacy with one another.