Find the Right Therapist

Find the Right Therapist

Advanced Search | Don't show me this again.


Why Does My Husband Go to Adult Bookstores?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I have been worried for some time about my husband's activities in adult bookstores. Before we met, he went to the booths in the back to watch porn and masturbate and act as a voyeur with the other people there. At one point, years ago, he actually participated in some of the sexual activity there through "glory holes" some of the customers had made in the walls of the booths. He has a lot of shame about the behaviors and I am very upset to find out that he still goes to those places, though he claims he stays away from the other people there now. Other than this, we are a very happy couple and have a lot of fun together. Is he a sex addict? Am I overreacting? Is there any kind of guidance you can give me about this? I am really hurting about his continued use of the porn booths in the back of the adult bookstores. - Hurting


Dear Hurting,

Hello, thank you for writing. First of all let me say that you sound like a very supportive, caring partner. You are not “doing” anything to make the situation worse; if anything, you are supporting your husband and trying very valiantly to be understanding. You are acting quite gracefully under pressure, I think.

Addiction is self-diagnosed, which makes it something of an anomaly. But only the actual person doing the behavior can say yes or no as to whether they truly have an addiction. However, I am hearing some red flags that make me think what your husband is experiencing is in the ballpark, or somewhere along the spectrum. (Just as someone who drinks heavily every weekend may not be a full-blown alcoholic but does show tendencies.) So let me just suppose for a moment that we’re talking about either a compulsion or something on the “addictive spectrum.” Treating it like an addiction is probably most helpful to address the problem behaviorally and emotionally, even if it is more like an addictive “pattern” or low on the scale. (Just like cancer, if you have a low-stage problem, you want to address it sooner rather than later!)

So, having made this caveat, I’ll start by saying that, addictive/compulsive behaviors affect the entire family. If you consider addiction an illness (which I do), then it wouldn’t be surprising for you to be feeling stress; just imagine if your husband had another type of illness, like depression, or an anxiety disorder, then of course you would be strongly affected. You’re only human.

And of course you’re going to have strong feelings about something as intimate as sex; sexuality is extremely private and intimate, and your partner is engaging in behaviors that are probably pretty puzzling. He knows it hurts you, and it probably hurts him, too, yet it continues. How strange is that?! This is the tragedy of these kinds of behaviors; the person engaging in them truly does not mean to hurt anyone, but it ends up doing just that.

There is nothing you can do to stop your husband from doing this. You can support his efforts to get help and tell him how it affects you (which I encourage), or you can suggest and support his taking proactive measures (group support, therapy, spiritual counseling, psychiatry, etc.), but you cannot “do” anything that will get him to take decisive action. You can drive him to a therapist’s office, but you cannot go in and talk for him. In fact, it’ll only make things worse if you try to act “for” him. It’s up to him to want to get help; if he doesn’t, then feel free to let him know how that hurts and/or concerns you.

The bad news is, those struggling with addiction cannot stop on willpower alone—usually. The other bad news is that this will most likely not just “go away” or get better on its own. The good news is, both of you can be proactive. There are resources out there that are very helpful if one makes use of them. I find both partners need support in a situation like this. Your husband sounds like a good guy who wants to do the right thing, but his compulsive urges have hijacked his nervous system and decision-making processes. (Addictive or compulsive urges or impulses override the “executive” functioning and logical part of the brain, in favor of more primal, fear-based mechanisms; this is not a choice, it just is. Good therapy and other professional help can help redirect those urges and feelings into healthier behaviors.)

Find a Therapist for Addiction

Advanced Search

Most importantly, I urge you to get help for yourself, for your own stress and anxiety and confusion. I would at least try some one-on-one therapy. So often, partners are more upset about this than they’re even conscious of, until they start talking about it. Also, “the problem” takes up so much room that there’s little left for the partner’s issues or feelings, which seem “so trifling” in comparison with the big, dramatic issues (behaviors). But your feelings about all this are crucial and need to be heard. This is why I urge partners of those who are struggling to start with their own therapy for a month or two before seeking couples counseling.

This is not a hard and fast rule by any means, just a suggestion. The reason is, you likely need a safe place to vent about your frustration, sadness, anger, etc., stuff you might want to process or expunge before facing your husband. Without support, we often stuff hurtful feelings until we explode and then ruminate with guilt, then stuff it again, become resentful, or withdraw/withhold (isolate), and the cycle continues. Thus I suggest seeking out a therapist who understands addiction and can empathically educate you on what you can and can’t do for your husband and what might or might not be helpful to support yourself and to just listen openly to your experience. Having a witness to all this, to confirm, validate, and empathize, will likely help a lot.

I also recommend seeking out, either in person or online, a support group such as S-Anon, which provides group education and support to partners of those who struggle with sexual compulsivity. I will provide a link at the end of this paragraph that takes you to their main website, which offers general information, literature, meeting info, and so forth. It is a very valuable resource: http://www.sanon.org/

Al-Anon is another terrific resource if no S-Anon meetings are available in your area. True, al-Anon is technically for partners of alcoholics, but if you attend a meeting you can always say someone you know “might be an addict” and you’ll be welcomed. (Try a few meetings in either program before deciding to stay with it or not; some are better than others.) Of course, your participation in all of this is completely anonymous. (Sometimes folks say, “I can’t go because I don’t want to embarrass my spouse.” You don’t have to say it’s your spouse with the problem, in fact you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. )

I commend you for writing; it is a brave first step and takes courage. Clearly you are a caring person and want to do right by your husband and your marriage. Taking care of yourself will help both of you; it’s good role modeling, first of all, and we always make better decisions and communicate more clearly when we are feeling supported and taken care of. Whatever you do, try not to “figure it out” alone. Addiction (or afflictions that are similar) create isolation and fragmentation in families and marriages and are unbearably painful. Connecting with another human who provides help and an open ear, and heart, can be an invaluable way to start to feel like yourself again. I wish you the best of luck finding solution, and thank you again for writing.


  • Vaughn October 16th, 2012 at 3:40 PM #1

    I am hurt to learn that there would be nothing that I could do to stop my husband from acting out in this way. Are you saying that if I am going through the same thing as this writer that there is nothing that I could say or do to get him to stop doing this? I think that if this was my own personal situation I would have such a hard time understanding why he feels the need to do this and I would constantly be looking for the things that I was doing that would drive him to do this. I don’t think that is being irrational, just being a wife who is concerned and hurt by that behavior. Surely the love of his family would be enough to draw him back in and make him see the error of his judgement?

  • Genelle October 16th, 2012 at 4:38 PM #2

    Huh, why does it always feel like the pervy action of men actually make us women feel so bad about ourselves when really they are the ones who should feel bad?

  • paul October 17th, 2012 at 3:55 AM #3

    Wives never want to think that they have anything to do with this, but how could that be?
    Don’t you think that if a man is satisfied at home then he will be less willing to seek this out elsewhere?
    I know, I know I am going to be blasted for that, but some part of me can’t help but think that’s true.

  • Rolanda October 17th, 2012 at 9:42 AM #4

    Support him but only to an extent.Don’t fall into the trap of living with his addictions or whatever he may mask his weaknesses with.There is a limit to everything and especially for something of a sexual nature.Don’t let him take over your mind and feel bad about yourself.If he chooses not to improve then you know you have to walk away!

  • Sherri Anne October 17th, 2012 at 1:05 PM #5

    Paul- pointing the finger of b blame only adds to the problem, can never be part of the solution

  • andrew October 18th, 2012 at 12:21 AM #6

    no you are not overreacting and in fact you have been putting up with too much.I would never stay with him if I were in your place.Seriously,even as a guy,that sickens me!

  • Chico October 18th, 2012 at 11:12 PM #7

    Your husband is probably gay. Straight men do not go to Adult Bookstores. He probably isn’t able to come to terms with his own sexuality.

  • MsDragon October 20th, 2012 at 8:45 AM #8

    I am going through a similar experience. Im married to a porn addict. I know too well the pain this type of behavior causes us spouses. I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a forum especially created for spouses and partners of sex and porn addicts. I invite you to join us. It is a great place to learn from other spouses, vent, cry, make friends and have your questions answered. Its free and completely anonymous, so please feel free to stop by and read. You don’t have to sign up to read.


  • Darren Haber, MFT February 17th, 2013 at 9:25 AM #9

    Thanks for your responses. It is a shade of gray and not at all black and white, in terms of “what can I do to stop my partner from this behavior”? The short version is, you can only share your own vulnerability in terms of how it is hurting you, how you need it to stop and a willingness to discuss each of your contribution to what is or is not helping the relationship. But first your partner must be willing to close that exit door and address the compulsive behavior or the problem will only perpetuate. Most of the time, without stopping, no meaningful discussions can be had unless the destructive behavior comes to an end. Somewhat akin to alcoholism; until the alcohol abuse stops, the relationship will continue to be abused by alcoholism. You’ve got to get the bully out of the house so the bruises can begin to heal. But doing that requires a “we” not a “me”.

  • Seattle August 5th, 2013 at 4:03 PM #10

    Coming from a female point of view, I totally agree with you. Marriage is all about compromise right trying to please on another. So why wouldn’t sexual pleasure count.

  • sneaky straight November 25th, 2014 at 5:15 AM #11

    my take on a husband or bf visiting adult bookstores (how often & how long he stays is an important factor too) this is alot like so many other situations/scenarios in life where its not exactly black and white.
    Sure its one thing for a guy to go in a place like that to buy some porn movies or magazines to look at and spank it later or maybe to pick up some sexy lingerie or a toy for himself or both partners to use or try out? But if he is frequenting the place and or if hes going back in the booths to watch some porn which by its very nature & reputation for things like; voyerism, taboo M2M encounters and gloryholes with swinger wives letting strangers watch her having sex or has them join in the se activities themis a passive way of interacting with the other people back ther especially since about hmmm roughly 99.99% of everyone who goes back there is not there with intent to innocently watch some porn ignoring everyone else there i dont think its an ok thing to do or healthy or but i do the same thing

  • Monica February 13th, 2015 at 7:11 PM #12

    I just found out after 8 years of marriage my spouse has been going to these places. He is the one who has been depriving and starving me for sex.. While he goes and relieves himself. He has been going for over 20 years. I offer him every sexual desire he could want to be for filled. So I will tell you my strong opinion is I have nothing to do with the problem and it began long before I was with him.

  • Monica February 13th, 2015 at 7:26 PM #13

    Ask him to stop. Ask him to seek help. Ask him to take lie detector every 3 months then six then 12. To prove he did stop. I think that could be helpful. Along with therapy for your own self to deal with the hurt.

  • Debra S. March 16th, 2015 at 11:23 AM #14

    Have you ever wondered if he is Gay?

Leave a Reply

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.




* = Required fields