Relationship Connection: My husband obsesses over every woman he knows except me

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Question

I have been married for 25 years. A little over four years ago my husband told me he is addicted to women. Even though he’s had a problem with pornography most of his life, his main problem is that he criticizes me and compares me to every woman he’s seen. He has multiple crushes on women from our church and neighborhood and admits to having inappropriate thoughts about them.

He gets defensive if I point out that these women only look like this because they’ve been surgically enhanced. He says he is not attracted to me, and a little over a year ago told me we were no longer married and if he decided he wanted to marry me he would ask me. He has not asked yet.

We sleep in the same bed and do things like go to a drive-through for dates. He tells me I’m fat and ugly but lusts over women that I feel would be equal or less than my beauty. He claims I have no talents, which I really don’t because he either discouraged me from having them or took over any projects I would start because they didn’t look how he thought they should, and I was incapable of doing anything well in his opinion.

We have been to three years of counseling, and he goes to 12-step meetings. I’m at the end of my hope that he will ever give up his preferences that draws him to other women. I feel it is not only demeaning to me but to them.

I understand that as humans we will find other people attractive, I don’t believe, however, it is the same as being obsessed with them for days, weeks, months and even years in his case. He stays home as much as possible because there isn’t a woman he will not run through his filter and find something he likes, even if it’s simply her shoes, then he will obsess over her and compare me to her.

I am struggling to even breathe and feel I am teaching my daughters that it is acceptable to allow a man to treat you poorly and that forgiveness means allowing that behavior to continue. He quit his job a year and a half ago claiming he’d be able to get over the crushes he had on co-workers, yet he has not been able to get over them. We are in financial ruin, and I feel I’m drowning.

Any advice on how he can get over his preferences or how I can accept that he will always “love women” would be appreciated.

Answer

These are oppressive conditions, and you won’t be able to feel the freedom to breathe and relax until something changes. If he won’t change, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change your situation. Your mental health and well-being matter and will have a significant impact on your ability to care for and teach your daughters. I’m glad you recognize the seriousness of this problem and are willing to seek help.

I’ve never met your husband, obviously, so I can’t make a professional assessment about whether he has an addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder or something else. You shouldn’t spend your time trying to diagnose him either, as it can make it more difficult to create actual accountability for the way he’s treating you.

In other words, sometimes spouses who are being emotionally and spiritually abused focus on causes of their abuser’s behavior instead of the more uncomfortable task of accepting the reality of what’s really happening in the present. This approach can also evolve into making excuses for abusive behavior.

The reality is that your husband is acting in a demeaning and degrading way to you by his actions and his words. Your husband may act like he chose to not be married to you, but his actions actually disqualify him from being your husband. None of us has an automatic right to have access to or treat our spouse in degrading ways.

You need to protect yourself and not allow him to access to your ears, your body, your mind or your heart. He can’t be trusted with the way he’s treating you. Having this type of intimate access to someone is a privilege and should be guarded and protected with the utmost care. Every time he speaks to you this way or places you below other women, he forfeits his right to have your trust and security.

You aren’t powerless to respond to this. I don’t know what you will specifically do in your situation, but you can direct your life.

I wouldn’t recommend you continue marriage counseling when he’s actively abusive in this way. It’s harmful to do couples therapy when there is active and unchecked abuse, addiction or affairs. Seek individual professional support so you can learn how to respond and protect yourself from further damage. This will also help you send clear messages to your daughters that certain types of behaviors in marriage and family life are unacceptable.

You shouldn’t have to defend how you look or compare yourself to other women. Who you are as a woman isn’t on trial. Emotional and spiritual abuse is often hard to detect and respond to because it intertwines with our own sense of self and desire to become better. Criticism, comparison and degrading comments will only leave you feeling like you’re a failure, so start by refusing to allow any more of these types of comments to be directed at you.

You can’t change the way he thinks, but you can decide whether you’ll allow yourself to be in line of fire. And make no mistake about it, if your daughters are hearing and seeing these things, it’s highly likely they’ll believe these things about themselves.

It’s time to stop hoping he’ll change and time to begin changing the way you respond to his treatment. Seek education about emotional abuse and take steps to protect your beautiful heart, mind and soul. Attend 12-step meetings for family members of addicts, which can help you learn to set appropriate boundaries.

If he won’t protect you, you can’t put yourself in his hands any longer. That doesn’t mean you automatically divorce him, but it does mean that the way you interact with him on a daily basis will look different. Ask others who know and love you to remind you of who you are and why you matter to them. Hold onto these truths as you create a new way of living in relationship to him and your children.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Craig January 9, 2019 at 11:05 am

    I’m sorry, but a question from one person in a relationship answered in the newspaper is not an appropriate way to deal with this issue.

    The risk of missing or misunderstood information is staggering.

  • Comment January 9, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    25 years is a long time. It sounds as though you’ve become extremely codependent. If you’re not happy then separate. It really is that simple. And at your ages people don’t change. So don’t expect things to change….

  • Redbud January 9, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    It is very evident that the situation is not going to change at all, so sorry to say, you need to separate. It will not get better, you deserve better, and you need to convince yourself of that.

  • KR567 January 10, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Get a 6 pack and go find a party

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