Relationship Connection: My husband insists on watching trashy shows

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Question

I’m having a hard time knowing what to think and how to react. Yesterday I saw on the TV that my husband had been watching a sleazy and despicable show. It surprised me because he tells me he doesn’t like filth and thinks it’s cheap to add unnecessary nudity (which to me, it’s never necessary), yet he’s watching a show that is basically dressed up porn. I’m confused about who he says he is and what entertainment he chooses.

My husband left our church years ago and so his beliefs aren’t quite the same as mine, though we have grown a lot together and have come to the same page on a lot of important things – including what kinds of entertainment we allow in our home.  

When I first brought up that I found the show on our TV, he lied and said he didn’t know. After some additional questions, he admitted he’d been watching it. He said he knew I wouldn’t approve and didn’t want me to go to extremes and jump to conclusions. I was hurt by the fact that he lied to me at first about the show and then told me he knew I wouldn’t approve. I know he’s a decent man, but what kind of decent man would act like this?

I handled the situation pretty well, I calmly asked him questions and didn’t blame or shame, and said I was most concerned with the fact that he lied to me and tried to hide the show from me. He asked me, “Was it really hiding though because I wasn’t maliciously hiding something from you? … I don’t have to report every show I’m watching to you. I know I wasn’t doing anything wrong and so I don’t see it as hiding.”  

I understand that I can’t control him, and I don’t want to be his mom and have him report everything to me. Here I’ve been thinking our marriage is so strong, now I’m not so sure. I ended the conversation with him on a good note and said I love him. Even though it seemed to end well, I’m now having all sorts of thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure what to think or do. I’m a little disappointed in him and confused about who he really is. But then, I think maybe I’m making way too much out of this than it needs to be.

Answer

I commend you for your careful handling of a situation that was emotionally charged for both of you. Even though there are important decisions to make, your ability to keep things respectful opens up a way back to each other. I think it’s wise to keep things slow and not rush to decisions when we’re surprised by our partner’s choices. This is usually a sign that there is more to learn about ourselves and our partner.

Your husband departed from two commitments you thought were non-negotiable: media and lying. Your husband admitted he was departing from the agreement he had made with you about avoiding offensive media in your home. However, he didn’t believe he had lied. You have a lot to sort through, so don’t be afraid to circle back and get clarity about what happened.

You don’t need to defend your position about the media, as he clearly understands it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have hidden his behavior from you. Let’s talk about how to revisit these concerns with your husband.

Instead of forcing him back into compliance with a media standard he now doesn’t agree with, use this opportunity to start a different conversation. As my good friend Wally Goddard often says, “Irritation is an invitation.” When something surprises and irritates you, it’s time to invite a deeper understanding. This conversation is an opportunity to better understand how he really feels about the media standards in his life and in your home. And as you mentioned, the lying must be addressed as well.

You have a lot of important questions about his choices and his integrity with you.

Your husband needs to understand the impact his lies had on your relationship. My guess is that he wants to update his stance on media and didn’t have the courage to tell you the truth about his beliefs. Or he still doesn’t agree with what he was doing but gave into temptation and tried to hide and justify it.

Either way, you can expect him to take a closer look at what he really wants and why he would lie to you. Your relationship won’t completely heal until he repairs the trust he damaged by lying to you.

Since some of his beliefs have changed over the years, this might be another one he’s reconsidered. You’re just asking him to be completely transparent about what he believes and desires. I’m certain you will handle his change in preferences much better than you’ll tolerate him lying to you.

It’s not an overreaction to feel hurt when someone you trust lies to you. Intentional or not, it’s a subtle form of control and manipulation and just plain hurts. Expect him to care about how this has hurt you and your relationship and then have him clarify what he really wants so this doesn’t have to happen again.

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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