Wife is reading erotica and I don’t know what to think
My DW of 13+ years and I are in many ways doing better than we ever have. We actually have sex regularly. Neither she nor I refuse each other; we may delay sex for practical reasons but not for longer than necessary. And although I’d say I initiate sex most of the time, she does initiate regularly as well.
However, I recently found erotica (specifically Harlequin Blaze) books in a drawer in my wife’s dresser. I wasn’t snooping for them; I was looking for something else, and we don’t have some official private spaces rule in our marriage. We’ve never actually talked about any place being a no-go for the other. Nevertheless, because I do feel like she has reason to believe her dresser is her private space, I’m much more reluctant to confront her about this than if these books were, say, on the living room end table. Also, since I just found these books, I have no idea if this has been going on for a while or is a new thing.
About a year or so after we got married, I found similar books under the couch. I did ask her about them then, but I honestly don’t remember how the conversation went. I do remember being gentle about it. FWIW, back then, I struggled with ED almost all the time, which of course put a damper on our sexual relationship no matter how great our friendship was. In any case, since that time, I had never seen another erotic book in the house and basically forgot about them. I certainly never felt compelled to look for them as if my DW might be reading them again.
In spite of my concern about these books, I don’t see it as helpful to come at my wife in an accusatory, this-is-basically-cheating-on-me way. What I really am interested in is why she wants to read them, as her reason would be important to knowing the best course of action. The most negative potential reason would be that she finds me lacking as a lover and is looking to these books to fill the gap. It could also be though that she feels like these books will inspire her own erotic passion toward me. That can fail to justify it yet still be a more hopeful reason.
Also, my wife has been in sort of a mental/emotional health funk over the last year or two. She quit her job of 17 years after getting burned out at it; over a year later, she still hasn’t applied for something new. She told me she was maybe depressed a few months before she resigned. Since she quit her job, she has seemed much happier but still in very much of a finding-herself place.
One other item I consider relevant: I did have a porn addiction of my own for many years. It was off-and-on. My DW and I have never talked about it directly although I’ve implied it. About 2-3 years ago, I managed to quit porn and have thankfully been able to keep myself away since then. Still, because of my own struggles, I really don’t think I’m in much of a place to judge my DW. Also, knowing how I feel that my DW reads erotica makes me feel even worse about porn on my part and makes me want to avoid it even more.
What I really want is to totally satisfy all of my DW’s sexual desires. I don’t want to just be the good, nice Christian husband and father she admires and respects and who therefore deserves sex, sort of a friends with benefits thing except for marriage. I want to feel like I’m the prey all of her erotic thoughts are focused on. I feel like something must be missing for her to resort to erotica, and I want to fix that. To be honest though, I really don’t know exactly how valid my concerns are that my DW isn’t totally in love with me (erotically) because I can give myself a lot of reasons to believe that’s true and a lot to believe that, no, she actually wants me sexually.
There’s a lot more I could say about our history and our situation but I’m too verbose as it is. Anyway, I would love to hear other people’s experiences with erotica in their marriage and any thoughts about my situation. Thanks.
Reading is a way to escape. For my husband, he loves to get out into nature, to hike, to 4×4, to just get in a place away from the stresses of life. For me, picking up a book does the same thing. It’s a time I can lay aside all my stresses, concerns, anxieties, and get lost in a story and enjoy.
Picking up a romance novel, does the same thing, but adds some heat. There is something to feeling alive sexually, and reading can help us live that vicariously (not saying that’s right). We may desire to have higher sexual desire for our husbands, and we know reading those kind of stories stirs that. We may be feeling emotionally numb, and have a need to have some kind of affirmation that we can “feel”. It can also be a way to fulfill sexual desires that are lacking IRL. There also may just be a desire to feel wanted, chosen, protected, pursued, romanced, etc, and women often imagine themselves in the place of the character. There’s really no way to know what’s really going on without actually having a conversation with your wife.
You have the prime opportunity to use this to work through some conflict and create intimacy. If you go in accusing or making it all about you, that could backfire on you and shut her down and shut you out. Go in desiring to understand your wife and seek what she is truly looking for. Use your own experience with porn to pour out grace on her. There are even ways to open the door for the Spirit’s conviction by asking questions. If you handle this in a good and healthy way, intimacy and passion can be the result on the other end.
I will add… that I lean towards these type of books are not good, not healthy, nor God honoring. I am all for grace, but grace does not mean saying sin is okay. I believe just as porn distorts and perverts, so do these type of books. They give an unrealistic picture of a man, as porn does of a woman. When women start comparing our real life husbands to fictional characters, we are doing the same thing many are appalled about with men using porn, because they feel the wives are compared to the women in porn. It can easily stir up comparison, discontentment, and we put unrealistic expectation on our real men, and all we do is set them up for failure and the message we give is “you are not enough” and we may not be loving them for who they are and for how God created them to be. Leaders come in all different types, and just because our husbands don’t fit that “alpha” male, does not mean they aren’t a Godly leader. Typically, just as porn brings “another” into the marriage and marriage bed, so do these type of books.
I also believe your wife has some sort of conviction or feelings that something is not right about reading these books, or she wouldn’t be hiding them.
I hope all hear me, because I have admitted and will admit again, this has been a weakness of mine. I have struggled with it, I have sinned with it, and I still will stumble into it at times. I am also convicted about it. Because of God’s grace to me, I freely give grace to others. I, very much realize, that it’s not my job to convict and I know that the Holy Spirit works on people at different times and in different ways, and some may never be convicted in this area as I am. And I leave that in His hands. But I also won’t justify sin, even my own, and I will speak what I believe is truth, out of love.
Agree, please don’t associate your experience with porn with why your wife is reading erotica. It’s pretty common for women at some point in their lives to read that and even though it might be classified to some as “porn for women”, chances are your wife doesn’t feel that way. The fact that she doesn’t turn you down sexually and EVEN initiates is light years ahead of what some Christian husbands are dealing with from their wives. I have a pretty high sex drive and i don’t really initiate so that is wonderful that you recognize and acknowledge that. Honestly i don’t see anything wrong if she is using it to fuel her sexual drive so to speak and help her to be sexual with you but that is just my opinion (FWIW, i find those books silly, no offense to anyone)
Like SC said, please do not make it about you but offer her grace and open up a friendly conversation about it, make it about her and what she is going through, prayerfully use it as a catalyst to learn more about your wife. I bet if you come about it in the right way, your intimacy will grow.
(I haven’t read all of the responses in full, so I’m sure I’ll be missing some stuff. I apologize.)
I’m trying to figure out how one discerns whether reading erotica is acceptable for followers of Jesus. It likely is related to the degree of eroticism, the motives behind watching, how it impacts one’s marital relationship, how it relates to our walk with Jesus, does it cause a weaker sister/brother to stumble, etc. ? Or other approaches to figuring this out might include the following:
- Like, do we ask if it is beneficial? (Then, to whom and in which ways?)
- Is it addictive? Might it gain control over us?
- Does it give healthy or unrealistic guidance to fantasizing?
- Do we ask if we can do it for God’s glory? Heartily as unto the Lord?
- Does “Christian” erotica get a pass?
- Is this like alcohol consumption? Only in moderation? And only for those who can remain temperate? (and don’t drink and drive )
- Is it like medical cannabis? That can serve a health benefit?
- If it is an escape, is this an escape that is deemed wholesome? What is one seeking to escape?
- Or does it energize one, turn up the heat, fulfill needs similar to viewing swimsuit issues of SI?
- Does it resemble men watching soft porn? To gain new ideas or to prime the pump?
- If it demonstrates what ideal men should be (more) like, does it give an accurate picture of that? Is it attainable for most men? Or is it like the photoshopped pictures of scantily clad ladies that DWs cannot attain?
- Is this an “each to their own” type of topic? (Like, the Bible and the Body of Christ give no direction on it.)
The Song of Songs would also be categorized as erotica given the things in it and yet it is in the Word. I think that your wife probably doesn’t think anything is wrong about it, and honestly if my wife were reading a book like this I personally would have absolute faith that it was fine. (Don’t take that to mean that I am open and freewheeling with the media that my family consumes, there is a lot of media that is pure evil these days, I just don’t think a book like you are describing fits that.). I wouldn’t worry about it meaning you are falling short in any way, it is most likely something she enjoys that keeps her fire burning for you.
I sent this question to Zelda since we’re not together right now–she had some opinions, but we’ll chat more and possibly post some additional thoughts later (Zelda has read and still occasionally does read romance novels).
What I will say without her is to be careful assuming your DW can have free reign to read this stuff. Although women like SoA and Zelda may not be affected, to the best of their knowledge, when reading erotica, it does not guarantee that will be the case for all women. For example, SC has indicated it affects her negatively.
Unless one knows for sure, they should always be cautious with these types of things. I tend to be conservative in areas where some struggle but others don’t, because one could accidentally lead another into a real sinful struggle simply because the first person did not have that as a major weakness. I’ve seen it with alcohol, and I’ve personally lived the struggle with masturbation. That’s one reason why I opine here that unmarrieds (and even married individuals) should avoid solo masturbation if possible–it might be very easy for them to sin with. That may mean downvotes on my answers, but I’m okay with that. And as SC said, why has she “hidden” it if she doesn’t think there’s a problem? With Zelda, her books were not hidden and out on the nightstand…or she just read them in plain sight.
But this certainly can be an area for growth. Finding out that Zelda had read the whole 50 Shades trilogy (and I either didn’t know or didn’t remember it) was the final catalyst for me to confess my porn addiction to her. Had to get the plank out of my eye.
@SC: Thank you so much for your honesty, especially with your second post.
And I always forget this, even though it’s the most important point IMO. These books can be damaging in ways besides lust. It’s pretty simple to see that the male love interest in the books is super fake. However, many readers don’t catch that the female lead is just as fake. Many (most?) women simply do not have sex drives like the females leads, and reading about drives like that over and over can cause them to be unhappy with themselves or think they are broken. This is very damaging, and it doesn’t help when the timing/events/guy are just perfect to push all the right buttons of said drive.
Because of this, we don’t know if the OP’s DW initiating is actually that good of a thing. As far as we know, the OP’s DW may be initiating because she gets aroused reading the books and then tries to emulate the lead female’s drive, then finding the result to be less than expected. Not saying that’s happening, but it could be. And if so, short term gain, long term loss.
Oh, and the reason I said this may be the most important point? It’s often not covered in the married Christian sex blogs/forums because there’s an overrepresentation of high-drive women who won’t feel broken reading about the high-drive female leads. There are plenty of men on TMB that have DW’s who might already feel broken–would it really be good for them to read these stories with high-drive females leads?
Thanks for the super-long post and all its details. Still processing to a degree and will address some specific things later (I hope).
I do want to mention that I have a very good idea of where you’re coming from. Please see my 2nd-ever question on TMB, which I think you’ll find has a lot of similarities to what you’re describing. I didn’t mention erotica in that question, but it was part of my worries at the time. Our relationship has advanced quite a bit from that question in the last two months, but I still struggle sometimes due to my low self esteem in this area. I don’t know if I’ll ever have confidence in this area, but communicating more directly with DW has certainly helped.
Now one area that I just do not identify is with you people that marry your Meyers-Briggs opposites. What in the world are you thinking? You disgust me! (joking) ISTJ forever!
Thanks, everyone. Just to follow up, this afternoon my DW and I continued our conversation from this morning. It was still obvious to her I was still feeling unsure about her response to me. She was very sympathetic and understanding as I talked more about my disappointment when she didn’t act in a way that seemed smitten in anywhere near the same way I’ve become smitten (inwardly and outwardly) for her and how I so much wanted her to fine a way to be happy to indulge certain desires of mine and give me opportunities to please her in ways that satisfy her wildest dreams and just get caught up in a different world with me. For several minutes, we didn’t even say anything about erotica. And then I admitted to finding the books (I was looking for a pair of pants I was hoping she would wear for me to see if they were still around and if they would fit) while also saying that I really didn’t have a problem with her reading them; I wanted her to feel like she had to feel bad about them in case she did. She said she hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet and fortunately didn’t seem embarrassed to have them. I then told her how I did really want to see more of the “bad girl” side of her; not like an immoral side but one that wants to have some mischievous fun and be a bit edgy. (I don’t think we left the conversation with an understanding that erotic books are always okay and never sinful but that they aren’t necessarily always wrong either.) We then started talking about how we might like to write some erotica for each other. I had mentioned erotic stories about she and I that I had thought about writing in the past, such as one that may have involved the two of us at Hogwarts making good use of the Room of Requirement. In any case, we seemed mutually receptive to the idea of spicing up our relationship with erotica by and about the two of us. To be honest, it was probably the hottest conversation I ever had with my wife.
Thanks, all, for the wonderful and thoughtful responses. People’s responses come from different perspectives but I appreciate all the points you are making.
Warning, this is long, so please no one feel obligated to read this unless you want to.
In my original post, I seem to have implied more negativity and certitude about erotica than I really intended. The thing is it can be somewhat difficult as Christians to ever admit we see nuance and uncertainty about things that other Christians see as definitively sinful, as if we’re trying to defend or downplay sin if we don’t take the strictest position about this or that. It seems people here share my complex feelings about whether or not it is necessarily sinful or wrong. Like alcohol, it can be sometimes difficult to say around certain Christians that drinking alcohol maybe isn’t necessarily wrong even though both alcohol-drinking and non-alcohol-drinking Christians can agree that alcohol can cause all sorts of problems and that even if drinking alcohol isn’t in itself sinful it can lead to sin, be rightfully associated with sin, and can just cause bad things to happen in general. Alcohol and erotica can undoubtedly both be abused and have terrible consequences without being necessarily sinful. As the Apostle Paul writes, some things may be lawful but not beneficial. Perhaps that applies to erotica. Perhaps it just needs to be evaluated on its fruits while also acknowledging that just because erotica isn’t hurtful to the marriage of one Christian who reads it, that doesn’t mean it won’t be hurtful to another. In any case, I see reason for concern with erotica and yet I’m by no means convinced it’s necessarily wrong for my DW to read it.
I agree that porn and erotica aren’t necessarily comparable, even if both can be harmful and sinful. Frequently this comparison is made in Christian circles but I think the comparison is, at the very least, overblown and incomplete. (It was probably easy to infer from my original post that I fully agreed with the porn-erotica comparison but I don’t.) Erotica at least has relationships built into it, however weird or unwholesome. It can cause a person to think more about their own relationship in helpful ways whereas porn, in my experience, generally doesn’t involve relationships or anything resembling love but rather just causes the viewer to compare either the body or the uninhibitedness of the object of the porn to one’s own spouse, and much more often than not it will be an unhealthy comparison that weakens one’s own feelings towards one spouse. Also, porn (assuming MB accompanies it) will tend to substitute for sex, basically resetting a man so he has little inclination to seek his wife for sex for, say, a day or two or more, to say nothing of porn’s ability to reduce his desire for his wife generally. Erotica perhaps could be used by wives as a substitute for sex with their husbands but for biological and other reasons it is not something that would in the same way diminish a wife’s desire for her husband either generally or in terms of one’s sex-desiring schedule.
There are a lot of very complicated feelings I have for my DW. I am more physically attracted to her now than at any point in our marriage, have <1% the interest in porn that I used to have, and see my DW as my best friend. Quite simply, I want her and I want to be with her. But I feel a lot of frustration over our different ways of communicating, where I feel like she doesn’t adore me the way I adore her, which would be okay except for the reasons I’ll get to. FWIW, our Myers-Briggs personality types are opposite; I’m ENFP and she’s ISTJ. I could talk about my feelings for hours on end, and according to my DW and others, I am great at communicating my feelings. To be sure, I get that doesn’t mean I should have free reign to talk about my feelings all the time, either to my DW or to anyone. I do still see a therapist regularly largely because I have an intense desire to talk about my feelings and, hey, if you pay someone to listen and offer wise feedback, money can get you someone to listen. My DW is much more stoic and admits to not being good at collecting her feelings and sharing them. It can feel like a poker game where I automatically lay all my cards down and my DW keeps them hidden in her hand. Also, my personality is such that I love being free-spirited and uninhibited. I still have (I’d like to think) a strong moral code that keeps me from doing things that I consider immoral, but beyond that, I’m up for almost anything. My DW, however, is much more grounded and conformist and inhibited, and that has sometimes caused static between us and in spite of being best friends and being in love with her I often feel like she isn’t a kindred spirit with me. Often I feel like a dog married to a cat.
This morning, we had a talk about a lot of things. (However, I never asked about erotica or mentioned I knew and she never brought it up.) I started by telling her that my intuition can often be wrong but that I was sensing that maybe there was something unsettled in her—some sort of sorrow or anxiety—that she felt she couldn’t share with anyone, and I wanted to make it clear that I would want her to feel comfortable sharing anything with me, or that if she didn’t feel safe telling me, that she would have someone else she could go to. I wasn’t saying this just because I found the erotic books and was hoping to get her to admit to them. It was about so much more than that. There have just been a lot of very complex emotions swirling in me I felt the need to talk about and ways I’ve seen my DW dealing with things that cause my intuition to worry that maybe all isn’t right inside her and I don’t want her to feel alone.
During our conversation, I also was open about how I had been worried that maybe she didn’t feel like she was still attracted to me in the same way. I told her how I just wasn’t sure what the truth was. On the one hand, I could in my mind make the case that she loves me (not just as a friend but as a lover) based on all sorts of evidence, not the least of which is that we often have sex. On the other hand, I could also make the case that she was in love with me only as a friend and was accommodating to me out of respect and admiration for me but that she didn’t have these passionate erotic feelings for me. I know the latter may seem wrong if not ridiculous based on what I’ve shared so far but there have been a number of reasons for me to feel this way. I just feel like she seems more excited by the relationships of fictional characters (not talking erotica here) and public figures (one couple in particular), and I shared this with her. There’s more I could about this but I’m way too wordy as it is.
So, this is what really unsettles me. If she were just in ISTJ mode all the time (e.g., the sort of personality you’d expect an accountant to have), I’d have an easier time accepting that she loves me, not just admires me as a friend for life but really wants physical intimacy with me. I get that people have different love languages and different ways of showing excitement; that one might not get really excited about much of anything but is still genuine in their love of whatever and whomever. It’s just that when I see her exuberant about some public figure (albeit not in a sexual way) or exuberant about other things while her love for me seems more stoic about our relationship, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me or our relationship. I know it must seem crazy for me to question her passion if we’re having sex often and if she is fairly accommodating of certain wishes of mine, but I just know if there was anything she wanted special from me, I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to make that happen. In fact, I’d actually love making her wishes come true even more than getting certain special things from her; it would turn me on more, TBH. When I ask for special things, she’ll accommodate but she comes off as gloomy about it and doesn’t seem to enjoy making my pleasures happen. And because I’ve found reason to believe she doesn’t really enjoy accommodating me or celebrating our relationship the way I find her celebrating others’ relationships, it does make me question whether she’s ever really initiating sex or just facilitating it to be nice. It’s probably wrong and unfair and way too pessimistic to think this way but it’s way too easy for my mind to go there when I sense that she isn’t as exuberant about me as she is other things, including other people.
Erotica adds to all these larger concerns not out of some absolutist belief that erotica is sinful but simply because it reveals some hidden, passionate side of my DW that doesn’t necessarily involve me. If my DW doesn’t seem exuberant about me, it would be easier to accept without knowing there’s this side of her that enjoys reading about fictional characters having wild sex. And these aren’t stories about married couples still getting it on after 10+ years of marriage in a wholesome but super, super, super hot way. One of the books she’s reading is about a woman reporter who goes to a club where men are reputed to sell their bodies and report on what she finds. She meets a guy to interview and nothing happens between them; it’s all totally professional. Nah, just kidding, they have lots of sex. The fact that my DW might like to read this sort of story doesn’t turn me off a bit or make me feel any moral judgment against her. (Seriously, that’s true, even if I may sound otherwise.) It’s just that I see this sexually charged side of her—this “bad girl” side of her—in her desire to read this, but in our relationship, we always seem stuck in mundane stuff and it’s like pulling teeth to get any sort of freakish side out of her, no matter how much I want that. I live in a world where we talk about home devotions and buying yogurt and church administration and talking politics (politics is stimulating but stress-inducing for me) and picking up our daughter from school. In light of that, even sex can feel like it’s not much of an escape if it just feels polite and routine. Of course, I’m not saying we need to divorce and go to some clandestine club and role play as reporter and sex worker and have naughty sex. But erotica makes me feel like my DW has a freaky side of her that I long for but that she is hiding from me. She and I both grew up as PKs, and her upbringing was more conservative than my own. I want her to be a good Christian woman (and I a good Christian man) but I want to get to know the “bad girl” in her so badly. Her reading erotica shows a very interesting side to her and yet I feel closed off to that side. So, without knowing why she reads it, it does burn a hole in my brain. I’m sure that’s obvious to anyone reading this 🙂
Near the end of our conversation, I decided to do something I had never done before: come clean about my past porn use. It was, of course, easier given that I no longer feel held by it, and I was able to sincerely tell her that I gave it up because I wanted her so much more. She appreciated that and offered no judgment. I had long felt that by quitting porn I could just keep that a secret and put it behind me, but it felt right for me to get that out there. So, I wasn’t telling her about myself to induce her share about her reading habits, but I was interested to know if being completely open about past porn use would cause her to share about erotica. It didn’t. From that, I imagine that either she doesn’t feel there’s anything wrong with it (which I completely understand) or that she does and yet still doesn’t feel comfortable telling me.
Thank you to anyone who hung with me through this long post. Any thoughts you have are very much appreciated.