In the Middle of the Night

In the Middle of the Night

Q: I am so confused and need some guidance! I have been with my boyfriend for a year and a half now, and we have (what I thought) was a good relationship. We seem compatible, and are very much in love. Our sex life happens to be one of our strengths- we have great sex, often. Two days ago, I walked in on him in the middle of the night masturbating to pornography.  I am so heartbroken, and he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it. He is surprised by my hurt/shocked reaction and keeps telling me it’s not a big deal, and that it’s normal for a guy. I don’t have that much experience with pornography and it feels like cheating to me. I mean, he’s looking at other naked women! I hear you can get addicted to porn and worry that he is sneaking off to do it in the middle of the night. And our sex life is so good! Why is that not enough for him?

He: I would ask: If your sex life is so good, why is that not enough for you? Why are you expressing such “shock and hurt” over something that is neither shocking nor hurtful.  Let me break it down for you- all guys masturbate/have masturbated. This is a pastime that we developed early and often in our adolescence; and as other pastimes come and go throughout our lives, this one is lifelong. In a relationship or out, in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, when we are happy with our sex lives or when we are not. Lifelong.

If you are concerned because he was “sneaking off in the middle of the night,” understand that this characterization is a result of your emotional reaction to this. Was he really sneaking? Should he have woken you up to announce his intentions?  Did he set a covert masturbation alarm on his iPhone for 2 AM, when you were sure to be in a deep sleep. Probably not. Masturbation is something that is done in privacy. Not to be sneaky, but because it is private. Using the toilet is somewhat akin to this. You close the bathroom door not because you are doing something shameful or are being sneaky- you close it because you want privacy.

If you are bothered by the fact that he was watching pornography while masturbating, know that the global porn industry is worth something around 97 billion dollars. Now that is indeed a ridiculously high number, and it does point to the fact that porn is very ubiquitous. Even with that level of porn consumption, we have managed to maintain a civilization that values loving relationships and acts accordingly. Men looking at naked women is as old as… well, women. It is only recently that we have discussed the existence of a porn addiction, and this is indeed a real thing, but I would say fairly rare. It is hard for us old-timers who made it through our entire adolescence with the same three tattered Penthouse magazines stashed under our mattress, to fathom growing up in a world with unlimited access to pornography at ones fingertips. Luckily for us, our cerebral cement had already somewhat hardened, and the current ease in access to porn is just one of the benefits of living in the digital age. But for those whose brain is still developing in this sea of porn, issues can arise. Dopamine receptors get triggered early and often and like any other pleasure center stimulating activity, addiction can happen. But as with food, alcohol, sex and other pleasurable aspects of life, the vast majority of us have things in check. The body and brain fight really hard to keep us on track despite our best efforts to derail them. If in fact, you think your boyfriend is addicted to pornography, then it should be treated with the seriousness it warrants. If you are just a little shaken by the fact that you are not the solitary object of his sexual desires, this is a good practice for you to be able to take things in stride. There may be a day that you walk in on him with a plastic bag on his head while masturbating to clown porn. You can use this experience as a stepping stone to cope with that.

She: The conversation of pornography in a relationship can be so personal and confusing. This is truer today in the age of high-speed internet, and easy access to any form of porn that fits your personal sexual desire or fetish. Although you have every right to feel the way you do about pornography, and even go so far as to say you don’t want it in your relationship, I think it is a good idea to really explore your feelings about it before making this leap. Just like alcohol or exercise, porn can be used in a healthy way, but there are certainly down sides. It should be used as an adjunct to a healthy sexual relationship, not a replacement. Couples can even use it together as a way to enhance their sex life.

The important thing to remember is that pornography, for the majority of men who use it, is not a problem. Most men use it as a way to, “get the job done”. To release a buildup of sexual tension, to reduce stress, to help with sleep, etc. As well, men are more visual than women (especially as it relates to arousal) and pornography can really serve to speed up the process in a way that imagination cannot.

Bottom line is, this discovery can be used as a way to get closer to your boyfriend, a way to get to know him on a more intimate level. It is dangerous to interject shame into this situation. Shame will only create distance, resentment, and secrecy. Again, you have a right to not want pornography in your life, and he has the right to disagree. You will only know where you both stand on this if you open up a line of communication that is free of judgement.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for twelve years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question to Check us out online at

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *