My husband packs me off to bed so he can indulge his secret fantasies

Dear Bel

My husband and I are in our 60s and have been married for 38 happy years. We have a good relationship, communicate well and have a satisfying sex life. Throughout our life we’ve had, like most people, happy and sad times — but mostly happy.

My problem is that my husband has been staying up late, long after I’ve gone to bed, even sometimes encouraging me to have an early night.

Our lounge overlooks a private garden and we never close the curtains.

Private affair Bel Mooney has some helpful advice for a woman who wants her husband to open up about his sexy TV viewing (picture posed by model)

Private affair Bel Mooney has some helpful advice for a woman who wants her husband to open up about his sexy TV viewing (picture posed by model)

One night I became a bit suspicious so went outside and looked through the window. I saw my husband indulging in a certain physical activity you can easily guess at when I tell you he was watching sexy programmes on TV. When I came indoors, he immediately changed the channel and acted normally.

This has been happening for months now and is causing me much anxiety. I’m not unattractive and have kept myself slim, so I really don’t know why he needs to do this.

I feel hurt that he’s being so secretive. These (almost) nightly sessions seem to have become an obsession. Perhaps he doesn’t find me sexually attractive any more. I worry that he doesn’t feel able to tell me that he is enjoying watching these shows.

I’m not a prude; I just don’t understand why he shuts me out of his nightly enjoyment. At this time in my life, I didn’t think I would feel like this as we have always shared everything. Can you give me any advice


Over the years, I’ve heard from many women (of all ages) who have been deeply disturbed because their menfolk seem to be addicted to online pornography.

Men who, in a previous era, wouldn’t have dreamt of donning the dirty mac and sidling into a grimy porn shop now have the stuff readily available in the comfort of their armchair.

An estimated one in four clicks on the internet is porn-related, and 68 million search engine requests for porn are made every single day. There are 420 million internet porn pages, and more than 13,000 porn films released each year, making 61 billion for the global industry— and no home is safe from its nasty, insidious influence.

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Like me, you probably find all that depressing (to put it mildly), but I’m passing on the information so that you won’t think of your husband as some sort of pervert or freak.

This is a common problem; you are not alone in being upset. Although some women do use pornography, it goes without saying that most of the consumers are male, and a great many of them are normal men with good relationships — just like the one you’ve been happily married to for 38 years.

In terms of the biological imperative, men and women are (wait for it . . .) very different. That said, all women should be worried if going online to watch porn or settling down to watch sexy films appears to be a compulsion in the men they love.

Surely, the frequency is the point. A bloke might indulge once or twice, and, frankly, no harm is done — remembering Woody Allen’s famous quote in Annie Hall, ‘. . . it’s sex with someone I love’. But if this is a nightly event and he’s shovelling you off to bed so he can get on with it, then it’s time to ask what’s going on.

Common occurrence: Most of those who view porn are male, and a great many are normal men with good relationships (picture posed by model)

Common occurrence: Most of those who view porn are male, and a great many are normal men with good relationships (picture posed by model)

Honestly, I’m not being frivolous when I confess that I was faintly amused that you write of being ‘shut out of his nightly enjoyment’. Are you implying you want to join in You say you have ‘always shared everything’ but you might consider sharing this is a step too far.

Or maybe not. One thing is certain: you have to talk to him about what you’ve seen, even if you feel embarrassed about tip-toeing around in the dark to peer through your own window.

He will certainly be mortified, but surely, after all these years, you can have a proper (or even improper) conversation about his needs, your feelings, and your shared sex life

It seems vital that you try to come to terms with the importance of fantasy in the lives of many men and women. I understand how you feel, and, in your place, I would be confused (and disappointed and angry) too. But your husband’s nightly date with sexy movies has nothing to do with your looks or whether he still finds you attractive.

He ‘doesn’t feel able to tell you’ that he enjoys watching these programmes simply because they are part of a secret, fantasy world he enjoys and which he would certainly defend as harmless. He’s not out chatting up real women: he’s watching buff porn stars — because he finds it exciting and fun.

These are the issues you have to talk through together. It could be that when you have had the honest conversation, and you’ve told him how upset you are by his secrecy, you decide to watch together. After all, you say you’re not a prude! Or you could insist on staying up with him to watch romantic comedies or action movies instead. After all, fantasy comes in many forms.

The important thing is that you don’t judge or belittle your husband because of what you’ve discovered, but use it to understand something more about him — and perhaps even improve your marriage.


Solace: Poetry can help guide us through hard times, although sometimes direct action is the best way to make progress

Solace: Poetry can help guide us through hard times, although sometimes direct action is the best way to make progress

Dear Bel

You published a letter a while back from a young woman who despaired of having the love of her mother. It made me catch my breath because I imagined one of my daughters writing such a letter.

Aspects of her letter (and your reply) caused me discomfort because I have been estranged from my two daughters for three years. The youngest (37) has now moved away from the area, so I have no prospects of seeing her. She has cut me out of her life completely. My eldest (39) is married with a son of nearly five, and while she has not stopped me seeing him, she too has cut herself off from me in every other respect.

I’m not going to list my failings as a mother as a devious way of looking for sympathy or offering justification. I know how much I have lost — but, more importantly, after much soul-searching, I understand their anger and sorrow. So why this letter

I read your page each week, mostly to see if there are other mothers like me. Sometimes you recommend a poem to help people, and I wonder if you can do that for me. Anything which might be able to help us see things more clearly, because I can’t clear all the fog myself. Someone else’s words can, I believe, sometimes put things in perspective and make us realise that they can be overcome. I hope you can help.


Honestly, I had no idea where this letter was heading, and so your request took me by surprise. There are so many questions in my mind — chiefly, of course, what happened

What went wrong three years ago Or did the rift have roots back in childhood Why could it not be put right Does that word ‘us’ imply you are still with your husband

Reading your letter was like being tantalised with a couple of random pages from a complex — and tragic — novel. And then you ask for a poem, as if that could offer balm to your troubled soul.

It always moves me that people who do not believe in God nevertheless seek solace in churches at certain times in their lives, and that those who perhaps don’t read that much still find comfort in the words of poets, novelists and philosophers. They call being comforted by books ‘bibliotherapy’ — and I have no doubt that it can work.

Nevertheless I have to ask why you have given up on the relationship with your daughters. Why are there ‘no prospects’ of seeing the younger one ever again Perhaps there is a faint glimmer of hope in the fact that your elder daughter does not try to cut you out of your grandson’s life

But I wonder if you have ever pleaded for reconciliation; written to them expressing your regrets and asking for a new start Sometimes pride condemns us to lasting unhappiness.

Seek reconciliation: Bel has some words of encouragement for a grandmother who has lost touch with her daughters (picture posed by models)

Seek reconciliation: Bel has some words of encouragement for a grandmother who has lost touch with her daughters (picture posed by models)

It seems to me that you would benefit from some face-to-face counselling to try to unpick the issues which led to this sad situation. In other words, real therapy. But then, maybe you’ve tried this The letters I receive are often very long, but, with you, I only have the information printed here.

I looked back at the Christmas Eve column which triggered these thoughts. The young woman (I named her Daisy) was in such anguish because of lifelong mental cruelty that I advised her to cease craving her mother’s love, and to find consolation and hope in the love of others.

Since you recognised aspects of the situation and imply now that you have been a bad mother, I can only repeat my suggestion that you view yourself as a patient needing a doctor and talk to a psychotherapist about the guilt and regret which clearly haunt you.

But that’s not what you asked for, is it You want a poem. Helplessly, I look at my bookshelves, wondering what words can comfort a woman who says she knows what she has lost and why.

I could find a poem of sorrow — but that seeps between the lines of your letter. Poems about motherhood (and there are many) would break your heart.

I could find you a poem about acceptance; but I don’t believe you should accept what has happened, since it could still be mended, right until the day of your death. I can’t tell you how passionately I believe in the human capacity for penitence and forgiveness.

Please tell yourself that it is not too late to make a new start with your daughters. That you owe it to the young woman who gave birth to them, and to the grandmother for whom family life is likely to become more and more important, to try to redeem the lost time.

So here are some words of encouragement and hope from the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly:

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
That always seems about to give in
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion
Insists that we forever begin.


Isn’t it strange how certain dates resonate People remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated, or when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers.

I love those timelines which tell you what was happening on this day in 1826 (London University founded), or 1975 (Margaret Thatcher defeated Ted Heath) or 2011 (President Mubarak relinquished power). Somehow history is telescoped. Suddenly you sense the interface between your personal story and the wider world.

I’m thinking this because I’ve just realised that today is the anniversary of two events which happened in London 49 years ago – both of which matter greatly to me, and to countless others too. One was tragic, the other full of life; one an ending, the other a beginning.

On February 11, 1963, the poet Sylvia Plath — who had parted from her husband Ted Hughes just four months earlier — gassed herself at the age of 30 while her children slept in the next room. That freezing morning in Primrose Hill, all Plath’s promise was cut short, her ‘blood jet’ of poetry stopped for ever.

Later that day, four young musicians called John, Paul, George and Ringo went into a recording studio in St John’s Wood to cut their first LP, Please Please Me. Just a short distance in London between those two events, yet such a gulf in mood and meaning.

The Beatles burst into my life in 1962, and Sylvia Plath’s work in 1966 — and I still can’t imagine living without those songs, those words.

This isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, but awe and gratitude. Think how fate sets all of us on paths we cannot know. Because  … ‘Listen, do you want to know a secret’ … sudden curiosity sent me delving in a cupboard to unearth ancient diaries.

And on that very day I find myself recording my bad Latin result — and this: ‘We had a meeting of the school magazine committee today and I am to be editor next year. Fleet Street here I come!’

Bel answers readers’ questions on
emotional and relationship problems each week. Write to: Bel Mooney,
Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or e-mail
[email protected] A pseudonym will be used if you wish. Bel
reads all letters, but regrets she cannot enter into personal