The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Porn Discovery

My kids found porn on my husband's phone.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Tammy, your husband is addicted to porn?


Tammy:           Yes. He’s my ex-husband now. We divorced in August. And I’m just concerned about my two sons. I have a son that just turned 13 and I have a son that is 16. Since the divorce in the last six months, they have seen porn on my husband’s phone. I told him, Dad’s phone is now off limits. Don’t even ask. You have your own phone. Just use your phone to call me. Don’t touch Dad’s phone. But it’s concerning to me, because I don’t want them to go down the same road that my ex-husband has gone down. Is this enough basis to go back and him lose more parental rights?


Dr. Kenner:      I missed what you just said. You mean, lose parental rights?


Tammy:           Yes. Is it a basis on losing more parental rights.


Dr. Kenner:      It depends on what you mean by porn. If he saw a naked woman, that’s not bad. If he saw a naked woman in action doing XXX-rated things, then you’ve got a lot of concern there. So I am not sure what they saw. This is on his cell phone or his iPhone or whatnot?


Tammy:           Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      Now, did you divorce over this issue? Was this one of the triggers?


Tammy:           Yes. That’s the reason for the divorce. He also started acting out and has a girlfriend and the girlfriend is still in the picture.


Dr. Kenner:      So he had an affair?


Tammy:           Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      So the kids must already know something about this, because they must have heard you yelling or talking. Their ears are like little antenna. They listen very carefully when things are stressful in the house.


Tammy:           Right. They know and I’ve been honest with them. I’ve been honest. They know there was another woman involved. They slightly know about the porn issue, but not as much as it really was a problem. Until they found it on his phone and now I’m like, oh my gosh. I just don’t want them to be exposed to this.


Dr. Kenner:      So there are two problems. One is how are they processing it? If they put it in the right category of, “Dad went off track and he ruined what could have been a wonderful marriage with mom,” other things being equal, and, “I don’t want to ever make that mistake in my life.” If they make a commitment to that, to figure out how to love a woman properly and how to share a life together well, including a sexual life with one another, over a long period of time, then that’s one thing. If they say, “Oh, if I want Dad to like me, then I’m going to be cool too like Dad. And porn I guess must be good because Dad is using it, and therefore I can look at these XXX-rated things.”


Tammy:           Right.


Dr. Kenner:      What I’m saying here is, you need to know how each child – your 13-year-old and your 16-year-old son – process the information. They may or may not be willing to talk with you. How did you find out that they looked on Dad’s phone and found some stuff there that they shouldn’t have seen, some porn?


Tammy:           They’re very open. They know that was the wrong thing. They know that, oh my gosh Mom, this is something that I can’t believe. So I think they’re processing it as not how they want to live. But, you know, I’m concerned also. I kind of think they are processing it properly. I don’t know that they figured out yet how to take a stand in their life, because this is a new, recent thing.


Dr. Kenner:      Right. And they need to learn about sexuality too, because it’s not wrong for couples to use a little erotic story or make up their own stories for sexual pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s nothing wrong, I mean, we go to museums and we see the grand masters painting naked women and we tell our kids, “Look at this! This is a famous painting or statue.” So you don’t want to make sexuality a negative in your kids’ life, healthy sexuality. So, what are you thinking? You’re wondering, number one, is the exposure issue – what do you do? Do you draw a line there? It depends on your ex. If he’s very remorseful and he said, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I left my phone out. I knew I shouldn’t be doing this. I typically don’t do this and I really screwed up this time. I don’t plan to do that again.” If he has that attitude, then you’re not going to haul him into court over that.


Tammy:           That, almost word for word, is what he says. But it’s not like this is the first time I’ve heard it. The first time with the kids, definitely. They’ve never, that’s their first exposure that Dad has said that. But with me, I’ve heard it many, many times. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you found that. I’ll never do it again.” That’s a common thing in our marriage.


Dr. Kenner:      I would talk to the kids then. It sounds good that he had that shocked response, so I think he needs the benefit of the doubt right now. I think you need to talk to the kids and just say, “Can we make an agreement not to use Dad’s phone?” You probably have already done this. Even if it’s tempting. And when you’re a little older,” your 16-year-old may already look at a little erotica, Playboy, although these days it might be a little more than a Playboy, but if you can get their word that it’s just off limits. It might be so tempting to them, because sexy things can be very sexy, but they need to put it in context. Because some of the sexy things definitely cross the line and they’re abuse, they’re not sex. They’re torturing a woman or a man, and that should be barred from anybody’s healthy concept of sexuality.


So, it sounds like you’re an incredibly caring mom. And it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to tell them that sex is bad.


Tammy:           No. I want them to have morals. I want them to know that what Dad did is wrong. That is not how I want them to have a marriage. That type of stuff. It destroys your life.


Dr. Kenner:      And they can see that because it destroyed your marriage. I think you’re entirely on the right track. I think you can give him the benefit of the doubt. Try to draw a pact with the kids that they won’t use his cell phone and just help them know that a little erotica is okay as they grow up – your 13-year-old is too young – and thank you so much for your call.


Movie clip       

Male 1:             You are a good psychiatrist.

Male 2:             Thank you.

Male 1:             Something I can’t really lay claim to after today. How could I have so misjudged that man?

Male 2:             He’s undeniably charming, for one thing. And he can be lucid for long stretches of time.

Male 1:             Yes, but you weren’t fooled. Somehow you picked up on some tiny, tiny clue that I missed. Do you remember what it was?

Male 2:             Yes. Midway through our interview, he took off his trousers and tried to put them on the cat.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner. And therapy can sometimes be very subtle. It’s not always that obvious that something is wrong. And how do you pick up on the clues? If you’re living with someone who is less than comfortable, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, you don’t know why you’ve grown apart from your spouse or you don’t know what’s quite bothering you with your kids, you need to ask yourself, what is it? What did I observe? What did I hear? What am I thinking? What did I feel? What’s going on that made you feel uncomfortable with your partner? Put it into words. Find examples of it. And try to nail the principle. What is it? Are they being more sarcastic? Are they just seeming down in the dumps, but it’s subtle and sometimes they’re perky? You need to name it in order to deal with it. And then bring it out in the open. Talk with one another about it. It may be something that’s happening with you. It may not be as obvious as taking your trousers off and putting them on the cat. But you want to look for clues of things that are going a little off in your relationship so you can nip the problem in the bud and not let it get worse.