About the author, Ella Hutchinson

Ella Hutchinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Sexual Addiction Specialist, Certified Clinical Partner Specialist, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Ella served three years on the board of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She helped write the curriculum used by APSATS that trains clinicians in the Multidimensional Partner Trauma Model developed by Barbara Steffens. She is currently a board member of the International Association for Certified Clinical Sex Addiction Specialists. Ella and her husband, Jeff, work together helping couples find healing from sexual addiction.

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29 thoughts on “Don’t Ignore Your Marriage After Sexual Addiction is Discovered

  1. I am damaged. My husband looks at other women and constantly denies it. He has a porn addiction and once blamed me for it.although he apologized and explained to me it is not my fault I will always feel that I am less than a woman and not what he wants. I was able to deal with all of this pain until I found out I was pregnant by him again. The emotional pain is unbearable. I tried talking to our pastor but I got the feeling that he just doesn’t understand my point of view. I feel alone and lost and just plain ugly.

    • Maybe it is perhaps because your sex life with him is Boring. Men are Horny goats.. If he is a sex addict then most likely he was a sex addict WAY before you both wer married. With that being said, he loves you. In my opinion that’s a cry for help to YOU. As his spouse it is Your responsibility to keep his eyes in his OWN bed. If he is interested in other women.. Who’s fault is That if he Married you? Spice the marriage. Sex does not always have to be an annual or ceremonious event with roses and wine. Lol

    • With all due respect, Graham, this isn’t good advice. No doubt, keeping things fresh and intimate in the bedroom is good for any marriage, but that is not a cure for sex addiction anymore than gourmet cooking is a cure for alcoholism.

    • Please find a therapist who is qualified to work with partners of sex addicts. It is not your responsibility to keep your husband faithful. It is his responsibility. God loves you. Please get the professional help you need.

    • I understand I’m going threw my husband having a sexual addiction but lies says he’s not cheating on me but I have found all kinds of eveadence I know he is he’s has his own business so that helps him he has done stuff in our home he is very slick I want to walk in and catch him so bad so he can’t look me in my face and lie nomore he likes men and women he’s always smells like someone’s body part and it kills me he doesn’t want to be with me sexually don’t do any of the things with me that he does with them I love but I wish I didn’t been married almost 30 years I think he has cheated most of it what to do when it feel like my heart being ripped piece at a time

    • Hi Melissa. I am so, so sorry to hear about the pain you’re going through in your marriage. It sounds to me like you’d benefit from some support at this point, as you think about what healthy boundaries might look like for you. (Here’s an article on boundaries.) Personal counseling might be a good step for you to consider at this point. And support groups can be a really great source of help as you consider what to do with the situation you’re in right now. It sounds to me like you are well aware of the realities of the situation. The question is, what’s healthy for you in this? While you sort through that, find some safe people who can help you–a therapist, a group. Blessings, Kay

  2. I too have caught my husband continue to look at pornography. The rejection is beyond horrible. Every time I have asked him if he is doing it he has gone so far as to swear on God to save himself. How do you trust someone who will do whatever it takes to save himself from confronting his sin??
    B, let me tell you that you are a beautiful woman of God. He hand picked you to be on this earth for a purpose. You and I both need to turn to God and lean on him for acceptance and truth. Hope things get better for you.

    • Thank you Ashley. You are right, I need to give this to God. My resentment is taking over and I am in a bad place. I don’t trust him at all and he has the audacity to be angry about it. He hurt me deeply and doesn’t seem to care. I am literally sitting here contemplating taking my daughter and my unborn child and leaving him today. I love God ,but I can’t understand why I have a husband with a porn addiction and a problem with looking at other women. I can’t go on like this for too much longer, I pray God speaks to me soon because this is too big for me to handle.

  3. Ashley i know just how you feel. My husband has a sex addiction and likes to call phone sex chat lines. I’ve found in his GPS addresses to cheap hotels. He admits after being caught to the chat lines but vehemetly refuses to admit to meeting at hotels with him. I truly believe he has but i have no hardcore proof. And his word nothing to me. I am a recovering opiate addict. I understand addiction and the cycle. I want to give him a chance in his counselling to get well before i make any decisions to leave. but it is so difficult laying next to him at night knowing what he has done and living with the constant suspicions. we have a child together and i really want to give our son a home with both parents. And that he has parents that get along at the very least.

  4. The truth in this post affirms exactly what I have been feeling. This whole idea of “you deal with your stuff and let him deal with his” seems ludicrous at times. For me, the most intense counseling for the couple is indeed for the coupleship to survive the initial crisis of disclosure. After the new reality has been stabilized for the couple, then individual counseling is imperative. I have felt so invalidated in the relational trauma that I have experienced in my marriage by much of the pioneers in the sex addiction recovery community.

  5. I feel conflicted about this because empathy is so often lacking until some recovery is gained. I have witnessed this in my husband and in the stories of many other couples. It just seems to me to do no good to expect a husband to reach out when he doesn’t seem ready or able. It only *adds* to the pain to expect something he is not yet able to give.

    The fruits of focusing more on our marriage have not been good, have not felt right to do.

    I just have to think that it may be different in different situations.

    That said, I am glad to see articles validating a wife’s point of view, so thank you for what you are writing. The trauma is real and is so often minimized. I have felt invalidated by my husband’s therapist and by his sponsor. It is refreshing to feel validated.

  6. Lily, you are right that it is different in different situations. However, I see several couples who both want marriage counseling and are being told they aren’t ready. I see addicts who are ready, but counselors who are brain washed by their archaic training tell them they aren’t because they haven’t reached a certain milestone or “task” in their treatment. Furthermore, how do we define ready? Will an addict ever be eager to do a disclosure? Can either party really ever be “ready” for such a painful but necessary step in order for there to be healing and recovery for both? There are indeed some who aren’t there and may never be. In these cases I believe it is unfair to instruct a wife to sit idly by and patiently wait for him to be ready, especially after all she has already been through. Instead, I tell wives they have choices and I will support them no matter what they choose. But there are many couples who are both willing and able to successfully work on their marriage who are being told they can’t. In my experience, if he is “ready” to take recovery seriously and his actions show that, he is no longer acting out, and he truly wants to stay married….he is as ready as he’ll ever be too work on his marriage, and with professional guidance and preparation (that does not need to take very long in most cases), to give his wife a full clinical disclosure.

  7. I am not sure we are in disagreement here on the basic principles. I fully and completely believe in women having and owning and making choices — not just sitting around doing nothing. I only share my experience that there has been a middle ground time where having parallel and individual healing processes has been *essential* to move us toward being able to work on our marriage. And I felt that decision guided by heaven. Had we tried to work on our marriage before he’d found some grounding and healing, and before I’d done the same, I think it could have ended our marriage. There was just too much baggage and too much trauma (the addiction was only a symptom of deeper spiritual self-worth issues, as is so often the case), and a deep need for us each to find some grounding and healing in God first, and for him to have some physiological healing via months of sobriety.

    I completely understand the value of having a husband give a full clinical disclosure up front. I think that is important. I have experienced having professionals not encourage that and it has not been helpful at all. Still, waiting until the lines of communication could be less cluttered by baggage may not always be a bad thing, in my opinion.

    “How do you know when he’s ready?” I think this is as much of a gut thing as anything. I think women can learn to discern and sense when there is some real recovery, because they live with their husbands every day and see the patterns. There is a real difference when some of that healing takes place.

    I imagine that once you get men to a three-day intensive, they may already have done some initial legwork and by definition be ready (or have a wife who is one step away from done). But perhaps for many there is some process before that. I think it’s important to leave room for that possibility and help wives trust their instincts as to whether they want to take some time to heal themselves from the trauma and observe and draw healthy boundaries that communicate that she chooses not to continue to live with the unhealthy dynamics that addiction and trauma bring to relationships.

  8. It’s been a year since I discovered I was married to a porn addict for 12 years. I have been through marriage and individual counseling this entire year. I stopped the marriage counseling after 10 sessions because I felt invalidated by the therapist and everything was about my husbands addiction. I wanted to escape and focus on myself. My husband relapsed after 6 months and it brought me right back to the very beginning. After a year I am still having nightmares from the videos and images my husband traded for a life with me. I now go through longer periods of feeling like I’m married again but it always comes back and haunts me, the feelings of inadequacy, severe sadness, abandonment, and resentment. I am still not sure I will stay in this marriage despite that my husband no longer engages in porn and is trying very hard to stay married. I feel numb and depressed even though things are better. Thank you Ella from the bottom of my heart for your articles. They have saved me when I feel no one will ever understand what I’ve been through in this secret life that I have to hide from the world.

  9. My husband and I are both in recovery for drug addiction. He has been clean for 3 years. He also suffers from a sex addiction. I relapsed after 15 months clean when I miscarried our 3rd child in a row. While i was in inpatient he had sex with 3 different people that I know. He was honest about what he did and told me that he loves me. He is seeking help and we have treated it as both ofbus relapsed. I worry if our marriage is able to be saved. I know that it wasnt about me just like my relapse wasnt about him. He wants to go to church and seek counseling as well. He believes we can make it through this and become stronger because of it. He was like this when I met him and through our relationship remained faithful until now. I love him greatly and want to believe him.

  10. I appreciate these articles. There are so many of us out there.
    A little over a year ago I found out about my husband’s 53 year sexual addiction. He is 62 years old, I am 67. We have been married for 42 years. He lied to me smd betrayed me every day of those 42 years. He entered our marriage in a lie. The disc

    • Hey Caroll. I’m so glad you found some community here. You’re absolutely right, there are so many of us who’ve had this experience. I hope that the more we talk about it, the more open we are about all this, the more honesty we can grow around sexual issues. I feel like so much of our problem with this in the Christian world is that we don’t know how to talk about sex in a healthy way at all, much less cope with difficulties like sexual addiction. The truth is, there’s healing and freedom available for all of us together. It’s a tough road, for sure! But healing happens. It does. Please let us know if you have questions–there are lots of free resources here. In fact, here’s an article with some of our best materials for women–just in case you happened to miss any of these. I hope you have someone local to talk with about this, for your own support and healing? I like to recommend the American Association of Christian Counselors as a good place to look for a counselor if you need one. Blessings to you, and please let us know if you have questions we can help with. Kay

    • We have been married for 46 years and he has gone the gammit. First it was affairs, then he molested my daughter, and went on to porno. The affairs I knew about. My daughter I found out about over 10 years later. The port when he was fired from his job at the age of 60. He had concealing hipnosis and faced his childhood. I found that my father had also molested my daughter when she was small. Was told by dr. that if either of them had no history of abuse it would not have happened. She has been married 4 times and I
      blames me for everything. I have been told that I was a bad mother Abad wife and if I hadn’t been so dumb non of this would have happrned. I am 71 years old and refuse to keep paying for the sins of the two most important men in my life. I pray daily for my daughter, myself and my husband. God is a God of miracles and I am waiting for mine.

  11. I have a different problem. My drive is lower as I cross into my 40s. My wife wants to have more sex and it puts more pressure on me. She began complaining to me. Then stopped. But the judgement I feel in the bedroom now is incomprehensible. I find I avoid possible encounters altogether or that my mind is just in a different ‘safe’ spot to even expect to end up ‘there’. With a guy, you’re either ready or you’re not. I find I’m way to stressed out if I feel theres even a suggestion of messing around… and I seize up. We were way active early in our marriage. I’m the only partner she’s ever had. The whole subject to me is a downward spiral of inadequacy and tension no matter how hard I try to hide it from her so that she doesn’t feel guilty or starts second guessing. Because she’s not doing anything wrong. Its my lack of…whatever. To compound things, I am a recent member of sobriety. I was a quiet – nighttime to bed drunk. It stopped. It used to be the only time I was ‘relaxed’ enough to not be so stressed in the bedroom over this. Now that’s gone. I almost wonder if a ‘forced’ situation (ie like viagra) is the cure to get some regularity and confidence. For most guys with lost of interest, I’m reading its porn. But what about someone like me?

    • Hi Ken,

      This is a good question. I’ll give you some of my thoughts.

      1. Have you noticed any physical issues recently, namely ED? A loss of libido can be caused by hormonal factors.

      2. It seems like the most likely cause of this is the stress in your life. The crutch of alcohol was keeping you relaxed but now that this is gone, your stress levels are too high to really engage with your wife. It is important to get to the heart of the stress you feel, the causes of the tension you are describing.

      3. If one of those causes of tension is the dynamic between you and your wife, it is important you talk it through with her. It is a common myth that men should always be “ready to go” because men are horny 24/7. It is also a myth that men don’t need real intimacy to be turned on. Your wife needs to understand that what turns you on is not the immediate request for sex, but a place of safety where you can really connect with her.

  12. It has been 2 1/2 years since the last discovery. We’ve been married for 14 years and there have probably been 9 or so major discoveries, but the last one broke me in ways I didn’t know I could break. His porn addiction had breached the virtual world and had evolved into an obsession with a woman at work and sexting. He has not had an affair (verified by a polygraph). Nor has he visited strip clubs.

    We’ve had loads of counseling. Individual. Couples.

    None of it helps me deal with the triggers I feel. I actually hurt when I see sexy women who resemble what I found in all the discoveries. Video after video after video of the same woman just with a million different faces and bodies.

    I’ve accepted that my husband is not the man I thought he was when we married. I’ve accepted that he was deeply broken and had developed this horrible crutch. What I can’t get over is how hurt I still am. How angry. How betrayed. I have nightmares STILL. Take medications to help me with anxiety since I have PTSD episodes in public. I look at my husband and I see two men: one who loved me then and loves me still and one who did whatever it took to make the pain go away with no regard to the land mines he was planting all around me and which eventually detonated, leaving me to pick shrapnel from my deepest core. I both love him and hate him. I don’t know if I will ever get past this or feel better or believe it is finally over and we can close the chapter on it.

    He has passed 3 polygraphs. He is sober. He could certainly improve on expressing empathy and compassion and he still tends to avoid me when I’m in my worst pain, which just makes me feel abandoned in an abyss he dug for me.

    I don’t know what to do. When do you say ENOUGH. This isn’t going to heal. I’m changed – forever. Gone is the lighthearted, funny, trusting woman I once was and in her place is this volatile, afraid, defensive, strong beyond belief woman warrior who will take NO MORE SHIT.

    That’s not who I was. I’ve lost all my softness. I’ve lost total respect for him. I don’t like him anymore. I don’t even feel like I know him – or me – anymore. Would someone please, please, please help me? I don’t know what to do.

    • Well, the very first thing we do when treating trauma is to make sure the person is safe. I think it’s really hard for women to feel safe when they’re being required to repair a marriage relationship that has caused so much deep trauma. I would much prefer to see a couple separate when a wife is in the kind of distress that you describe. Have the husband do his work, allow the wife to have real, trauma-informed personal therapy that’s NOT focused on repairing the marriage, but completely focused on helping the wife with recovery. EMDR, yoga, biofeedback–all the tools that research shows to be most effective. THEN, when the wife is feeling herself again, IF the husband has done his work, THEN you can talk about whether the marriage is viable.

      To me, it sounds like you haven’t had the opportunity to be truly safe. The truth is: you CAN heal. PTSD is totally treatable! But if basic treatment protocol is violated (you’re not in a safe place, you’re required to stay while he continues to ‘struggle’ through recovery) then I’m not surprised you’ve had poor results in treatment. Have you read Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score? Best research out there on the treatment of PTSD. He’s also been interviewed at OnBeing, a great podcast that gives you the nugget of his ideas.

      I would never, ever tell you that you’re required to stay in a marriage when the vows have been so thoroughly and repeatedly violated. Here is Luke Gilkerson’s article where he talks about how he changed his mind on divorce and porn. If you need Bible verses to go along with your inner convictions!

      I would say that while he’s got these polygraphs on his side, if he doesn’t express empathy and compassion for you, if he avoids you when you’re in pain–well, that is not a person who has done his part to rebuild emotional trust in the marriage. Here’s John Gottman on emotional trust, and an article I wrote a while back on the same topic.

      I think that “recovery” efforts cannot just focus on “sobriety.” If you can’t rebuild the emotional heart of the marriage, what’s the point? Unfortunately, that’s a task that a lot of addicts aren’t willing to undertake.

      You are a person of value, of inestimable worth. You are Beloved. Live a life in congruence with that value, that worth, that Love.

      Peace to you,

  13. I’m in a marriage of almost 7 years, with a 3 yr old son. Before evenngetting engaged, I explained to my now-husband that porn was my biggest deal breaker (along with drugs, alcohol, smoking). Since becoming pregnant, things felt off, but I just couldn’t figure out why and blamed other stresses of moving, job changes, family deaths, etc. I finally confirmed the problem was porn addiction the entire time I was pregnant, nursing, exhausted and needed my husband the most. He was completely emotionally withdrawn. I gave up work, as we agreed I’d stay home until our son goes to school. I have no trust for my husband. How could he lie and hide something like this from me? I feel like he robbed me sexually… all the energy he spent on himself and with the computer. I can not decide if I should divorce, but I am starting to really consider it. I’m wondering how divorce will affect my child. Does God really want me to suffer through being treated second-best by my own husband? He says he wants to fix this. He promises it won’t happen again but he couldn’t even tell me he had a problem. I had to catch him. I’m so miserable. It’s been a year since my discovery and I just can’t get a grip on the clues I kept missing… leaving socks around the house to clean-up with later, him being too happy when I left to go do things for myself, I started initiating sex just to avoid feeling like a roommate to my own husband. I’m only 29 and I’m already being traded-in for a computer?

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