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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Porn and Your Husband

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Did you catch your husband watching porn? Learn the answers to common questions, tips to productive conversations, steps to setting boundaries, and how to determine the next steps for your marriage.

51 thoughts on “7 Tips for Wives of Sex Addicts: Looking for a Good Therapist

  1. Ella: While I found your article interesting, I take issue with your dismissal of 12 Step programs for spouses of addicts. I am most familiar with S-Anon and was troubled to read that hopefully no counselor is referring to S-Anon.

    You seemed to be suggesting that these programs encourage partners of spouses to see themselves as partly responsible for the addict’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the fundamental ideas of S-Anon is, “It’s not your fault. You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. And you can’t cure it.” S-Anon absolutely does not promote the idea that the spouse is somehow responsible for the addict’s behavior.

    To the contrary, S-Anon’s primary purpose is to help spouses get off the “crazy train.” It helps spouses learn what they can do to protect themselves and their children from the addict’s insanity. It teaches them what they need to do to unhitch their wagon from their addicted spouse’s insane horse.

    More importantly, however, S-Anon provides compassionate support from other spouses who have been through it and lived to tell the tale not just of survival but of a return sanity, happiness and serenity. These support people can offer day-by-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute support to a demoralized and exhausted spouse. You counselors and therapists simply cannot do this in your professional roles.

    Also, unless the counselor is herself the spouse of an addict, she cannot empathize at the same depth of heart that a spouse in recovery can. No amount of training, no amount of credentials can approach the insight of those who have lived through the trauma and can offer an experienced shoulder to cry on.

    You’re not available at 2 am when the pain is the worst. They can’t call you multiple times a day to ask questions and get answers. They can’t meet with you daily either face-to-face or by phone if that’s what it takes.

    From experience, I believe that the single most important earthly factor in the recovery of either an addict or an addict’s spouse is that person’s ability to associate with individuals who are in the same situation only further up the trail to recovery. The second most important factor is that individual’s ability to associate with and to offer solace to others who are newer to the pain and suffering.

    When Christ taught that we needed to care for the sick and the weary, I don’t think he was just talking to the “healthy.” I believe he intended for healing to occur as the sick and the weary themselves give respite to others who are also suffering–even if it is nothing more than a widow’s mite.

    Please don’t encourage readers to dismiss S-Anon. It’s an important part of the recovery equation.

    • Not for wives it’s not. This model has been the source of immeasurable abuse for wives of sex addicts: though strangely Alanon/teen have been the source of much healing for the loved ones of those with other types of addictions. Thanks you for you article Ella!

    • I’m just lost and my broken heart has now turned bitter. Divorce is inevitable. Divorce wasn’t an option when I 1st found out many years ago about my Husbands addiction. Reason being….. My husband made me feel like it was my fault. So I stayed with him and made sure I was having sex with him at least a couple times a week. I also attended some Alnon meetings with my grown son who is a recovering addict and I was very educated in those meetings about addiction. So I started viewing my husbands addiction to that of a person addicted to Herione. Drug addicts, sex addicts it’s all addiction and they need help. Help my husband has never gotten and he won’t get. When I told my in laws whom are pastors of a large church about their sons sexual addition to prostitutes, pornography, Asian massage parlors, meeting random women on Craigs list along with escorts. They swept it under the rug and blamed me. “Well you must not be taking care of him sexually, and I had been sick around the time I told them so I guess they just assumed me not being able to keep up with everything during illness was unattractive to my husband and I wasn’t meeting his needs! Seriously ridiculous! Do any of you know how hard it was to let my husband touch me after I had saw pictures and read emails about what he was doing or what they were doing to him. It was horrible the 1st time and the second and the third. I cried myself to sleep, I felt used! I felt like I had to allow him to have sex with me so I wasn’t the reason he was doing all these other woman. And my husbands parents only pushed the knife in my heart deeper. I wonder how different his parents would have been if it has their daughter crying to them about her husbands sexual escapades. What about their sons character!? What about the vow he made to be faithful? What about their son not being there for his family through illness? What about their son willfully putting his life, my life and our children’s life’s at risk health wise and heart wise. What about the heartache of public scrunity, humiliation, embarrassment that I and our children would suffer because we are well known in our community. My husband is the next pastor in line as head pastor and I don’t think he should be in that position if he can’t get help and stop the second life he leads. It’s been 2 years since I have talked with his parents about my husbands addictions and I have suffered in silence every bit of these past two years. I have been treated so badly by his parents that I am honestly completely alone in directing my husband toward getting help. A year ago I had put location trackers on all my husbands devices and I was able to find where he stored his passwords to all his pornaghraphic sites and his 6 different email accounts. I also retrieved 5 different alias names he uses in hiding who he is. This entire year I have been recovering from major spine surgery along with raising my toddler grand daughter. So I haven’t had the energy to babysit my husband like I did the previous year nor was I holding him accountable to where he was going and if he was at work or not. Bottom line I can’t handle it anymore! I’m disgusted at what I found on all his devices and it’s horrible at what extent he goes to hide his addiction. He has spent 20 grand plus this past year on his addiction and we are now hurting financially. He doesn’t need to be a pastor and I can’t stay married to a man who has no character. It’s selfish and he only thinks of himself. I have confronted him 3 different times in our 11 years of marriage with files of his indiscretions. All 3 times he breaks down and is sorry and he says he loves me and everything else he does or spends time with is meaningless. He always promises it won’t happen again. But I now know that he can say that to me one day and he’s right back at it the next day. It’s truly insane. I do not understand the attraction he has to these woman and the massage parlors break my heart completely because most of those young girls have been sold into that profession and it grieves me so badly for those young girls and angers me that my husband would allow himself to be a part of hurting young ladies and supporting that industry. I don’t know how he keeps up with his responsibilities in life and has time for all that he does.. Not how he can stand behind a pulpit after doing the things he does in his hidden life. Why would anyone want to add so many more problems and risks to their health and want to hurt their own family? Anyways I have cried for years in silence and have carried this horrible secret completely alone. I can’t and won’t live like this anymore. One would say that if you truly loved someone you would never want to hurt them like my husband has hurt me. Sorry for writting a book. I really do appreciate your website and thank you for not treating woman who are married to men whom are sex addicts like a codependents. I had NO idea my husband had this other side to him when I married him but I must say that by me staying with him I’m starting to feel like a codependent and now all the heartache I endure is my fault and not his because I have stayed with my eyes wide open.

    • Michelle, I am so, so sorry for all the pain you’ve experienced in your marriage. And for the terrible response that you’ve endured from your in-laws/church. I wish this were uncommon, but it seems that all too often, churches do not want to face up to the reality of sexual addiction in their pastoral staff. Unfortunately, the reputation of the church and especially the financial needs of the church get put above the healing that pastors could have, if only the truth could be confronted. I think your husband is absolutely right when he says that the things he has chosen are meaningless. Unfortunately, he keeps choosing them, when he could have recovery if he wanted to walk that road.

      I hope that you’ll take responsibility for your own recovery at this point. Find a counselor who can help you process through the situation you’re in, and give you strength to build healthy boundaries for yourself. There are good directories at Psychology Today, The American Association of Christian Counselors, and CSAT. Call some counselors up, talk to them on the phone, and find someone who’s a good fit for you.

      I don’t think the heartache is your fault! But I do think that you can be responsible for your own health and healing going forward, and I trust that you’ll do that.

      Blessings, Kay

    • I agree with Andrew’s observations.
      I’m a wife of an addict and have found so much empathy & love in my local S-Anon groups. I go to a few in my area–so that I can get in more than one day a week if needed! I’ve never been accused of being codependent; I’ve never been told that I’m a co-addict.
      Unfortunately, I have heard other groups that have labeled their members in this manner, and I find it terribly sad, as I am sure it must be adding trauma upon trauma.
      Ella, thank you for the wisdom and hope that you’ve shared; this was the first website I visited when I first became aware of my husband’s addiction, and your blog/articles were (and still are!) very comforting to me. Bless you.

    • I have been traumatized by the worst man in Dallas !!! Enough said on that subject as I divorced this terrible human being after a 38 year marriage and an unbelievable discovery of who this man really was. I went to COSA and S-Anon. I wanted to strangle these women – all co-dependents. I met my husband at 20, my college sweetheart; I was a Christian and a product of 13 years of Catholic school. I did not “choose” him as I had wonderful parents and a great childhood. Most women are not “co-dependents”, but blindsided victims. Both of those groups will destroy you even further and if you are not a co-dependent when you go, they will make you into one. I only found some salvation with Celebrate Recovery. We need a POSA group in the DFW area, as we are VICTIMS, and as the movie Network says “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this any more”.

    • I tried s anon and it was the worst. I did feel they pushed the thought that i was as dick as the addict. Will never go back.

    • I agree, the 12 step program need not be so quickly dismissed and indicates a lack of understanding of the program. It may be a great source of social support for people and anyone can benefit from the 12 steps.

    • Yes you are right Andrew. I know a therapist personally Ella Hutchinson LPC. She is a Marriage, Relationship & Sex Addiction Therapist. If any one need help you may contact with her here https://www.wifeofasexaddict.com/
      Thanks for your article. It will help those who have lost their hope already.

    • Well written article from a bias point of view, it’s sex – not rape ! Written like every man that enjoyed sex with his wife should be cast out – sex is a bonding experience that both should enjoy – maybe anstabace addiction should be your next article

  2. Andrew,

    I am so glad to hear that your experience with S-Anon has been positive. My experience with COSA, as the partner of a sex addict, as well as the experiences of many of my clients with both groups, was not so positive. First I want to point out that I agree with many points that you made. I can’t possibly emphasize enough the importance of a support group with others who are going through the same thing. Such a powerful and healing experience! That said, I am very familiar with the popular motto, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it”. COSA and S-Anon can say that all they want, but when they tell a person who has just discovered her husband’s multiple infidelities that she is sick and she must focus on herself and how she enabled and contributed to his behavior, to me that cancels out the motto. When they tell a partner she must admit the “nature of her wrongs, defects of character, and shortcomings” as well as make amends to those she has harmed, that sounds like blaming and shaming to me. Now, to clarify, I do not take issue with the 12 steps for addicts. In fact, I think ANYone could benefit from doing the 12 steps. My problem is partners of sex addicts being told to do them specifically because they are the partner of a sex addict. That fact alone, according to most professionals, makes a person a “co-addict”. 12 step fellowships are perpetuating this fallacy. Look up the 12 steps for Rape Survivors Anonymous or Survivors of Incest Anonymous. They are so different. There isn’t any blaming there. They are recognizing the trauma victims of rape and incest suffer. I also love Celebrate Recovery’s steps for Abuse survivors. I would like to ask COSA and S-Anon to change their steps to be more like those. I could get behind that. We need that! Partners of sex addicts need to have their trauma validated. Although I recognize that some women, such as yourself, have been helped by 12 step fellowships, I will continue to speak out against groups such as COSA and S-Anon until they stop labeling partners as co-addicts and stop disregarding their trauma. I encourage you to read an article I wrote for Barbara Steffens’ blog, which she published in two parts: http://safepassagescounseling.com/partner-sensitive-treatment-for-sex-addiction/ and http://safepassagescounseling.com/partner-sensitive-treatment-for-sex-addiction-part-2/

    You can also go to the articles page of my website to see some more stuff I have written on this topic. I hope it will clarify things for you some. http://comfortchristiancounseling.com/partners_of_sex_addicts/articles

    Finally, I realize that some partners did enable their sah’s acting out behavior and did harm others in the process. But not all of them did that, in fact in my experience most didn’t because they didn’t know! Regardless, first their trauma must be treated. COSA and S-Anon, on a macro level, hurt the cause of those of us who are trying to empower partners and recognize their trauma. On a micro level, I know that many of the individual groups do help some women. But I hear from women all the time who tell me how re-traumatized they were after visiting a 12 step group because they felt labeled and blamed. I am just trying to help stop this from happening to even more women. I always encourage women to get support from a non 12 step group for partners of sex addicts. I offer them and there are others who do as well. I hope eventually groups like S-Anon will become a safer place for me to send women.

    • Hi Ella,
      S-anon can become a safer place with a voice like yours in it! I haven’t gone to COSA, and likely won’t because of how the co-addiction label doesn’t seem to be suggested, which is the opposite of what I’ve found in most 12 step groups – ie not controlling others, but finding agency for myself. (if it’s not helping me – I don’t use it). I found gentleness in S-Anon and compassion and a LOAD of boundary suggestions when I asked. It really helped me, and although some use the literature and steps to blame themselves more, there are some who have found freedom in changing what they need to to be safe and get help, and that’s what I’ve used the program and steps for. Since the program changes through it’s members, not outside forces, I would be grateful if you attended and shared your voice about our literature and some outdated thinking.

      It’s a real shame that I’ve heard addicts, and my addict has done this to me, use program tools and slogans to scapegoat me with their responsibilities – LIKE having compassion on someone they have deeply lied to and hurt. But it doesn’t help that we listen to a SICK person for what our reality is, and I won’t allow won’t let others do that for me either! So I take what I like and leave the rest. I don’t have to take on a label if I don’t find it helpful. Don’t matter on whose Authority it may be. Thanks for your posts. Really appreciating this website!

  3. This has rang so true for me thank you. As he drives home from group right now with all his verbal stuff.my kids have been trying to explain this to me but I finialy got it now.thank you. I have been blaming myself and becoming more and more destructive to myself for his last nine months of his recovery and my gut kept telling me as we’ll as my grown children that his thearpist is crazy. I do realize the only control I have is my response. And I create it. Yet the trauma was more than my logic. We have been married thirty years. And he cheated on me from day one of dating to nine months ago. I feel validated by your words thank you

  4. After 7 years of marriage to a sex addict, and being in and out of counseling along with doing various types of recovery work, it was just 2 weeks ago that I read about spouses and PTSD and it made SOOOO much sense to me.

    My husband has never understood why hearing a certain song, going to a particular place, or for a long time just getting into our vehicle, among many other things, caused me massive anxiety. And certainly it isn’t like I want to be hit with a ton of bricks just because a song comes on the radio. In fact I WISH I could delete many things from my memory so they wouldn’t hit me out of nowhere.

    I have attended CoSA meetings in the past and just couldn’t get comfortable with them. I believe that words have power and to affirm on an at least weekly basis that I am a codependent of a sex addict for me seemed to counter-intuitive. Like reinforcing the negative, thereby making it so. Additionally, the majority of the women who led the meetings that I went to were very bitter and angry. I’m not trying to heal myself by becoming a man-hater. In fact the thing I am most angry about it that my trust has been so completely decimated, and how difficult it will be, should I end my marriage, to trust a man again. Certainly I don’t need to add fuel to that fire!

    I would LOVE to find a group, or even just 1 other woman, in my area who is familiar with the model you have discussed, to process with. I am sincerely in desperate need of speaking to someone who gets it. I checked the site you linked to and there aren’t any counselors listed in my area.

    I will be honest and say, other than going to counseling for about 9 months but not with a counselor who treats SA or partners, I’ve done no work around this in 3 years. My husband and I have lived separately for a year and a half and it is truly time for things to move forward or for me to move on. He has recently gotten deeper into his addiction than ever before and swears he is ready for change. Either way, I need to figure out how to pull myself up because I too have been in a VERY dark place for a good 3 years now. If there is a way to find out if there is a group in my area working with this mindset, can you please let me know? Thank you!

    • I would love to visit with you. It sounds like we have some very similar stories. How are you doing now? I have always had this mindset and was always bothered by sitting in at the 12 step meeting and hear every woman label herself as a codendant. We are traumatized indeed!!

    • Set yourself free from this man and get yourself in a good place. No one needs another this much, to loose yourself for another. There is onluy one Jesus Christ and you arfe not him> no need to sacrafice anything for the sake of another. There is always another to love. These men will never change. TRhey will cause you pain forever. Get away from him, quickly.

    • Hi Michelle! How are you? I would love to connect with you about this. I am the wife of a sex addict. My husband confessed to me after 8 years of marriage that he had been paying escorts for sex throughout 6 1/2 years of marriage. I am a believer in the PTSD that often accompanies the response to discovery. It is very real, and can be very isolating and lonely. What area do you live in?

    • Hi Michelle, I’m also the wife of a sex addict. He’s been paying escorts since a month after we were married (married 7 years ago and I just found out 5 days before Christmas).

    • Hi Michelle,

      I can see it has been a few months since your comment. But if you wanted to email me about what area you live in, maybe we live close by and could use each other as a godly support system? I have been married for 7 years and feel I have a similar story to yours.
      By the way, have you found a counselor that is helping you well?

      Thanks. Hope to hear from you soon.

  5. I have a question after reading your article. I am the wife of a porn addict. We have been married for over ten years now and he has had a 20+ year addiction. Unfortunately, I had no clue prior to our wedding that he had this issue. Soon after our marriage, I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on it. This resulted in me discovering his addiction. Initially he told me it really wasn’t an issue and I chose to believe him and forgave him. The problem was, our relationship was never quite right and I couldn’t believe for a moment he was lying to me but then I found evidence of porn again. Fast forward seven years and it continued this cycle, only I was the one who change and I became untrusting and angry about it all. He would get meaner and tell me I was seeing things and being dramatic. His family, his dad a pastor and my sister in law, a counselor, all were convinced I had Borderline Personality Disorder. He even managed to convince the pastor at my church that it was me who was crazy. He got caught and I had evidence but it wasn’t until the pastor of our church caught him, that the church even believed the extent of this addiction. I stayed with him and thought he would change but he continues now blatantly and without remorse. He has chosen his addiction over our family. He quit counseling and won’t even respond to anything about his sex addiction. He blames me entirely and focuses more on my anger and bitterness over this addiction. I’m at a total loss. I told him that I expect him to get into treatment, be in a support group and be completely honest if we are to continue in a relationship. At this point he is out of our house and making no attempt to do anything. He claims I have no right, even as his wife, to lay out boundaries in this department and it is me being controlling. Is this a lost cause? Am I expecting too much? I read these articles and I want so much for him just to do these things, but he won’t. Divorce is my only option at this point, I feel, because we have three little ones who are being affected by all of this. Any advice?

    • Hi Jenna,

      From what you’ve told me here, it sounds like divorce is a real option, since he has effectively abandoned you (1 Corinthians 7:15). You’ve laid some clear boundaries, which, contrary to your husband, you completely have the right to do. Your husband has chosen his sin.

      I will say, however, that even if you move to the divorce route, I recommend you do so only under the guidance of your pastor and other church leaders, and even then to prayerfully consider remaining single for a season. For one, you need time to allow the wounds he has inflicted on your family to heal. Second, the reality of the divorce may sink in for him when he realized the family he has lost, which for some men is the catalyst they need to start making a change. I know couples who have gone through a divorce, and after a lot of work, prayer, and rebuilding, remarry years later.

      I am so sorry to hear about what your husband is doing to you, Jenna. This must be one of the most painful experiences of your life. I hope you have a support network that you can talk about these matters with.

    • The hardest part is knowing my youth is gone. I’ll never be what he wants and looks at obsessively. I look at the pics of these perfect bodies he “likes” on Tumblr folders of thousands. Videos too. And I feel worthless and ugly and old. To top that off I’m not wish the truth to him. He NEVER admits it. Says someone keeps hacking his account. Not being touched or loved or told the truth I have become completely dependant on him. I have been suicidal. And nothing feels ok. Like if I leave him he just gets a chance to meet younger and more beautiful woman to love happy ever after. And I will be old and ugly and alone. This pain is the most pain anyone can go through in my opinion. And they say eh it’s no big deal I am a guy do what I look at Porn. Even if I did die, I don’t think he’d feel the weight of his actions. I cat walk away I love him too much and now I’m so entwined I don’t think I am even here anymore. It’s horrible all of it. I hate. I do. Men who love you younger women and maybe us older women feel like we are nothing because we don’t have perfect bodies. It hell we live in. They run the show.

    • Hi Rebecca.

      I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re in right now. It sounds to me like you’ve been traumatized by the experience of your husband’s porn use–and that’s actually a pretty common thing. Women very often meet the criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in situations like this.

      Here’s what I want you to do: PLEASE GET HELP, JUST FOR YOU.

      Whatever your husband chooses, YOU choose to be healthy and well again.

      Find a counselor for YOU. There are directories at the American Association of Christian Counselors and Psychology Today, where you can read profiles and find someone who will help you process through the emotions you’re experiencing, and help you build healthy boundaries for yourself.

      A group could also be a great source of healing for you. You might find a support group by checking with a CSAT therapist in your area.

      Here and here are some articles on boundaries. Building healthy boundaries will help you find yourself again, and to separate in emotionally healthy ways from your husband’s choices. You might also want to read Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

      I know that when you’re traumatized, the pain of that experience is your entire reality. That’s normal. But I want to tell you something important: your husband’s choices do not define your worth. Also, your body and how it looks does not define your worth.

      You are created in the image of God, precious, valuable, and beloved just because you are you. I’m hoping that you’ll find some healthy relationships–in therapy, in groups–that can help you experience that truth, instead of the lies that your husband’s porn habits have told you.

      There IS healing. There IS hope. There IS a life outside of the lies of porn. Please do reach out for help today.

      Blessings to you, Kay

  6. JENNA.TRY 55 YEARS OF MARRIAGE AND 5 WONDERFUL,LOVING CHILDREN AND 5 BEAUTIFUL GRANDCHILDREN!THAT IS HOW LONG MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN SEXUALLY.ADDICTED.IAT FIRST,I WAS RAISING THE KIDS AND DID NOT RELATE TO THE FACT THAT HE WAS HAVING AFFAIRS BUT AS HI ADDICTION PROGRESSED I BEGAN TO GET PHONE CALLS SAYING THEY HAD SEEN HIM THERE W/A WOMEN.I CONFRONTED HIM AND HE,AS ALL SEX ADDICTS,LIED.I HAVE SINCE THEN CAUGHT HIM MANY TIMES AND AS OF RECENTLY,PUT A VOICE ACTIVATED TAPE IN HIS CAR AND ALL HE DID WAS CALL PROSTITUTES ONE AFTER ONE TO SET UP DATES TO TAKE THEM OUT TO LUNCH,HAVE SEX W/NOT ONE BUT TWO OF THEM.WE HAVE BEEN SEPARATED MANY YIMES THROUGH THE YEARS BUT HE ALWAYS PROMISED TO QUIT,GET COUNSELING BUT NEVER DID.THROUGH THE YEARS HIS SA HAS ACCELERATED AND AT 82 YRS,OF AGE IT IS EVEN WORSE,I GET SICK WHEN I THINK OF THE MONEY HE HAS SPENT ON THESE PROSTITUTES,RIGHT NOW,FOR THE 3RD,TIME IN 3 MTHS,I HAVE TOLD HIME TO LEAVE AND HE HAS LEFT AND I PRAY TO GOD THAT THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WILL TAKE HIM BACK.HE HAS BEEN SO BLATANT AS TO TAKE THESE PROS.OUT TO BREAKFAST,LUNCH AND DINNER IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL TO SEE.WE ARE WELL KNOWN IN OUR TOWN AND IT IS SO DEGRADING AND EMBARRASING [sp] TO KNOW THAT HE IS DOING THIS .HE WENT TO COUNSELING RECENTLY,BUT HAS NOT MADE ANOTHER APPT. I CAUGHT HIM YESTERDAY HAVING BREAKFAST W/A REALTOR WHOM WE HAD SELL A CONDO FOR US AND THAT SEEMS TO BE HIS #ONE RIGHT NOW.HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A GOOD FATHER ,A KIND HUSBAND AND A GOOD PROVIDER,BUT ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I HAVE FINALLY REALIZED THAT I AM A CODEPENDENT AND HAVE BEEN ALL THESE YEARS,IF YOU CAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES AND I HAVE NO FORMAL TRAINING BUT I CAN SAY YOUR 20 YEARS OF MARRIAGE WILL CONTINUE TO BE WHAT IT IS,PLEASE CONSIDER YOUR ALTERNATIVES AND DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE IN YOU ARE IN YOUR 70’S TO REALIZE THAT A SA WITH OUT COUNSELING WILL NEVER CHANGE.BELIEVE ME I AM LIVING PROOF.GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU.

    • Hi, Ellie. Loved your words. You are not too old to leave. As long as there is breath in your body, and a Lord in Heaven, you move on.
      I truly hurt for you. My mom married and SA, and unknowingly, I did too.
      However, she got out 20 years ago. I am seeing changes in my husband since he got help, and is still working. He knows this is it!

      I hope that you can come clean to some family members, so you can have people to lean on. You deserve love. Yours, the Lord’s, and any other godly gentleman looking for a wonderful,wife.

      Don’t give up or stay. Make plans while you still have breath.

    • Ellie it was like reading my life when I read your words. 41 years for me first I went through his Alcolholism then sex addiction. 3 grown children 5 grandchildren. Lies lies and more lies. It’s like he lives many different lives. I am deeply hurt and don’t think he is capable of permanent change. He says it’s different now he wants to change. I don’t believe any of it. Hurt, pain, demoralized I feel like why did I stay I could have had a different life mow I am 60 where do I go from here?

    • Hey Carol. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re going through. And it’s been such a long road for you, too. That’s a lot of years of hurt.

      I think where you go from here is healing. Healing for you, regardless of what your husband chooses.

      I’d really encourage you to look for a therapist in your area. Many women also find groups to be really helpful. Celebrate Recovery is available at lots of churches, and I’ve even had wives attend AlAnon meetings and find those helpful.

      You might also appreciate the book, Boundaries in Marriage, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

    • Hi Rebecca, I want you to know how deeply I feel your pain. The first several lines of your post mirror my thoughts and feelings exactly. We are so caught up in what this addiction has done to us that we aren’t able to see reality sometimes, I think. I have been in this very dark, isolated place for some time now. I have not been able to find help in my area. Real help. I hope the same is not true where you are. I have let this go on for years now and I am simply and completely overwhelmed, exhausted and broken. If you want to talk with someone who knows exactly how you feel and what you’re going through, just an ear and a shoulder, perhaps we could trade info and have a conversation.

  7. I knew my husband had an issue with porn when I met him, but it was the nineties, and it seemed everybody was using porn and it didn’t seem like a big deal. Until he couldn’t stop — even at work or on work computers. I almost called off our wedding because of porn: after we met with the pastor, he again promised he would stop using internet porn, and I believed him. I thought he just didn’t take my concerns seriously and that the problem was as much the internet as it was the porn; I didn’t truly realize he was a sex addict. True to the addiction model, he secretly continued using pornography,began to have sex with strangers he would meet at sex parties, and meet up with people through a secret email account. One day he forgot to close out of the email account and I opened up his treasure trove of secrets. We had a one year old daughter at the time. I went to counseling. He went to counseling. We went to counseling. We worked at it, or at least I thought we did. I caught him lying during the counseling, which helped him buy into the addiction model, something that made sense to me. Then he started attending SLA meetings. He was reformed! I had my wonderful husband back! We had two more children, both currently younger than two years old! But it was all a lie. He started to have sex with other people again almost immediately after he stopped seeing his counselor and to have online sex with still other people. I don’t even know all of it, because if this time is like the last time, he’s only given me 1/10 of the truth. It will trickle out eventually. I’ve decided to divorce him this time, but I’m sad. We still love each other and we still like each other. We love our children and feel terribly that they will miss out on the loving family that I thought we were providing them. But I don’t think that I can live this way any longer. I asked my husband how many days he was actually sober and he said that he never counted his days because he never really considered himself sober because we didn’t have a healthy sex life, an essential part of sobriety apparently. Is this just another bs excuse and an attempt to pass the blame onto me, or did he really not trust me enough to confide his difficulties to me? He says that he doesn’t think that I truly understand addiction, yet he never sent me to a website to read something together or got a book that he thought would help me understand. I’m not co-dependent by nature, and I refuse to take responsibility for any choices other than my own. Clearly I was foolishly ignorant about the dangers of pornography and I was more hopeful than sensible in decision to go ahead with my wedding. I fully take responsibility for my poor choices, but I cannot take responsibility for his. I just worry about my children; I don’t know what to do.

    • Hi Samantha,

      This is heart-breaking. You have been through so much with your husband, and it is sad to see a marriage come to an end. It’s awful to see how children can end up being victims in all of this, since now they will be without a father in their home.

      How much do your children know about his struggles? How much have they discovered or been told?

    • This man is your enemy. He may have issues you allow understanding for, childhood circumstances beyond his control. However do not walk, but run from this man for the mental and physical safety of you and your children. Make every financial availability yours to help raise your children, alone, you do not need that man the way he is. Broken, and he will break you. What you know is the tip of the iceberg. I know I lived with one for 20 years. Get out ! ! !

    • Samantha, I’m so sorry this has happened to you. I see that no one has answered your question about whether “we don’t have a healthy sex life” is just an excuse. As your intuition (or the Holy Spirit if you’re a Christian) is telling you: yes, it is a rather lame attempt to shift the blame on you. Your husband doesn’t need sex, he needs intimacy to heal. There is no intimacy (and can never be any) where there are lies and deception. Period.
      I’m conducting a world wide survey shortly which will gather info on boundaries set by wives of addicts including boundaries around sex. Myself and other researchers in the field will be using the data in upcoming books.
      God lift you up and show you how special and loved you are.

    • Samatha, I totally understand how you want to believe your husband…however, Maya Angelo said, “believe someone the FIRST time they show you who they are.” My sex addicted husband went on to molest our child. Seriously, it is not just pain you may feel if/when he acts out again…he may damage your children in the process. My child is having severe social issues now, and I am a solo mom to our three children and it is heartbreaking and makes me angry to see what his selfishness has caused. Ultimately, it is your choice and it is between you and God Almighty. If someone truly loved you, they would never have lied to you like that in the first place. Best wishes to you!

    • Thank you Kay for your encouragement and suggestions. I will check out your recommendations. I need to work on healing for sure.

  8. Thank you for this article/suggestions. I was with a sex addict for 11 years, divorced him when I had just turned 31 years old. I found out he’d been sleeping with men, women, prostitutes, voyarism, beastiality, and ultimately found out he’d abused one of our children. Went through hearing him confess to a detective, dealing with children’s services, sexual abuse programs, etc. I did well the first 4 years following the divorce as a solo single mom to our three kids, but this year has been tough. Memories of him grabbing a knife once during the divorce threatened to kill himself after he’d partied at a strip club the night before, and abuse toward me and all kinds of things have found their way into my consciousness. The horrible anxiety and mild depression my counselor has attributed to PTSD from my ex and my childhood. This article helps to understand why those of us who have been unfortunate enough to marry a sex addict and trust that type of person with our lives and children’s lives have PTSD. Thank you!

  9. My husband has struggled with porn addiction for almost 4 years. I’ve tried everything I can. He says he wants help but I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m to the point now that I don’t really want anything to do with him anymore. Which is sad because we have 2 small children. Counseling isn’t really an option since we don’t have decent insurance. I’m so stressed and really do feel I have ptsd. He says he doesn’t want to do it because he knows how it makes me feel and its not a good Christian example for our kids but he’s repeatedly looking at it on his work (!) phone. I guess what I’m trying to say is can I please get help.

    Thanks.

    • Hey Candace. Well, the first thing I see here is that your husband has a porn addiction, and you’ve tried everything you can. What needs to be happening is that HE tries everything that HE can. It can’t be your job to make him stop. He has to do that himself. If he’s been saying for 4 years that he wants to get help, and only you have been trying to do something about his porn? That’s a problem.

      I would say, you need to get some support for yourself in this. Personal counseling is a good option. Often, counselors work on a “sliding scale fee” basis, which means their fees are income-based. You might also find a family advocacy center in your area that offers services based on income. There are also many group options available for support, and these are often free or very affordable. xxxChurch has online groups. S Anon is a good option for spouses, and some women have also found Al Anon to be useful. Celebrate Recovery is a program many churches offer.

      Boundaries in Marriage would be a great book to dive into. There’s more about boundaries here. And you might also appreciate hearing how other women have dealt with boundary issues in their own recovery: Hope After Porn is a free download.

  10. Honestly, reading this makes me more afraid to get help, than I was before. The PTSD is something I relate too.. I have a lot of anxiety after enduring 18 years of this abuse from my husband.. no one understands, and NO ONE has any compassion for me at all.

    • Hi Lori, I know it’s really hard to take a chance on a therapist, when you’ve already endured so much from the person who promised to love and cherish you.

      I think it’s important that when you look for a therapist, you pay attention most of all to your own gut-level feelings about the person. Look at your first meeting with that counselor as an interview–you are interviewing that person to see if they have the understanding and compassion you need. Do you LIKE the person? Do you feel SAFE and RESPECTED? If the answer is no, then leave and interview another counselor. You are under no obligation whatsoever to the counselor. Counseling is for YOU. You must feel safe, respected, heard, and understood or it’s a waste of your time at best.

      I’m a counselor, I know a lot of counselors, and I promise you this: there are many, many counselors out there who do understand, and who will have compassion for you.

      One of the sad realities of abuse is, it isolates you and leaves you in that place you’re describing, where it seems that no one will care for you. But that is a lie that the Enemy of your soul uses to keep you trapped and alone. When you’re ready, there are people who are safe and who will understand and walk with you.

      The American Association of Christian Counselors is a good place to check, for a therapist in your area. Blessings, Kay

  11. Kay,Thank you for your response.. we’ve done counseling in the past.. both as a couple and individually, and not one ever even ventured to say my husband has a problem or CALL him a sexual addict. NOT one. It actually was me who figured it out and called him out on it.. none of the counselors helped either.

    The fear of judgement, ridicule, or rejection is too big right now. There are people who do know and not one of them offers any compassion towards me.. they feel sorry for him.

    • I’m so sorry, Lori. I think we are so messed up about sex. And women tend to take the blame so many times in abuse and addiction problems in marriage! I wish I didn’t keep seeing that, but it’s almost inevitable. I just hope you can find a safe place for you–S Anon, Al Anon, Celebrate Recovery, xxxChurch. You need support!!! And there are safe people out there, who will understand and help you through. You just haven’t found them yet, but please don’t give up!

  12. Hello, I would like to remain anonymous if that is okay. I am only 21 years old and my husband and I have been married almost two years. We have an eight month old daughter. Our relationship was so perfect, up until I was about eight months pregnant. I was hormonal and we got into an argument. Long story short, I told him I was getting a divorce and in return, he slept with a stranger in our bed. I found out soon after and gave him another chance. It has been almost a year since that has happened. I have caught him numerous times watching pornography. A few days ago I even found out about him having sex with a stranger from a dating website while I was nine months pregnant whenever he went away for work for a month. Also, we got into our first argument since we had our baby a week ago and I told him to leave the house and he again got on a hookup/dating website and almost met up with a girl to have sex. When he gets caught, of course he is apologetic. He cries, this and that. Yet he continues to do this. I have always felt that he had an addiction to sex, but after reading about it the past few days I am almost certain that is what it is. He was sexually molested for years as a child by a loved one. I believe this has a lot to do with the addiction. I know he loves me, and our family. He does not want anyone else besides me. I know this. He just claims that whenever I threaten him with divorce or leave him, he feels abandoned and lonely and seeks out sexual attention, because it makes him feel ‘needed’. We spent all night last night reading about sex addiction and he said it was ‘scary’ how accurate it all was and that it explains him perfectly. He is attending a SAA support group through a church this week and then we are going to find him a counsellor to help him. I just need some sort of hope, or someone to talk to, or somewhere to turn to. A light at the end of the tunnel if you will. Please, anybody. I am so lost and hopeless at this point. My heart is absolutely broken and I just need help.

    • Hey there. Wow, I am really impressed with the two of you, for being able to look at this problem with some perspective, and see it for what it is. I agree with the diagnosis the two of you came up with, and it sounds like he’s more than willing to attend a group and start working on his issues. That is really an excellent start. Very encouraging.

      I think it is equally important that you get help in processing your emotions and making healthy choices as well. The wife’s needs often get overlooked, and that stunts recovery. So, find a personal counselor in your area. Attend a group like S Anon, Al Anon, Celebrate Recovery, or Pure Desire. While he’s taking responsibility for himself and his recovery, you take responsibility for yourself and your recovery. Get well together. It absolutely can be done. Blessings, Kay

  13. Thank you for writing this and for the work you have done. My husband confessed to being a sex addict with years of infidelity in 2010. At the time much of the resources I could find used the co-addict concept. I could not accept that. I have “issues” from my family of origin, however I think much of those were being handled rather well. I was a rather high functioning individual. My husband had a secret identity. What he had portrayed himself to be was far from a person who was capable of deception and repeated infidelities. The infidelities were exclusively while out of town on business. Although my intuition told me things were off, it was impossible for me to know what had been happening. The revelation that my whole life had been a lie, that this person I chose because of his integrity had betrayed me was crushing to me. Devastating. I became a shell of the person I once was. I had almost all of the symptoms of PTSD. Had you have met me for the first time then, you would have thought I had to be “sick” also; you would not have believed I was once successful and engaged in life. I have fought hard to recover. At the 5.5 year mark I feel like I have accomplished much in this area. However, there are days that are still very painful. At about 2 years into recovery, I just couldn’t read another word about sex addiction or recovery. Tonight is the first time I have searched for new information. I was so relieved to find your articles. Perhaps I can find some help to reduce the frequency and severity of my painful days. Thank you for your work.

    • Hi Cindy. I’m so, so sorry for the pain you’ve suffered in your marriage. I think you’ve shared a common reality: if our spouses want to lie and hide things from us, they can. I had a very similar experience; I knew things were off emotionally in the relationship, but there was no way to address it until my husband was prepared to be honest. And then the aftermath of the honesty was emotional devastation.

      I wonder if you’ve come across the work of Dr. John Gottman? I’ve found his research to be incredibly insightful when it comes to building a healthy, successful marriage. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a great resource. And a while back, I wrote an article based on his concept of how emotional trust is built. I definitely understand getting to that place of not wanting to hear about sex addiction any more, but still needing to work on the relationship.

      Blessings, Kay

  14. What if you realize you married a child and not an adult? This is something, among so many other things, I have tried to stuff down, and reverse the role of the husband being a covering for me, have spent 41 of marriage covering for him, making excuses for childlike behavior etc. Once, in the first 3 yrs. of marriage there was a misdemeanor offense arrest involving a child, (which now would be considered a felony.) His extended family knew about it as well as our Pastor and church family. I was subjected to intense public humiliation including having our Pastor at the time of my husband’s arrest, telling me to give him sex whenever & wherever he wants even on the kitchen table, (his words). So, of course, I blamed myself for not being enough, Being a private person by nature, I’ve always tried to take care of private issues privately. I like to think things all the way through to end results including possible and inevitable repercussions before telling anyone anything. Probably now in retrospect not the best choice. Having to go through the legal process with him at the time, I vaguely remember the professional evaluation they gave my husband with the result that he had the mind of a 15 yr. old. He didn’t finish highschool, and I knew that befor emarriag eand also tried to fix that many times.

    Any way, pornography, infidelities have all been part of the scene. Much emotional devastation on my part, much crying on his part, ( he of course blames the devil for making him do it and says, well God made me like this). I’m embarrassed to even write this. I can no longer make excuses for him at my mental, physical and emotional expense. I can no longer differentiate between what he calls love or “needing” me to make his life happen for him in a functional way. I do everything. He appreciates it he says, but doesn’t want to be told what to do even whenit mostly wrong..I’ve learned to let a lot slide.

    This last week I noticed he was carrying his cell everywhere and was always around the corner texting…he started taking walks for excercise, (never does) and was always on the phone during these walks. Shorten the story to me being able to retrieve the number from his phone without him knowing it and tracing the address in CA to a FB friend. A Christian woman 18 yrs. younger than I. I was able to read a couple of the over 500 texts in 2 weeks and it’s clear it’s a online affair. Haven’t confronted him yet. Meanwhile he has been saying he loves me and do I want to take a drive or a trip….? This may not be what he wants in his life, but clearly it’s still an addiction. He was in an addiction recovery group for men at our church. He went 5 weeks and said he was cured. Seriously, at this point I find the whole mess exhausting! After being “the rock” for so long, I just want him to recover somewhere else and come back changed or not come back. I just don’t think it’s healthy for me to be the brunt & blame for his shortcoming and or addictions anymore. I just don’t want to have to endure the fallout in front of family and friends. I would tell no one and he would call everyone to try to involve them. Exhausted! Our 3 daughters don’t know the extent of this at all.

  15. Dear Gail, I am in much the same position you are. When I asked my husband if he thought our problems were as great as our still drinking alcoholic friend and his wife, his answer was “no.” He then asked me, “Do you think they are?” And of course I said “yes.” He didn’t get it. We got counseling from a trauma based therapist almost ten years ago. He did his work and she and I both thought he was in recovery. Now it has raised it’s ugly head with a vengeance. It is betrayal and wounding all over again. He refuses to share with honesty so I am left to my crummy thoughts. We are continuing to work with our therapist both individually and together. I am grateful for a guest room in our house which has allowed me to feel safer. I work a 12-step program, available in our small town. My sponsor has a family member who divorced over a sexual addictive spouse, so she is aware of some of what I deal with. Like you, today, I am ready to head into a new direction. I am 73 and any move I make can’t be too far into the future…while I can still lift furniture!! I feel that much of the joy has gone out of my life and I’m not ready to give it up. I am finding POSARC and the work of Dr. Barbara Steffens very supportive. I will keep you in my prayers.

    • Lela, thank you for sharing your story with us. And thank you for your amazing example of hard work and good boundaries. Thank you for not giving in and giving up. Thank for your showing us all how to fight for truth and peace in our lives. Blessings to you, Kay

  16. My heart is beating a mile a minute reading your stories ladies realizing that I am not alone. Last year I discovered my husband’s same sex sexual addiction to pornography, websites, he had a second telephone I wasn’t aware of and lots of pictures of men. He was involved in a long distance involvement with a man who years earlier unbeknownst to me engaged in oral sex at a convention. I was completely devastated. We’ve been married for 17 years and early on in our relationship I discovered he was attracted to men but he promised me that it was in his past. I’ve lived a life with very little intimacy with fear and anxiety. Once I made the discovery he told me that he was molestated at an early age by a family member which led him down this cycle of dysfunction. He is currently seeking intense therapy at a treatment facility in another state. This has been an absolutely awful experience that I know is far from over and I’m sure that I am know where near the root of all the lies, betrayal and addiction. I’m currently in therapy with a wonderful therapist. I’m not sure what else I need to be supported and healed but I know I need more. I’m having an out of body experience reading all your stories and realizing that I am/have suffered from PTSD. Thank you all for sharing your stories and offer of advice its been so helpful to me. God bless us all to heal and find peace!

    • If you recognize PTSD symptoms within yourself (and so many women do), then you’ll be interested in the research and writing of Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. His book, The Body Keeps the Score, is the best of the best when it comes to understanding PTSD and what effective treatment looks like. You might also want to check into the resources at Bloom for Women, where they do take a trauma-informed approach to all their support for women recovering from relationship betrayal.

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