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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88 thoughts on “What Every Wife of a Sex Addict Has a Right to Know About Her Husband’s Recovery

    • Why is it okay and permissible for addicts to speak about their wives and complain in general? At COSA meetings no crosstalk is allowed and you are never allowed to speak of your problems with your husband’s actions. It’s called being a co addict or co dependent if you focus on his actions…it doesn’t seem really fair.

  1. Oh my goodness! You’ve probably heard this a million times, but I will say it anyway. You have NO IDEA how helpful and timely this article, your company, and all your blogs are to us dealing with these issues. God bless you all, over and over again!

  2. As the wife of someone with sex addiction, I want to say one thing about disclosure. The one being disclosed to should be really clear about what they want to hear, and more importantly, what they do not want to hear. My husband’s therapist tried to get us to do disclosure very early on, and I knew that it was not a good idea. I knew enough of his secrets. I didn’t want to hear more. I just wanted him to stop accumulating more of them. I became very focused on a few things. One was my safety. I did ask for disclosure around things that would impact my physical and financial safety. The other thing I focused on was how he treated me. Beyond that, his recovery was his issue.

    I do want to thank you for pointing out that the identity of other group members should be confidential. In my husband’s group therapy, this is not an expectation. (This is part of the reason that my therapist, and also our couple’s therapist, are not from that clinic.)

    • Thanks for sharing, Sara.

      I think two things are critical in this. First, what does the wife want to know. Second, what is the husband’s attitude about his recovery life.

      As far as what the wife wants to know, it is important she be told everything she feels she has a right to know (minus the caveats Ella mentions in the above article). If trust has been broken by secrets and lies, then it is only by disclosure and truthful living that it will be restored. That said, you are correct: if the wife has specific things she does not want to know about, it is her right to stay in the dark.

      As far as the husband’s attitude, I find that a lot of men want to have a secret “recovery” life just like they had a secret sex life before. This is unhealthy for him and his marriage. He needs to get away from the habit of secret-keeping altogether. This does not mean disclosing everything completely, but it does mean have an attitude of disclosure or making disclosure his “default.”

      Dr. Doug Weiss says it pretty well. He says for most couples, this dividing line is harmful behaviors. Women often don’t want to know about every lustful thought that goes through her husband’s head or all the times he was tempted to click on porn. Women do want to know about when a men visits a prostitute, is flirting at work, or is binging on porn.

    • What a great response, Luke!

      Sara, you said your husband’s therapist is the one who encouraged the disclosure. While I have no doubt his intentions were good, I wonder if you did not receive the support you needed during this process and that is why your experience was not as beneficial as it should have been. There are so many different approaches to conducting a disclosure and most are very “addict-centric”, neglecting the emotional needs of the wife and not allowing her to be as actively involved in the process as she should be. A proper disclosure is so important in healing for BOTH partners, when the circumstances are right. It saddens me to hear stories like this that might discourage those where the lack of a formal disclosure is the one think keeping them from moving forward.

    • How do you coup with it? I am in it right now and I’m trying hard to stick it out but it doesn’t help when he thinks I’m in the wrong. I don’t have anyone to talk to.

    • Hi Jane. My husband has been working on his recovery for 12 years now. I would say that he is free of addiction, but never free of his free will to make bad choices. Occasionally, he does view something inappropriate; however, the difference today is, it’s very occasional and he’s able to realize “this is stupid” and stop himself. He generally feels worse about it now than I do. The focus of our relationship now is not the porn; it’s our relationship. I’ve written about what that looks like here. Kay

  3. Ms Hutchinson, I appreciate your interest in tending the wounds of those injured by the sexual behaviors of others. However, I believe your advice is almost certain to continue to feed the obsession of the co-addict. As long as the spouse of the one continues to obsess over the “problem” and “is he doing anything (or enough or everything he can or…) about it, they are avoiding dealing with their own recovery. The advice to “clean their own side of the street” is in fact the sound advice. No matter how many letters you throw behind your name, you do not change the experience strength and hope of countless individuals who have found recovery through the 12 steps.

    Respectfully yours-


    • First I want to express my sympathies to all partners of sex addicts who have read this person’s comment and had to once again have that awful label inflicted upon you and all the assumptions that come with it.

      John, I have to ask what “obsession” are you referring to? Do you mean to say that a desperation to know one’s own reality and doing whatever they can to find it is being obsessive? Is feeling intense pain over repeated sexual and emotional betrayal, from the person you committed your life to, a sickness? “Their own recovery”? From what? The trauma their addicted spouse has caused them? Yes, that is crucial. And part of offering that recovery is validating that it is normal for the mind to ruminate over such things for a while. And why did you put the word “problem” in quotations? Do you mean to say the addict’s behavior is not the problem? John, please know these questions are completely rhetorical.

      The 12 steps are wonderful and I am a huge proponent of them. I think we all could benefit from working the steps at some point in our lives. However, I strongly disagree that telling the partner of a sex addict to “work her program”, specifically because she found out she is married to a sex addict is not just ludicrous, it is appalling. I assume you would also blame a woman who was raped because her skirt was too short or she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. No, she can’t grieve and allow herself to be the victim for a little while. She must instead focus on why she was dressed that way or why she chose to walk down that particular street or park in that particular parking garage or go to that particular party.

      So sad that there are people out there that still think this way. The term co-addict is slowly being removed from the vocabulary of sex addiction professionals and there is a reason for that. They are learning that that model doesn’t work. The letters after my name have nothing to do with my views on this. My personal experience and experience with thousands of other partners of sex addicts is why I feel so strongly about this.

    • John
      “continues to obsess over the “problem” I don’t think you understand the problem for the spouse is that we are trying to keep from being hurt again. It is not about the SA, it is about self protection. If my husband wants to continue putting me at risk I want to know. It isn’t my problem if he wants to hurt himself. But it is VERY important that I know if I am in danger. I don’t need to recover I need to protect myself. Not everyone is an addict, maybe that is how addicts see the world though.

    • John,

      I totally agree with you. The article is short-sighted in that it does not validate the systemic, or family systems that influence addict/co-addict relationships.

      If the individual work is not done, on both sides, there will be no hope for the marriage.

      The courageous task of recovery is to “come to our own assistance” and a major way that occurs is through disarming our contribution to unhealthy codependency ..,that precipitated as well as plays a key component in any addictive cycle.

      Trust can only be rebuilt when there are opportunities for risk. Continuing a power-over relationship for the sake of making marriage work is counterproductive.

    • Amber, you’re correct. While some spouses might exhibit “co-addiction” symptoms, many of these symptoms can be explained as a reaction to trauma. When all wives are branded as co-addicts without warrant, this can really cause confusion and more hurt.

    • John … You are wrong . The purpose of this article is too move forward in the healing of the spouse. While many have found help in the traditional addict/ co dependent approach to recovery ,many many have not on both sides of the fence!many addicts continue sham recovery using avoidance and other self soothing choices rather than responsible healing choices. I suspect blame & shame shifting , crazy making and devaluing of the wife needs for healing from wounds and continued wounding while the addicts continues assume responsible ownership of the range of damaging in the family . In my experience the damage … Trauma from the continued lies, secrets , blame and shame shifting further enables the cycles of denial, distortions , deceptions to avoid or shift blame and shame and the personal responsibility to choose the path of not only their recovery but responsibility to support the healing of those who they have harmed. It begins and ends with Truth, Gods Way and indeed His Light. I celebrate and honor whatever path you may have found to your recovery yet wonder the trail of unspoken , unaddressed wounds you left behind prioritizing your recovery at the expense of your partners healing. Open your heart and mind to approaches and heart that what may have been enough for you has not been enough for far too many others.

    • You’re right. I stayed on my side of the street and divorced him after hearing crap like that then finding out it was all a sham and he was on dating websites and still looking for prostitutes on websites. Marriages don’t work when the spouses are on different sides if the street or when the addict can’t handle or acknowledge the pain and trauma they caused their spouse. Not every partner is a co-addict. We may all have issues but being married to a man who turned out to be trolling for prostitutes and doing other discusting behaviors in secret most of their adult life does not automatically initiate me into the co-addict club. Hence the divorce. And yet I am still traumatized.

    • Thanks for this. Yes, you are in no way responsible for your husband’s choices. Of course we all have issues that we need to work on. We are human. Having human issues comes with the territory. But so many, many times sex addicts are hiding their addiction from their wives, and the only thing wives are guilty of is trying to keep the marriage together.

      Here at Covenant Eyes, we’re trying to speak up for good boundaries, so thanks for joining in with that.

      It doesn’t surprise me to hear that you’re still traumatized. Many, many women in these kinds of situations meet the clinical criteria for PTSD. I hope you’re finding help for yourself as you recover? Personal counseling and/or a group like Divorce Care could be helpful, if you aren’t plugged in to something like that already.

      Blessings, Kay

  4. Thank you for the article. I think it’s critically important to remind those in recovery that it is completely reasonable for partners to fear being hurt again. It’s reasonable for them to be hurt, angered, even enraged from time to time. After all, it is a part of the process for healing for them, and brings about awareness of the pain for the addict.

    Unfortunately, without a conversation about codependency and unhealthy enmeshment, your article misses a critical opportunity to advance recovery in marriage.

    The truth is that the majority of marriages with addiction involve codependency. In fact it is the mutual emotional unhealthiness of BOTH partners that becomes a connecting point to feel safe initially. Unfortunately, the emotional unhealthiness eventually rears it’s ugly head toward each other, and all hell breaks loose.

    Men with a tendency toward sexual addiction, often are confused because they have a unhealthy need for constant female acceptance. This need results in a lack of personal boundaries because they would rather make women happy with a passive acceptance of boundary crossing, rather than be upfront about negative feelings or conflict.

    If you’re a recovering addict and you think that you can hold the card in your pocket that says “Yeah, but my wife has issues too”, you’re still an unhealthy codependent. It’s time to put away your childish ways. Your wife probably does have issues, but using them as a weapon only makes things worse for you.

    As you become more healthy in recovery through weekly groups, individual counseling and daily accountability, you will begin to reclaim your basic human boundaries. You will have more room for her ‘negative’ feelings and for your own. Your wife will naturally begin to reflect more on “her side of the street”.

    Instead of telling her to stay on her side of the street, you need to concentrate on your own recovery, and figure out where your side of the street ends. Her anger is not the impediment to your recovery, it’s your unhealthy dependence on her being happy all the time.

    I highly recommend: Changes that Heal

    • MartinJ,

      I am curious as to what in Ms. Hutchinson’s article gave you the impression that she would never want partners to look at their own co-dependent tendencies in their personal recovery or in the recovery of the coupleship?


    • You know, MartinJ, I really like most of what you said here. I readily admit I am sensitive to the term codependent being used to describe partners of sex addicts because of the fact that it is assumed that every partner of codependent and that simply is not the case. MANY are not. But you made some really great points and in spite of not completely agreeing with all of your terminology I very much appreciate the wisdom in your post and your willingness to share it.

    • Great thoughts Martin, I agree.


      I totally agree with you. The article is short-sighted in that it does not validate the systemic, or family systems that influence addict/co-addict relationships.

      If the individual work is not done, on both sides, there will be no hope for the marriage.

      The courageous task of recovery is to “come to our own assistance” and a major way that occurs is through disarming our contribution to unhealthy codependency ..,that precipitated as well as plays a key component in any addictive cycle.

      Trust can only be rebuilt when there are opportunities for risk. Continuing a power-over relationship for the sake of making marriage work is counterproductive.

    • While the addict/co-addict relationship may be a reality in some people’s lives, what makes you believe this is the norm? The co-addict model makes assumptions about the partner’s personality, characteristics, and behavior, simply because of her relationship to the addict. Do you believe this is way we should see partners of sex addicts…as co-addicts in a power-over relationship?

    • Wait. I didn’t have “co-dependency” issues until I found out about my husbands sex addiction. And being lied to over and over again. Straight to my face. I love my husband, as I’m sure most of the women who are here reading do as well, otherwise we wouldn’t care enough to do the research. But to be labelled now as part of the problem because I really want the truth? I feel sad for your future.

    • Of course you have a right to the truth in your marriage. There’s a big difference between knowing the truth and trying to control the behavior of another person. When we get into trying to control the behavior of another person, that becomes codependent.

      I think it’s good to know the truth, to have information so that you can have good boundaries and make healthy decisions for yourself. Only you can judge whether you’re using that information for healthy purposes, or in unhealthy ways.

  5. I agree with a lot of what Ella wrote in this article. However, I caution wives and their therapists that there needs to be a point where the focus is taken off the husband’s recovery (assuming he’s doing a lot of what was written above) and focused on her own recovery from what the husband did to her but just as important from previous wounds (sexual abuse, previous relationship betrayals, father wounds, mother wounds, etc…).

    I have spoken to various wives and husbands that admit that she is still “policing” his recovery and not working on her own wounds, not going to therapy for her own healing (or when she goes to therapy the whole session is about the husband), and thus not allowing God to heal her wounds. Instead, she gets stuck in the attitude that her husband is the reason that her whole life is terrible – and this is after years of recovery and “sobriety” by the husband. To continue to treat a wife as a “spouse of a sex addict” (assuming the husband is working good recovery, sobriety, and active in recovery – both personal and couple) and not as a wounded human being is a disservice to her and to God’s healing of her. Enabling a wife to “act out” with policing her husband and his recovery, under the guise of continued trauma, is no different from enabling a sex addict to act out sexually because of the trauma he experienced in childhood (or for some in adulthood).

    I feel wives should expect to know about the husband’s recovery activities and the husband should tell her what he’s up to (and reading the Green or White book, Out of the Shadows, etc.. is perfectly ok for wives), but they should never get into the mode of demanding to know these details. This shifts the husbands recovery activities from “I want to do this to become healthier” to “I better do this so my wife doesn’t get angry at me when I check in with her.” The latter is not the correct mindset for the husband as he needs to want to recover so he can be healthier and be a loving husband and father not to please his wife.

    If you feel your clients’ lives are revolving around the husband’s recovery activities and details, I hope you are wise enough to redirect her to her own obsessions, compulsions, and wounds from childhood, especially if the husband is progressing in his recovery.

    And one of my favorite lines from meetings is “take what you like and leave the rest.”

    • Someone once told me that the best way to tell if someone is in recovery is by how they treat others. I love articles like this because they expose addicts who believe they are in true recovery. Recovery is about surrender. It’s about serenity. You can’t have those things if you are consumed with what your wife is doing. No matter what you might tell yourself she’s not the one in recovery…you are. The truth is these men are still dealing with veiled resentment that comes off as concern and going through the motions. I wonder why an addict in recovery wouldn’t want to share what he’s doing in recovery with his wife freely? I wonder why he feels so threatened? Is it top secret? Why do we always want to put our wives in the role of the enemy? There shouldn’t be any secrets in a marriage. My wife is someone who I can trust. Someone that has been destroyed by my actions but shown such tremendous love just by remaining in the marriage and having the willingness to go forward. It sickens me that even though WE are the ones who have acting out and destroyed our wife and our marriage we continue to demand that SHE work her program. That’s insane! I don’t think too many men would work a condescending recovery program that says they are just as or sicker than their wife if the shoe were on the other foot. Only in our patriarchal society is this possible. Men are swallowing everything they read in books written by male sexual addicts hook, line, and sinker! I continue to see angry addicts in group who know nothing about surrender and continue to point the finger and their wife instead of at themselves. How sad and reflective of the population. Listen to this woman guys it’s great advice and your marriage will prosper. Don’t make your 12 step group a boys club and don’t get your marriage advice in group. Thank you Mrs. Hutchinson for your refreshing take. Take what you like and leave the rest.

    • “Castimonia”, you mention several things that are beyond the scope of this article. Please remember that this is just one article and can not possibly include my views on every situation or set of circumstances. What I see most of the time is that if the addict is in real recovery, trying his best to be supportive and empathetic, and keeping her in the know, she won’t be “policing” his recovery. I am saddened to see you use the phrase, “acting out” in reference to the partner of a sex addict since she is not an addict. Further, I am hurt that you would use the expression, “under the guise of continued trauma” in any context, as it sounds terribly insensitive. I assure you, while there are always exceptions to every rule, partners don’t want to remain stuck in their trauma and in the vast majority of cases, if she is not making progress within the context of the marital relationship, it is because there truly is continued trauma occurring (not necessarily because of sexual acting out).

      What partners want, and what I want for them, is for them to become empowered. This happens when they are allowed to feel their feelings and express them. As MartinJ said, as the addict becomes healthier, “You will have more room for her ‘negative’ feelings and for your own. Your wife will naturally begin to reflect more on ‘her side of the street’.” Of course I don’t like the “her side of the street” expression because of the context in which it is generally used. But the point Martin is making is beautiful and true.

      I am sorry that (it sounds like) you took part of my words to mean that a partner’s life should revolve “around the husband’s recovery activities and details”. I hope that you are wise enough to recognize when addicts, who look to you as a leader, are harming their marriage and hurting themselves in the meantime, by being insensitive to their partner’s needs. Partners want to heal, they want to be supportive of their addicted spouses, they want to enjoy life and the company of their spouse, they want to be healthy, happy people. I don’t mean to generalize because, like I said, there are always exceptions, but this is what I most often see. But they are afraid of being hurt again. To call that fear “obsessions and compulsions” is unfair and damaging.

    • I want to clarify my comment, “if she is not making progress within the context of the marital relationship, it is because there truly is continued trauma occurring”. First, it is crucial to recognize that in most cases, once recovery begins, it will take the partner much longer to recover from the sex addiction-induced trauma than it takes the addict to find success in recovery for his addiction. So if there doesn’t appear to be significant progress on her part in the first several months (Rob Weiss, CSAT, states 9-18 months for the partner to move past the initial trauma response and I tend to agree), this is normal and does not automatically imply continued trauma. Addicts should regularly be reminded of this fact. It may seem like she will never heal. He must be patient while he is also being humble and empathetic. Except in rare cases, this will work and she will heal and move forward with him. But if he is telling her to hurry up and “get over it” or anything along those lines, he will achieve the opposite of the intended effect of his words.

  6. this article is refreshing and insightful and exactly how I feel dealing with my husband SA. So many therapists are encouraging SA’s to keep things secret and not involve their wives in their recovery. I think that is fine if you are ending the marriage, I had secrets for 22 years in my marriage and I refuse to be in that type of marriage one day longer. Thankfully when I shared the article with my husband he was so on board and sees the benefits of sharing and being honest in re-building the trust that his acting out has destroyed. thank you

  7. This past Aug, 2013, I found xrated dating sites on my husband’s phone and, thinking I’d better look at his computer, hundreds of porn sites that he was using to masturbate to. I confronted him, he admitted to using these things, plus porn shop video booths for masturbation, undressing women in the store, waitresses, anyone, for future fantasy and masturbation. He had ( and will always have to guard himself from) an addiction to big breasts and “round, tight, bubble butts” , as he put it. Since Aug, the week after recovery, we have been in counseling, sex addiction recovery group at CR, my own group at CR for my help with dealing with this, a couples bible study group, and we meet with another Christian couple who are mentoring us on how to have a good, Christ centered marriage. These are all good, but exhausting. Early on in our journey, aost from the very first day, we have agreed , after struggling with what this would look like and how it would be done, as to what info I, the wife, would need to know, and he would need to disclose. I found out that I needed to know everything. Every detail, thought, desire, how he carried it out, where he carried it out, how he used women, how he got the money for the video booths, how he managed to find the time, how, and working on, why he did these things. Just everything! At first he was reluctant to dpill everything, but as time has gone by he had become more trusting of me to know everything. As his trust has grown, he had shared more and explained in more detail some of the things he was afraid to tellme at first, fearing I would leave him. As his trust in me had grown, and he has shared, my trust in him has grown. It was very difficult at forst. Much pain, many tears, feelings of betrayal, fear of repeated sexual behaviors being repeated, etc., even some hitting of him on my part. The hitting jad to stop, and I gave it my priority to think it through, seeing how fruitless the behavior, on my part, was. I wanted to hurt him because he hurt me. It stopped when I realized it. It only happened two times, but two times too many. We’re past that. Right now we are at a point where we have to make some adjustments in order to continue with a healthy healing. He feels he’s over all this, he wants me to be too so we can move on and become ” normal” . I’m not completely ready for that. I’m still working on days of “flashbacks”, remembering all the hurt that still is there. He has some small areas to work on too. I realize some of his old habits are still around, looking at women, judging their appearance if I ask him what he thinks about what he’s looking at, but I don’t feel he’s lusting after them. It’s just a lifelong habit. Most of the time he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. I should say, also, that he is almost 62 years old. He had been in this addiction for almost 54 years, and we’ve been married almost 42 years. Some habits die hard. He got out of it “cold turkey”, and the looking at women habit is the only one I can detect, so I believe him when he says he’s clean. He tells me that I am the only human being that knows everything anout him. I fully realize that there will ne more things that come out over time, but, because of the love of my father, God, I will be able to deal with them. My husband tells me that he is grateful that I stayed with him and that I helped him as much as I did with learning to open up and share in innermost thoughts, feelings, and ugly behaviors. This is, according to him, what helped him on his journey the most, besides the grace and forgiveness God gave him. I am so hopeful for our future now. So is he. We’ve put away our ild marriage and are starting a new one together. We’re thinking of renewing our vows when our 42nd anniversary comes by in April. We look forward to sharing the rest of our lives together in our new, honest, beautiful committment to each other.
    Ps: he does share everything the group shares when he’s in it. We discuss it, thinking it through. My husband’s desire is to help other men i. His group with the knowledge we gain grom our frank discussions we’ve had and are constantly having. We both praise God for His goodness towards us.

  8. I wanted to thank you for your article entitled “What Every Wife of a Sex Addict Has a Right to Know About Her Husband’s Recovery.” I have struggled with feelings of anger and resentment toward my husband’s recovery community for months now and have felt a lot of shame for being angry with the very men who are helping him to maintain sobriety. I knew what I was feeling about the advice that he was getting concerning the pain that I felt in our relationship. It felt violating, pompous, assuming and just downright ludicrous. It has been my experience that an addict doesn’t need to be encouraged by anyone to be self-focused. However, I have never had it confirmed by a licensed professional until I read your words. I am so grateful for Barbara Steffens’ book and it has been so very helpful to me and my recovery. However, even Steffens’ book did not so precisely offer the affirmation that I have been desperately searching for. Since my husband and I entered recovery, I have wanted to help the spouses of SA’s have the powerful voice that so many addicts themselves seem to have found. I would love to be certified through your program.

  9. Carol, you and your husband have clearly worked very hard to find healing from the extreme damage his addiction has inflicted on your marriage. It looks like a lot of progress has been made on both your parts and if I knew you personally I imagine I would see a ton of hope for your future together. However, and this is important, you are both very, very early in recovery. You said, “He feels he’s over all this, he wants me to be too so we can move on and become ‘normal’. I’m not completely ready for that.” Of course you aren’t ready for that. In fact, that is what is, “normal”. It would be denial for you to claim otherwise. He isn’t ready either and this is evident by his roaming eyes. I know you don’t want to believe it, but yes, he is lusting. Based on what you say I believe your husband’s heart is in the right place. But April is extremely soon to be renewing your vows. You both have much more work to do. I’d be happy to talk to you about this more privately.

  10. All,

    This was a great article-sent to me by my wife with the comment, “Honey, I’m so glad that you communicate with me better than most…” The statement by my wife is a real testament to me of the fact that I have made real progress in my recovery because It has been a monumental struggle for me to foresee any good coming from openness about the things that my mind and body are capable of. I was so imprisoned by shame and guilt that the freedom of openness and honesty were mere unproven theories to me. Likewise, it is also a testament to the same for her since it is largely due to her willingness to both give the space needed and at the same time not be afraid to discuss her apprehension to trust me after I have been so irresponsible with her trust in the past. It is very difficult for an addict laden with shame and guilt to make progress while disclosing details of what is going on in meetings and in therapy. In most cases, the very shame and guilt faced by the prospect of revealing these things are the most potent fuel for the addiction in the first place-so to deem it necessary before the addict has made a certain amount of progress to save the marriage is to take a hard stance that can cripple the recovery and without recovery, the marriage is a moot point. I have to say that openness and willingness to share about these things should be considered as more a result of good honest recovery than a prescription for saving a marriage or relationship. It is the prolonged lack of this openness that cause the spouse/partner (already reeling from discovery) to become more and more obsessed with it. Both parties need some wiggle room and need to be willing to give some wiggle room in this regard and neither party likes to hear it. In the beginning, I tried to follow the advice that My recovery is my business and ran into many problems because the inhibitions and aversions which I had not yet resolved were exasperated by the prospect of having to tell my wife. It is easy for a non-addict to assume that it is possible to just talk about whatever was said or discussed or to tell about the fact that you can’t stop looking at attractive women because logically, it makes sense that since the wife/partner already knows about the addiction, there’s no real risk. In theory, this is true. However one over-reaction or expression of anger after one such disclosure can be a huge set-back. Regarding my own wife: Yes, she was engaging in some unhealthy behaviors stemming from the pain of my betrayals. Yes, she did some things that made my recovery more difficult. Yes she had issues before we met and those issues made it easier for me with all of mine to continue and flourish in my addiction. However, It was only after my full disclosure and humoring her at times when she may have been wanting to know more than what I felt may have been healthy, and after her willingness to give me some space despite her fear of being hurt yet again, that we have been able to say things like her comment to me at the beginning of this post. We have not committed to remaining married but are committed to giving our marriage the best chance possible by being as open and intimate as it takes. Gallons of tears have been shed by both of us and on the flip side, we have both expressed feeling joy and intimacy like never before. I can honestly say that the joy and intimacy are directly proportional to the degree that we both have worked and that if either of us lapses or reverts into isolation, the relationship becomes stressed. Great points have been made in this discussion from both points of view. It is clear to me that every individual is different and there are millions of combinations of assessing who should be doing what. Generalizations should never be taken as advice or used to judge one’s own progress. Thanks so much for opening this debate.

  11. I read this article (and others like these) with an open mind initially. But once I discovered that my husband’s addiction had progressed to viewing child pornography, I closed the door on reconciliation.

  12. Thank you for your article. However, I want to speak up for those of us on the other side of the fence. There is a large and increasing body of *women* who struggle with sex addiction, including the use of porn, and therefore, a large and growing body of *men* in support positions. since most articles and books written on this subject only describe male addicts with female partners, those in the opposite position feel even more shame and marginalization. It can make female addicts afraid to seek out recovery communities, and their partners reluctant to join co-support groups because of the stigma. Please consider re-wording your future pieces to include *all* addicts and their companions. We don’t need any more emotional hurdles. Thank you. P.S. My blog is available as a resource for men and women in the situation I’m describing. Thanks.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sonora Hope. Yes, this an increasing problem in our society. We have a whole section on our blog about that topic, covering a broad host of issues from parenting to marriage to singleness to addiction. One of our regular authors chiefly writes on that subject. Our last webinar focused on that subject exclusively.

      As you can imagine, we target each of our articles to specific audiences. Sometimes to men, sometimes to women, sometimes to counselors or pastors, sometimes to teens. We don’t want to mix our audiences if we don’t have to. Just as we don’t tend to write about male addicts in our articles to women, we also don’t write about female addicts in our articles to men. We have some other articles that are directed to both genders purposefully.

  13. WHEN the SA “my husbAnd ” puts my life in danger of SDs and HIV bringing up the problem is not a problem especially when all addicts have more of a probability of falling of the sober wagon… Everytime he did what he did meaning acting out without protection he put my life on the line !!! And another slip up from a SA can mean a couples last…. So pardon me if I feel the need to protect my life if you who feel bringing up the problem is a problem in recovery!!!! It’s no joke and nothing to baby him for or take lightly .

    • Hey E, I hope you feel supported here to have the boundaries that you feel are appropriate in your situation. I agree with you that your safety must be paramount. I do think that as a wife, you should be able to have conversations about how his recovery is going. In fact, the inability to have those conversations would be a real red flag for me, both personally and professionally. I think that couples often have to grow into the ability to say and hear the hard things, but it can be done. I think that addicts don’t like to tell the truth sometimes because it will result in boundaries they don’t want to deal with, and that makes me, like you, leery of the idea that we can’t talk about the problems. I think that as acting out escalates, then the need for detail increases as well. You need to know what you’re dealing with, to be safe, to have good boundaries, to make good choices for yourself.

  14. I have to agree I am very uncomfortable with the label of being co dependent or a co addicted. I think not being affected in some way is totally impossible but that does not make me sick. I would think it would be quite unhealthy if I was not affected or traumatized by what I have been through. I agree, and I totally resonate with what was written in the article. In my relationship, it has felt like a game of hide and seek. In the past if I did not ask questions about what was going on or behavior it seemed there was no responsibility taken by the SA that they needed to tell me. A great deal of my trusting him again has to do with; is he being forth coming with me or am I still having to ask questions. I am tired from asking questions. I agree that those in relationships with addicts do not want to stay stuck in trauma (yes I know there are always exceptions to the rule). But, for me having to ask questions is triggering, as there is some part of me that says I’m not sure of things because I did not ask the right questions. That is a behavior that I find unhealthy not codependent. Since a whole and healthy relationship should not be a game of hide and seek. Part of the issue I have found about being with an addict is that there is little room for the person with them to have space for feeling or emotions about how they are feeling. (Especially if they are big feelings). This is trauma that we have gone through. Trauma is not something people walk quickly. Nor is it usually something pretty or tidy if you witness it. Everyone is different (I have worked with people who have endured great trauma) and I guess this is why it does not sit well with me that anyone would label me. I did not ask to be here, so I feel offended (not defensive) when someone labels me a somehow sick. It is like being with someone who had a heart attack. Would you say that I have now been diagnosed with some sort of heart condition?

    • I think that each individual relationship is different. For some, codependency is a huge problem, especially if the patterns have continued over a long period of time. Others are able to have healthy boundaries with relative ease. I think the main thing is that the person who has the problem deals with their problem. If there is little room for you to have space for your emotions, then I’d say you need to find a safe, healthy space for you to have those emotions–a support group, a therapist. That would actually be a step away from any existing codependency, toward healthy self-care.

      I would expect that as the addict deals with his addiction, there should be a growing, nurturing space for your experience and emotions. He should have a growing capacity to recognize his own failings and to make amends, as the 12 steps says. Part of making amends is making space for your experience and emotions. If there’s never any space for you, then I question whether he’s progressing in recovery. In fact, for me, my husband’s capacity to turn toward me emotionally (not just about my feelings re: porn, but his ability to attend emotionally in general) is a bigger indicator to me of his progress in recovery than the behavior he may or may not report to me. Does that make sense? Here’s a bit more I wrote about that idea of “turning toward” the other day.

      And as to your question about heart attack. I think the theory behind codependency would work like this. If the person with the heart attack stayed in bed for the rest of his life, without doing his job to get treatment, and you kept feeding him there and carrying out his bed pan, then you’d be codependent. Of course you don’t have a heart condition, but your life is being controlled by the heart condition anyway.

      That’s a question we can only answer for ourselves: is that person taking responsibility for himself, or am I? Where are my boundaries? Are my boundaries healthy and adequate?

  15. Thank you Kay for your response. Yes, I agree with you about the definition of the heart condition. That is super good. I think what I was trying to express, if we are going to use that same example. Is that the person with the heart condition like you said stays in bed and does not do the work that is healthy for them. That you are not feeding them or carrying out their bed pan but they keep up with that behavior and someone says that you must somehow been doing those things. I think what I maybe was attempting to say but not well was trying to express is that it feels hurtful to be labled. As you can see I have an aversion to the word codependant. I feel as though it is a term that can be to easly placed upon someone. Thank you for sharing your experience of know there is progress when you see a capasity to turn toward emotion. Yes, that totally makes sence and healthy boundies are imperitive and something I work to put in place for myself.

    • I’m glad that helped, Mary. I know certain words can become really loaded and unhelpful. The main thing is that the person with the addiction takes responsibility for it, and the other person maintains healthy boundaries–which can look so different for different people.

  16. Hi all

    Coming in at the tail end but I would just like to affirm what I have learnt from experience, recovered/recovering porn addiction and a Christian counselor dealing specifically with sexual brokenness and addiction, there is no “one size fits all” solution, no guarantees and no way anyone can take responsibility for another’s life, whether good or bad.
    Did I often revert to porn to escape the feelings of failure I experienced whenever my wife was unhappy? Yes, but if that meant that I could not stop watching porn untill she stopped being unhappy then I would have been lost. The hard lesson we both learnt through the pain of my addiction was that untill such time as the individual becomes willing to let go of the other and centre on self, take responsibility for self, there can be no true life. As long as you are labouring under the illusion that you are unhappy because of someone else you are and always will be a victim of the behaviour and percieved intent of others. And before I get my head handed to me on a platter, lets not confuse being hurt, an event, with being unhappy, a state of being. Did I hurt my wife and she me? Unfortunately, YES! But it is how we respond to the hurt that determines whether or not hurt becomes unhappiness, a state of being in which we believe ourselves to be powerless victims.
    What those choices are will vary from person to person and cannot be imposed by another.

  17. The biggest problem I’m having at the moment is how to act. I am putting my foot down over all if this codependent nonsense- I’m positive that that CAN be an issue, but it does not apply here. At any rate, prior to discovery my SA and I had an amazing marriage- plenty of quality time doing things we both enjoyed, plenty of touching/hugging/kissing, a fantastic sex life… I want that back! I obviously don’t fully trust my SA, but I’m a person too and I don’t want to suffer any more than I already have! Because I don’t deserve to! How does the spouse of an SA move forward in this situation?! Where does the intimacy come back in? We had it during his extracurricular activities, so the lack of it didn’t play a role. Anyway, I see tons and tons of posts on being the spouse of a SA but not one of them I’ve seen has touched on this subject- your post seemed the most question friendly, so here I am :) Thank you for your words and (hopefully) suggestions.

    • Hey Clarissa, I think I’m hearing a couple of questions here. When can I trust him again? How do we get our sex life back?

      Let me address the trust question, because I think that’s foundational to the question of having a good sex life again. Here’s an article I wrote just recently about restoring trust. The thing I’ve found is that trust is about more than just good behavior. Of course we want healthy choices and good behavior from our spouses! But the emotional attentiveness is really what builds back the deep intimate trust in the marriage. (There’s a video included with that article that explains it really well!)

      Once you’ve got the trust element going–behaviorally and emotionally–then I find that the sexual intimacy generally follows pretty naturally. Of course, if you’re spending a lot of time being angry and punishing, then it won’t work so well! So I do think that forgiveness plays a role as well.

      But again, trust is the foundation. I don’t think you’re going to have a good sex life again until you’ve got that trust back in place. It may take time for him to do his part, and for you to heal and feel safe again sexually.

      And the reality is, it IS a loss for you. Sexual intimacy IS something he really is supposed to be bringing to you, and only to you. So he really does have to change and there really is something here you’ll need to forgive and heal from. It’s a real wound, so I don’t expect that to just be gone over night. Hopefully, though, you’ll be in a process of healing and finding your way back to real intimacy in every way.

      Let me know what you think! Kay

    • Clarissa, I’m sorry I’m just now seeing this. There are so many factors involved and I don’t know the details of your story, but in most cases where the husband is in recovery and no longer acting out, I feel comfortable telling women that whether they have sex with him is completely up to them and what they feel comfortable with. I partially disagree with the statement one person said about how there must be trust in order to have intimacy. That might sound strange, but in my experience, once trust has been broken it takes much longer to rebuild than many other aspects of the relationship. Now, trusting the intent of your husband’s heart, that’s different. I do agree that this must be present in order for intimacy (sexual or otherwise) to be present.

  18. I have just gone thought the disclosure process. This is the second time there has been countless affairs. This second time I caught him is now over 10 months ago. He went into therapy in June. And this disclosure process just happened the other day not because the therapist were sensitive to how excruciating it was for me to continue to live with not knowing but I finally said I would not wait anymore for this process to happen. I spoke briefly with my husband today and said that one of the things I felt was that for the past 6 months he has been in therapy every time he held my hand or taken affection from me that he was being deceptive and he took something from me that he did not own. The question I thought of was. Would my wife kiss me or hold my hand or what ever if she knew all of the details. The ability to answer that question for myself was taken from me. I talked to one of the therapists from the disclosure process today and said that them prolonging this for 6 months has done me more damage. Now I am not suppose to talk with my husband about anything he said because I have to wait who knows how long to give him my impact statement. Does any of this sound right to you? I feel it is all keeping me in a state of trauma.

    • Hey Tamara. Thanks for writing in. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor, so let me address this from a professional perspective. Part of a standard client bill of rights should always include the idea that you have the right to be informed, satisfied, and involved with treatment planning; you have the right of informed refusal and an expression of choice in treatment. In other words, if you don’t like what’s going on, you can refuse that particular treatment. If you feel that you’re being further traumatized by the treatment plan and/or its execution, you have the right to pick yourself up and LEAVE. You are NOT required to participate in ANYTHING that feels wrong, uncomfortable, or just plain stupid to you. There are lots of different ways to treat addiction, lots of different ways that people experience recovery. If this particular method does not work for you, get out of it. YOU GET TO CHOOSE!

      I agree that it sounds like this particular treatment plan is more about the plan than it is about your recovery, and you’re not being informed of important pieces of information which would allow you to make clear choices for yourself.

      I’d say that at this point in the process, the most important thing would be for you to find a therapist who is helpful TO YOU. I’d check the American Association of Christian Counselors for someone in your area. Call up a counselor or two, give them the synopsis above, and see how they respond. I think you’ll be looking for someone who’s more about emotional support, helping you discover your own boundaries, assisting you to process pain, etc., rather than someone who’s got a sure-fire program that’s proven to fix everything. That is way too often about somebody loving their method more than their client.

      Let me know what you think– Kay

    • Tamara, this is awful. I wish your story was the exception to the rule, but I hear this kind of thing all too often. Your last sentence is accurate. This IS keeping you in a state of trauma. It is not okay. Partners of sex addicts should not be forced to wait several months for a clinical disclosure! Email me if you’d like to chat about this a little more.

  19. I wish I had come across this article when it first came out. February 2015 will be 2 years since I discovered that my husband had been acting out for 15 years. Besides feeling like a fool for not suspecting, I still feel in limbo because he has not given me complete disclosure on the advice of his SA sponsor. I know only what I discovered and am still hurt that he firmly believes that this is in my “best interest” which, I don’t feel like that should be up to him to decide. He has been in active in SA, two meetings a week for 18 months. I still have so many questions but, I’m scared that disclosure at this point would put me back to square one with the that paralyzing pain but, now knowing is keeping me from being able to fully committ to trying to heal as a couple. We have been married 38 years and I don’t want to start all over at this point in my life but, I feel like its just disrespectful to keep me in the dark about all the things he was doing over the years behind my back. After all the time he has been working his “recovery” I don’t feel like there has been any true healing for us as a couple because there are still secrets and, I’ve had enough of those to last me a life time. I’ve read multiple books and continue to google certain key words after all this time because, my heart knows something is missing and I can’t build any trust on things that I don’t know.

    • Yeah, I have a hard time understanding the perspective that you’re not allowed to know things. I’m a counselor, and in my world, I like to have everything on the table. Not so you can control every little thing, but so that you can make informed decisions about appropriate boundaries for yourself. You are the person who gets to decide what’s in your own best interest! That’s not up to your husband or his sponsor. That’s up to you.

      I do think that sometimes addicts become highly devoted to their particular system of recovery. I see this quite a bit with 12-step models. The system takes precedence over relationships, and in that way it can be a lot like another addiction. One of the foundational rights of clients in therapy is to be satisfied with the therapy, and if it’s not working for you, it’s not the right model. It’s that thing Jesus said, that Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath! The recovery system has to serve the client. Sometimes I think 12-steppers lose sight of that. You just have to watch that and see how it goes.

      I would say maybe you’d benefit from counseling for yourself, so you can work on healing and boundaries, even if that has to come without the information and the restored trust you’re hoping for. The American Association of Christian Counselors is a good place to check for someone in your area.

      I wonder too if you’ve read our free download, Hope After Porn? That might give you some ideas on how other women have handled boundaries in similar circumstances.

      Let me know what you think. Kay

    • I understand where you are at. This September will be 2 years since my initial disclosure. Then I lived with 8 months of staggered disclosure. I am one that needed to know everything. Every woman, every porn site, Craigslist’s everything. We have been to many counselor’ s and groups. Bottom line is “In order to move forward in an honest relationship after being lied to for 25 years, you must be honest” So as painful as the disclosures were I needed toknow. Most people in my shoes went thru lie detector tests. That I am sorry I did not. Today we are together, he’s in recovery. I don’t completely trust him. I am permitted to check his computer’s history, emails and phone. We will be married for 38 years. I am looking forward to a new marriage based on honesty and open communication.
      We are continuing in marriage counseling and my husband attends a weekly SAA group along with a therapist. We both want this to work.

  20. Where to start…
    I was an addict up until Aug 2014.
    Then the inevitable happened, my wife found a text and my entire world as I knew it completely imploded.

    The gist of it was that I was seeing sex workers for 5 years. This started after the birth of our first child and continued during our second child and subsequent stopped after my wife found the text message and took the boys out of our family home.

    I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist but if anything the past 5 months of counseling and going to Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) has taught me is that typically one becomes an addict due to a disturbing or psychological impact that has been inflicted on the individual that has never really been treated, typically during childhood. No I am not looking for pity, that is just generally the reality.

    So why the response on this blog then?
    Well when I realized I was an addict, I jumped onto the net to find out what the chances of my recovery were, I was completely naïve to this addiction…I was very shocked that 9 out of 10 blogs on most sites were by partners pleading for their addicts to take responsibility of their condition or that they had re-offended on many occasions and once an addict always an addict. I made a promise to myself that when I got to my stage of being strong enough to posting a blog and a better understanding of the addiction, then I would post a blog to say that recovery is achievable.

    So hopefully this blog will provide hope for the addicts out there wanting to recover, if you have a desire and a will to fix yourself then in my humble opinion you have to stop the denial and get to the cause of the problem/trigger.
    The 2nd and 3rd steps is to find a professional that can guide and support you through this process as well as going to some therapy groups like SAA.
    From there the road to recovery will be long and bumpy but so much better than the alternate road which dark and lonely which only makes you feel worthless.

    I have been 5 months “dry” now and I am fortunate I have got to the bottom of my issues, that is not to say that this has been easy on any of the family, I live with that shame daily but I will never take a backward step.

    To the partners of addicts out there, I hope you can take something away from this especially in identifying if your addict has a desire to recover and be clean again, I wish you strength and will always be amazed by your empathy.

    This is never easy on the victim, the addict or potentially new partner but everyone is entitled to one chance to make amends.


    • Hey, thank you so much for this. It sounds like you’re working your program and finding healing. We love to hear those kinds of stories! Recovery absolutely is possible. It’s a ton of hard work, but it can be done! Congratulations on your 5 months of sobriety, and may you continue to find hope and healing.

  21. This is helpful. But I’m stuck on one part, and it’s the part I’m feeling most impacted by. The content of therapy, while for the most part, isn’t really something I’m curious about. But there are some topics of my significant other’s therapy sessions that I will truly need to know about to move forward and understand who my partner really is. Things about family of origin, or childhood trauma, or self-esteem issues…I know that’s regarded as confidential between counselor and patient, but I think I would struggle a great deal if I inquired about these things and my significant other refused to disclose them. I would feel like he’s still hiding, like he’s still not entirely open to me and doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his whole self with me. It would see to me to be a partial marriage, to be uninformed about the underlying issues that may have influenced this addiction in the first place.

    • I agree with you! I’d want to know those things, too! (I’m a therapist, and a wife, both.)

      Confidentiality is something the therapist has to keep. The client is free to say whatever he wants, and I think that the growing ability to be honest and vulnerable about those critical developmental issues that you mentioned is key to the emotional connection that marriage is really supposed to be about.

      It’s not even so much about understanding the addiction and what drives it, (although that’s helpful) but understanding the person you’re married to, and being able to share the burden of pain that they may be carrying. I think that being a safe, loving harbor for one another is what marriage is all about at a deep level, and I’d want to see an increasing capacity for that over time. If that’s not happening, then I’d be curious about what dynamics are in play that make the relationship unsafe.

  22. Hi all!
    For a couple of months I’ve been together with this loving, caring person. Early on in our relationship he told me that he had problems with intimacy and letting other people into his life, but that he was really trying ot make an effort and asked me to be patient. Occasionally he would tell me bits and pieces like ‘having issues with sexuality‘ and in general just gave some very non-descript statements that left me confused – but I figured eventually he’d tell me what was troubling him.
    Recently, he told me that he is a recovering sex addict, who has been attending meetings for over a year. Since I didn’t really have any understanding of sex addiction, I started researching. Obviously there were many aspects that scared the hell out of me and others that gave me hope, and after carefully evaluating what I want from life and where (and with whom) I see myself in a couple of years, I decided that there was no way I’d walk away from him and the relationship…
    Lots of little bits of his behaviour (that I initially just regarded as little quirks) now make sense to me, and I am in awe of his bravery and trust by opening up to me about his addiction.
    Anyway, I’ve been really struggling with what’s okay to ask about his recovery and the journey ahead of us (and yes, I guess I’ve been regarding this as OUR journey right from the start) and I am incredibly thankful for this article! I feel in no way able to identify with the co-dependant/addict concept and this article perfectly answers many of the questions I’ve been struggling with over the last couple of days.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Ana123,
      I was glad to see your post, because I am in a similar situation. I am with a man who was a sexual addict for 20 years and married and had children. He has been in full recovery for almost 6 years. He lost his marriage, but continue to do the hard work and seems to be healthy. I want to marry him because I love him and we have a great relationship, but I’m terrified also. I’m wondering if things are still going well with you, and I’m just not sure if I should take the risk. But six years does seem to be a good amount of time to have developed strategies and new patterns so… I’m vacillating between wanting to move forward with him and getting scared. Any advice?

    • Hi Joy,

      Here are a couple of things I’d look at, beyond simply his addiction recovery, to consider how healthy he is overall these days.

      1. Does he take responsbility for himself, or is there any blaming/excusing in his life? Not just around his addiction recovery, but in other areas as well. Does he take responsibility for himself physically (eating well, exercising)? Does he take responsibility for himself financially (living within his means, not in debt, works an adult job like an adult should)? Does he take responsibility for himself emotionally (healthy relationships, good boundaries)?

      2. Is he able to connect with you emotionally? Does he notice how you are feeling? Does he listen and care about how you feel? Is he able to share his emotions with you?

      The very best book I know about successful marriage relationships is John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. This is the absolute best research out there in the world today on what makes marriage work. It’s practical, full of quizzes you can take together, and has lots of reasonable suggestions about how to be stronger and better together. I’d say get a copy of that, and work through it together. That should give you a really solid idea of where the relationship is, and whether you’ve got a reasonable chance of success for the long haul.

      Blessings, Kay

  23. My story is a bit different …my husband isnt just an sa…hes an a. Yet I relate a ton to whats being said! Hopefully i find some understanding/support here. Everyone assumes you are codependent if married to an addict. My husband and I married 15years ago. We became friends while he was in rehab & married later after he was out. He was clean for 14 years from meth, maijuana, alcohol & porn. 12 years later he lost his job & developed back pain (he has arthritis up & down his spine)& started taking pain pills to keep working side jobs. Then got a job making hardly anything. We sold our dream home to help him finish school. He developed anxiety & depression. I was very sick pregnant with our 6th. Thats when I discovered he had been texting/ calling an x gf from hs & his meth days. He had been giving her emotional support & me nothing. My heart was broken. He had also looked @porn a few times. He had missed school “looking for cheap pills” We had no insurance…So I wasnt thinking it was an addiction. He had always been honest with me. I finally got an uneasy feeling about it & put my foot down & said im not ok with more cheap pills. But he snuck & I caught him so I left & he full-on relapsed that night. I chose to stay together as he had finally realized it was an addiction & also admitted to viewing porn like a bunch more times. I just couldnt believe he would do all this to me, to us! From the moment I found the texts & calls I have been told to get over it, let it go, move on, hes sorry. People have called me codependant & an enabler. It has made it so much harder. I didnt know it was an addiction! Also staying in my marriage while he worked & went to therapy, meetings …makes me codependent? Thats just mean! I think this is hard enough without being labeled. Are there things that I shouldnt do? yeah! But because I chose to stay with my husband while he struggled doesn’t make me sick. Hes clean 7 months now & is much more emotionally available &im a grateful wife!!

    • Yeah, I think codependency can be a helpful construct when we can look at ourselves and see areas where we may be caretaking to the detriment of our own sanity.

      But it is often thrown onto people in blaming ways as well, as you describe. I hear that all the time from women who have had experiences like yours, and it makes me sad.

      Ultimately, we are each responsible for our own choices. You don’t “make” him do anything. He’s got stuff, and he chooses addiction to take care of his stuff.

      I hope that as his recovery progresses, you’ll get just as much help and support for your own healing as he does for his. If you can receive healing and health for yourself as he receives healing and health for himself, then codependency isn’t a real big deal in your life. Blessings, Kay

  24. I am mystified by all the talk that goes on around what a husband or wife should or shouldn’t share in sex addiction recovery. Why is there not more talk around what a real recovery looks like. My ex husband looked so good on the outside….arrested for soliciting a 14 year old….priest and teacher, he seemed so happy to be found out…so glad to rid himself of the burden of this addiction. At first….ready to repent of an affair and this little online mishap. As I dug deeper, he had multiple women and men and conversations that were so dark and horrible. He never confessed….I had to dig for everything. Then once what he thought was most if it was out….he told me he was repetant. He was ready to rebuild our lovely 25 year marriage and take care of his lovely four daughters. He told me he confided everything to his counselor, his priest, and his sponsor. I found out none of that was true after he went to prison and after I read his journals. How is that codependent? I would still not know any of this had I not had the wisdom to realize that he was lying and covering up. That is not me not working on my side of the street. My side was clean. I was faithful and loving and ready to forgive. I was working hard to manage a household, work, keep girls from being further traumatized, and even working to learn my core issues and hurts. Why was he not held to a recovery system that demanded full disclosre? Why are the addicts given a free pass to “relapse” and continue to degrade and abuse their spouse with subtle little blaming tactics? Why are the sex addicts treated as if they really desire to change when all they desire is a return to normal so thy can then again build their little dark world? I only found out two years after that he hadn’t told the counselor everything. I still am told by him that a loving wife would have been able to forgive and move forward with his healing. I am told that relapses are normal….they are part of the healing. Like Hell they are! No one heals by further traumatizing their wife and trying to lead a double life again! Luckily my counselor is not one who said stay at all costs. He was wise and said…without true repentance and broken confession there is no hope…get out now! He didn’t give me the whole codependent model and how to stay on my side of the fence. He told me to see everything for what it really, really is. He said to see the facts. He told me to simply look at whether this man confessed freely and humbly….nothing else. And once I could clearly see that none of that was happening…all the addicts stories and attempts to look like recovery was happening became so clear and easy. No confession and broken repentance = no change. Half hearted recover, blaming or relapses or anything short….and you have a gas lighting…..manipulative…narcissistic liar! (mybeautifullybrokenlife.com)

    • Recovery language can definitely be used to manipulate and twist reality. Any time it’s used to blame the spouse or to relieve the addict of responsibility, that’s a misuse. The 12 step system only works when each person takes responsibility for themselves; if you have one person who takes responsibility and the other blames and deflects and manipulates, then it won’t work.

      I’m glad you found a wise counselor who could see past the manipulative language to the truth, and who was able to empower you to make healthy choices for yourself.

      Blessings, Kay

    • You are amazing and strong and awesome! I love what you wrote. What an amazing person you are! Thank you!

    • You do write beautifully. & I love how you ask “Why are the addicts given a free pass to relapse and continue to degrade and abuse their spouse, with subtle little blaming tactics? ”
      Man! I dont understand this either. My a is in school for drug & alcohol addiction & mejtal health. He also works @ a facility. He workd the 12 steos. But he says to me that he is learning how to handle couples because of the things ive shared with him. He also says that Im a special case. But I think there is way too much co-dependant talk going on. In my humble opinion, I feel more & more that they love to lable us codependent to take the spotlight off themselves. They don’t seem to understand how traumatic it is to discover your husbands addictions. I wish you to be able to find peace.

  25. I love the way you respond to the comments!!
    My 73 year old sa (!!) was in a facility for 90 days that kept me fully informed of progress and I had access to his therapist all the time. This, by the way, kept him honest. He is a charming lawyer, and has a way of twisting the truth to make himself look good, and this way, I had the opportunity to present my side.
    When he left the facility, I allowed him, with boundaries, to return to the marital home. He seemed dead set on recovery and was enthusiastic and willing to discuss things with me.
    He then began going to a CSAT counselor, a woman, who advised him that he was “entitled to privacy”, that I was trying to control his recovery by my desire to know what was going on in his recovery, and had the nerve to send home to me a pamphlet on anger management. Yes, I am angry and hurt, and when confronted with such ridiculous advice, I get upset. He has stopped talking about his recovery, allows me to know only when his 12 step meetings and therapy sessions occur, on her advice, and things have basically fallen apart. His addict behaviors have worsened, he has lost his humbleness and sorrow for my pain and unbelievably, left his “declaration” and assorted papers on the kitchen table as a, as he called it, “passive declaration”. Certainly no therapist advised him to do this, right? I feel that his therapist and he are lining up against me…him telling her lies and her agreeing and encouraging him.
    I do not know what to do about this situation. I asked him to leave until he was ready, if ever, to actually work on a real recovery, which would include leaving this therapist (by the way, one boundary was that he sign a waiver allowing me access to his therapist, a boundary that was mandatory by the facility, and although I have that waiver, the therapist declines to talk to me).
    I am beginning to believe there is an inappropriate relationship here. I did encourage him to return to the facility, but the therapist says it is not necessary. We are paying a great deal of money to this group, since he has two hour consults…
    Of course, addicts lie, and this could all be untrue, but the therapist did decline to talk to me herself.
    I am losing my husband of 20 years, apparently aided and abetted by a cerified sex addiction therpist. Is it possible an therapist would advise such hogwash? This is, on top of everything else, simply mindboggling.
    Strange, yes?

    • I think the best evidence of recovery is the level of emotional intimacy and trust between the two of you. Whatever the ‘facts’ may be of what’s happening in therapy or with his behaviors, you can be confident of what you observe first-hand in your relationship together, regardless of how much or little information you’re allowed to have from this therapy.

      Trust yourself here. You are a mature person with years of experience in dealing with this issue. You don’t need a therapist to tell you what’s happening, or to give you permission to set healthy boundaries for yourself. You are perfectly capable of seeing the truth and making healthy decisions.

      Be strong and courageous. Blessings, Kay

    • Thank you Kay. In the two weeks since I wrote this miserable comment, I have finally faced that I must let my husband go off to do whatever it is he will do, and finally, finally, five months after discovery, start on my own recovery. I spent so much time trying to manage him, and keep him on track, that I had not even looked at myself. It seems like a miracle, but after two weeks of Sanon and Al Anon meetings, finding a therapist who understands, some mild medication from my family doctor and a lot of writing and praying, I am “Letting Go and Letting God”, trying not to anticipate the troubles coming down the road, and have found just a little peace in my life.
      Yes, I knew in my gut that all this was a path for him back to his addictions. But that is his problem. Right now, I am going to work on me and find some happiness and sanity.
      Thank you for the website.

    • Wow, Dianne. Thank you for taking time to write back and share this! I keep saying these things to women, because I think they are true and helpful, but it’s always nice for me to hear good feedback! And I think it’s helpful for other women to hear things like this, too.

      It’s so sad and hard to let go, especially when you can see how destructive the choices are–to you, to your marriage, to him. But there is a miraculous peace about it, too. Whatever he chooses, God has got you safe and there is healing for you.

      Blessings and thank you again for letting us know! Kay

  26. It’s been 5 months since I found 2 emails from my husband soliciting to try meet up with someone over his lunch time. On our wedding anniversary. Five or so years ago, I found a text to someone he said he enjoyed the afternoon with. The first time around, there were tears and apologies. He said it was a one-off chance meeting with a stranger at a store. He just accepted responsibility and promised not to do it again. I went to therapy and worked really hard to trust again and let it go so we could move on. I did all the work to heal.

    What’s confusing is that from day one of our marriage, he was always passionate about our lives. On the surface we have always had a great marriage. He said he’s realized that the emails were related to a porn addiction and immediately went to counseling. Honestly, I didn’t ask for many details. I didn’t want to ruminate over every little thing. We have many accountability measures in place. But most days, i’m sad. And disillusioned. I don’t know that I can trust the good stuff on the surface. I pray and pray for healing. I’m in counseling too, but this time I know I’m not just some jealous, suspicious wife who can’t forgive. He is happy he has admitted his addiction, and says he feels free from it. Some of the initial praying together has now waned, and we don’t talk about it as much as when he was first enlightened and studying. I occasionally bring up questions and share my pain. I told him I don’t know what healing and healthy is supposed to look like, because our marriage was always good on the outside. I think he is surprised I am still hurting. I don’t trust the good stuff now or what the future may hold. What does healthy look like?

    • I’m so, so sorry. I feel sad with you.

      When you’ve had this enormous gulf between the facade of a wonderful life, and the reality of cheating, then of course you are disillusioned. It’s only WISE to be disillusioned!

      We can only trust people who are trustworthy. And the only way we know if they are trustworthy is by their trustworthy behavior OVER TIME. Unfortunately, your husband has not been at all trustworthy in the past. Can he become trustworthy? Yes, of course. I truly believe that people can change; I’ve seen it happen. But at this point, you just don’t know–and you’re seeing some signs that cause you to question this trustworthiness.

      I think guys who feel relieved and happy with discovery often don’t really understand the kind of work they’ll be required to undertake. They think a fairly simple apology and “never again” is enough. They don’t understand what’s driving their own behavior, and many many times I see this idea that stopping the behavior is all that’s necessary, when in fact the subterranean world of shame, blame, guilt, fear, personal inadequacy, personal sexuality, views of women, entitlement, defense mechanisms, and other issues is still lurking below.

      So, healthy looks like him dealing with his stuff. In personal counseling. In groups. Over time. Probably years. yes, the accountability measures are good and necessary. But without processing those many, many underlying issues that drive the behavior, you’ve just got those issues running into the accountability wall–and then going… someplace. Probably toward another episode of acting out at some point. (In the 12-step world, it’s called being a “dry drunk”–I think we’ve got a bunch of those in the porn-recovery world.)

      And it looks like you continuing to work on your own emotional processing, recognizing reality even when your husband doesn’t, and having healthy boundaries. I think especially since he’s been acting out with other people, it’s extremely important that you figure out what’s healthy for you, and hold to those boundaries with all your might! Here’s a recent article from Ella that I think is just brilliant.

      Trust yourself. And trust that God has got you safe, no matter what happens in your marriage, or even if the marriage ends. As hard as that is, I believe it’s true. I’ve seen women come to health and healing, regardless of their husband’s repeated bad choices. Blessings, Kay

  27. Thank you so much for this article.
    I became so weary of asking my husband for truth and updates, I finally gave up. I’m not sure this is best, as I believe both partners should give 100% towards healing and building intimacy. However, I am so emotionally fatigued, I truly can’t continue to ask him for what I so badly desire. I long so for him to come to me and talk to me and reassure me and prove to me that he’s giving 100% towards healing and recovery. I know and I have witnessed that when he wants something he will do ANYTHING to get it and I want to see that same fervor and desire in him to be clean and completely free.
    Reading this article has helped me to see desires I couldn’t articulate–thank you, thank you.
    I stumbled upon this post after Googling, “spouse of sex addict recovery” and am wondering if you have any information that might help me to know what I need to do…what is the next step for me?
    My husband has told me that right now he is unable to give me what I need, unable to meet my emotional and sexual desires, unable to be intimate (in a relation sense not pertaining to intercourse) with me….it’s so difficult to live with so many unfulfilled desires and to know that I can’t even ask him to love me in the way I need because he’s already decided that he’s unable to.
    It’s also difficult for ,e to trust him because he hasn’t been acting out the last couple months and therefore he deems himself “clean” and won’t go to a recovery group or set up an accountability partner….
    I feel like I’m rambling and not making much sense.
    I’m just a weary wife that needs support and any information I can get my hands on.
    I want recovery and healing for myself and I am seeking ways to get the help I need.
    Thanks again for this article.

    • Hey Amanda, I’m so glad you found us! My best advice for you is to seek help for YOU, no matter what your husband chooses. Find a personal counselor who can help you process your emotions, choose healthy boundaries, and make good choices. Find a group where other women are processing through similar issues: Celebrate Recovery, S Anon, Al Anon, xxxChurch. There are a ton of free resources here, and lots of companionship from other women who have been through this and found healing. Here’s a link to some of our best articles for women. And we’ve got a free download called Hope After Porn that’s several women telling their stories. And here’s an article Ella just put out a couple of weeks ago that I think is just the bomb. The good news is this: YOU can be healthy, no matter what he chooses. YOU can choose healing and hope, no matter what he does. You don’t have to be held hostage to his bad choices. You can make healthy choices for you. Blessings, Kay

  28. Hello I love this article but my case is quite different. My boyfriend loves sex and we’ve been dating for 11months now I really do love him and am sure he feels the same way.
    He had a rough past before giving his life to Christ and he is also a loner, always isolated and not social. He never got into a relationship until we met in church. We became friends and eventually started dating. Our relationship has been a success coz we both understand each other, we trust ourselves and we barely quarrel but sex has ruined it all. whenever I’m with him no matter how hard I try we keep messing up, I’ve spoken to him about marriage but he isn’t ready yet. He is 25 and I’m 19 though he said he’s gonna settle down before the age of 30.
    Sex is a sin against God and we’re both tired of fornicating I notice my boyfriend can’t resist me no matter how hard he tries and now he wants to give up on our relationship until he’s ready for marriage so he said(I don’t believe his words though) but all I need right now is to change him for a better person and how to save my relationship with him and not sin against God.

  29. Thank you for this article. I read over it three times and cried each time. There seems to be very little understanding of how painful and traumatizing it is to be married to a sex addict. I won’t speak about how my husband has chosen to act out over the course of our 22 year marriage. I don’t think it matters if your spouse/partner has engaged in what might be viewed as relatively benign sexual behaviors or those more toward the extreme side of the spectrum (barring, of course anything illegal, deal breaker, and if you have a partner who has broken the law in his/her sexual pursuits? Please speak up and don’t let him/her victimize anyone else). Back to the point I wish to make. What my spouse actually did was painful to bear, but the lies and secrets have been heartbreaking and soul crushing. I left him 9 months ago. Hardest thing I’ve ever done. He has an sa meeting he goes to once a week and a therapist who specializes in the field. He relapsed at 3 months and then again at 4 1/2 months. I feel it is in large part due to the fact he hasn’t really committed to recovery. Does the meeting and Dr appt but no other work. He gets defensive when I ask about progress and if he’s learning about triggers and coping mechanisms for urges. How many times am I supposed to believe “I’m not going to use. You’re all I need.”? He knows he’s an addict and has finally admitted the way he’s always tried to cope, aka white knuckling it, doesn’t work. We are almost back to him having 30 days clean. But it doesn’t feel good really. He hasn’t even started step 1. He says he loves me and wants me back home. I keep saying show me, don’t tell me. I don’t want words, I want action and progress. But I’m sort of at a breaking point now. Our separation hasn’t been typical. We still see each other at least a few times a week. We spend alot of time doing family activities as we always have. The intimate part of our relationship is still great. But again, breaking point. I cannot stay in limbo anymore, waiting for him to actually commit to recovery, for his own well being, and stop working it just half assed enough to placate me.
    I do bristle at being labeled co-dependent. I didn’t sign up for this nor have I ever, in any way, enabled my husband to make choices which were bad for himself and/or our marriage. Do I have issues myself? Yes. But I have never purposely made a choice I knew would hurt someone else.
    Trying to find a way to close this long winded comment. I have alot of empathy for my husband and his crap childhood, which in large part set him on the path to sex addiction. He is a good man and he loves me and our children and grandchildren. He doesn’t want to hurt us. But I’m just so damn tired of policing him and his behaviors and trying to get him to be healthy and be proud of himself. It is probably time for me to step back and work on myself and let him figure out if he actually even wants sobriety, without pressure from me.
    Apologies for such a long post. I know my story isn’t singular or unique. The initial article struck me (sent a link to my husband and told him it articulates alot of my feelings better than I’ve been able to, he said he would read it). I read all the subsequent posts and found comments that were poignant, offensive, helpful, insightful, inspiring, confusing etc. I’m glad I found this though. Good reminder that so very many other people have people they love who are struggling with sex addiction.

  30. Just reread what I wrote and it may seem I’m saying the original article doesn’t have understanding for the pain of the spouse of a sex addict. Definitely wasnt what I meant. I cried reading the article for exactly the opposite reason. I felt like someone finally found the words id been searching for. Because in my experience this far? Spouses are treated either as equally sick and responsible for the addiction or completely marginalized and labeled controlling, jealous, possessive and such. It’s reassuring to know there are people who get we don’t necessarily bear blame for the addiction or possess those traits.

  31. My boyfriend of 3 years is starting his second night in a homeless accommodation. We have both been married before . When we met he revealed to me he had been abused as a child . After several months and after I had fallen for him I discovered he hadn’t quite ended his previous relationship. His ex and I met up and it was a truly difficult time . Conclusions and allowances were made based on his upbringing and ” mental health” issues . We moved on . We stayed together . Slowly I was drip fed information from his past from abuse to dysfunctional family to 2 failed marriages to prostitutes to dating websites, recent text messaging and seeking out women . I listened . I loved . I understood . I even forgave . Then I discovered recent ” acting out ” as he described what had happened while with me . Why did I not see this coming ? My dad today described my past 3 years being an error of judgement and God loves me . My dad doesn’t know my boyfriend who moved into my home and shared my life with, allowed bonds with my children, friends and family was and is a sex addict .
    In my head I feel I should move on . In my heart I feel something very different .

    I is going to seek help from SAnon and other counselling . It’s just beginning for him but I’m not sure where I begin or end .

    • Hey Heather, I am so, so sorry for the pain you’ve suffered in this relationship. I hope your boyfriend is able to get the help he needs to heal from the pain of his past. But whatever he chooses, I am glad that you’ve been able to set some healthy boundaries, and to turn your attention to your own recovery. After all, there’s no way we can force another person into recovery. All we can do is be responsible for our own choices. If you haven’t found these resources yet, you may want to read through some of the links here. Blessings, Kay

  32. Hello – i have been in recovery since 2008. My first marriage ended in 2013 and got remarried in 2014 to a wonderful woman. On board our honeymoon cruse on Tuesdau 10/14 i was approached by a women in the bar that fratinized iwth me and I reciprocated while my newlwed, married saturday standing near by watch and was dumbfounded. My wife is very outspoken and I told her after why didn’t she stop her. I did not deny my part and took full responsibility. Since then she has become contrary, argumentative and belittling. We separated in 3/16 and my anger led me to return to my SA ways of pursing other relationships with men and women. She found out & I told her I did it because of my anger at her. I need to take responsibility for my actions and stop those unhealthy behaviors for my own self dignity. I enjoyed reading this article which my wife sent me. When we were having trouble in March 2016 we agreed to be friends. She has now decided not to be friends. Your article talks about her being selfish amongst her anger which she is doing. I pray for our friendship and I look forward to a healthy relationship and me managing my SA issues. Thanks,

    • Hello Daniel – Can I invite you to think about this from a different point of view? What if you new wife needed to know she could trust you to not take action; it’s your role as the husband to intentionally separate yourself from these situations. If she couldn’t trust you to make it clear that you were married and had no intention of following through on the other woman’s flirtations when she was there, she absolutely could not trust you in private. You said you took responsibility for your actions; that’s great! But please understand that you very publicly betrayed her, and while she may need her own counseling, her anger is justifiable, and her separation from you, even on a friendship level, may in fact be part of her own healing process. You also said that your struggles led you to acting out again; if you are not pursuing healing through professional counseling, I highly recommend it.

      Peace, Chris

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