Porn and Your Husband

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45 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.

  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-

    John

    • 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.

  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?

      CN

    • 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.

      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.

    • 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?

  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

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