For Those Married to a Sex Addict
If you’re married to a sex addict, please note this article is addressed to your spouse. However, there’s a lot of helpful information here for a sex addict spouse as well. If your husband or wife is a sex addict, you may also want to check out these posts:
When sex addicts are in early recovery, their wives (if they have chosen to stay in the marriage) live in fear. Fear that you will relapse. Fear that you will cheat again. Fear that you may lose your job because of a slip at work. There are more fears than I can list here.
Bottom line: They fear being hurt again. Even wives of sex addicts farther along in recovery may still be living in fear, or that old fear may creep up again, if you aren’t keeping her in the know about your recovery.
But you are supposed to be in control of your recovery, right? Your wife learned early on that she “didn’t cause it, can’t change it, and can’t control it.” So where’s the balance? Can you be in charge of your own recovery and help your wife feel safe at the same time?
You Might Have Received Some Bad Advice
If you are one of those who is taking recovery seriously, you have probably received guidance from many individuals: therapists, sponsors, coaches, books, meetings, etc. Some of this guidance may have been conflicting. It is important to remember that those who are there to help you through your personal recovery are not often marriage experts, and some of their well-meaning marriage advice may hurt more than help.
It is likely that you have been told by some—if not most—of those guiding you in recovery that your wife needs to “stay on her side of the street.” (This was a quote used in a recent movie about sex addiction, referring to a popular belief about what recovery should look like for a couple.)
Now, think about how many guys you hear in your recovery group say, “I am doing everything right, I am going to meetings, therapy, staying sober, but she is still angry!” You might even be one of the guys saying this. How frustrating it must be to be working so hard and go home to someone who may yell, throw things, blame you, and not even trust that you are doing what you say you are doing. And what are these guys usually told? “This is about her, not you. By putting your recovery first you are doing what is best for her. This is the best way you can love her and if she can’t see that she is being selfish. She needs to work her program and let you work yours. Don’t let her hold you back.” Men tell me all the time that this is the kind of advice they are being given.
In the famous words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?”
You Are Still the Problem
Considering the unstable state your wife may appear to be in or the stonewalling you may be having to endure, the advice mentioned above might seem to make a lot of sense. And it can feel like such a relief to hear that her rage and withdrawal and mood swings are not your fault. You’re dealing with enough shame already.
But here’s the cold, harsh reality. You are the reason your wife is in pain. There is no doubt your wife had some degree of dysfunction in her past (please find me someone who hasn’t), and this current situation might have brought up some of these issues for her. But no matter how you look at it, with rare exceptions, your actions are the primary reason she is feeling what she is feeling now. I say this not to shame you, but to hopefully help make all this a little easier on you.
Don’t Neglect Your Marriage for the Sake of Your Recovery
One way you can make your relationship with your wife go a little more smoothly is to keep her informed of what your recovery looks like and even allow her to be involved. Consider this: Your actions put her where she is. Your story is now her story too. She is doubting everything because you gave her reason to. Put yourself in her shoes. Her world has been turned upside down. Does she deserve to be told to butt out and wait for you to be ready to be there for her? Of course not. But chances are that is what has happened.
My advice? Ignore all advice that sounds anything like what I mentioned above–that “her side of the street” stuff. Should your individual recovery be a priority? Absolutely! Does that mean you can’t focus on your marriage at the same time? No. But some will tell you this. Some will tell you that is just too much. What do you think? Are you incapable of being present in your marriage while doing recovery? Maybe not, and your marriage will suffer–or end–if this is the case.
Related: Life After Porn–5 Things My Husband Did to Rebuild Trust
But if you can get rid of those toxic ideas and recognize you are stronger than some may want you to think you are, your marriage can survive and even thrive! I’ve seen it happen enough to know it is possible, even in the direst of circumstances.
Letting Your Wife Into Your Recovery Process
So, how do you let your wife in while respecting the anonymity of the group and being able to feel safe in your counseling sessions without having to worry about having to go back and report everything that was said? How do you allow her to be involved while not feeling controlled and remaining in charge of your own recovery?
You take control! Don’t wait for the questions. Give her so much information that she doesn’t have to ask. (But know she probably still will and that’s okay.) In my extensive experience working with wives of sex addicts, here are some of the things they want to know and have a right to know:
- What happens in 12-step groups? What is the format? How does it start? How does it end? Is there discussion? What kinds of things do people talk about? What happens before and after? Are there any women in the group (I am not a fan of this practice)? If so, are they a threat to your sobriety? Do you get ideas about acting out from hearing the other guys? Do you get triggered? How is the group helpful for you?
- What are the 12 steps? How long are they supposed to take on average? What step are you on? How is it going?
- Do you have a sponsor? How often do you meet? What do you talk about? If not, are you looking for one?
- What is in that book (the green book or the white book…)? Can I look at it?
- What do you and your therapist talk about? How often do you go to therapy? Do you talk about me? What has he told you that you need to be doing? Are you doing it?
- What else are you doing for recovery?
- What are some tools you have learned to manage triggers?
These are just a few examples. Your wife can clue you in to what she needs to know. Ask her how you can help her feel safer about your recovery. Ask her what you can do to make her feel like she is a part of your recovery. Chances are she will be blown away.
If your wife is the one who sent you this article, don’t get upset or feel like she is trying to control you. She has given you a gift. She is extending an olive branch. Instead of being frustrated that she is not where you would like her to be in her healing process, consider how blessed you are that she is still here at all!
A Sample Conversation
The above examples of what wives want and deserve to know can feel daunting. It may feel like she is trying to take charge of your recovery. In a minute I’ll explain what she doesn’t need to know. Hopefully that will help both you and her to have more productive conversations. But first, here is an example of how you can address some of the above questions:
“Honey, I have realized that you must feel pretty left out of my recovery. I know I am gone so much with meetings and therapy and that must be so hard for you after all you have been through. I can’t even imagine how painful this has been for you. I don’t know how much you know about 12-step programs like the one I am involved in. I printed out the steps so you can read them in case you don’t know what they are. I finally found a sponsor, and we will start meeting once a week on Tuesdays for lunch. He will be helping me work through the steps. He said they should take about a year to complete on average, but this can vary from person to person. I am currently on step four and am finding it to be a struggle, but it is important to me so I am not giving up even though sometimes I feel tempted to. Fortunately, my sponsor is there to talk to me when I am feeling overwhelmed. Is there anything else you want to know about my recovery? I really don’t want you to feel like I am purposely keeping anything from you. I know you have dealt with that enough.”
What Is Okay to Keep Private?
Here are some things that are okay and even important to keep private. When I explain this to wives they are almost always very receptive and understanding about this:
- First, of course, the identity of those in your group. Be careful about even giving information that could clue her in to someone in the group. She might be in a support group with his wife. This is common.
- The specifics about what you talk about in group. This can be shared if you want, but you should never feel pressured to tell your wife what you shared in group. If she asks for this information, remember, she is just afraid. Explain gently that you need to feel safe to share openly and that you don’t want to hide anything from her. If she is struggling with this, suggest discussing it with a therapist. Above all else, be patient with her about these kinds of things.
- The specifics about what you talk about in therapy. You can tell her you are working on family-of-origin issues, self-esteem issues, or automatic thoughts, for example, without going into more detail than that. This is enough information for her to feel safe that you are working through the issues that contributed to your addiction. Remember, that’s what this is all about. She wants to know you are doing all you can do to keep from hurting her again.
Boundaries vs. Responsibilities
While it is okay for your wife to set a boundary that you get involved in a 12-step program and therapy (remember, this is about her feelings of safety, not control), you should be the one finding the therapist and meetings.
If she is doing this, lovingly tell her that you want to be the one to do these things because it shouldn’t be her responsibility and isn’t fair to her. If she is resistant, don’t let it turn into an argument. Get help from a professional who specializes in working with partners of sex addicts from a sex addiction-induced trauma perspective.
The kind of conversation outlined in italics above will not save your marriage, but it could be what gets the ball rolling in the right direction. Be prepared for things not to go as planned. Depending on where you all are, your wife may even get angry or skeptical about why you are suddenly doing this. She may refuse to listen. But you tried, and that’s what counts.
Even though she may be afraid to believe anything you tell her or show any vulnerability, she does notice these things, and they do make a difference. Consistency over time is what she needs to see. Don’t give up. Keep trying. If she won’t have this conversation with you, make sure she knows you are there when she is ready to talk, and remind her of this often.
If there are still secrets in the marriage, your wife probably senses this and this will hinder any effort you take to improve your marriage. Even if there are no more secrets she will still doubt because of the years of lying that have given her no reason to trust. A formal or clinical disclosure, done with the guidance of a skilled therapist, is a crucial first step to finding recovery in your marriage. I find these are much more successful when done in the context of a couple’s three-day intensive. Click here to learn more about what an intensive is and how it can help save your marriage.
Brilliantly written. I will be sharing this with all my clients. Thank you!
Thanks for saying so! Glad you stopped by!
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.
My husband has been viewing porn and using the same prostitutes all over the country. I only found out Memorial Day weekend. He kisses them and performs oral sex on them!! He’s spent vast amounts of money on prostitutes and fancy hotels to take them to. This has gone on our entire 12 year marriage.
Marsha, I am so, so sorry. I don’t know what to say about your husband’s choices, but here’s what I want to say to you: find a therapist for yourself right away. Find that safe person who can help you process your emotions, and decide on healthy boundaries for you. Many, many women in this situation will meet the clinical criteria for PTSD, so please get the help and support you’ll need to cope. Peace to you, Kay
I brought lust and a porn habit into our marriage that led into a porn addiction.
But one thing on this page that bothers me is that my wife never had sex with me for 2.5 years into our marriage. I was a married virgin struggling to have self control, to turn my head and guard my thoughts. And to keep my internet usage clean. And she wasn’t there for me. Even after we magically had sex for the first time, she only wanted it on rare occasion or when she decided she wanted to have a baby, and she then used me to get her pregnant. And after each pregnancy, 3 total, she would go back to making me beg for affection and sex. You don’t know how many nights I cried and begged her to sleep with me. Even when I told her about the temptation to just masturbate or look at porn. She didn’t care and when on occasion I had begged enough she might let me but about 2 minutes into the act she would complain saying hurry up or what is taking so long?
She was mildly abused as a young girl not rape, and not that bad of a abuse. But she was abided none the less. I tried to understand that be there for her and etc… But I think she uses it as an excuse to abuse and torment me. For one reason I say that is because she also has withheld, spiritual, emtionaI, abs non sexual affection from me for no apparent reason. But then tells me she wants a divorce every month for 6 years then I come home on day from a trip, I then proceed to have a nervous breakdown in front of her and I tell her I want to leave her for a woman I developed a crush on. This woman was kind to me. My wife cried like a baby. We are in marriage counseling at my demand, she keeps telling me she doesn’t want to go back and has skipped one session. I didn’t marry my wife to have
Sex, I married her because I love her. But I didn’t get married to starve sexually and emotionally. I feel as if I have been tortued for 6 years. My therapist says I’m a sex addict, which I agree with and I realize the porn addiction is my fault. But I’m angry at my wife and blame her to a degree I never wanted porn, I wanted her and she didn’t care and who knows if she would have been there for me I may not have ever developed an addiction. Afterall I had quit porn for months at a time to only start back up again every time my relationship failed to even try to meet my desires. I’m ashamed, hurt, sorry for what my actions has done to hurt her but at the same time the resentment for my poor sexual relationship and my addiction, is almost unbearable.
Joe, I am so, so sorry. I can just feel your pain and frustration in what you wrote here, and I want to thank you for being so open and honest. The fact that you care this much gives me a great deal of hope for your relationship, and I want to encourage you not to give up.
I have two ideas to offer here.
First, I don’t think you’re ever going to have good sex without a good relationship. However your relationship started out, it sounds pretty painful now. So I would love for you guys to work on the overall marriage relationship if you are able. Look into the research of John Gottman. He is the nation’s foremost expert on marriage relationships, all his stuff is research based and super accessible to normal people like us. One of his very basic findings in research is that a successful marriage is based on the quality of the friendship, and you can work on the quality of that friendship even as you’re working on other issues. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is an excellent book with quizzes at the end of each chapter so you can read and discuss, tells you exactly how to build that friendship you need right now. I wrote an article a while back based on Gottman’s idea of building emotional trust, which is just crucial, not rocket science–and something I think men especially are not trained to do. I just find his stuff to be incredibly helpful and easy to do.
Second, you didn’t mention whether your wife has ever had any therapy for her sexual abuse history. Also, pornography use by the husband is highly traumatizing for a wife. Many, many women will meet the criteria for PTSD when their husbands use porn. So to me, it looks like she already had sexual trauma and now she’s had more. Marriage counseling may not be the best fit for her under those circumstances. My experience with marriage counseling is that it’s often focused on fixing what’s wrong in the marriage, and unfortunately the wife’s trauma is often overlooked. As a counselor, I often see women in this situation: their husbands aren’t looking at porn and the marriage is “saved” but the wife’s trauma has been totally ignored.
I think your wife needs to find a counselor, just for her, someone who has real experience helping women with trauma and sexual abuse histories. Follow that link for profiles you can search.
Here’s an animated short about finding a best-fit counselor so she can feel informed as she makes that decision.
Again, I’m so glad you wrote in. I think there’s great hope for you both, if your wife gets the healing she needs.
Peace to you, Kay
This is actually the second time that I’m going through this with my husband. The first time was 3 years ago November 1st. I woke up early that morning and found his phone on the livingroom floor next to his chair. As I pick it up I had this strange desire to look through his phone. When I did, I saw a text message to an unknown (I later found out that she was a prostitute) person asking if they had time for a quickie. After confronting my husband and 2 weeks worth of research and digging, I found out that he had been placing and answering ads on Craigslist personals and had been with several different people (men and women) including prostitutes. Everyone was so concerned about my husband getting the help he needed and just kind of forgot all about me and how I was doing. Up until that day I had thought I had the closest thing to a perfect marriage as there was so I was beyond devastated. My husband was in therapt through the V.A. (which I kind of thought was a joke at the time) and he also counseled with our Pastor at our Church. I ended up finding a good counselor that helped me a lot. For the last 3 years my husband has told me that God delivered him from his addiction and he was healed. I know that God does amazing things and I knew this was possible. Unfortunately my husband’s actions and the way he was treating me was telling me different. Reluctantly I stayed in the marriage because I loved him so much and I wanted to help him and we have a little girl that didn’t deserve to go through what a divories would bring.
Well, the story continues…
Four days ago I found out for sure that my husband has never really stopped the pornography. He swears up and down that he has not been with anyone in the last 3 years and says it’s only been the pornography. I’m having a hard time believing this to be true. I made him move out of our house immediately. Now he is blaming it all on me for the most part with very little remorse. He says he’s going back to therapy again but once again it’s through the V.A. and I’m convinced that’s a joke now. He is also back couseling with our Pastor again. I feel like everyone is just playing games with this instead of being straight with him about what he has done. I think he has destroyed me at this point.
Judy, I am so, so sorry. Your story just breaks my heart. I do want to commend you for this incredible act of courage, in allowing your husband to have the consequence of his choices this time around. Of course God is capable of redemption, but he never, ever interferes with our free will. I think this is something that we all need to learn as well: when someone makes those choices, we have to allow them to have what they have chosen. That is painful and terrible but absolutely necessary.
You are a brave, brave woman.
I hear from women all the time that their husbands got all the help, all the support, and the wife is basically neglected in the recovery process. Many, many times women will meet the clinical criteria for PTSD in situations like this, but will receive almost no help. As brave as you’ve been with your boundaries, I know you’ve got the courage to seek help for yourself in this now. Find a counselor for YOU, someone who will help you process your emotions, someone who will support you in these boundaries and celebrate the courageous woman that you are. There are directories at the American Association of Christian Counselors and also Psychology Today. You may want to look for someone who specializes in the treatment of trauma, perhaps someone who has an EMDR certification.
You might appreciate this podcast from OnBeing, which talks about trauma recovery. You might also like this animation on gaslighting, because I’m sure your husband is going to be gaslighting like there’s no tomorrow right now. Stand strong in your boundaries, hold to the truth, and be free.
Right now, you feel destroyed. And I totally understand that. But I want to tell you that there is help, there is hope, there is healing. He has made terrible, devastating choices. But you can choose to be well and whole. Find that counselor who’s just right for you, get that help and support.
Peace to you, Kay
He has a masturbations problem but I’m not sure about porn… He deleted his browsing history. I have found hook up sights on my husbands tablet today, the last time this happened he told me if I can’t trust him he’s not staying with me… We had been split up for a week at that point. I accepted it the first time but he became very agitated and at this point I don’t know what to do because he seems to not realize he has a problem… Do I tell him i found yet another one…I personally am going through counseling for abuse a child, 2 previously failed relationships due to porn and cheating and my inability to see my worth. I’m afraid I won’t make it through this but I want to be with him. Sorry this is so long I just an going through so much and have no idea how to get through this and I feel so alone.
Hey there. Well, I think you have to trust yourself. I’m so glad you’re in counseling already, and I think this is something to talk through with your therapist. What does this current situation mean for your personal boundaries? Is it healthy for you to live with someone who has these behaviors but doesn’t recognize their impact on you? These are questions only you can answer.
Whatever your husband chooses, YOU can make it through! YOU can be healthy and whole. Talk with your therapist, and make good choices for you.
Thank you for this article as I try to start my recovery from my husband’s addiction! It is still very raw for me. I’d like to continue to follow in the hope of sharing and healing
I am so sorry to read all the stories here, My husband is a sex addict. I have caught him looking at porn a few times, he also had an affair with a young lady( and I use this term lightly) at our church, She says he offered her money . At this point we had only been married 1 month!! I forgave him at the urge ring of our pastor. FF three years later and I am setting at a Planned Parenthood clinic too ashamed to go to my private Dr, The Doctor there is telling me that I have three STDS I fainted!! I am done. I went home changed the locks and packed all his belongings and went today to see a lawyer. God bless us all.
Denise, I am so, so sorry for what you are going through. I feel so angry that your pastor urged you to stay with your husband, when your husband was clearly not committed to you. I’m so glad you have been able to find help through Planned Parenthood–I’m happy that my tax dollars did some good for you! And I’m so glad you had the courage to change the locks and see a lawyer. Your safety and well-being is absolutely of paramount importance, and I’m so thankful that you’re able to take care of yourself this way. Sending love and prayers to you as you heal, Kay
Thank you, thank you so very much. I’am one of these wives and your article gave me more peace than any book I have read on sex addiction in the last 6 years. Poignantly written and very true!!
OMG! It’s was like you were writing about my husband problem and the reason we are going through a divorce, after 17 years.. I stopped or go CRAZY!
OK. My husband has been a porn addict since the age of five. When his 14 Year old brother started showing him porn. Yeah. Great older brother. My husband is 51 still watching porn, even at work all day. Masturbating up to 20 times a day to porn. I the wife have pretty much gone without for the last 11 years. We been married 18. He has lied. Cheated. Snuck around. Tried to screw a friends wife while intoxicated. Tried to screw my girlfriends. Made out with the neighbor in my new house on my new furniture. It goes on and on. So now I told him. Get therapy or I’m getting a divorce attorney. At first he choose divorce. Then changed his mind. Well now he talks to some guy online twice a week. We pay $75.00 for every 30 minutes they talk. All out of pocket. So after four sessions. My husband still watches porn and masturbates every day. We should of just burned the money. The sessions are useless. I don’t care what they talk about or where. Teach him to not play with his penis to porn. A penis goes in a vagina. NOT your hand. I’m 54 I could hit menopause any day. I don’t have time to waste. There is right and there is wrong. Teach it. Listen to it. Learn it. Put the tools to constructive use. I have NO patience for someone who is so weak and uses this as a crutch. I feel like the money we are wasting on this therapist would be better spent on a divorce lawyer. I’m very angry and I feel very betrayed. Oh I already go to a counselor of my own. His advise. If my husband doesn’t change. Our marriage won’t last. So how can you help this nightmare.
First of all, your husband is a sexual abuse victim. That doesn’t excuse his choices, but it’s a context for the struggle that he has, and something he would need to face and deal with in therapy. The things he’s done are not simply behaviors, they are expressions of an abuse history and deep pain. He would need to face that in therapy for true recovery, I think.
Secondly, you are not required to be a victim of your husband’s choices. You are free to choose boundaries that are healthy and right for you. Here, here, and here are some articles that may help. I’m sure your therapist is talking with you about healthy boundaries, including the boundary of divorce. Whatever your husband chooses, you choose to be healthy and whole.
Peace to you,
“Ask her what you can do to make her feel like she is a part of your recovery. Chances are she will be blown away.”
“Ask her what you can do to make her feel like she is a part of your recovery. Chances are she will be blown away.”
WFT? Given the “it not your fault….you can’t control it etc etc” why on earth should I be “blow away” to be dragged further in to the entire sordid tale….. I married in good faith….the same CAN NOT be said for any sex addict who had problems before he said “I do” that then proceeds to rain down merry hell on their, it seems typically pregnant, wives
Yes, I think setting this up as “your wife will be so pleased with you” is…probably gaslighting the victim, actually, setting her up to only have ‘acceptable’ emotions that won’t make the man feel too bad. In reality, men should be doing their work in recovery regardless of how anybody else feels about it, just because it’s the right, healthy, and responsible thing to do. Women shouldn’t be forced into certain responses. Thanks for pointing that out!
It’s more of a “I don’t know what to do”. My husband has been a SEVERE porn addict most of his life. We’ve been married 8 years. I found out a year ago, that he had been deceiving his mentor and myself the entire marriage. Working around the CE system as well. He learned to look at the images and not log on to these sites. He could still see enough. He would look at pornography on Facebook, because the URL doesn’t registeron CE. He was using my friends, old girlfriends, and porn sites for masturbation material. He had been a chronic masturbator at work, and to top it all off, he’s been looking at bestiality throughout the entirety of our marriage. He’s broken boundaries like having lunch with the opposite sex, and lyingby omission about it. He has sat behind closed doors with a co worker repeatedly, breaking that boundary as well. He will admit it, only if I ask him the right question. It’s “supposedly” been a year since he’s looked at any form of porn, or masturbated at work. He now thinks he should be allowed to be on social media. I’m not okay with it, and of course he makes me feel that some he’s “over it”, I should be too . When does he get to be forgiven, he asks. It’s not that easy. If ANYONE ever came to me, and told me everything I just wrote to you, I would have told them to RUN and never look back. I of course am the only one who knows the extent of the addiction . That’s not fair. I don’t have any respect for him anymore, I can’t stand sex with him, and can’t get over the fact that he watched people have sex with animals and masturbated to it, even after he became a believer. I have 3 grandchildren. I watch him live a HAWK now with them. I’ve never seen him touch them inappropriately…not once. But I can’t get over the deviant porn habit. EVERY SINGLE DAY IS A STRUGGLE!!!!!!!
Hi, there are no easy answers; there’s not one right answer. You just have to take the information, process it, and decide what’s right for you going forward. You might want to find a counselor who can help you process your emotions, and decide what healthy boundaries will look like for you. Here, here, and here are some articles about boundaries that might be helpful as you think things through. A support group would be great, too. And you might appreciate the online resources at Bloom. Whatever your husband chooses, you can choose to be healthy and well! You have a right to take care of yourself. Only he can choose his recovery.
Peace to you, Chris
I stared this journey in December 2017. Caught my husband masturbating and at that time he lied to me and said he hardly ever does this, said no on porn etc. I didn’t believe him. So I set up a camera and for three months I caught him using porn, masturbating many times a week, etc. I got so sick from the stress of it all I ended up in then hospital. After four months of his lies, the last time was in April 2018. I saw him again on camera, asked him yet again, he lies yet again that no he hadn’t masturbated but I knew he was lying because I had it on camera. So I told the Lord if he lies again I would tell him about everything I knew, the camera, the woman he had eyes on, etc. He lied yet again so I told him everything. I made him tell me who this woman was and found out it was a salesperson who came into his work. He said he hadn’t had an affair with her physically, just all in his mind. He got into a counselor immediately and we began looking for a group for him and me, and found Pure Desire group for him and Betrayal and Beyond for me. I’ve found that the Betrayal and Beyond group has been a life saver for me. Thankfully he is still attending his group. I just wish he was more proactive in his own recovery more than when I’m pushing him. It’s hard to not be codependent with all of this. I want to believe him but I simply have a hard time believing him because he’s spent so many years lying to me and hiding all of this from me. I’m printing this article for him so maybe he will get what I’ve been saying. Thanks for having great articles for us out here dealing with this.
I’m so glad you’ve found support at Betrayal and Beyond in this.
Of course your trust will take time to recover, and will require a lot of trustworthy behavior from him. I’ve realized that trust is both behavioral and emotional: here are some thoughts on that.
And I’d just say this as well: don’t overlook the trauma that you’ve been through. If you find that you’ve got ongoing symptoms, you might want to find a therapist who’s trauma informed and EMDR certified, so you can leave those past experiences in the past. I’m sure the present is enough to deal with! Bloom for Women is a great online resource that trauma-informed as well.
Peace to you,
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!
Thanks, Marilyn. We aim to help!
Wives I have a similar story my husband was using porn and prostitutes all over the country. In the last week during an argument he decided to tell me it was my fault for his behavior snd having to come clean about it. I slapped his face its now that I am a domestic abuser doesnt count for years he’s been putting me at risk for STDs etc now the counselor is asking me is this ok that you slapped him is this how you handle your anger. How do you like that.
I am so sorry. I agree with you that putting you at risk for STD’s is a real kind of physical abuse.
Of course slapping your husband is not a great way to deal with your anger, but I think you already know that. This sounds to me like a counselor who doesn’t know how to deal with the terrible situation you’re in, and instead is focusing on your reaction, rather than the real problem.
I would suggest that you find a different counselor, someone who is devoted to helping you process your emotions in healthy ways, and helping you create healthy boundaries. A trauma-focused group could be helpful. And you might like to check the online group Bloom as a place for support and help.
Peace to you, Kay
I found out my husband was a sex addict 2 years ago. we have stayed together as I do love him and we have 3 young children together. I understand the reasons that led him into sleeping with prostitutes, and day to say we have a happy marriage and happy kids, but I’ve been left devastated, it’s affected my life with my family as I’ve felt to ashamed to tell anyone and also affected my self esteem. I have also gone from a happy ho lucky person into a serious and angry person. I’ve tried counselling but no’one can give me any answers
Hi Sarah, I’m so sorry. I hear this kind of story quite often, that the husband recovers but the wife does not. I think there’s quite a serious lack of understanding even in the counseling world about the kind trauma that women suffer in a situation like yours. You’re wise to recognize the changes that you see in yourself. You may, like a lot of women, meet the clinical criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I would suggest that you find a counselor who is trained to work with trauma, perhaps someone who is certified in EMDR, which is a recent and very effective treatment method. You might also appreciate the online resource, Bloom, which takes a trauma-informed approach to recovery for women, and also educates couples on attachment in marriage work. I know it’s so hard to look for yet another counselor when you’ve already tried before, but I would encourage you to keep searching until you find someone who is educated in this area: you’ll finally get the help you need! Here’s a short animation I created about finding your best-fit counselor, so you can be informed as you search.
My husband and I have been together for almost 16 years. He was the first man I ever loved and I lost my innocence to him. We have been married for over 9 years and have 3 young children together. He has history of substantial sexual abuse that occurred for a prolonged period as a 4 and 5 year old. I’ve known this for years. He’s never really dealt with it. About 5 years ago, he started having suicidal thoughts/worthlessness/etc so I found a therapist for him to go to and he went willingly for about 3 visits then said he didn’t like the lady… And stopped going. 2 years ago, I found out that he was meeting men off of the internet. Many men. His ads he placed always stated he didn’t care what the person looked like, etc. This had been going on for several years. We broke down, cried together, alone, and he begged me to help him that he doesn’t want to have these feelings but doesn’t know how to fight them. I was very convinced that he wanted to be gay. Now, I feel confident that at best, he likes men and women. He doesn’t solicit women, only men. He said he gets a feeling of needing to feel shame. So, we go to marriage counseling. The counselor says, she can’t help is because our problems are too big to start with dual counseling, but that we need individual counseling first then work in the marriage counseling. I go to therapy almost weekly for about a year, and he goes once or twice a month for awhile (because that’s what for into his schedule). It helps some. It really does but those trust issues never really go away. And I still have some resentment. So, fast forward, we have our third child. Things seem like we are making positive strides and I can tell he is definitely trying to fight these feelings. Its been awhile since he’s been to therapy (because of financial reasons) and I work overnight, so he is home alone with our kids. I found out 3 days ago that he started soliciting and meeting men again. I’m crushed and emotionless at the same time. I need him to get help for him for the wellbeing of our children. And I love him dearly. And I love being his wife. Our communication is far from great and we have both made efforts to fix that, but it seems useless to stay here anymore… But at the same time, I don’t want to give up. He’s a great father and allbeit, a shitty friend now for what has happened, he has been a great friend for many years. I’m at a loss…
Kelly, I feel so sad for you and your husband.
I think it’s really interesting and insightful that your husband is able to verbalize that he “gets a feeling of needing to feel shame.” Whatever his sexual orientation, I would say that shame is the driver of these self-destructive (and relationship-destructive) behaviors that your husband exhibits. That’s what he needs to get to in therapy.
But he has to be ready and willing to do that.
I think the real question for you is: what boundaries are healthy for you, when he’s continuing in those shame-invoking choices for himself? I think you have to consider whether your physical health at risk because of his risky sexual behaviors. Here and here are a couple of articles about boundaries. Sadly, sometimes separation or divorce becomes the healthiest option. Here’s Luke Gilkerson’s article on that. I think those are questions you have to answer for yourself in a situation like this.
Peace to you,
Your not alone…. sad to say far too many of us. I don’t think they can recover. I don’t think the problem is the manifestation of sex addiction I think it’s self love. Love and empathy . We do right because of love and empathy without these things man is lawless and no restraint.
I have realized after reading all these posts that I am truly not alone. After 25 years of marriage, I discovered my husband cheating on me in August. He withdrew a large sum of money from our equity line and met a woman at a hotel. That same week I discovered he charged nearly 15,000.00 to credit cards to some clubs and hotels. Needless to say I was devasted.. I confronted him and he blamed me. He has since apologized and told me he needs help. He is in therapy but he never wants to talk about it. I know he is still inquiring and meeting women because I check his cell phone when he least expects it. He deletes his text regularly but he forgets sometimes. He was introduced to morn at a young age and I think his mind is forever warped. I know he loves me and our sons but I think he loves the idea that other women want him even if he has to pay for it. I just looked at his cell phone today, Christmas Day, and he is meeting up at noon Tom with a “whatever” his pleasure is.
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 Faye, have you tried talking to anyone about it?
If your husband doesn’t believe he is in the wrong, it is vital that you put up some boundaries in your marriage to communicate the gravity of his choices and to protect yourself from deeper harm. (Vicki Tiede, author of When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography, talks about that in this video.)
I would love to hear whether any of your husbands have been on the recover and are now clear of this addiction?
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
Thank you for replying to me. I have read the articles you shared. My husband is moving out. I just struggle to deal after living through this. He told me today that he loves me, and our kids, but doesn’t love himself.
I read in the article about allowing him to “hit rock bottom” and those are actually the words he said to me a few days ago. He himself said he needs to hit rock bottom.
I don’t want to be an enabler. I want him to get help for himself but it doesn’t change my sorrow and grief I feel for the loss of my marriage…
In my mind, I imagine this to be temporary. That he will be gone for a year… 6 months… 2 years but that he will recover and we will someday be a complete family again. And the thought of that not coming to life makes me not even want to get out of bed. I feel like I go through the motions for sake of my children. I don’t talk to anyone other then my therapist because this is embarrassing. I don’t want him to be shamed by my friends and family. We have 3 children… And he’s a good father. I just don’t know… This is so hard.
I’m so sorry.
The issue of shame and not feeling worthy of love is just huge–I really think that for most men, this is what drives the self-destructive behaviors. I think it’s when we can stop being so ashamed, and instead see porn as a problem like any other problem, that recovery becomes a real possibility. Probably half the women you know are dealing with the same things in their marriages, and yet, there’s all this silence around it! Here’s the thing. Other people can’t shame us. They can try! But we always have the option to reject their shaming and live in true freedom and hope.
When I learned about my husband’s porn problem, we were missionaries overseas. I’m really grateful that my husband chose to talk about his problems with friends, family, and colleagues; I truly believe that was the one thing that turned the key in the lock and began to set him free. In the years since, we’ve been super open about our story. (Here’s a link to my memoir, As Soon As I Fell.) The funny thing is, no matter how open we are, it’s still very difficult to get others to do the same. It makes me sad, because I think there is true healing and hope avaiable to all of us. But we throw it away because we’re afraid of letting each other see who we really are.
I’m glad you’re talking to your therapist! As time goes by, I hope you’ll find some other safe people to talk with as well. And I hope your husband will, too. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, people might judge you–although I’ve found that most people don’t. In the end, when you just tell shame to take a hike, you’ll set yourself free from all that shame and silence and create healing and hope for yourself instead. It will work for your husband too, if he will let it.
Peace to you, Kay
I’m in the same boat. After 19 years, I kept wondering what was wrong. I found out 6 months ago that my husband is a sex addict. He was with prostitutes, online people and had an affair at work with a junkie that caused him to lose his job. He has destroyed everything. The only reason he got away with it is because I worked so much and on opposite shifts in order that our child was never looked after by strangers. I am not a weak or feeble person by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite. I’ve tried to throw him out of my house. Yes. My house in my name. I took all of our property and money. I have copies of Everything off of his phone. I have child monitoring apps all over it. I lined up all of our computer equipment on the driveway and smashed everything with a sledgehammer. I have tried to get him out of my house. He has tried to commit suicide twice. I had him locked in a psychiatric unit for that. I used the time wisely to throw all of his belongings on our burn pile and burned every last shred. Every time I want a divorce it is met with self harm and threats of suicide, which will withdraw all of our financial support. He also threatens to skip town and not pay us a penny. I shouldn’t be forced to sell my childhood home that is filled with loving memories from growing up with my wonderful parents. I would never be able to afford anything else. Apartments cost more than my expenses. He is in group and is also seeing an excellent therapist that calls him out on his meds. He has been backed into a corner with the only way to turn is to leave or commit suicide. Why can’t my husband just go and commit to paying me what he owes every month? I am a beautiful, intelligent and gifted person. I want him gone.
I am so sorry for all the pain and betrayal you’ve been through. It sounds like your husband uses threats of suicide to manipulate you. Unpaid child support is a huge, huge issue for so many women, and ultimately finances are a reason that many women do not leave abusive marriages. I hope treatment is able to bring him to a place of stability so that he can meet his legal obligations to you. I hope the courts are kind to you, and that everything is settled fairly in the end. Kay
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.
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.
Let me guess John….you are an addict.
“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.
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.
Not every spouse is a co addict
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.
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
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.
Let’s face it! They are liers cheaters they are unfaithful untrustworthy self centered. They sit in church next to you and use you as a cover pretend they are normal they hide what they are behind you.you forgive them only to take you for another round of abuse. Yes they abused us and all that is right.they tramatized us. They throw you off balance in a web of lies and deceit that their will will be done . No fear of God. They are not Good gifts from above. I have far too much love to give and faithfully that. I’m moving on. I think we should all just leave those dogs to lick their wounds. Funny they lay their licking their wounds after they’ve devowered us. It’s not about them it’s about us the women they’ve used and abused. Who cares about them?? They didn’t care about you while they got their jollies. Honest who cares let them love their porn prostitution let them have what they want with burning desire! Don’t stand in the way no wash your hands of their filth. It’s their sick heart! I say run and be loved by a person who can love you back you deserve love because you give it!!!!
Hi all.. I am also currently in this situation after two years of feeling that ‘somthings not right’ and/or – (is it ‘just me’) I’ve now & ‘only now’ finally realised that I was right, & it wasn’t ‘just me’ over reacting. After 2’years of being upset/confused suspicious AND all the other devastating emotions I’ve endured after repeatedly seeing things that I feel ‘shouldn’t be’ (in a very loving relationship) I now know why, & the reason I have suffered sooo long. . After reaptedly suggesting to my partner that his actions/behaviours ect are ‘hurting me’ ‘destroying me’ & our relationship he has constantly always ‘denied that the the facts/things that I have seen/found caught him doing ect are ‘at all’ unusual OR harmful.. until last night. . I tryed to explain to him yet (again) WHY I keep mentioning/bringing up the the very hurtful things that he’s done & how they have left me feeling betrayed, deeply wounded, self loathing, un-loveable, desperate, confused, ANGERED/anger, Trapped, Traumatised, deeply DEEPLY hurt, disrespect ect ect ect. (I could go on) but the page isn’t long enough’. He again Accused me of going ‘over the top’ on things, & he again told me that he ‘just can’t understand’ WHY I keep bringing them up’. I tryed to explain yet again why I do ( it’s because of how it makes ME feel) AND it’s WRONG to do these things in a relationship FULL-STOP.. he denied all and then got very upset/angery & declared that he ‘thinks he ‘may’ be a sex addict .. I don’t ‘think’ that he is HE IS.! It all makes sence now I’m Mortified.. I feel sick . I’ve been single for so many years bringing up two children alone. Battling cancer ect ect for THIS’ .. !! Thankyou for the STD.. Thankyou for the lies the secrets the BULLshit’. Thankyou for two years of hell & thinking it was Just ME OVERREACTING.. mortified- floored & feeling ill NEVER fully recover’ Cornwall .. 😥. (God bless you all .. Xx..
It sounds like you have done your best to explain how you feel, and unfortunately he isn’t able to respond with the kind of care and personal responsibility that we’d hope for from a life partner. That being the case, it’s time to consider your personal boundaries (here, here, and here are some articles). You are not required to live under someone else’s insanity. You get to have a life that reflects your value and worth as a whole person. It’s sad, but sometimes we just have to accept the choices the other person makes and release them from the expectations of a relationship that they’re not able to participate in as healthy, caring adults. Peace to you, Kay
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.
I got married 3 months ago, after 4.5 years with a man I thought was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I could not have been happier. Just over a month ago, I found a strange email. Which led me down a rabbit hole, to the discovery that he is a full blown sex addict. He has cheated – with 20+ escorts – in his previous marriage, over the course of a decade. And has cheated on me 6 times that I know of. 1 escort, 5 erotic massages. There are a million other indicators that this is sex addiction, even though he is deeply, deeply in denial. My own psychotherapist, with whom he had a few sessions, said it was a clear cut textbook case. Sexual abuse as a child. Parental abandonment, shoved into a boarding school at 10, so his mother could move country. Father struggled with addictions and eventually died of alcoholism. And so on.
He however believes he is “just very sexual” and he “just made a mistake” and “cheating isn’t the end of the world” and “Sex and love are different, the former is just friction” and on and on and on and on. I went through a very bad period of psychosis for two years where I *literally* broke from reality for about 4 or 5 days a month, throwing things at him, attacking him, I once even tried to break down the bathroom door after he locked himself in there to escape me. I’m not proud of it -I was very very sick at the time and don’t remember a lot of it. My point is, he was there for me, unfailingly, unconditionally, he never once blamed me or threatened to leave me even though I begged him to at times… Every time he cheated was immediately after one of these incidents. NOT blaming myself or saying it allows it,at all, but just explaining. They say sex addiction isn’t about sex, it’s an escape response to pain. I guess i just feel like… if he stood by me through my problems and I don’t help with his.. I’m a hypocrite. And I love him so so much. I’m not sure what I’m asking you here…. I just really identified with what you said about sitting with your pain and being vulnerable, rather than being afraid of it, and losing your relationship. I feel like that is what’s going on with him. He’d rather lose another marriage with someone he says is the love of his life, than do any soul searching or explore his painful past. I am broken.
Yes, it’s very difficult when you understand that your partner’s addiction is related to his pain. It’s wonderful that he has been such a support to you in hard times. However, the question is, is he willing to be the same kind of support to himself? Is he willing to face his own issues and do his own work? There is plenty of great support out there for him, if he is willing to access it.
If not, I would say that you are not only going to suffer emotional trauma, but you’re also in physical danger as he may well infect you with diseases as he pursues his escapes from reality. If you are already at this point of understanding that he would rather lose another marriage than do his own work, then I truly believe you should respect his choices. A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce is an article we often share here. You might find the online resources at Bloom for Women helpful, and I’m sure a therapist would be a great support as you walk out this difficult situation.
I’m sorry for all of the pain encapsulated in this story, yours and his.
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
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.
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.
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.
I realized everyone here has gone through what I been through and still going through. I have been married for 10 years now and I have faced every sexual hurt everyone has gone through except for my husband he hasnt came to terms until he was in a car accident back in 2013. You would think big life changer nope things got worse. So I opted out of my marriage by doing the things he has done to me by cheating so that we would have a reason not to be with each other. I married my husband when i was 17 he was 24. Yes, I know very young any ways things has changed when I left him he has realized how good he had it but that still hasnt changed the sex addiction part he still had problems. About 3 years now 2 children extra from before wen we seperated we had three older children. Now he has been on his own journey of recovery because I realized early on that this sex addiction thing is nuts because he would tell me everytime he did something wrong, i obviously new the signs dealt with it long enough to know but I keep telling my self the only way things can progress for me is I need to become selfish for my own needs. Honestly, I dont know where this marriage will take is but I do know that sometimes thinfs are better off left un said..
You know the old saying: two wrongs don’t make a right! You won’t fix this problem by copying his behavior. Certainly you have needs that should be met, but those needs will never truly be met through unhealthy means. You’ll self-medicate for a bit and maybe feel better for a time, but in the end you’ve just created new problems for yourself and others.
It sounds to me like you’d benefit from finding a counselor who can help you process through the pain you’re feeling and then work to meet your needs in healthy ways.
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.
Thanks for sharing. You testimony, in many ways, affirms what Ella is talking about.
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.
That’s a tough one. Wow. I’m almost without words. We have some who’ve written on this blog about that very subject. I recommend listening to this interview I did with a man, his wife, and his counselor.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Desicrated (excellent word for how we feel): I am married 37 yrs so I understand your need to “stay put”in your marriage, unless you are being physically threatened. My husband and I are financially unable to live separately. Under stress, we live on separate floors. Anyway, if you can get your hands on “The white book” of SA, you will discover that you have every right to your husband’s SA history. I think a large part of me died the day of my husband’s “disclosure”. He felt overwhelmed by his compulsion for masturbation with porn. So I heard it all. Including his fantasies @ his prostitute when he and I first began “making out”.After 12 yrs of sex refusal ( “high dose of anti-depressant gives me no interest” while he is having multiple orgasms with porn, at nite) My point is to try to have a sex therapist present. I felt totally ambushed. They love their fantasies, so I heard reveries of what he thought about during our love-making (not always sex); his whore and his porn. Then he argues that I made him tell me. I felt desicated.
I know exactly how you feel…I have just ended a 25 year marriage due to the continual lies, gas lighting, anger etc…
I wish I would have left decades ago. I supported him initially when he was remoresful but now he has turned into a monster.
I have literally watched my husband change into someone I no longer recognize. He lies to me , the therapist, the pastor and to everyone. He can sneak around the filter when he has it and hide files deep in his computer (which i did find)..
Keeping up a good reputation at church is his number one goal. He plays on the worship team and leads mens Bible Studies.
He will blast sermons on utube as if to prove he is a godly man. Yet he will scream at me, criticize me, and twist my words around. I am finished.
I am so sorry for the pain you’re going through, and so grateful for your courage and strength in setting boundaries. Thank you for sharing your story here, and may it inspire courage in others!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Some SA men are able to maintain an intimate (non-physical) relationship although they deeply struggle with being sexually monogamous. That is my spouse. Best friends since age 18; yet he had to have that one last visit to his hooker “to say goodbye.”; two months before our wedding. The condom ripped (“but I stayed in her a while because the skin to skin contact was so pleasurable.) I was totally unaware of his yearly visits to prostitute; clinically described to me as a circle where he craved more and more masturbating to porn.Finally, hooker.) Since age 10 he self-soothed with excessive masturbation. I had no idea what I was getting into. He’d have 3 day binges and when unable to maintain erection for ejaculation, then he’d call his whore who was always available in 10 minute and lived nearby. I was exposed to so many STDs:8. 50 varieties of HPV including pre-CAncer of cervix.
Eileen – my heart breaks for the destruction that his choice has brought to your life. Are you receiving the care you need? Both physically, emotionally, and with boundaries in your marriage? I want to make sure you are cared for.
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.
What’s stopping him from getting married to you now? Why wait until he’s 30?
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.
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.
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
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.
I cannot see from your post how you even had full recovery before marrying again a year later to another woman and then basically, simply put acted out with a SA on your honeymoon. Imagine how she felt to see her newlywed husband with the other women in plain sight ON YOUR HONEYMOON!!!! Imagine how her heart just dropped to the floor of the ocean and every insecurity and pain that you placed inside of her is her entire future with you til death do you part…….as a man, it is your duty and honor to protect her inside and out. It is your duty to protect all women in this area, especially this area of purity. This article you mention does not and will not apply to you like it would any other person who has been married for more than a honeymoon (that was not even after a honeymoon but it was during the honeymoon), even a 3+ month long marriage would be a different ground here to apply this completely to. I am going to be, quite frankly blunt and direct and believe I speak for most men and women regarding what they should say to this response and even though it might be hard for you to hear or read, it is the absolute truth. No room to sugarcoat anything…..these are men and women and they are a living and breathing being that was created with every intention and vision of Godliness in marriage towards one to another. Keeping always the marriage bed pure and never defiling it. We each were made with feelings and emotions, personalities that need to be blossomed into something beautiful and weeded out of all flaws with one another in marriage. Our gifts and talents uplifted and encouraged bringing always admiration to and for each other in marriage. Becoming one flesh with God in that one flesh unity….centered at the very core. We were made like this and anything whether we be Christian or not, if anything is not God centered, upheld in purity, honor, respect, understanding, love, sacrificial and service, hopeful, graceful, striving for the very image of Christ himself in our marriages then we all have a hole in our hearts that even though we all can cover them with masking tape, or not ever understand or seek to understand our own emotions and missing links inside ourselves, we will always have those insecurities and sufferings in our own person and in our marriages if God is not the very reason of our unions and hearts. Your wife has every reason in the entire universe to feel like this and act like this. Not to say that she is in the right by some of those behaviors back if it is sin/morally not the right way of expression. But, definitely she does have every right to question and be angry and any emotion she feels like because the reality of it is…..SHE IS THE VICTIM! A lot of the problem in recovery of a SA is they do not address or they disregard the very ones who had to or does endure the most excruciating of all, the spouse of the one whom betrayed him or her. There should be no victims in a marriage at all. And it is so sad to see those who have fell into the the traps of the world or their own darkness to be displayed as the victim instead of the one/s whom the person who done the betrayal to them are played off like they are not. If this was any other addiction or struggle in a seen reality instead of being unseen or easily hid, then the accountability and help of a spouse would play a ton more if not all the way 100% in a recovering phase. Together, one flesh…..one person/one heart/one soul/one everything!! Why is it so hard for so many to understand this? No matter how hard, how painful, how much discovery of, anything……Your GOD GIVEN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER IS YOUR SPOUSE!!! Number 1!! Man and woman up everyone! It might not be easy to hear or tell but this is very crucial to healing no matter what the outcome is. If both spouses work and strive for a Godly marriage and intimacy then the results will be beautiful no matter what has taken place. If the focus is not Christ centered and is self based in any way shape or form this is voided and cannot become a beautiful, God glorifying marriage of a one flesh unity that is going to fly together for better or for worse. Important always….TOGETHER! When you withhold any or all or even the most subtle secret or thought and feelings from your spouse then you will always give room for the foothold of the devil and this wound/s will never completely heal because you still shine no light on it with the very person (if married) completes you as a oneness would and should. For those that are wives/husbands of the SA and for the SA them self or has been one of……please understand God gave you your first and always after Him, an accountability partner. It is your spouse. No matter how hard and the obstacles in the path from choices of self or others that chose and have to hang on and ride the storm. Please know that it is going to hurt, it is going to not be easy, you will fail at times to extend understanding and grace, you will be hurtful in the wrong ways, you will struggle, you will not want to endure and go on or keep up with the fight. But the most important of all is to remember each other and God! Faithful, Hopeful and Lovingful always never fail to come together to remember this with one another. To go ride out every storm no matter how much it will destroy in and out of you and your spouse, that you paddle together. If you can make it through this with remembering this in a marriage then you can overcome anything! Much love and God bless you all!
My husband is 10 months sober and doing the 12 steps for alcohol, 3 years ago I found out about an affair, they were plotting to end the marriage, but he ended it with it instead, at first he said there was no physical contact between them, just heavy flirting and talk of him ending our marriage, I found out over the next year that there was kissing, but still supposedly no sex, we went into couples therapy right away and over the next 2 years he was diagonised with a sex addiction too, and he’s since admitted to many affairs but swears none were physical, I DO NOT believe he’s never physically stepped out of the marriage, so my long winded question is how likely is it that a sex addict hasn’t had sex with others??
I don’t know, Phyllis. Every single person is an individual, and we don’t know what choices each individual has made, unless they choose to tell us. We just don’t know what specific behaviors have occured!
HOWEVER. We DO know how we feel emotionally in the relationship. We DO know whether there is real emotional trust. And I think that is actually a BETTER standard for judging the state of the marriage, and the state of your partner’s recovery, than strict behavioral reporting. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about behavioral vs. emotional trust. I’d be asking questions like: “How do I feel in this relationship? Does my husband turn toward me emotionally? Does he care how I feel? Is he interested in building a real relationship between us?” If you feel cared for and attended to, then I’d feel pretty safe in the relationship. If, however, there’s not a lot of emotional connection, then I’d be concerned about the potential for further acting out on his part.
Sex addiction, in my opinion, is not about sex. It’s about using sex to avoid personal pain. In recovery, he should be learning to face his pain and then he should also be able to face your pain, and be present with you emotionally. Of course that’s a process! But you should see signs of that happening along the way.
Whatever your husband’s recovery looks like, your recovery is of paramount importance. I often find that while men receive a lot of attention in recovery, and keeping the marriage together receives a lot of attention, the trauma that wives suffer tends to go unaddressed. I hope your counseling experiences have addressed your trauma, but if you’re needing support, you might be interested in this online resource: Bloom for Women, which focuses on trauma-recovery for women and attachment-recovery for marriages following betrayals like porn and affairs. Whatever happens in this relationship, whatever your husband chooses to do, I hope you’ll choose healing and support for you.
Peace to you, Kay
He is a liar. Over and over again.
After 35 years, I found out my husband was a pedophile. His behavior started when he was 11 years old. He found his father and brother’s magazines. I believe his father would have been a sex addict as he was a hoarder as is his brother. They have addiction in the blood line.
He was a child and this took over his mind. Being a child when this transpired, is the only sympathy I have ever had for this man.
It’s all about choice. An alcoholic will choose or not choose to drink. Same with all addiction. Disease yes but that is a easy way of saying we can’t control ourselves.
Blame? They will all blame whom ever they can. I was blamed and he was an addict at age 11. Already deep into a dark world when I came into the picture. I take no blame. I hold none of his shame. Most of us shouldn’t. Co-dependent is a blanket term that is easy for a therapist to throw out. I was not co-dependent. I was lied to. You are being lied to as well.
I sent him to treatment to the tune of nearly $100,000 then divorced him 3 years later. He traveled most of the time and had 2 different identities. I have been divorced for 4 years.
My former husband is now a full fledged pedophile. If your husband is a sex addict, then he WILL eventually “act out”.
If this were not the case we would have no continued meetings or treatment for sexual addiction. There is no cure. They will just move to a different addiction while sexual addiction lurks in the background ready to jump out at any moment. They can’t live without an addiction of some sort. It might be drinking, gambling, drugs, collecting things or even GOD. It’s all done to fill a void or keep the endorphins flowing.
They seem to live for the next acting out opportunity. They are sorry when they are caught but that’s about it. Addicts are addicts and only think of themselves. She won’t find out. I can hide it. They are much like children in the thought process. It’s the “what can I get away with” mentality.
You will never trust him nor have respect for him. If this is the life you want then stay. If not then you should get out before he does anymore damage to you and your family.
This is your choice. He has made his.
All the best
I have been engaged to a sex addict since march 0f 2015. He is a recovering porn addict.he is transparent with me and when he does relapse as we all do when in recovery he recognizes it and talks to his sponsor, and repents the behavior. he has not done the same one twice as that would be a choice in my eyes. I have to learn to process the things he tells me. it is not easy but I know that I’m powerless over his addiction, It seems that internet is the things that gets him every time, I’m his accountably partner and can see what he views, there were other devices such as a blue ray player and a tablet which were used to view you tube without filters, he surrendered that to me and they have since been removed. It is things that cause suspicion that is the hardest for me to deal with. Trust is something that is earned and it is done by my partner being completely honest with me, I’m not on any side of the street but his and we lock arms and put on the armor that the devil tries to penetrate with thoughts and temptations. I’m blessed to have the honesty. Your wife, girlfriend or fiancé needs to be your biggest fan and want you to be healthy. it starts with transparency and honesty.
I have not cheated on my significant other; I am not even married. I am on here as a recovering addict reminding myself of the pain I could cause if I don’t stay the course.
But I am a woman, and this title just once again reaffirms what a nut job I am.
I’m not sure how to feel about all the shared experiences. One the one hand, I suppose I could take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in the maze of confusion and torment associated with sexual addiction. I’m not wrong for feeling devastated, emotionally raped by deception or for grieving the death of what I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt to be pure, friendship, devoted love, commitment & lifelong companionship. I’m not wrong for feeling the intense pain, betrayal or anger, not to mention the debilitating sadness by the shattered illusion of marriage. I’m not alone & there are others out in the universe who can totally relate. But instead of feeling comforted by this fact–it only seems to compound the heart wrenching state that I current find myself. What has happened to our humanity? Have we destroyed even the slightest glimpse of morality, integrity, and respect for ourselves and those we claim to “love”. It has been explained to me that this sort of behavior is “triggered” and often acts of the unconscious. Now–I’m not a professional doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist but it seems pretty clear that to concoct lies, create premeditated environments and situations or scenarios that are conducive for this sort of behavior–is THE FURTHEST THING from unconsciousness. I’ve studied many criminal cases over the course of my career that scientifically prove that mentally handicapped people –who have been charged with premeditated acts of violence or destruction to property were actually held accountable for their crimes –DESPITE–their disabilities &/or mental capacity–simply on the basis they they were cognitively capable of LYING and trying to create & convince others an alternative reality. I may be wrong — but holding men accountable for their CHOICES -instead of labeling their choices as “addictions or disorders” is the most logical-rational-helpful course of action. Anything else only seems to further enable the bad behavior and continue to be a source of pain and heartache for everyone involved. What kind of message does that send to our daughters & sons? What sort of advice would these men give to the children they have helped bring into the world. I wish I could find some sort of comfort in participating in this sort of forum. But it has only caused me to feel more disgusted & hopeless. The only thing one human has control over is how the react and respond to other human beings. You can chose love respect and kindness or the opposites. And if someone choose the opposite–the best choice is to walk away.
I agree with you that the only thing we can really control is our own choices. And yes, often the best choice is to leave a relationship when love and respect are absent. I do think that good boundaries are the first step in healing and hope, even if it’s painful to make those choices at the time.
I wonder if you might appreciate the online resource, Bloom. It offers private forums that are more conversational than the forum here, PLUS numerous recovery tools for women. It’s a trauma-based resource, which I think is the best way to go. And it is restricted to women, so you don’t have to see negative push-back from addicts defending themselves!
Peace to you, Kay
I was married for 20 years, muddling through at least 4 affairs until I’d had enough & left with my children. For 10 years I was content to be a smart, single, educated & self sufficient woman. I described myself as a “man hater” , vowing to never put myself in that position again! Through mutual friends I met a man I initially had little interest in but it progressed and I thought of him as a wonderful human being. We dated for a few years then he broke it off and I moved on. He pursued me for a long time, finally surprising me with a marriage proposal. I laid out, once again, my history in my prior marriage and that that was a deal breaker. He assured me. Less than a year later I found pictures of women on his computer, by accident. He said it was just pictures. Well, it happened again and he even got defensive, blaming me for this & that. Fast forward on 5 years into the marriage and I found graphic videos of women doing things to him. I lost it. The only way he admitted to being an SA was getting caught in more & more lies. These women were threatening and I started to feel unsafe. He even “protected” one by delaying the break up because he said, she said she loved him & he was afraid of what she may do ( little thought of me, I thought) not to mention the unprotected sex he’d been having…exposing me! He’s in meetings now & I forced myself to go also because I need to understand, but every time I bring something up he blames me. I’m no mother Teresa, but I have never strayed from my spouse. Intimacy is the second toughest road, beyond trust. I picture those videos with her face whenever we try to be intimate and I get nauseated. This is so hard and just the tip of the iceberg! Any thoughts
Donna, I am so, so sorry. What a painful situation to be in. As a therapist, my primary concern would always, always be for your safety. Being exposed to STD’s as a result of your husband’s choices is definitely not a safe situation for you. Furthermore, it sounds like you may have some symptoms of trauma which would be completely normal, given the circumstances. Many, many women will meet the clinical criteria for PTSD.
While I applaud your willingness to go to meetings and gain understanding of his issues, I would want you to focus on YOU. YOUR safety and YOUR healing. Whatever he ends up choosing, YOU choose health and wholeness. Find a counselor who can help you process the traumatic events you’ve suffered through, someone who can help you build healthy boundaries. Find a trauma-informed group to attend. You might also appreciate the online resource, Bloom.
Peace to you, Kay
When do you just walk away?. I am a Christian woman who has believed God for the changes in my husband and marriage but I can no longer take his abuse and it is causing me some health issues myself. I have developed depression and even have a stress rashmall over my body dealing with the insanity that I have been dealing with.. No one knows or sees the insanity I am living in as everyone on the outside thinks my husband is so nice. Well, he is a good ACTOR as that is how he could talk so many women into affairs with him previously. He did previously go to a Christian sex addiction live in program for seven months. How happy I was thinking he was repented and was such a changed man as when he came back he even enrolled into a bible college claiming he wanted to be a pastor or biblical counselor but it didn’t last that long. All the while, I had been waiting patiently for the healing for me and our marriage to come and never did. Everything is always focused around him and his desires but he never dealt with anything that was important for me and he never made any real attempt of the things I wanted him to do to help restore healing to me and this marriage. My feelings and emotions have always been put on the back burner. He refuses to deal with the past in the right sense and nothing has moved forward because he doesn’t want any accountability of the past. The times he did give some effort to talk about the past and reveal what he needs to tell me where really lies which I then later discovered the real truth and when I confront him his stories change and he says HE NEVER SAID THAT(the lies he told).I could handle the past if he would only tell the TRUTH instead of half truths, and blatant lies and stupid mind games that are making me feel insane. I don’t know what the TRUTH is anymore and I always feel like I can’t believe a word he says. I have caught him recently doing things behind my back and even lieing to me about several different things..like going to a place he was never suppose to go to( for good reasons). He knows the boundaries but yet does not care how it may affect me. Our arguments have been based on these things or things regarding his boundaries. He thinks he has a right to go places like LAS VEGAS to watch his dad bowl, or should be able to have a non sexual massage from a woman after he had hired a prostitute in Vegas and went to the sexual massage business. Also he wants to associate with his single buddies and has even contacted the friends that was involved in his prostitution scandal that he is no longer suppose to associate with and again all behind my back. I stopped being intimate with him because of these things and his verbal abuse and emotional abuse…he compares me to the women he was with to be cruel and tells me I am the worst women he had to ever deal with. Since I stopped having sex with him(even my counselor agreed I should stop) he is very emotionally abusive. Just tonight he told me that he can go out and get sex from any women he wants and that no man should have to put up with a wife who doesn’t want to have sex with him. He doesn’t seem to get it and thinks I should give him sex(that all he cares about and is the only time he is really interested in me when he wants sex) and if I don’t he throws big temper tantrums. He knows the reason why I have stopped but yet he doesn’t do what he needs to do and then expects me just to keep taking this insanity of his double minded ways and abuse. I am ready to walk away because I have been dealing with this behavior for way to many years…and I need prayer for strength and help from the Lord above. I need to be rescued out from this situation and the so many irresponsible things he put on us.
Well, I would say that if you are being abused in any way, that the abusive spouse has voided the marriage covenant and you are free to go. You don’t have to stay and be abused: verbally, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually. None of that is necessary.
You might want to read Luke Gilkerson’s article about divorce, porn and sexual addiction.
I hope that you’ll turn your attention toward the one thing you can control: YOU. Your choices, your health, your healing. Find a counselor just for YOU who can help you process your emotions and build healthy boundaries. Find a support group for YOU. Check into the online resources at Bloom. Whatever your husband chooses, YOU choose to be healthy and whole.
Peace to you,
The first time was Sept 2002, he told me he would stop. Then again in 2006, 2008, from 2010-2013, this one was the worst, and now Nov 2016. I already have ptsd from an abusive childhood, and I was raped and molested when I was4. My hubby was in the military, I was married to him for 21 years of his 23 year military career. I was the dutiful wife, taking care of the and working and volunteering throughout the bases we have lived at. I am so depressed and my ptsd is sUchiha a loud noise in my head. You would think living in such close proximity to so many that have ptsd, it would be easy for me to find a trauma therapist. It has been non-existent. I’ve been diagnosed 2 separate times with ptsd and dysthymia and now ptsd with severe depression. I’ve had therapists argue whether or not I am really depressed, tell me I’m an adult, I should forgive, my history is unquantifiable????? I should read the secret. I should just trust me hubby. And they don’t believe me. It’s so bad, I want to go to sleep and never wake up. My heart hurts all the time. I long or get sick so my pain will come to an end. I don’t believe him anymore
Raine, I am so, so sorry.
On top of all the pain you’ve suffered in your marriage, it sounds to me like the therapists you’ve encountered are incompetent at best. No ethical therapist dismisses the concerns or symptoms of the client in the way that you’ve experienced. If a therapist doesn’t understand or can’t treat a problem, it is their responsibility to tell you so, and to refer you to someone who does have experience successfully treating the issue you’re facing. Their job is NOT to minimize the problem and blame you for it! I would say that you are well within your rights to make a complaint to their state licensing boards.
At this point, you may not want to try again, but I’m very very concerned for your wellbeing. Are you taking any medication in conjunction with your diagnosis? If you have not been prescribed medication, please do visit your doctor immediately. That would at least be a starting point.
Then I would say, you really do need therapy. You need a safe place to process your emotions and work on healthy boundaries. You might benefit from EMDR therapy as well. I would check the directory at Psychology Today, do some phone interviews, and then do an in-person interview.
When you go to see a new therapist, you are simply shopping. YOU get to decide if this person is helpful to you or not. You should feel safe, respected, and heard. If those things aren’t happening, this is not the right person for you. You are under no obligation to that counselor. Walk on and keep shopping until you find the right person.
I know this is so hard to do when you’re already feeling so badly, but it’s extremely important, because all of these things you’ve described are COMPLETELY TREATABLE with a competent, caring therapist! Please don’t give up, just because you’ve run across some loser therapists who don’t know what they’re doing! Your life is so valuable and precious, and we need you here with us. Please keep shopping until you find the best fit for you.
Meanwhile, if you have not run across the work of Bessel Van Der Kolk, you need to get acquainted with what he has to say about PTSD and its treatment. The Body Keeps the Score is a great book, but a big one, so you might want to start with this podcast at OnBeing which is a great intro to his ideas.
I would also suggest that you start doing yoga daily. Here’s a link to my favorite, no-sweat, super easy seated yoga practice for anxiety. Anybody can do this. All you have to be able to do is sit and breathe. The research on yoga and PTSD is so encouraging–better than medication in many cases! So, please give it a try.
You might also appreciate the online resources at Bloom. There are forums, classes, and all sort of helps for women in recovery from marriage betrayal. You won’t be told to get over it. You’ll find a community of women who really know how to recover and help one another through.
Peace to you,
These men (and many women) can NEVER be trusted, because THEY CHOSE to justify and fraudulently “excuse” their “addiction.”
This is a PERSONAL CHOICE that THEY CONSCIOUSLY MADE to CHEAT ON people they CLAIM to “love,” without FIRST ADMITTING TO THEMSELVES that they “love” themselves and their selfish choices, FIRST AND FOREMOST, OVER CHOOSING REAL LOVE! … And they use ANY MEANS OF DECEPTION to unjustly “justify and excuse” their “behavior” when it STARTS IN THE CONSCIOUS MIND FIRST!
Do NOT FOR ONE SECOND believe that they are EVEN CAPABLE of REAL “love,” because REAL LOVE, the love that COME FROM GOD and the depths of the human soul, does NOT CHOOSE EVIL OVER GOOD!
These men have been able to GET AWAY WITH LYING TO EVERYONE, in order to exalt their own destructive/narcissistic/manipulative behaviors, discounting and discrediting ANYONE who stands against them!
They have CHOSEN disloyalty and selfish narcissism OVER LOYALTY to TRUTH and honor of their own words!!!
Making this into an “addiction” problem, only excuses their bad behavior EVEN MORE!!
Do NOT BELIEVE “ADDICTION” LIES that they and their ABETTING THERAPISTS use to JUSTIFY THEIR ONGOING CHEATING and INTENTIONAL DECEIT—and to KEEP PAYING THE “therapist”!
These are men (and many women too), who are NOT worth the paper their degrees are written on, because MANY have cheated people about the REAL TRUTH of what they are hiding in their dens of lies, disloyalty and deceit —they trample and denigrate the word “love” to mean something that ONLY fits THEIR greedy, selfish CHEATING AGENDAE, and they will ALWAYS blame the other person who they have LURED BY DECEIT and LIES!!
I am so, so sorry for the pain you must be feeling. I want to affirm that you are a person with the right to trust yourself. If you are in a relationship with someone who lies to you and cheats on you, then we here at Covenant Eyes would urge you to have healthy boundaries. Here, here and here are articles that might help.
One of the things that I see often is that men get a lot of help for their recovery while their wives often receive little or no help at all. I would suggest that you find support for yourself so you can process your emotions and consider what healthy boundaries would look like for you.
Peace to you,
If you are having sex with a cheater, YOU ARE ABETTING THEM, and you are just as guilty as the cheater, if you KNOW what they are and you KNOWINGLY INDULGE and abet their NARCISSISM!, especially if it is for YOUR OWN NARCISSISTIC LIFE!
Once they have PROVEN to be a LIAR AND CON, GET OUT before they drag EWE to hell with them!!!
Not only are you abetting a cheater if you permit sex with them, you are really nothing more than a proxy for whichever wild fantasy they’re entertaining. Does he have problems completing, with a LOT of stop-start-stop-start? He isn’t making love to you; he’s flipping through his extensive mental “porn library” and none of them are quite the flavor he wants right now.
The co-dependency concept is giving way to the understanding that PTSD is what we’re really suffering. Gaslighting, manipulation, lying and exposing us to STDs are abuse. After all, there’s no way to prove a man is “porn-drunk” and acting out on an addiction.
I am a sex addict. I cheated on my wife with women I exchanged money with. I had problems, she had problems, we had problems but nothing justified my actions. I may decisions and acted upon them which had nothing to do with my wife. That was 6 months ago. I went to an intensive. I go to individual therapy, group therapy and SAA meetings. I am working toward sobriety in that I have slipped with porn once in 60 days. I want \to be able to say that is the last time I have ever done that. My wife and I may have had an unhealthy relationship and I am not sure what it will look like going forward but I think it is unhelpful to call it co-dependent. I think alot of people in recovery use the street and co-dependent language to personally deal with the emotional difficulty of accepting the damage they have wrought by their behaviors. It’s a cop out to accepting responsibility. These activities catch a woman by surprise and it destroys them. I was asked if I could change one thing what would I wish for and I wish I could go back in time and that I had never done this to my wife. I wish I had the integrity to say I wanted to be alone, to separate or divorce or do something rather than acting in a way that is so devastating. I wish I had worked on my problems. I am now. I wish to provide her with the unconditional love and support that she needs to heal. That is not co-dependent. When she is angry, I know it is because of the pain and fear she is experiencing. Every time I hear that anger I look at it as an opportunity to learn about love, empathy and compassion – traits I clearly lack. I may have made mistakes that one cannot recover from or go back from and our relationship may not survive. I don’t believe there is a her side of the street to keep clean. I think that’s nonsense. She may benefit from a trauma counselor but that is her choice as to whether she wants to do that or not.
I have been with my husband for 18 years, 13 married, we have 3 children. All along we had issues because I felt he was too friendly with women. He always talked and texted with women and there were sometimes when I suspected that there was more than that going on, but I chose to either ignore it or thought that he would end the relationship if he thought it was getting out of line. He always said the right things and always told me he loved me and treated me well.
Two months ago, I found out that he had been talking and texting with yet another woman excessively so I began to question him. He started off by saying that they had inappropriate conversations, texts, pics, kissed. Fast forward two months: he has admitted to being a sex addict. Little by little he has admitted to excessive masturbation, looking at pictures of women while masturbating, going to massage places where he received sexual acts. Two days ago he told me he lost count of how many woman he has had sexual encounters with. I am devastated, but at the same time, I still feel like there is more he needs to tell me. I want to know all the details and I realize what that might do to me, but in reality I already have the mental pictures of him being sexual with other women. I have created a list of questions I have for him and plan on giving it to him very soon. I hope he is able to answer all my questions. But should I be careful with what I ask? I don’t know!
Soon after I found out about the last woman, he changed his phone number, got rid of his facebook account, started individual counseling, and last week he attended his first saa meeting. He never did any of these things before, but I am so scared that he is just doing all of this to convince to stay. I feel lost and wish I was at a place where I could say that I will give it my best to move forward. I love him but I know I do not deserve any of this. I also wonder if this addiction can really be controlled. I don’t want to lose hope, but I am terrified of finding out that he has not been able to stop.
Those revelations are really scary. I would say, you need to know everything. You can’t make good decisions for yourself going forward without ALL the information.
I’m glad he’s made these new, different choices, but like you, I wonder how recovery will actually go for him, given the extreme extent of the behaviors.
If I were your therapist, I would suggest a separation so that if he is truly sincere about his recovery, he can work on that while you make sure that you are safe and well. You need a counselor for YOU, to help you process your emotions and work on healthy boundaries. A group would also be a good thing for you, and you might appreciate the online resource, Bloom.
Have you been to your doctor? I suggest an STD panel as soon as possible. He absolutely must have one as well, and do not have unprotected sex with him.
You can’t move forward in the marriage unless he chooses to move forward, and I think it will take QUITE some time to be able to judge if he’s going to be able to do that. Meanwhile, move forward with your own healing, your own emotional processing, and your own very healthy boundaries. We understand that, sadly, there are times when sexual addiction breaks a marriage past the point of reconciliation. No matter what he chooses, though, YOU choose to be healthy and well.
Peace to you,
I have been in my relationship (unmarried, but engaged since 08) since 2005. We have 2 kids together and I found out my partner was speaking to an ex.. We had been in a rough patch so while surprising and disappointing it was more of an insult. We decided through that experience that we both truly had feelings for one another and wanted to continue to rebuild our relationship. More passionate than we had been in years, we quickly came to realize I was expecting again. Unfortunately, right after the ultrasound to confirm we were 9 weeks pregnant with our third child I found messages on his phone where he was conversing with a prostitute while out of town on business. I AM BROKEN. I have known since 2007 that he was addicted to pornography and just kept my concerns to myself mostly so that I did not push him to feel insecure about himself. Unfortunately I think he silently brewed into a bigger addiction that I can not live with. I can not imagine raising 3 kids on my own, but also can’t stand the idea of living a lie or putting myself at risk with his behaviors. He has started counseling for the first time, and feels that it will be able to help him understand his issues and give him more control, but I just don’t know what to do while he is on his path to recovery.
While he’s working on his recovery, you work on yours. Find a counselor just for YOU, someone who can help you process your emotions and choose healthy boundaries for yourself. Find a group for YOU. In addition, you might check out the online resources at Bloom. Whatever he ends up choosing, YOU be healthy for YOU.
I am so grateful for this forum and everything you are doing. I have to say that I now know that I am a SA. About 5 1/2 years ago my wife found out about my Craigslist postings. I had been seeking hookups on CL for roughly two years and had hooked up with several men. Yes, men. I quickly found out that the women on CL were not real or I wasnt bold enough at the time to pay for sex. I couldnt find any females that would meet me, so I decided to check out what the men had to offer. I dont think of myself as gay or even bisexual, but for some reason, I wanted to feel what it was like. After the first time I had received oral sex, I wanted to experience more, so I kept looking and exploring. So, after two years or longer, my wife found out by looking at my phone. I had had 3 hookups and she was absolutely devastated.
We eventually went to counselling, not for sex addiction, but for marriage. We went to a christian husband and wife counselors once a week for a little over a year. We started going back to church and I got involved with this men’s group and went to these men’s christian bootcamps several times. FF to last July 2016, we had been doing great, I hadnt had any relapses, our marriage was doing wonderful, she was starting to trust me again. We moved out of state, away from our church, my men’s group and after about 9 months she visited back home for 3 weeks. I dont know why I felt the need to explore CL again. It’s like it was building in anticipation several weeks before she left to go home, but I couldnt make the desire stop. I ended up hooking up twice while she was gone. I was going to tell her as soon as she got back, but she was so happy to see me and I her. Couple days later, she found out. Once again it was Men I hooked up with. I have never been with another women since we have been married (14 yrs), but thats because I couldnt find any women that would meet me. Anyway, as expected she was torn into, worse this time obviously. We were working through that until December, I just couldnt resist “looking” again on CL and started looking at dating sites for women. LSS, I had to leave to go overses for work for 3 months and so this is our built in separation, plus I am going to move out for at least a year after I get back. Thanks to this resource and others like it, my wife and I agree that I am a SA and our plan is to get help individually. Me with SAA and counselling and her with counselling.
I cant really pinpoint the reason for my addiction, but all that my wife and I have read is that its maybe due to a feeling of abandonment, lack of intimacy as a child as far as with my mom and step-dad, and some other similar stuff. I was never sexually abused, but I was emotionally abused by my step-dad and I could go as far as to say slightly physically abused at times. With that being said, I do not make excuses for my actions, I just want to heal myself and be the best I can be.
I know I need GOD and I need a support group in order to win this battle. So, thank you for all that you are providing here at Covenant Eyes.
Hey Daryl, I appreciate your honesty here. I think getting individual help is a great plan, and I think separation can be really helpful as well in a situation like this. I think once you’ve gotten a chance to process your own emotions and work through your own stuff, you’ll be in a much better place to consider where the marriage goes from here. I’m hoping that you’ll find the support you need, and exactly the right therapist who can help you along your journey. (And if it turns out you’re gay, know that God loves gay people just as much as he loves straight people. He loves us ALL. ALL means ALL.) Grace and peace to you, Kay
Im a addict going through a extremely hard time in my marriage. My wife has psoriasis. It affects her privates. She goes completely dry. The smell is awefull. She is so embarrassed and me to for her. We can’t find a fix for it in 6 years. Not one doctor seems to even recognize there is one. The problem is I’m going nuts. We had a more open style marriage because she liked girls as well. Worked out great at first. Only girls we shared together. But now due to her illness we can’t enjoy that time. I can’t get that need met. Support groups don’t help because of a long story sure to my childhood. Abuse was rampant in my childhood. I feel like I need to run screaming or fight my way out. The VA had no help to offer.
She wants me to film one day to next to have a girlfriend for those needs. The next day it’s that she wants me to be good. I’m willing for her. 10 years together. We’ve been through hell. But we always go to bed cuddling.
I’m getting nauseous just bring by other women. I’ve thrown up a few times this week alone. I talk myself out of acting out 50 times a day. I have opportunities with safe people (not prostitutes). The issue is its very heavily affecting us. We know this is a problem. We also know that a open marriage is taboo. But wet have always hunted together. Always worked on this together. Now I’m alone in this it feels like. Like I’m struggling to hold on to something that’s already failed due to lack of contact. Not effort. I’m afraid for our son. How this will effect him. I’m so manic right now. I’m taking myself out of having sex with my babysitter who is more than willing and available when my wife’s not home. I feel sick at the thought of turning it down again. Seriously nauseous. Please. Any advice. I’m scared of myself right now.
Joshua, I’m not sure if anyone else has responded to your message, but your situation will not be fixed without a lot of hard work. If you truly want to make things right for your son, then both you and your wife will need counseling. The sexual situation is just the surface issue – the past hurts that were inflicted on you (and her?) really need to be dealt with so that they aren’t passed on to your boy. Don’t wait – reach out to a church or someone who can recommend a counselor in your area.
My husband and i have been together for 23 yrs this may and we have 2 children together. The 1st 3 yrs of our relationship was amazing. He works hard, takes care of his kids, is very supportive of me in anything i want he provides. He is as close to perfection as any human can get. He has created on me numerous times, more than i can count. This last time i caught him, and tried to leave, he hits me with him having sex addition and beggs me to give him one more chance. He has a sex addiction counselor and i have met with him once. I want to belive him, but i find myself unable to. I read on what sex addition is and the only signs he has is want sex from me multiple times and getting upset when we don’t. I have never caught him watching porn, he dose not pay for sex with other woman, and he doesn’t master bate nor have i caught him master batting. So, as you can see its hard for me to accept this as his problem. The only thing that makes me want to belive him is his clam of being raped as a child by an older girl. How do i know if this is a desperate attempt to hold on to me or if he really has this addiction? I love him he is my best friend, but i find my self so angry with what he keeps doing to our family. I fear that the next time it happens, I will forever lose my best friend and all the love i have for him will turn into hate, and will never have a chance at peace or good teams. We have children and that is the last thing i want, weather we are together or not.
Hey there. What a tough situation to be in. Every single situation is different, and individual situations change over time. So I don’t think there is one right answer for how to deal with things, just individual processes in individual situations. I would encourage you to find a counselor JUST FOR YOU, someone who can help you process your emotions and create healthy boundaries. Whatever your husband ends up choosing in his process, YOU can choose to be healthy in yours. Peace to you, Kay
My husband has destroyed our marriage with his porn addiction.
And now I fear even going in public because he has told me when seeing pretty women, he has vivid sexual images pop into his mind of him having sex with them. He abused me sexually. Doesn’t listen to my no. Was verbally and emotionally abusive while deployed and I was pregnant.
Lied for the first two years of our marriage and said he didn’t want to lose me, which is his reason he hid his addiction before our wedding after I asked him to disclose any problems with porn.
He has told me I have made him hate sex. And a whole bunch of other things. He has blamed me for his porn use. Sometimes he takes responsibility.
Now that we are working through things, I want to know everything.
I honestly want to know every thought he has about another woman. He said he has lots of porn flashbacks. But that the sexualizing of other random women on public has stopped. Yeah right.
I understand I can’t control his thoughts. But after all the lies and deceit, I want transparency. It is so that o feel safe! If a pretty woman who is half naked walks in front of us, or is in a movie or he is at the gym and a tight bodied girl bends over, I wanna know. Because IF HE DOES think something sexual, I can guard myself. Unlike I used to when I was oblivious thinking everything was fine.
He told me for a whole year he had sex with me and had to think of porn while having sex WITH ME HIS WIFE just so he could orgasm. He couldn’t even think of me when he was having sex with me!
It disgusts me.
It might be crazy I wanna know his every thought about other women. But you know what. After his latest relapse last month in freaking Done. I want transparency so I can set boundaries for myself. I do t wanna have sex with my husband who earlier in the day was undressing Jane Doe with his eyes and wondering what sex with her would be like!
I hate who I have become in this marriage. And angry bitter resentful 24 year old. Trying to raise a baby girl who has a porn addict father.
It sounds to me like your anger is for very good reason, and is an appropriate response to the abuse you’ve suffered.
I agree it’s important that trust is re-established if you’re going to continue the relationship. Given the history of sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse, though, I wonder if this will be possible? It sounds like there have been very serious violations of trust which your husband needs to be responsible for, and have serious therapy to correct, if the relationship is going to be viable.
I would recommend a CSAT therapist for your husband, as well as a trauma-informed therapist just for you. Once you’ve gotten through the recovery phase, once he is firmly established in healthy patterns and you are not feeling so traumatized, you should probably then move into marriage therapy to establish healthy patterns going forward. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the best research in the world on healthy marriage, and there are Gottman Certified Therapists who use that research in excellent therapy.
I don’t think you need to have sex with him until you are assured of his behavioral trustworthiness, and until emotional trust has been reestablished in the relationship. Sex will not fix this problem! Therapy is required first, and a real change of both behaviors and thought patterns. Even when recovery is firmly established, your body belongs to you and you always get to decide if you want to have sex, and what kinds of acts you wish to engage in. He must respect your no, always.
Peace to you, Kay
I have read through quite a few of the posts here and I think I have somewhat of a different take on the issue of codependency and enabling. I found out 5 years ago that my husband of 20 years had been a sex addict for 50 years. There were a few a times in our marriage that I caught him at things and really should have known, but we were Christians (I thought) and I was a forgiving person (I thought); it was just easy to get back to life and shove it into the distant background. However when I was looking on our desktop for the family Christmas picture we had taken to go print some and came across a folder of thousands of pictures of nude women, I could hardly ignore it. By then we hadn’t had a sexual relationship in the last 15 years due to erectile dysfunction which he blamed on my coldness and lack of desire, and our marriage was completely toxic with emotional abuse on both sides and verbal abuse from me. That was rock bottom. We separated.
My husband started a 12 step program with SA and SAA and both restarted separate counseling with the counselor we had used before. That’s when I realized I was co-dependent and embarked on my own path to recovery. Since I did not really know about his sex addiction throughout our marriage, it could not be said that I was directly enabling him. But I have come to realize through a lot of work on myself and how I was raised in a dysfunctional family, and also knowing how he was raised in a dysfunctional family, that emotionally I was enabling him. My own family history made me seek out exactly who he was – an older man that gave all the appearances of a normal devoted husband but who was emotionally remote and needy. Someone for me to help, to fix, to change, the way I had always tried to do for my dad. Desperate for communication, I talked and talked and he shut me out more and more. There was no way to really know him. There was always a wall which he was both unable and unwilling to tear down. In the meantime, I was verbally abusive to him and I tore him down a lot, the way I was torn down. That made him feel unworthy of love, the way he had been made to feel as a child. It all worked perfectly for us – until it was so toxic and the truth came out – and then it didn’t. The separation lasted 2 years until my husband had a stroke and could live on his own so he moved back in. He still attends SA meetings, and also a Copendency group, and though he is pretty free of the sexual addiction, he has never really changed as far as how he relates to me. Still doesn’t share any deep parts of himself to any extent, still doesn’t communicate. I am unable to break a lot of the old relating patterns either so I am as much to blame as he is. I know that too much water has passed under the bridge to ever have a marriage together at this point. I read someone where that in sex addiction marriages, a third stay married, a third divorce and a third stay stuck. I fall into the last category, and it’s an ugly place to be. My emotional needs are still not met, and actually living with someone you are married to on paper but with whom you do not have a marriage is an ugly place to be.
All of this long story (sorry) was just to point out that I think there can be codependency at work allowing sex addiction to happen or continue without direct enabling going on. I still work on my own recovery and I think I have changed a lot in general so I just have to keep heading that direction. Otherwise it just feels like waiting for one of us to die.
Hi, I appreciate the article. Though my husband never continued a group for recovering addicts after 3 times, I have heard him tell me that I shouldn’t be his accountability partner. So that had lead to him dismissing my questions and doubts. His parents have been oir counsellors, and as much as I love them and appreciate them, I feel they cut him too much slack and don’t empathize with me enough since they think I should still keep trying and not leave him..
It will be our 8 year anniversary August 1st..and I am finally ready for this façade of a marriage to be over. Sadly, we have two beautiful kids together and they each love us both dearly. It would be an accurate guess to say I’ve even stayed this long for the kids, they are turning 4 and 2 this year. I want the very best for my family but I have noticed that my attitude and demeanor drastically change when my husband is around. He is so mean and has done so much damage overall. We are in so much debt(that he unbeknownst to me) took out also in MY name, and we are always struggling. As if the stress of porn use by husband isn’t enough, (he also chats, creates all these different accounts to flirt) has cheated on me as well as kissed so many girls, he never stops to talk and if he does its only on his terms where I cannot confront him about anything because he gets angry and leaves..or punches holes in the wall.
I need him to leave..I need help. I am broken..he pretends to be so nice in front of everyone and especially in front of his parents (who then wonder why I am always so irritable with him)..but it’s all a lie! If it’s shallow, he’s fine. If not, he’s a monster. I bel wife God wants better for me and my kids than this.
I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re going through. It sounds like your husband has been able to manipulate circumstances to continue his sexual acting out in many areas, while maintaining his facade. I would encourage you to find a therapist for yourself, someone who can help you process emotions and decide on healthy boundaries for yourself, someone who can provide an outsider’s perspective for you. A support group would be great for you, too, and I think you’ll appreciate the online resources at Bloom. You might want to look at a few articles on boundaries: here, here, and here. Just know that your emotional health matters, along with your physical health, and no matter what your husband chooses, you can make healthy choices for you. Peace, Kay
When my husband and I started dating I found out he was watching porn. I had a very deep conversation with him stating its not my thing. I grew up very conservative. He was my first and I believe I was his first (neither of us was experienced). As the years went by I was always on his phone but never found anything to worry me.
A few days ago my worst nightmare came true. I discovered that he was watching porn on almost a daily basis. I confronted him and he said he had a problem and he wants me to pray for him and help him (we pray every morning in any event). The worst part is, we lost our first born baby in January and I am still broken and building up my faith. This now is just to much!! I am so broken that I literally can’t even run away from him. My flesh is saying run like never before, but my spirit is saying you will fight for your husbands soul and your marriage. It’s very very difficult though. I don’t even know what to do. Except rebuke and pray non stop. But I as I read a book by Liberty Savard “breaking the power” it says that you will have to surrender your soul for God to work within you. An unwilling soul can only be saved temporarily. You need to learn how to pray binding and losing prayers…and that is probably a fear, what if he is unwilling… How do I discover that.. I feel so overwhelmed.
First of all, he needs to take responsibility for his behavior. That means getting his internet under control by whatever means necessary–blocking, filtering, accountability, changing to a flip phone, whatever it takes. If he’s serious, he’ll do it. Then he also needs to find a therapist and/or so that he can learn to work through the emotional side of this in honesty with other human beings, not people on a screen. If he’s serious, he will do this. If he’s not willing to do both of these things, you’ll know he’s unwilling! If he does it for a while then quits, well, that’s not a good sign either. He needs to get serious and get the job done. It will take time.
At the same time, you find a therapist just for you, someone who can help you process the emotions of this, as well as the terrible loss you’ve suffered this year. Take really good care of yourself, and decide what healthy boundaries need to look like for you. Here and here are some boundaries articles.
I am the wife of a sex addict. I found out about my husbands addiction 8 months ago, and I decided to stay with him and see how things progressed. Initially we tried attending couples therapy. But our therapist soon decided that my husband had an addiction problem and recommended that he see another therapist for individual sessions. My husband has not been actively seeking recovery on his own. I have to constantly remind him to make appointments with his therapist. And one of the real problems I’m dealing with is my emotional response to my husband speaking with a therapist individually and leaving me in the dark. I feel like this just perpetuates the secrets that caused problems in the first place. I want him to get help, but I’m having a difficult time with the unknown factor on my end. Has anyone else felt this way? If so, how do you get through it?
Hey Melissa, I’m a counselor, and I think your couples therapist took exactly the right approach. Your husband has to do his own work first, and when he’s doing his work with a reasonable level of success (not perfection, but taking responsibility for himself and doing the work), then couples’ therapy might once again become a useful option for you. Right now, it sounds like he’s not taking responsibility for himself; you’re still doing the work instead of him. Let him make his own choices. If he does his work, great, then you can go back to therapy together.
But your couples’ therapist is wise: as long as he won’t do his part, it’s not a couples’ issue. It’s his problem that he won’t face.
That brings you to a whole new set of issues: what do you do if he won’t face it?
That’s about you taking responsibility for yourself and your choices. Many times we would rather keep trying to force someone else to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that is an exercise in futility, and I see women in my office all the time who have spent 30 years in that game, unsuccessfully trying to make their husbands make healthy choices.
Here, here, and here are some articles about boundaries and what you can do to be responsible for yourself, rather than for him.
I would say, find your own therapist, and do your own work in terms of emotional processing and healthy boundary-building. You might appreciate the online community at Bloom for Women as well.
I know this is tough, but I would say: turn your attention away from your husband’s choices, and look at your own boundaries. No matter what he chooses, you can choose to be healthy.
Peace to you, Kay
This article touched my heart. Not all of it applies to my situation and how I have handled my husbands addiction. I do have a question. He is about to have his first session next week with a therapist but he wants others to talk to. We live in a small town so the only meeting around here are AA. Is there another way he can find a group of men to talk to? I have tried searching to help him out. I do not do this for him this is his response however I see his worries and fear and I would like to help point him in the right direction. I also read in another article that women who suffer from life with an addict have similar symptoms to PTSD. Do you think that is true? Thank you so much for this article it has helped me a lot.
Seems like if he’s serious about recovery, then a once-a-week drive to another town might be an worthwhile investment to make.
And it is true that many women in situations like this meet the criteria for PTSD, and it’s so very important for women to get help, too. Find a counselor just for you, who can help you process your pain and build healthy boundaries (here, here and here are good articles on boundaries). You can also find online support at Bloom for Women.
Peace to you, Kay
I feel like I’m married to a stranger. That everything before “the discovery” is tainted. I am 5 weeks pregnant. My world is in tatters. He has thrown petrol on our marriage and lit the match.
How can he claim to love me. And lie to my face.
So many of your stories have identifiable similarities to my situation.
Shame, betrayal, deceit, heartbreak, lies, lies, lies.
He says he wants to change. That me finding out is exactly what he needed.
He has had a sexuality crisis too. Gay chat lines for a long time.
Most information I know is from detective work or from painful questioning to which he rarely gives me a straight answer.
I can’t stop investigating.
Can we really get over this? I can’t imagine how.
I’m so sorry. Your story just breaks my heart.
It’s pretty common for men to feel relieved when they are discovered, while the wife feels devastated and traumatised. Make sure that you get help for the pain you are facing, with an experienced, trauma-informed therapist. If you want to try a group, make sure it’s a trauma-informed group. The online resources at Bloom for Women are excellent as well.
On top of this “normal” devastation, you also have the issue of sexual orientation. I wonder if you have found the resources at Straight Spouses? You might also turn to a LGBTQ Resource Center in your area for support and help. It seems to me that it will be important to understand what exactly he is dealing with in terms of sexual orientation. If he is gay, what does this mean to your relationship?
The porn issue may actually be secondary here.
Peace to you in this storm,
I have come to realize i have problems and want help. It ranges from things in my past before i was martied, a father who was border line abusive and inlaws who did some very bad things to my wife and i before we got married and refused to come to the wedding. Im in a viscious circle of habits that i cant shake and truly want to. Sexually our marriage has been a struggle and i fell because of this and fell into a cyle. Im a believer but have struggle of additiction . My wife is not a understanding person and holds grudges from her past with issues of her own. I want us to be whole.
I can relate. My wife and I are from different ethnic backgrounds and her parents were so awful to us while we were saying that we mutually left the area for a distant school so we could court each other without their abuse. They finally came around several years later and only after she basically told them that they could be a part of our lives or not. Their choice. We have been married going on three years but in the last year we have moved back into their local community because she is pursuing medical school here. They are outwardly friendly but the stress of school combined with their proximity and some careless comments against me have strained our marriage. She had withdrawn from me sexually and claims she is to stressed and busy to be aroused. I constantly feel rejected and have started to be fall back into old habits of pornography and masterbation little by little. We were also both abused, me sexually, and she emotionally… My wife can also be a little bossy and isn’t afraid to cut open old wounds. At the same time she can be exceptionally caring and thoughtful even if not sexually affectionate. I pray we can both find a way to heal ourselves and recover from our addictions before they do irreparable damage. I also pretty that as we find a way to heal ourselves we can find the courage and resources to bring healing to the precious partners in our lives and see them flourish again into the beautiful passionate people we fell in love with.
Help! I think I’m becoming a sex addict. I was sexually abused before the age of 10 by a neighborhood child and also exposed to porn by older children at my school and encouraged to masturbate in front of them. Fast forward 20 years and I’ve struggled with an auction to porn off and on for years. Now I’m married, struggling with credit card debt even as I struggle to put my wife through medical school. I work a minimum wage job that just barely earns me emotionally to prevent me from qualifying for free healthcare. My wife is constantly stressed out with the intensity of her classes and not very responsive to my sexual affection. I’ve started finding myself occasionally dipping back into porn again after thinking ive finally kicked the habit a year ago. Even without porn I’m masterbating in bed next to her while she sleeps and thinking about buying a prostate massage toy… I’ve been to counseling for both ADD and to try to confront the abuses in my past. Coming from a very conservation Christian background I don’t feel comfortable discussing my situation with a local counselor of my faith because I’m afraid of the shame I’ll feel every time I see them socially. I’m also afraid to go to someone who don’t be able to help me from a Christian perspective. I can’t really afford counseling either. I haven’t stepped out on my wife and don’t plan too. She hasn’t caught me at the porn yet and every day I hope I won’t do it again and often I don’t for weeks at a time… I’m her first boyfriend and her husband. Before we ever had relations she knew I had been abused and also had had premarital sex (this didn’t occur until a previous fiance discovered she had repressed memories of being sexually abused by her brothers and came over to my apartment one night after a bad phone call to her parents trying to discuss the abuse and crawled into my bed – I was weak and we were engaged and doing premarital counseling when this all came out about the repressed memories and we had sex that night and then a few days later her parents basically kidnapped her and I never saw her again – we did communicate but she could never get up the strength to leave them and or meet for therapy). I have never been unfaithful (other than porn) but she’s had trust issues since shortly after we were married – I think related to some old emails she dug up to old girlfriends… I didn’t even know they still existed. She used to threaten she should go out and date around-then she wouldn’t be so jealous. She eventually learned to trust I was faithful and doesn’t threaten that anymore. She also used to threaten me with divorce if she ever found I was watching porn. At the time I wasn’t, but now I’m feel stuck between wanting her and being rejected and struggling to avoid porn and masterbation, hoping I can last until she’s willing again. And sometimes I fail. I do know that she’s been emotionally abused by her dad. Him withholding attention and affection until she obeyed his direction… Cutting her off or just leaving until she came running back to him after an argument. She’s done the same to me in the past, running away after an argument… I’ve always made a point of following after her immediately so she never thought I was putting her off till she came around. I don’t feel that it’s right that we sometimes go for weeks between sex and I’ve always made a point of striving for four-play and ensuring mutual climax. I sometimes feel that I wouldn’t be so tempted by porn if she were more receptive to my affection, I was more or less porn sober during our courtship and after our marriage until lately when she started this program. After I first caved I could usually hold out a few months at a time but lately I can only hold out for a few weeks at a time. I also wish she would initiate more than once every few months. I love her and don’t want to hurt her even by taking her that I’m struggling. I want to get help but don’t know where to go. I find myself thinking about sex a lot more and having inappropriate sexual dreams in my sleep.
Hey John, it sounds like you’re at a very stressful point in life, and falling back on unhealthy coping skills. When I hear you saying that you can’t go to counseling for this, this, and this reason? Well, as a therapist I have to say that sounds like rationalizing to me. If you’re looking at the long term health of your self and your marriage, that is worth some potential embarassment, and a good financial investment, I’m pretty sure! I know what it costs to go to medical school, and I know that a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand spent on your mental health will not break the bank at this point! Push past these excuses and do what you know you need to do. Find a therapist for yourself. Find a group to attend as well. Step up and take care of yourself at this critical time. This is a vital investment in a healthy future.
Peace to you,
What do you do if your ‘christian” husband does not believe there is anything wrong with viewing porn in God’s eyes? And he says it isn’t against me since he doesn’t lust after those women and has only ever wanted me? (which I don’t really believe) It is just curiosity that he views it, he says. Makes me feel like I am nothing that he doesn’t see it as a problem for me and that I shouldn’t make a problem out of it. I told him I wanted him to go to counseling and he said he would if he did it again. There have been two different years long episodes until I found out each time and then he supposedly wasn’t going to do it again. I can’t trust him as he was hiding what he was doing each time, but he thinks things should just be normal. I think it is a real spiritual problem also since he doesn’t think God cares if he looks at other naked women. I wonder what to do at this point.
He’s rationalizing, which is a common defense mechanism he uses to justify in his own mind what he knows to be a violation of christian values.
Then he’s gaslighting you, telling you not to know what you know, think what you think, or feel how you feel.
You might want to call up his parents and his pastor as tell them what you’ve just told us here. I bet they’d have a different take on it than he does, which is in fact why this is a hidden behavior. He knows it’s violating the values he’s professing to claim. He’s just hoping you won’t be smart enough to figure it out.
You get to choose healthy boundaries in this marriage. You didn’t agree to pornography, and if you don’t want it there, it needs to go. Here, here, and here are articles on boundaries.
Your husband will need a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist to help him get into good, solid recovery.
Meanwhile, you find a counselor just for you, who can help you process through this. Check into the excellent online resources at Bloom for Women.
Greetings and gratitude! I can’t overemphasize how helpful this site has been for me. My story is so very similar to so many that I’ll spare you the sad details of discovery. I’m writing because I have a question…(complicated).
My husband’s issues started when he was a very young child. He was doomed to suffer with them from birth secondary to having parents with severe issues who themselves had parents with severe issues. This family looks so “Leave It To Beaver” perfect on the outside that no one, including me, would ever guess what is going on behind the pretty façade. My husband has marked ADHD, anxiety and facial ticks resulting (I’m convinced) from such poor parenting. In pre-adolescence, this became complicated by his learning various means of self-soothing when stress overwhelmed him, namely alcohol and sex addiction. I said all that to set the stage for my question. How can he ever benefit from any treatment for his sex addiction and “intimacy anorexia” if he has no idea what real intimacy is or what authentic relationship looks like, and his ADHD doesn’t afford him the ability to sit through meetings and work through structured programs and actually get anything out of them? Because of certain childhood abuses– structure, rules and restrictions make him crazy. I love him so much, but thanks to the counseling I’m getting and the work I’m doing on my own healing, I know that this is something over which I have no control. He has to do his own work; I can’t fix it for him. He says that he will learn about all this “addiction stuff” on his own (reading books, etc.) and that he doesn’t need any labels or anyone telling him how to heal or how to be happy. Since I’ve been married to him over a decade, I can certainly affirm that his style of learning and relating is not anything like that of most of us. We have great counselors and we’ve been through 2 couples’ intensives. (His sex addiction was uncovered in the first one.) He says if he has to sit through anything like that again, he will just explode. God knows they’re too expensive to waste our time and money if he’s getting nothing out of it other than, as he says, “rules being shoved down my throat”. I’m feeling hopeless for our marriage. I know that he can’t do this by himself any more than he could perform surgery on himself. He says he wants so much for us to be happy and that he loves me more than he’s ever loved anyone in his life but that he has to learn this by himself. He has to figure it out his own way. I’m looking for a place to live for a while so that I can regain some sanity and see what his actions will be. I’m so broken right now. I’ve never felt so lonely and alone … and I’m still living with him! With his learning issues and lack of emotional development, I’m not sure HE has a chance– let alone US. Any thoughts/ideas?
Thanks again and God bless you for what you do!
I knew something was wrong on our honeymoon, but I blamed myself. Two years into the marriage I discovered his YouTube history by accident and the floodgates opened. Unfortunately my first husband was also a porn addict so this brought up old wounds, anxiety & anger. While I made him go to the elders for accountability & counsel, he lied to them at each meeting saying he was getting better, when in reality he was still using it and masturbating instead of being intimate. I found that out, another 2 years gone. Changed accountability partners and says he’s “healed”.
He’s now impotent and blames it on age. I’m struggling with anger as I promised to love and desire this man for life and I’m lucky to get intimacy at all anymore. My whole life has fallen apart. I’m scared I’ll spend the rest of my life in a sexless loveless marriage. It just feels hopeless.
How can I have a chance at ever seeing/feeling/believing there is anything to trust when my husbands’ CAT therapist works from the co-dependancy model and not the betrayal trauma model (That my partner recovery csat works from) and my husband says his therapist and sponsor said for me to stay on my side of the street? His recovery is his recovery only. A 40 year marriage that he had a 40 year secret life. Couple this with personality disorders, Intimacy Anorexia, verbal abuse and its a storm with no one in the lighthouse guiding this broken down marriage vessel to safety. This is a great article and I agree with it, if a couple has a cohesive team of therapists who are on the same page and a husband who is doing “whatever it takes” to make it right. I continue on my recovery path, as heartbreaking as this is.
Hi Dee Ann,
It’s so frustrrating when you feel locked out of a recovery process, and the entire problem is based on lies and secrecy. However, I think the level of emotional trust in your relationship is really good way to know whether you can have behavioral trust in your husband. I wrote an article about those two types of trust a while back. When I hear “stay on your side of the street,” I do not hear the building blocks for emotional trust, but you have a look and see what you think!
It is my personal standard as a therapist that any kind of abuse is a violation of the marriage covenant, and grounds for separation/divorce if the victim of that abuse wishes. You are not required to be abused. You are not required to stay in a marriage built on betrayal and abuse. Here’s an excellent article for your consideration on that topic. Here’s another article about pornography addiction specifically.
I know that doesn’t offer you any way to put the marriage back together, but perhaps it offers you some other options for your side of the street!