12 minute read

Stop the Abuse of Partners of Sex Addicts

Last Updated: February 5, 2020

Ella Hutchinson
Ella Hutchinson

Ella Hutchinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) who is passionate about advocating for partners of sex addicts by helping them to find their voice. She served for three years as a founding board member of the Association for Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). Today, she proudly serves on the board of directors for the organization, Certified Sex Addiction Specialists-International (CSASI). Ella and her husband, Jeff, work together helping couples whose marriages have been invaded by sexual addiction.

Over the last decade, there have been a handful of professionals in the sex addiction treatment community who are trying to change the treatment of partners of sex addicts. This group is growing and has been joined by other therapists, life coaches, and pastoral counselors. It is exciting to see how much change has taken place and how many have adjusted their views to a more “partner-sensitive” approach.

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. Too many partners of sex addicts are still being abused, mistreated, and neglected by those they should be able to feel safest with. Is it not enough that the person a woman trusted more than anyone in the world has betrayed her in the worst way possible, over and over again? Now she must cope with being misunderstood and disregarded by professionals and pastors as well.

Further, what she reads in many books and Internet articles deceives her into believing something is wrong with her as she desperately seeks guidance and understanding. Wives of sex addicts are left feeling confused and invalidated.

“Stop Bringing Up the Past”

Yesterday a woman who completed a couple’s intensive with me a few months ago contacted me, completely distraught. Her current therapist, who works closely with her husband’s therapist, informed her that her husband simply isn’t currently capable of handling anything beyond his own personal recovery. (In other words, she can’t expect him to be supportive of her.) She was basically told to stop asking questions about his past acting out and to stop bringing up the past, because it was too difficult for him.

I was shocked because my work with this couple was so positive. He really seemed to get what his wife was going through. He took responsibility for his actions and how he hurt her by his multiple affairs and infidelities. It was a great intensive, and this couple had so much potential.

Now the wife is being told to be more “Christlike” and just be patient with her husband. Sadly, this story is not the exception, but the norm. Is it Christlike not to feel? Is it Christlike not to grieve? That certainly isn’t my interpretation.

The “Stifle Your Feelings” Approach

It’s a common approach in many circles to use scare tactics to try to get wives to stifle their feelings, ignore their gut, and avoid setting healthy boundaries. Popular books have even told wives not to get upset by their husband doing a “double-take” at another woman in front of her, but instead to realize this is to be expected. (One of these book titles was originally included, but removed at the request of the author of the book.)

In addition, some books have even encouraged women not to ask their husband to leave the home because of sexual indiscretion, but instead to be supportive and loving with him as much as possible. Further, they’ll sometimes use the classic blame the victim technique by telling readers how they are just as unhealthy as their husband because they married him. Apparently this means they don’t have a right to be upset by his infidelity.

Some Christian leaders even warn wives that expressing any negative emotion or setting healthy boundaries will cause their husbands to, “stop sharing his struggles,” “return to his sexual sin,” and ultimately may be the cause of the end of the marriage. One leader explains that, “Many salvageable marriages have been destroyed by a husband’s poor choices and a wife’s intolerance.”

Instead of allowing themselves to feel sad or angry, this type of teaching tells wives to, “Help your husband to feel safe and secure in the marriage.” While this may sound appalling, it is a position taken (often in a less overt way) by many in helping roles such as counselors and pastors.

Dr. Doug Weiss, who has been treating sexual addiction for over twenty years shared his opinion on this topic with me by stating, “Therapists babysit the addict to the point where he relapses. Once an addict realizes he is in a system where he can lie, he will. The therapist creates the system. The therapist is colluding with the addict. Why should an addict have that power? He is the perpetrator. She is not the perpetrator. People are suffering because of this paradigm.” Therapists aren’t the only ones creating this system, but they may be some of the most damaging.

Recognizing the Loss Partners Have Suffered

My purpose here is not to vilify sex addicts. Those active in their addiction don’t enjoy their lifestyle and usually make multiple attempts to stop on their own to no avail. A true sex addict, versus a “philanderer,” “player,” or someone lacking a moral compass, does not intend to hurt anyone by his actions.

However, just like the alcoholic who kills someone while drinking and driving, a sex addict must take responsibility for his actions and deal with the natural consequences. One of those consequences is that, if he is married, he has traumatized his wife beyond words.

I feel we, as therapists, have to recognize the loss partners of addicts have suffered and that each time their feelings are not validated they feel even more disempowered.

Partners are told what they can and can’t say, what they can and can’t handle, and what they can and can’t do. Instead, with gentle guidance, a partner should be allowed to decide what they can handle. I find partners usually make wise choices and are very reasonable in expressing their needs when their feelings, fears, and opinions are validated and they are treated with the patience and respect one would treat any other trauma victim, instead of being dictated to (no matter how nice someone may try to be about it).

My clients who are partners of sex addicts feel so relieved and empowered when I tell them they are not sick, they are not a co-sex addict, and they can set boundaries that most other therapists say are too extreme.

Related: Boundaries for Couples Facing Porn Addiction

An example may be demanding a full clinical disclosure with polygraph (which should NEVER be attempted without the guidance of a skilled therapist) and insisting their spouse participate in recovery activities. What I have seen is women expressing immense gratitude that, often after negative experiences with other sex addiction therapists, I recognize their unique needs and respect those needs.

Why Embrace the Trauma Model

Just because most therapists agree on a certain topic does not automatically mean they are right. In fact it is my opinion that most therapists do not have adequate training or understanding on how to treat partners, no matter how long they have been doing it. I know this by the horror stories I hear from clients or through emails after partners find my website and feel validated for the first time.

Today many counselors say they work from the “trauma model” (explained in the book Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means). Unfortunately, most still don’t really know what that means and still see partners as sick, “out of control,” and label them as co-addicts. These therapists see partners as needing to be protected from themselves.

The reality, based on clinical research and experience, has shown that most partners are healthy women who are trying their best to cope with the discovery that their husband has repeatedly sexually betrayed them. They should be treated as such.

An addict must be reminded his fellow 12-step members and his sponsor are not experts, especially in marriage. Many addicts are told his wife is trying to punish or control him when she expresses her feelings. This is simply not usually the case.

Partners are simply trying to feel safe in a world that suddenly feels very scary and unsafe. Partners who do not feel shut down when they try to express themselves or ask questions usually feel more empowered and tend to fare better and heal more quickly. This is especially true if their husband is their main supporter, instead of justifying, rationalizing, defending, and minimizing his behavior.

Many partners have endured so much treatment-induced trauma that to be told they can ask what they want to ask, feel what they want to feel, and say what they want to say is a breath of fresh air.

A partner can be privately discouraged by their therapist or helping professional from attacking their spouse’s character. When she’s encouraged to instead focus on expressing how his behavior hurt her, he will hear and respond more positively. This will be effective especially if his therapist is helping him to understand his wife is not necessarily attacking him by expressing her feelings.

An addict can and should be taught how to support and listen to his wife. Often this simply involves asking what she needs and being prepared to either give her space or hold her. Her needs will change from day to day, if not moment to moment. He can be taught she will heal more quickly when she is allowed to grieve at her own pace.

If a partner feels rushed to “get over it” or “stop living in the past,” she will remain stuck. Intimacy will not be allowed to be built. His past is her present.

Moving On From a Co-Sex Addict Model

In the book, Your Sexually Addicted Spouse, Steffens tells of an occurrence at the annual conference in 2007 for the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH). Robert Weiss, CSAT, author, speaker and director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, shared that much of his thinking about partners of sex addicts had formerly been based on what he learned as he worked with sex addicts. He said he compared the “out of control” behaviors he sees in addicts to the “out of control” behaviors in partners. Weiss stated,

“My thought was when I first started doing the work (with partners) was, ‘Well, these spouses are out of control. They’re doing detective work, they’re eating, they’re spending his money, they’re furious – they need confronting, containing, managing, too.’  That’s my lack of empathy…and that’s why the trauma issues weren’t addressed: because we just wanted to control all that anger and didn’t really understand it. I think collectively that they had a right to it. And I think it’s really good news to have the experience of both in our clinic for the last year…because I see spouses de-escalated, you know–feeling validated, feeling supported, feeling understood, being given the space to do what they need to do to take care of themselves and not be called crazy because they are so out of control.”

Unfortunately, while some are beginning to get it, the co-sex addict model is still the prevailing paradigm by sex addiction professionals. This model assumes all partners of sex addicts fit a certain mold. It says she is partially responsible for the problem. This is a way of shifting blame away from the addict.

Partners are still being sent to 12-step programs where they are told to accept their part, look at the “nature of their wrongs,” their “defects of character,” and their “shortcomings.” They are also told to make a “list of those they have wronged and make amends.” This is not working. This leaves partners feeling wounded, attacked, blamed, and shamed.

How Are We Treating the Spouses?

Can anyone make a sane argument that immediately after discovering a spouse’s multiple infidelities, compulsive pornography use and/or various other betrayals, the best course of action is to start telling her what she has done wrong?

But this is what is happening, and it has to stop.

Related: 5 Common Mistakes When Helping Wives of Porn Addicts in Our Churches

Yes, some partners of sex addicts have enabled behavior and even done things such as put their children in harm’s way to protect their spouse and hide his addiction. When that is happening, it should be addressed appropriately. But, in Dr. Steffens words, “In my experience, most of these women are very healthy women.”

Please visit my website for partner-sensitive resources. You can also read about the Association of Partners of Sex Addiction Specialists (APSATS), of which I am a member and former board member, created to advocate for partners. One of their biggest missions is to train and certify therapists in the proper treatment of partners of sex addicts. They offer several trainings throughout the year in person or online. If you are a therapist or life coach, please check it out and sign up. If you are a partner of a sex addict, encourage your therapist to attend the training. As new therapists are trained and certified, they will be listed on the APSATS website.

It can feel like an uphill battle when the wife of a sex addict is trying to heal but feels like her voice is being silenced by everyone around her. To that wife I say, be your own advocate. Trust your gut and do not back down. Pray for God to guide you to supportive people who recognize your need to feel safe and can help you get there. Pray for God to guide your husband to people who will help him understand your needs and teach him how to be a safe person for you.

The biggest way to get through to those in helping roles is for partners of sex addicts to demand to be treated better. Eventually, others will have to start listening, as I gratefully already see happening.



  • Comments on: Stop the Abuse of Partners of Sex Addicts
    1. Karla

      Just yesterday in a joint session as I was trying to express so deep emotions that I have been holding back my counselor interrupted me. She said “that is because he is addicted”. As if I don’t already know that!! I am trying to get out feelings that I have held in. That I am trying to process through and she she wants to remind me that he is addicted. That is not helpful for me at all. I can still feel my insides churning now as I think on it. I had quit marriage counseling a couple of months ago due to her lack of compassion for my feelings when we were together. Individually she seems to be fine. She was my counselor first.

      I love her and the help that she has given me but sometimes I feel as if she gives him excuses for his behavior. Excuses for all of the pain that he has caused me. I feel as if I have nowhere that is safe. No friends, family, now no counseling.

      • Karla, I’m sorry you are feeling misunderstood by your counselor. Have you shared with her one on one how you are feeling? It has been my observation that it can be easier to “like” a recovering sex addict more than a betrayed spouse. Many counselors see the addict’s remorse and brokenness and compare that to the partner’s anger and pain. They are often uncomfortable with the intensity of her pain. They may feel helpless as to how to guide her so they become frustrated. I have no way of knowing if this is the case with your counselor, but a discussion with her may be helpful. If you do decide to try someone else check out the website APSATS.org. I also encourage you to consider a couple’s three day intensive. You can read about it at http://www.comfortchristiancounseling.com.

      • Lee

        Just to be heard, to be validated in the shocking pain of discovery – is that too much to ask? Apparently so. I have been placed on hold for the next 5 years as that was what my husband was told it would take for him to be at a place where he could BEGIN working on our relationship. At least according to the Pure Desire workbook he is now going through for the 2nd time. He sabotaged both “full” discovery sessions, and I still am unsure as to the full extent of his betrayal. He disclosed sexual relationships with over 30 different women over the last 20 years (we have been married 25 but he was not physically unfaithful until we had been married 5 years). Most were random internet or work hook ups, but I knew a handful of the women. He actually took me to the house of one of his 1 1/2 year long affairs for a party….and brought our children along. I absolutely have no idea who this person is that I married. I am not sure I will ever know him. I don’t know if I can stay any longer as he refuses to talk to me or work through our “issues.” I didn’t have any “issues” until I met him. God had healed my past and I had put it behind me 25+ years ago. But in all of the counseling sessions (I/we have gone to 5 different ones now) I have been made to feel that I was unhealthy and there was something wrong with me that needed fixing. I keep insisting that there was nothing “wrong” with me until 2 1/2 years ago when I discovered the infidelities and porn/masturbating addicting. Our current counselor “likes” my husband better and actually defends him saying he is just a bullied, skinny little boy that never measured up in life. Wow. So that is supposed to make me just let go of the hurt and pain of discovering that the person I thought was my best friend and would never betray me has been betraying me in the worst way imaginable for the last 25 years? And he continues to betray me as he has become a Meth addict for the last year. To mask and hide HIS pain! Not to mention his alcohol addiction, nicotine addiction, and porn/masturbating addiction – he says he has not had sex with anyone else for the last 3 years, but I cannot trust him to be truthful. I have no where to go. My children do not know (I told my oldest son two weeks ago and he just can’t deal with it and doesn’t want to talk about it). I am stuck. I long for death.

      • Kay Bruner

        Lee, I am so, so sorry. I want to first of all address your longing for death, and ask you to please find a counselor for yourself immediately. I know you’ve been seeing someone together, but obviously that is not helpful to you. Find someone who can help YOU. If you are in imminent danger of harming yourself, please go to your nearest hospital emergency room. Your safety is the most important thing!

        It sounds to me like your husband has deep, deep issues that are not being adequately addressed in his groups or therapy. It sounds to me like those groups and therapy sessions are perhaps being used to keep you locked in this relationship while he continues to use his various addictions to deal with his pain, and keep his world together with the illusion that things are okay.

        Can I ask: do you wish to remain in this relationship? If your husband has been unfaithful so many times, the marriage covenant is well and truly broken. Of course, you do have the choice to remain but you also have the choice to recognize the broken covenant and depart. Luke wrote about porn and divorce a while back, but your situation is even more clear-cut with that many episodes of adultery.

        While it may be true that your husband has deep pain underlying his behaviors, this is NEVER an excuse for bad choices. And this should NEVER be used as a tool to manipulate you into staying in a relationship that abuses your good will.

        I see this happening in porn recovery work a lot: wives do not get the help and support they need. If this counselor is not helpful to you, if your needs are not being attended to in sessions, then then find your own counselor, someone who can help you process emotions and create healthy boundaries. Here and here are a couple of articles on boundaries.

        Peace to you, Kay

      • You're Respected

        Unfortunately the therapist created a system where the sex addict can lie. You are a healthy woman so trust your gut feeling. You deserve to be safe. She just more less gave the sex addict a way to shift blame on to you. That is not right! Can anyone make a sane argument that immediately after discovering a spouse’s multiple infidelities, compulsive pornography use and/or various other betrayals, the best course of action is to start telling her what she has done wrong?!? The sex addict is the perpetrator not you! It sounds like that therapist needs more schooling herself.

      • Kay Bruner

        Unfortunately, even sometimes therapists want to believe that a spouse can somehow control the behavior of her husband. Sometimes this comes from unresoved personal anxiety on the part of the therapist that leads them to blame the victim. Sometimes it’s a mistaken belief in an outdated idea of “codependency”–that if there’s an addict, there must be a “codependent” supporting the addict’s unhealthy choices. Sometimes it’s a lack of understanding in some other area, unknown to us.

        Here’s what I know for sure: any therapist who makes the victim feel worse, any therapist who makes the victim feel at fault, any therapist who makes the victim into the problem–that is NOT a therapist worth seeing.

        As a client, you are never under any obligation to a therapist. If you do not feel safe, if you feel blamed or shamed, you are not required to keep seeing this person! In fact, if they are a state-licensed therapist, you can make a complaint to their licensing board, explaining the difficulty you’ve experienced. Trust me, if this therapist is blaming and shaming you, they’re doing it to other victims as well, and you’ll not only be helping yourself, you’ll be protecting others from coming in contact with this harmful person as well.

        Please don’t participate in harmful therapy that protects abusers and harms victims. Walk away and find true help that truly helps.


      • Lorelai

        Thank you so so so much for this article. I’m very triggered and activated reading it but it speaks to me. I just wrote in a journal entry that “if I have to hear one more person tell me that it’s my role in marriage to be sexually available for my husband then I am going to throw something at them.” This speaks so much to me. Thank God I am under the care of a counselor who in no way does this but this is why I have shared with no one but her that my husband has relapsed on pornography after 7 years “clean.” I understand he’s an addict. I am an alcoholic who’s been in recovery for 17 years–I KNOW what addicts try to do to escape blame for their choices and I hear it loud and clear from him. I can handle that. But I cannot handle other (maybe well-intentioned) people tell me how I have contributed to HIS addiction. I haven’t reached out to anyone yet besides my counselor b/c I just can’t allow the risk of being even more traumatized than I already am. But thank you for this article and the resources in it. And thank you for acknowledging that so many of us who deal with a spouse’s porn addiction or other betrayal are, in fact, healthy. So many don’t acknowledge or realize that.

      • Deborah Benitez rosa

        Very clear and real article. I don’t understand how can they justify their addictions to dismiss the tremendous pain one suffers. I guess the best thing to do is be super strong , pray and end the relationship

    2. Christine

      Thank you Ella. After discovering my husband’s secret, it has been me that has been asked to help him and to forgive and forget. It has been me our families have said should help him because he is ‘weak’ and he needs me. I have been made to feel guilty for wanting to separate. Our families have used my children against me, saying I will destroy their lives if I divorce him. My character has been attacked, suggesting I made him do it. His addiction was there well before I came into the picture, he brought it into our marriage. They all know this. Nevertheless, all the expectations of his recovery are laid on me. So if I don’t help him or if we separate, it will all be my fault. He did this, he caused this…I didn’t! Yet, somehow he gets away with it and all eyes are on me to ‘get over it’. When I defend myself, I get shut down. When I express my hurt, I get shut down. My heart breaks for every woman who has to go through this.

      • Pamela stewart

        I am married to a sex addict of 50 years and just discovered this. I was devastated. How do I recover and heal?

    3. S

      BULLS EYE!!! We NEED tons more of these resources poured out in articles everywhere for the SA and the spouse. Cannot express enough on this very crucial issue. Man and woman up people and accept your responsibility that you caused and now need to do everything that is possible yourself to restore this with your spouse bc you created their very own world yourself. Live in it with them and be the victim with them….it’s too hard is an excuse. How do you think they feel inside and out? Much worse than your excuse!

    4. K.Smith

      Thank you, Ella. This needs to be said over and over again. You were so helpful in helping me to understand that I was not crazy and that this was not my fault and that the most redeeming thing we can do is to let our addicted spouse deal with the consequences of their infidelity.

    5. A lot of what you wrote is true, but I didn’t get the sense that you are systematically aware is in the systems theory of Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist. Without that perspective the spouse, whether make or female isn’t getting the help they need. With more women having affairs and looking at porn, we need a systematic approach for the couple system, not just an approach for wives.

      • Harry, first, in regard to your gender comment, I don’t deny that this is an issue either gender can struggle with. But my calling at this time in my life is to work with wives of sex addicts.

        About the rest of your comment, having read the chapters for the spouse of a sex addict and for marriage recovery in your book, I think that helps me put your comment into context. In these chapters you spend a lot of time making your point that the spouse of the addict is a sinner as well (agreed), is dysfunctional as well (aren’t we all!) and should avoid “self-pity”. You advise her by telling her “don’t overreact” at the discovery of the extent of her husband’s acting out. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I hear you saying that by taking my approach I’d be ignoring the wife’s role in the dysfunction in the marriage.

        This is a topic that is hard for me to address briefly, but basically I see early marital intervention after discovery or disclosure as looking very different from traditional marriage counseling. I view it as crisis intervention and stabilization. At this point the focus is specifically on the impact of the addiction on the marriage and the partner. In this context, the partner is a victim of the addict’s behaviors and choices. Yes, I said the ugly V word. I don’t claim that she is perfect or doesn’t have plenty of her own faults. But for now, to best help the couple heal, the injured spouse’s extreme trauma must be validated and addressed first.

        Imagine if a woman came into the emergency room after her husband beat her up with bruises all over her body. Wouldn’t those wounds be treated long before the social worker suggested she start looking at the role she had to play in the dysfunction of the relationship or pointed out that her husband isn’t the only one with faults? In fact, if she started questioning why she didn’t recognize his issues earlier in the relationship and what is wrong with her for choosing him, I hope the social worker would say, “Whoa, slow down, honey. Let your body rest so you can heal. Let the swelling go down and the bruises begin to fade first”. The only difference here is that the wounds to the partner of a sex addict are invisible and they will take much longer to heal.

      • Harry, I’d recommend you familiarize yourself with the work of Jason and Shelley Martinkus. Having walked through this journey (and Jason having become an LPC) I believe they have found the most effective approach to couples work. To summarize, “in the early days the husband has to do 90% of the work of healing the relationship… maybe she’s got 10% to own.” As he does his work and grows and matures (spiritually, emotionally, etc), makes amends and lives transparently… she will IN TIME (e.g. a few years down the road) begin to be healed enough to start to look at her own family or origin and other issues that are affecting the relationship. Couples who are using this approach, I believe are seeing the most thorough healing for the individuals and the relationship as a whole. Learning intimacy (vulnerability, humility, other-centered focus) is key to an addicts’ healing (and yes, you can swap the genders around where “she” is the addict) so this approach is ideal for everyone involved (including the often forgotten children).

    6. Shalom

      To the spouses of sexual addicts: you are not a co-addict. Seventeen years ago I learned about my husband’s porn addiction. For a few years we went through various strategies of counseling, support groups and Christian self-help books. At the time, there were so few resources. The co-addict model was the only viable one. Our pastor flat-out told me that I was the cause because I was not fulfilling my husband’s sexual needs. But the addiction had begun long before I even met him. In the end, it was my husband who left the marriage because he could not deal with the insistence that pornography was hurting him, me, our children, and others. I was right to commit to telling him it was hurting him, me, our children, and others. I was not a co-addict. I can prove it: the tendencies I had to detective work were because I was terrified that I was exposed to dangers, including STDs as his addiction escalated. Those behaviours disappeared when the addict was not in the house. Ergo, I was not an addict. I was a survivor. If you put someone in a live war zone, they are going to do bizarre behaviours to survive. It does not mean that the behaviours are healthy or good, but do not misunderstand– the spouse did not cause the war, start the war, or escalate the war. The war is waged by Satan against marriages, healthy people and innocent people.

      • Kay Bruner

        Thank you for this. Spouses are so often traumatized by the betrayal, and then further traumatized by being told it’s their fault. Thank you for speaking out against those heinous lies. Peace to you, Kay

    7. Kerri

      Is there a “like” button that I can press 2,000 times? ha, ha!! This is SOOOO NEEDED!!! My husband and I separated almost a year ago. After 20 years of the same cycle, and after at least half as many counselors who treated me as you described, all I can say is….THANK YOU!!! Our separation was needed because I was not being allowed to heal, by my husband and others. But, then I had my husband and a friend tell me how much I needed Celebrate Recovery, the type of 12 step program you described. I couldn’t understand why I felt that I STILL wasn’t healing! It took a couple of months to see that the ‘hurt’ part of their approach was in name only (this will differ between each CR I am sure).

      My husband has made multiple statements about “when you start addressing your problems…” Oh, yes, I have them! But by golly, after 20 years of betrayal (it was not a case of him acting out for 20 years without me knowing, and then I found out. Instead it was finding out 20 years ago he had a porn problem, and being betrayed for 20 years.) I think I not only NEED the time to heal, but by this point I deserve to heal. It has been hard to be my own advocate when I have person after person telling me that isn’t ‘allowed’, that healthy boundaries are not Christian, etc.

      I know when I come to the other side of this that I want to help other women, so that they do not feel alone through this!

      • Kerri, you are very welcome! I’m glad you found my article helpful. This reality is so tragic, but people like you and me can make a difference. Keep on being your own advocate! Ella

    8. Selflessly devoted to him

      I’ve been with my bf for over three years but we were high school friends over twenty years ago, (I guess we needed 20 years apart to have children enlist in bad relationships and live in misery before we would find each other again and start our own relationship?) his sex addiction is not new info I’ve known and have tried to live with it since day one but not peacefully and it’s caused physical and emotional pain, exhaustion, depression etc…but about a year ago something new did happen…I started hearing him whispering a lot when I was out of the room leaving him alone in another. He of course has always denied it and calls me delusional schizophrenic crazy etc..which lead me to recording him but that only caused rage and more denial and also claims of white noise static the tv someone else everything and anything but not him. I also along with him whispering can hear a woman whispering and at times moaning in response and I can’t make out specific words but it seems as if their talking dirty to each other. I’ll be the first to say he is faithful at least I believe whole heartedly that he hasn’t been with another person physically but I know in my heart and soul he is talking to a lady but how is still a mystery because his phone will not be with him or either of his tablets and I’ve looked for blue tooths or ear gadgets. (Kind of) “Short story” (kind of)”long” when I confront him he gets irate denies it sometimes hits me forcing me to back down and drop the matter he tells our friends in a way that of course makes me look like the jealous insecure girlfriend when in fact I’m only trying to prove otherwise and let me add I do not mind sex at all and even have done things that I don’t particularly care for and also things that are painful and not so comfortable in order to please him and I don’t mind his viewing of porn 24/7 well besides when he’s at work which he is a hard worker and great supporter. I am so upset and consumed by this it’s killing me and us and I’m just asking him to admit what he’s doing and stop making me feel insane but he won’t and when I say it’s every time I leave the room I’m not exaggerating I can’t walk out of the room and then immediately walk right back in without a whisper of some sort in the background and his comment will be”oh yeah I just have girls sitting by their phone 24/7 waiting for me to call on them” but that’s the way it is I’ve even accused him of having a virtual reality device of some sort I don’t know im at a loss of some sort and only asking for something help suggestions empathy anything but not critiscism blame ridicule or even a ride to a padded cell I’ve already been given all that ive even got that ride once I’m ready for it and out of all my wits or ideas thanks for listening or I should say reading oh by the way we are currently living apart due to no other choice till we can find another place to live but we see each other everyday!!

      • Kay Bruner

        Hi there. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with your boyfriend, but I do hear the pain you’re feeling, and I want to give you one piece of advice: find a counselor for yourself right away. Find that safe person who can help you process your emotions, and decide on healthy boundaries for you. Whatever your boyfriend is or isn’t doing, whatever he chooses, YOU choose good health for you. Find the help and support you need, so that you can make good decisions for you. Peace, Kay

      • Darryl

        It’s terribly difficult. The crazy making. The incessant lies. The gas lighting. Having someone you love and should be able to trust try to destroy your trust in yourself and your own observations. What’s worse is the behaviours, followed by “I love you’s”. It’s a horrible place to be in. I’m sorry any of us have to be anywhere near it. Just know you’re not losing your mind, you’re not crazy, and you are completely worth calmness and being in a safe place.

    9. Excellent article, as always, Ella. Thank you so much for your advocacy for us partners — and for your research into where the current traps lie for us. I just left a review on Amazon of the Castimonia book after reading through that chapter (don’t “punish him” (presumably he means “express your pain”) for looking twice or even three times at a provocatively dressed woman… leave it to his accountability group?) What?? How self-serving is that advice? (despite the fact that they call themselves “servants of Christ”).

    10. In search of happiness

      Hi Kay, I have been in the marriage 12 years and have recently discovered of my husbands porn addiction. He claims it is nothing more than watching porn once a week but I know for a fact it’s much more than that bc I have caught him chatting on crazy websites and sending personal messages not to mention watching gay pornography. There has been no intimate relationship between us for last 10 years, he always blamed it on ED. After catching him and confrontation he has agreed to being a porn addict from a very early age but still denies anything beyond that. I’m trying to find answers by going into therapy sessions with his therapist and the marriage and family counselor. I was taken a back at my previous session when the therapist went on finding faults in me as a wife instead and blaming me for being the cause of his addiction. Already in pain and anger of betrayal, she was encouraging him to stab more wounds on me. He portays as being the victim of silent treatment by me. I know I’m not perfect but I can say I gave this relationship it’s best. He cheated me by getting into this marriage on lies in the first place? I need help, the councilor denied my right to know the truth. According to her it was not a good idea for me know any more about his problems but to identify my faults as a wife. I’m torn apart, I feel like I’m responsible for my kids and their future, I can’t make a decision without knowing the full truth and I’m tired of giving him chances without questioning him.

      • Kay Bruner

        I am so, so sorry that on top of this terrible situation with your husband you are now also the victim of an incompetent counselor.

        I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THAT COUNSELOR’S STATE LICENSING BOARD. Blaming you for your spouse’s choices is the height of incompetence and unethical practice.

        I would also encourage you to stop attending sessions with that therapist, as it sounds like your husband has managed to manipulate the therapist quite seriously. This can happen with therapists who are not experienced in dealing with sexual addiction. If he is serious about his problem he really should be seeing a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT).

        I really think it is a mistake to conceptualize this as a couples’ problem; this is an individual with an addiction that needs to be dealt with. Yes, that addiction impacts the marriage deeply. But unless the addiction is addressed, the marriage issues cannot be addressed.

        If you need help and support (and I imagine that you do!) I would encourage you to look for a counselor of your own. You can check the directory at Psychology Today, or the American Association of Christian Counselors. You might also appreciate the online resource, Bloom, where there are forums, classes, and various resources for recovery.

        When it comes to “the full truth”–well, you may never know exactly what he has been doing. But you DO know the broad outlines of the problem, and you DO know how it impacts you, and you DO know how he has managed to flip the situation around so it is your fault instead of his responsibility. And he has even managed to engage a therapist in that delusional world. I would say that you have plenty of information. Consider what healthy boundaries might look like, given what you already know. Here and here are a couple of articles. Remember whatever he chooses, you can choose to be healthy and well. In the absence of the details you would like to have, give yourself a chance instead. Trust yourself. Make decisions that lead to peace and safety and light in your life.

        Peace to you, Kay

    11. Susangh

      These arrogant little boys, SAs, live to break rules and getting awaay with it. The kinder and more trusting the wife is, the more they enjoy their deceit. When caught and confronted, they will try every lie and denial known on earth to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior. They are immoral, sadistic, incurable, immature, selfish cancers on humanity.

      • Jana

        Amen, Susangh! I’m so tired of trying to convince myself that my man is really a “good person” and that he really loves me – that he just has a problem. Bullshit! I hope ALL victims run as fast & far as they can from these monsters & save themselves a ton of hurt & anguish. Your post empowers me tremendously.

      • Sally

        I have to agree with you. I have had the most awful time with my ex. His manipulative behaviour is UNBELIEVABLY bad through and through. S and M was his thing and it was clear that he hated the woman for “indulging ” him. What we do to “please” is heartbreaking.
        I have walked away from this monster.
        He threatened suicide, proclaimed his undying love constantly, and became re addicted to me…… until the next one came along that is!
        These people are border line psychopaths and should be treated accordingly. Your life IS in danger. They cannot stop. Safe words, pushing the sexual boundaries etc, will end in someones demise! Flee and don’t look back!

      • CL

        I agree, except mine is an arrogant little girl. She refuses to take any responsibility, cheated on me like it was her job for several years, lied without compunction, gaslighted, deflected blame toward me, etc.

        Otherwise, I agree with your comments. They are self-absorbed, and unfortunately, they are being given license to get away with it under the questionable umbra of “sex addiction”.

        Everyone else, everything else, is to blame. Not her. She’s a “great person” in her mind, and everyone else is the cause of our problems. Consequences should not be applied to her, because the “addiction” renders her blameless, as if it actually erases them from having happened. I love her, but she will never change if she is continually enabled by the psychological establishment in which she believes, and which has already exonerated her.

    12. Ruby

      *Our* marriage therapist, a female told me I wasn’t being understanding enough and that I should just trust my husband because he was doing well. And that I was just as much to blame for my husbands porn addiction as he was. It takes two to tango. I should be there for him while he was healing and not to put too many demands or requests on him because it might hurt his present success. We saw her 3 times before I stood up and asked her point blank when she was going to address my issues of his betrayal and constant avoiding of issues important to our marriage. She told me to trust him, and I stoodup and told her she sucked as a woman and a therapist. I never saw her again and neither did my husband. She was worthless in helping to navigate the world of pornography.

    13. Buffy

      Robert Weiss in his book “Getting out to the doghouse” states that disclosure shouldn’t be given if it is to the detriment of the sex addict i.e. if your wife is planning on filing for divorce. This approach is egregious in its lack of ethics or consideration of the spread of STD’s and the possibility of abuse of children. You quoting Robert Weiss here, in my opinion, diminishes your credibility. Don’t quote colluders of addicts who create increased trauma for partners in the back while promoting “safe space” in the front. You quoting this man implies to parters that he is safe, when he in fact is representative of an organization that creates “specialists’ through short time frames of inadequate training and does not insist that sex addicts get a full mental health assessment to rule out personality disorders (creating partner and child abuse) and to identify other factors driving the sexual compulsivity, which in fact is only a symptom of underlying problems.
      If the SA does have PD and is an abuser, no amount of sobriety is going to change the abusive behaviour until he faces it and gets appropriate help.

      • Kay Bruner

        Thanks for pushing back against abusers and those who support them.

      • erin

        I was bfs accountability partner for 7 months (bad idea!) I would read daily reports on his every move. it felt weird. he seemed to be doing ok but it was making me crazy to read the reports wondering what I would find. I finally got off of being a partner and then asked weeks later to go back on it
        little did I know it had recorded everything since I had been removed from the site and I was sick from what I found. lots of underage sites, escort services, voyeur webcams spying on teens…rape…women being demoralized…Chinese massage parlors. S&M and he told me he hasn’t viewed it for 2 weeks it was only days. ladies…I told his family and we put him in to a rehab home for sex and porn addicts for almost 2 months. he agreed to it. I’m relieved he’s in there getting help. what your man admits to is just a small portion of the depravity. they cannot be trusted. luckily I’m not married to.him. he wants me as part of his treatment plan. and to maybe stay with him
        what would u do. I feel guilty abandoning him during this intense time of healing but I’m.spent. no one should have to continually go through this sick trauma. the bible is clear about lust. it’s cheating. but…now add lying and possibly putting your health at risk as his behaviors escalate..educate yourselves. go to a browser and type the effects of porn on the brain and how he will escalate with the material he views. it destroys intimacy and you can’t have a committed loving and respectful loving marriage if he’s sharing his feelings and sexuality with a bunch of sleaze over a computer. don’t compromise who you are or make excuses for his illness. if he’s not willing to get help…accountability partners…therapy…God, total transparency , filters in computer and phone ( not cool proof) then he is not going to change. stop competing against this smut. you didn’t sign up for this and you’re not doing this to.him. I’m going to a therapist now and a group for women of partners who’ve shattered trust with this sick.issue.
        in.glad my partner is in live in rehab now. no guarantees it will stick once he’s out in 2months but he deserves a chance. check out covenant eyes website too. they have good articles. u can google alot on porn use and it’s negative effects or women suffering from.spouses porn use. you’ll find a TON.
        I’m.so sorry you are going through this..if it doesn’t stop…then I think you need to.
        save yourself. I’ve read that men will seek prostitutes…child porn..and Lord knows what else are often times genres porn users go to because regular photos are boring after a while and hardcore and live are what can satisfy. and soon not even that then the guys can’t even get aroused from a real.person and get E.D.
        the brain chemistry is altered. its unreal. porn is a true epidemic in our society and teens are now viewing it at an alarming rate and can’t even relate to a real girl or expect their prom date to be porn. boys can’t hold conversations with girls now and they are going to doctors now at an early age because they can’t get it up anymore. damaged at 18. so sad. pitiful dirty society that objectifies people. it’s not all a guy issue. 1 in 3 women view porn as well and addiction is rampant. God be with you as you heal….but u can’t truly if nothing has changed. in an EXPERT on this gross topic because I’ve read So much. get the book ” mending a shattered heart” by Stephanie Carnes PhD. it’s for women who’s partners do this….this vial act designed by God as a loving exchange between 2 people expressing love. porn is a fake one sided selfish love of self. praying you all have hope. clarity. please seek help. don’t be silent in your pain and trust is earned. can u anymore? and what do you need to do to save yourself in the end.
        love to you all~

    14. AJ

      I never get a reply back on here. What are we to do then? How am I to know which therapist to talk to? My husband has made plans to see a counselor, but didn’t mention me. Left me out of it. I encouraged him to seek help for his addictions, but I guess he didn’t realize we both need help and healing.

    15. Sally

      I am praying that someone on this site can help me. My ex partner is an addict. He becomes addicted to ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. His latest addiction is sex and love based. We split up 8 months ago and I asked him to move out of the flat that i own in my sole name. However, we had a few friends in common. Having spoken to a couple of these “friends” it is clear that he has said some terrible things about me in order to get the “fix” of another woman.
      I now feel unable to walk down my local shopping street, I drive and hide whenever I can. I feel that the women he involved in his sordid game believe him. He is incredibly plausible. What can I do?? Can anyone help me to get my respect and the truth of it all out there? How can I stop these falsehoods? He is in counselling, but he has had a history of repeated relapsing with ALL his addictions, and although he says when he gets to the 9th step (i think that is the “make amends ” step ) he will send all the people involved the truth statement…… I don’t believe him. My life is curtailed hugely by all of this, and I don’t know what to do?

      • Kay Bruner

        I am so, so sorry.

        The sad reality is, you can’t control what another person will say, and you can’t control what other people will think and believe.

        However, the truth will come out. You saw the reality, right? You had the insight to see the truth about him, and you had the strength to break it off with him. Good for you! Now trust that others will do the same! Of course it may take time for them to see the truth, just like it probably did for you.

        I would say this: you live your life with strength, truth, and compassion. You live in the truth, and release him to live in any way that works for him.

        At this point, it sounds like he is still controlling a large part of your life, even though you’ve broken up. You might consider whether it’s time to cut those bonds as well. You can choose to have no contact with him, and no contact with people who will carry his tales to you. What would your life be like if you didn’t know what he was saying or doing? What kind of freedom would you have?

        Here and here are some articles about boundaries that might help as you think through what is healthy for you.


    16. Mel

      My BF of two years has a serious addiction to talking to other women . Usually through social media inappropriately, but texting as well. Women he meets at places he frequents, women at his job, everywhere! Our counselor said she could not help him and he needed one on one extensive therapy with a therapist. He has an appointment with the new guy next week. I am afraid he will go in and lie to him. About what he does and about me. Although I have never been unfaithful, he tells people I have boy toys and he can’t handle all the men I talk to. Is it wrong for me to want to go with him at least the first time to make sure he tells the truth?

      • Kay Bruner


        If he’s meeting up with other women, and if he’s lying about you, why exactly are you with him?

        It’s not “wrong” to want to go with him to therapy, but what is the point? If the only way he can be honest is when you’re standing over him, what do you think an ongoing relationship will be like?

        I would say, let his guy go. Let him do whatever he needs to do.

        You continue in therapy, though, to discover why it’s okay with you to be mistreated this way.

        May you find a life that reflects your true value and worth!


    17. Kgo

      Wow, I love this article. I was doing great with everything- my husband and I split, I’m a single mom to two small children now, I was already the breadwinner and working a lot, I won an award at work, I even wrote a book (unrelated) and have excelled despite the discovery just six months ago. A huge part of this is because my SA has been incredibly supportive and has gotten extensive help. He even moved next door to his sponsor and goes to daily meetings at a minimum.

      I never felt like anything was my fault until I walked into a 12-step spouse meeting where I was told I needed to introduce myself using a “coaddict” label. I said “no” because I’m not a coaddict and left. The women looked at ME like I was the insane one.

      Then my husband and I went to counseling to determine how to best handle the children. Within two minutes the counselor labeled me a coaddict. I have NO characteristics of a coaddict or codependent. Even my SA agrees and walked out with me. It was THIS two minute meeting that hurt me more than anything else has in the last six months. There is no way the codependent model a healthy way of dealing with spouses. I refuse to take blame for a condition my ex had since he was eight years old. I had plenty of healthy relationships. My parents were great parents. I had no holes to fill. We had a great marriage and most who knew us thought we were the perfect couple. I didn’t know. Not at any level did I know. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age the sexism is so rampant that spouses can be blamed at all. Like you stated, sure there are enabling ones. It wasn’t me though. I never enabled. I am an independent, hard-working mom and he sought out me for my characteristics, not the other way around. Thank you for trying to change this hell that so many spouses go through. I am thankful I have the ability to set boundaries for myself that I do. And this boundaries are: I will not take blame for my SA.

      • Kay Bruner

        Thank you so much for sharing your story of strength and healthy boundaries! You ARE NOT TO BLAME for your spouse’s choices, EVER!

        Peace to you, and thank you for sharing these words of wisdom and freedom here.

    18. Bridget M Barbour

      I stopped going to EMDR. It was very helpful for the childhood trauma, but when we started talking about my H.’s porn issues and my relationship with Jesus, there was a shift. My H. has failed 3 polygraphs. He has admitted that porn/lust/infidelity to/for other women has been a recurring problem in our 24+yr marriage, but she held fast to me mostly having childhood family of origin issues, and the questions to ask had I ever actually caught him, and how did I know.

      She spoke Jesus name flippantly when she read a paragraph I wrote to describe good feelings I felt in my body, (a homework assignment), and one of them related to the actual warmth I felt when I asked Jesus into my heart. Her flip reaction was weird. I slept on my decision many nights, but I had to let her go. I did not feel supported. My fear is that some counselors are not sober. I watched a video with Dr. Doug Weiss of Heart to Heart counseling for sex addicts, and he described how this was an issue for 8/9 male counselors he had interviewed to join his practice. I’d like to use my pain to help bring down this insidious porn/cancer industry. NCOSE seems like a good start place to do my research. I’d love to hear the feed back if there are other ways I can re-use my pain to not waste it!

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