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Why is my husband so angry? It all comes down to shame. (Part 2)

Last Updated: October 11, 2017

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.

Read Part 1 of “Why is my husband so angry? It all comes down to shame.”

As a female sex addiction therapist I feel I am at a significant disadvantage. Sex addicts often started out in their addiction with resentment toward women due to childhood occurrences. Then their sexual acting out deepens their lack of respect for women. Further, many have become accustomed to women giving them what they want and telling them what they want to hear.

husband wife at counseling

When a female who is viewed by the addict as an “expert” or “authority” confronts a male sex addict about the manipulation or abusive treatment of his wife, tons of issues surface for him. He may be reminded of how his mother or another female authority figure verbally berated him. For a variety of possible reasons, he often hears the words, “You are a bad person, and everything is your fault,” even when that couldn’t be farther from what the therapist is trying to say.

I don’t treat sex addicts individually, but I treat couples and this just might be a bigger challenge. The old paradigm–the one that tells women they are sick just because they chose to marry a sex addict, even though they didn’t know he was a sex addict–is a lot easier for the guys to take. They hear she is just as sick as him, and then they don’t feel so bad.

But you know what, she is sick, not with co-addiction (regardless of whether codependent symptoms are present), but with PTSD that he caused. An addict has to be able to accept this reality while being able to separate his behavior from who he is.

How Addicts Let Go of Shame

Once an addict recognizes and fully believes that his addiction, and his addictive behavior, does not define him, he will be able to let go of the shame. Let me reiterate. His addiction does not define him. His addictive choices do not define his character.

Related: Destroying Porn Addiction Starts With Destroying Shame

I know, Scripture tells us, “You will know them by their fruits. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” First, I think we sometimes misinterpret this because Jesus was speaking of false prophets here. However, I do tell wives that the only way they can know their husband’s heart and if he is truly in recovery is through his actions. But first he must be refined.

Many of these guys were set up to fail from day one (not an excuse for detrimental choices). This is another discussion for another time, but addicts must walk through the fire (hit rock bottom) and then learn, through recovery work, how to be the man God created them to be.

What to Look for in Your Recovering Husband

As a wife, you should look for a desperate willingness from him. You need to see follow through and consistency. While it will take time for him to become that man you need and deserve him to be, there are some things you can and should both expect and demand immediately. Sexual sobriety is first on that list. Recovery activities and patience with you should be near the top as well. Separation may be required if your husband can’t offer these things.

Related: How to Tell If Your Husband Is Really in Recovery

As your husband learns to accept Christ’s forgiveness, his shame will begin to to diminish. Your forgiveness will likely take much longer, and that’s okay. His response to his wife’s cry can now change. Instead of feeling ashamed for being the source of her tears, which often causes him to lash out at her in defensiveness and anger, he can focus on her pain and help her.

I have a unique empathy for sex addiction. I have seen addicts turn their lives around and go on to become amazing men who use their experience to help others. I have seen addicts hold their wives while she cries and listen patiently while she expresses her anger. I have learned from personal and professional experience, and I have seen what works. And it’s not the co-addict stuff. It’s not focusing on “her role” in the addiction. This pushes her away and sets you both up to fail.

What I Teach Addicts About Their Wife’s Recovery

Here is, in a nutshell, what I try to teach addicts. I’ll paraphrase Rob Weiss, since he says it so well:

“Listen and reflect rather than react. Don’t be defensive. Express humility. Don’t assume your partner will see your point and understand. Don’t expect a gold star for meeting minimum relationship requirements. Find recovering people to meet healthy needs and don’t demand them of your spouse. Be reliable and consistent with actions, not just words. Be honest, even when facing disapproval. Be patient and understanding of your partner’s hurt and anger.”

How long should you expect your wife’s “roller coaster,” as Weiss puts it, to continue? Provided an active recovery process happens, 9-18 months. I am referring to the first stage of her healing here. Full healing for wives may take five years or more.

If I didn’t lose him at “patience and humility,” many addicts check out at the 9-18 month time frame. But for the ones who still stay with me at this point, I too often see them forgetting what I said in literally less than one month. I hear statements like:

  • “I’ve been doing everything I’m supposed to do. Why does she keep bringing this up?”
  • “Why is it that I feel safer and more accepted with a group of strangers (12 step meetings) than with my own wife?”
  • “Why can’t she just get over it?” (my personal favorite)

When I point out the error in their thinking, or remind them of what we have discussed about time frames and patience, I officially become the enemy. Add to it the boundaries and personal empowerment wives receive from my support group, and I’ve heard of husband’s blaming me for the poor state of their marriage. If only these husbands knew the time I spend trying to help their wives understand their addiction, confronting them when I think their expectations of their husbands are unrealistic, and trying to give them hope when they feel like he will never get it and things will never change.

You may be wondering why I am expecting so much of the addicts, after the way I validated their struggles in part one of this article. I’ll let Dr. Omar Minwalla, director of the Institute for Sexual Health, explain:

“Research, professional debate and clinical development have been predominantly focused on the nature of sex addiction, how to describe and classify it diagnostically, and how to best treat the addict. In the context of such advancements, there has concurrently been a profound neglect of spouses and partners of sex addicts. Traditional treatment models for sex addiction have systematically excluded partners.”

Wives Need Adequate Support and Understanding

So when I work with a couple, whose side am I on? I am on the side of the couple. But if I seem to advocate for her more than him, that’s because I am!

Resources for sex addicts, especially where I live, are plentiful. Books explaining his addiction are everywhere you turn. Counselors who understand and support him are at every corner. Support groups full of men who will offer them exactly what they need are offered every day, just about any time of day.

But the wives are alone, scared, and afraid. They feel misunderstood and often receive inaccurate information that serves to re-traumatize them. They need someone to stand up for them, someone to speak for them when no one else will. And I will not stop doing that, regardless of the backlash from the few who still don’t get it. But I won’t stop standing up for the marriage either, as long as I see that desperate willingness.


Shame and secrets go hand in hand. Secrets fuel shame, and shame fuels addiction. An addict can’t overcome his addiction without getting out all his secrets and a spouse can’t forgive if she doesn’t know for sure what she has to forgive.

Check out Ella Hutchinson’s website to learn about Three-Day Marriage Intensives that include a full disclosure with polygraph.

  • Comments on: Why is my husband so angry? It all comes down to shame. (Part 2)
    1. Anne on

      I’m at the separation stage. I told him last night he’ll be moving out April 1st. I put CE on the phone and he admitted he found away around it and even though we were separated in the home for two years, almost watched our daughter died of addiction (he could’ve showed her how to overcome it by example but even she’s telling me to leave him) and found other apps to watch porn. He finally admitted it.

      I told him two years ago I’d stay if he’d go to a 12 step group and get a sponsor and neither happened. I found out 10 years ago at Christmas and now he’s ruined this Christmas too. He also looked up porn the last two Christmases. And yes, he was sexually abused by his mother and had an abusive stepmother but I gave him PLENTY of time to get help.

      So I’m seeking separation at this point.

      It’s over for me.

      Reply
      • Micah Frey on

        You are not alone.

      • Barbara on

        May god help you I totally understand, going through hard times with my live in boyfriend of 6 years. Im looking for really good therapist and a supposrt group in NYC, but we have very busy work schedule. He used to see a therapist and went to 12 step, but once he stopped , within months were back there. He not only watches porn, he goes to hookup sites, and apps like instagram and follows women at least 400 who post hundreds of nude pictures and also sents requests to women?young girls late teens ,20s requests and then he is having sex over the videochats.
        JUst few days ago I asked our friend to download net nanny on his computer, mine and his phone to monitor his browsing. I want him to start therapy, couples therapy as well, im giving him last chance.

    2. Anne on

      Ya’ll should really do a forum. There is nothing out there that is safe for Christians. I’ve tried so many sites only to be told religion wasn’t welcome to some having the most foul language.

      We could use a community here that could support each other. It’s hard for me to get out b/c I deal with so much pain and having an online forum would be great.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Anne, have you looked at Bloom? It’s a newer resource that includes a forum, as well as trauma-focused recovery tools for women, and emotionally-focused marriage recovery programming. I believe it was started by folk in the LDS church, so I think it may be the kind of community you’d appreciate. Peace to you, Kay

      • Micah Frey on

        I would really like a forum too! Christian based would be nice.

      • Jamie on

        I’m so sorry you are going through this. Check out Living In Freedom Everyday (LIFE). They have partner groups who work through The Spouses Guide on conference calls, weekly. Or Marsha Means or Barbara Steffens has online groups. Keep searching. Christian support for partners does exist.

    3. Kathy on

      Hi Anne, hope at this time you can see response to your post. Its so sad what you are going through. I really wish you have a smooth process with al this. I know first hand this processes and even when mine with husband is over, there is fore sure a space for recovery later on. I’ve held onto Jesus and God’s amazing grace to continue, it isbpossible. Our husbands circumstances and addition is not our fault, its their own issues as you mention. Run to Jesus for protection and wisdom. wish you so many good things from now on, and the best is a life with God and is mercy. Be blessed and continue moving forward with your daughter that a precious gift from God. No one ever, can tell her she is not loved. Wish you the best. Kathy

      Reply
    4. Kathy on

      Hi Anne, hope at this time you can see response to your post. Its so sad what you are going through. I really wish you have a smooth process with all this. I know first hand this processes and even when mine with husband is over, there is for sure a space for recovery later on. I’ve held onto Jesus and God’s amazing grace to continue, it is posible. Our husbands circumstances and addition is not our fault, its their own issues as you mention. Run to Jesus for protection and wisdom. wish you so many good things from now on, and the best is a life with God and His mercy. Be blessed and continue moving forward with your daughter that is a precious gift from God. No one ever, can tell her she is not loved. Wish you the best. Kathy

      Reply
    5. Kelly on

      I have recently installed the CE app for my husbands only device. His phone. I am new to this and the whole experience has changed my life and thinking dramatically. When I found my husband’s dirty little secret it was the day before Thanksgiving. I hit the roof…grabbed a knife and was sent to jail by my husband. I now have a domestic violence conviction which caused me to lose my job. I have been in therapy for 2 months but my husband didn’t make an appointment until last week. We are not suppose to have any contact but he needs help with this. I’m risking my personal freedom to save our marriage. I’m caught in the legal system right now and trust me ladies…you don’t want to be in it. I’m commited to this man and his recovery. I only wish he could understand my PTSD and pain.

      Reply
      • Jane on

        This happened to my neighbor. She got her record expunged. He is an occasion of sin don’t you think. I can only say if a man is a cause of sin then staying with him could weaken your soul. Only God can fix him and we cannot make God do it. Jesus said “Go and sin no more”. He did not say “go and try not to do it again”

        I do not believe that a man who does this is saved. Would you hang out with sinners? That is the saddest part of all. They continue to choose to sin if they did all the treatments and turned their will over they could stop. But they defy God and do not humble themselves. We become sinners too if we support a sinner in his sin.
        There are two sins the lie and the covered sin. Thousands of them by these men. Every sin must be known to be forgiven. Does Jesus think we need to hear, thousands of sins and forgive each one? I would rather give my love to those who need me. Not a man who has made sex and porn his love and his God. I cannot release mine from his bondage, only God can.

    6. Mo on

      Thank you for posting this article. There are so many point that I agree with and am very please have it as a resources.

      However I am left with the feeling that this is a article written by a woman for women. “So when I work with a couple, whose side am I on? I am on the side of the couple. But if I seem to advocate for her more than him, that’s because I am!”

      We now have evidence to say that addiction is a disease and in no other disease do we marginalise the sufferer. The emotions [trauma, betrayal, anger, trust issues] that are described for women are present in most situation when a partner is diagnosed with a disease such as, heart disease, diabetes, etc… Women suffer from food disorder that has a profound and lasting psychological impact on their male partner but no way do we put him above her. However when it comes to porn addiction we stigmatise the man, which actually is counter to all research on addiction treatment. All things considering porn is not illegal and it would have been a behaviour that was started before most marriages/relationships. Unfortunately men can not openly talk about this and get support form their partners because of the way he would be treated and then it becomes about how he hurt the partner.

      Contrary to this article, there are no healthy and good support groups or treatments for men. Most men suffer through life with this terrible addiction. If they do talk about it, they get labeled and treated as some dirty old man. I think we need to look at this in a very different way. if not we will be normalising behaviours like kelly’s – pulling a knife on a sick man. Bad relationships can trigger man to porn as well…

      Saying all this, I am very much against porn and I think its a very bad addiction. We need to find better ways of allowing men to talk with other men. Also men should be held accountable in their addictive behaviours. However I think its too difficult for women to have a supportive non-judgmental stance, including women therapist. Reason I say this is that – reenforcing shame is not helpful.

      my initial thoughts, happy to say more…

      Reply

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