Consistently, wives of sex addicts share with me how the lies and secrets their husbands keep from them hurt more than the sexual acting out itself.
I asked a few of these wives the question, “Why do the lying and secrets hurt so much more than the acting out?” Here are some of their responses. I wish I could share them all, but I had to narrow it down. Names have been changed to protect anonymity.
After their responses, I talk more about the role of lying in addiction, and how this relates to marriage. At the end, I share about an upcoming conference on sex addition and partner trauma with presentations from some of the best in the field.
6 Wives Share Why Their Husband’s Lies Hurt the Most
“The lying is pretty much the reason I feel I must get divorced. Any attempt to build trust just keeps getting undermined by him hiding and lying about things. Relationship and connection cannot exist if there is no trust.
I could have moved past the poor choices he made–none of them were major deal breakers. If he would’ve come to me (within 24 hours as we agreed) and confessed, it would have hurt still, but also would have fostered connection and trust. Honesty makes me feel like a valued partner, an ally in his fight against his addiction. Lying and secrets make me feel like the enemy, a victim and casualty of his addiction.”
Related: 3 Reasons Deception Is More Destructive Than Porn For Your Wife
“Because this is my person. The one person on earth I chose to trust with everything, including my life, for 21 years. To have that trusted person look into your eyes and lie and twist your very reality, knowing that you know…it is impossible to wrap your mind around, hard to comprehend.
It makes you doubt your very intelligence and ability to make wise choices. Especially if you surprised the pants off yourself by actually choosing to forgive, and opening yourself up to more hurt by choosing to stay, hoping desperately for recovery efforts. After accepting that childhood trauma caused the addiction that caused the infidelity, you realize you love them more than you ever knew, and you realize you desperately want to make your marriage work.
In the midst of your passion to save all you’ve worked for together, every new lie and every slanderous untruth he tells people about you magnifies the hurt.”
“For me the secrets and lies directly translate to a lack of safety as the person is not who he says he is. When this relates to ones’ primary attachment figure it’s hugely impacting.
This then leads to a spiral of me questioning my judgements and understanding of the world, potentially everything is unreliable then. It’s nightmarish!”
“This is my perspective nine days after my bloodbath of a disclosure. That descriptor is for the truths I was told, not the process. The process, although excruciating, was absolutely necessary and cathartic.
The acting out is repugnant, but the lies and secrecy gave me evidence that, in comparison to everything else, I didn’t have enough value to be considered. That is what hurts the most.”
“It’s been a little more than a year and a half past discovery. With everything I’ve felt about his manipulated schemes behind my back, it’s the lies and calculated deceit that still haunt me!”
“The point I realized he was lying to protect himself from pain and to hide the affair, was the same point I realized he had stopped protecting me. I felt thrown into a war zone with hidden bombs and traps put in place by him, my husband. His words after the lies were disclosed, in my mind, were all a lie and coverup.”
Fear of Telling the Truth
As these quotes show, lies will destroy your marriage. I tell addicts this all the time, but they don’t believe it. I liken it to being told to jump off a cliff with the promise that a net is below, but you can’t see the net.
Their wives tell them they just need the truth. Good sex addiction therapists tell them that a therapeutic disclosure is a best practice that will be one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, but is crucial for the individual’s and couple’s healing.
Related: Therapeutic Disclosure–How It Can Help Your Marriage Heal
The truth will set you free, but the fear of telling the truth is debilitating. Will she leave? Will she hate me?
There is no guarantee, and there is no net that says it will all be ok. But our experience overwhelmingly shows that addicts who choose honesty have a much higher chance at marital success. Lies are not, in most cases, meant to hurt the wife and not done out of malicious intent.
The Origin of Pathological Lying for Addicts
Lying is something addicts learned at a very young age for emotional and/or physical survival. My husband, Jeff, who facilitates couples’ intensives with me, had to lie at nine years old to cover up his mom’s drug use and mental illness for fear of being taken from her. When he was taken to live with his dad and step-mom anyway, he learned to lie to cover up sexual and physical abuse from older step-brothers to avoid the abuse getting worse.
Because he grew up with severe neglect and abuse, Jeff had to create a façade to hide his intense insecurity. So to me, he looked like the perfect man and husband.
Hindsight is 20/20 though. I don’t blame myself for missing red flags. What wife in her right mind is looking for those red flags, unless she has been through this before?
Your Only Hope for Healing Yourself and Your Marriage
Addicts, here is your only hope. Love God, who is truth, more than your wife. The Bible is clear on truth.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” –2 Timothy 2:15
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” –John 24:6
Since God is truth, you must also love truth more than your wife. That means putting your trust in Him, not your wife. You don’t know what her choices will be in the long run, although with the correct guidance and follow through, your chances of saving your marriage is high. We usually don’t see wives leave due to truth, no matter how bad it seems. We see wives leave when the lies don’t stop, assuming the acting out has ceased. Even reporting slips immediately are your best chance at surviving them.
Love God. Love truth. Love them more than your wife, who is not your God. Jump off that cliff of truth with no guarantee, except that you will be living a life of integrity and authenticity. This is the only way to recover from addiction.
“We are only as sick as our secrets.” This age old saying from twelve-step fellowships couldn’t be more true. I dare you to find a wife of a sex addict who will disagree with this concept.
Coming up April 11-13, Christian Sex Addiction Specialists International is hosting the Redeeming Sexuality and Intimacy conference in Houston. My husband, Jeff, and I will be presenting with our polygraph examiner, Stephen Cabler, on the use of polygraphs with disclosure. Other presentation will include therapeutic disclosure, partner trauma, and many other sex addiction related topics.
Check out our website to learn more about all our other amazing speakers and sessions. This conference is welcome to all, and we hope you’ll sign up.
I appreciate this article. It has put in words, feelings I could never adequately explain to my husband. At one point I think I even said I would welcome a relapse if it meant, for the first time in our marriage, he would finally be humble, open, and honest with me. I understood that his exposure and struggle with porn happened so many years before we even met. While the fact that he broke his vows to me and looked, lusted, fulfilled himself with other women devastated me beyond belief, it was the continual broken trust and deception that hurt me the most and the sin that was used most by satan to destructively assault my heart and mind. I knew I didn’t cause my husband’s struggle, but when he lied and chooses to deceive after the exposures, it made the adultery and lusting after other women so much more real and personal- almost a feeling like that lie to me pulled me into and made me an unwilling participant of the sin… and consequently, the sin so much more devastating…. It was a double gut punch! I really did understand and accept the fact that porn/lust would always be a struggle for him. and while I didn’t excuse it and truly believed he could walk in 100% freedom, his lying to me cut so much deeper. It screamed I don’t value you and your heart more than I value my name and reputation and comfort. While his mouth said “I don’t want to do it ever again or ever hurt you again”, his deception screamed I can’t let this go and even you aren’t enough to compel me to get help.Even today, my husband will never know what it feels like to have fear grip his heart when told I have a business meeting that requires a hotel stay alone. He will never know the battles that still rage in my mind and heart because he is late from work or I know alone with a co-worker. He never will look across the room and question and wonder who I am texting, calling, or what web pages I am browsing on….. None of these emotions, feelings, fears can be understood by him because he trust me and I have protected that precious gift every day of our almost 17 years of marriage.
Yet I can also say that despite this conflict and these sorrows, God is good and his grace sufficient. He has picked up the broken pieces of my heart and transformed me and is transforming me as I learn to love with boundaries, to speak the truth in love, placing my life and marriage and family and future in his hands. My husband’s moral freedom no longer control my health and joy. I have learned through Christ to place my hope in trust in my Father faithfulness not my husband morality. This has brought much freedom and provided a ministry to other women who are struggling in the same darkness I once did
I know that you posted this response quite a few months ago, but are you still with your husband? You described perfectly how I feel…except I am not sure I can stay with my husband after discovering he has been lying about his porn habits still. I have not found grace in God. In fact, I have run from faith, as I have honestly been questioning why God would put a man who is so willing to hurt me into my life. How did you find such strong faith in a sucky situation? I’m having one heck of a time turning to God when I’m so angry with him.
Thank you for being so honest about your faith struggle. I think situations like this are the perfect opportunity for us to explore the holes in our beliefs, because we suddenly realize that the easy answers just aren’t working. We realize that we have made a god that’s a vending machine, or a god that only loves us when we’re perfect, or a god that picks and chooses who gets the good stuff and who gets the bad. All those beliefs are worth looking at for what they really are, and I applaud your courage for doing so.
This article is EXTREMELY helpful for the guilty party or deceiver. It gives an “outside” look into what we’ve put our souses through from the only ones who know. No one else understands and even well meaning Christian friends just “don’t know what to say…” All of these points can be seen in my own marriage and recovery, so thank you. Thank you for being open and honest and REAL! Something that is lacking in the collective “church”, at least in most cases.
I’m a lawyer and my husband is both a physician and sex addict. It’s heartbreaking today, it was heartbreaking yesterday, and I’m just hoping there’s a tomorrow that may come without so much pain. After 28 years of marriage, my husband said he had one affair, then he said it was two, then 3 years later he said it was really twenty….twenty prostitutes. He said Playboy Magazine did an article around 2007about The Erotic Review new club that allowed affairs with prostitutes to go on undetected so he followed the article. I’m a model, a lawyer, a good wife, my husband used eldercare as his reason for needing prostitutes to relieve the stress. The last prostitute wouldn’t go away, she extorted him for money, we got a restraining order for 3 years, but the police protect the prostitutes on City Source Escorts- the system is very corrupt. I’ve done the work of forgiving, but I should have left….men who are addicted, no matter how great they are seek out dependable smart loyal wives. My husband is a high profile physician which makes the pain not only unbearable but secret. I will never hurt him, but it’s best to leave especially if there are no children. Good luck to a. Wives.