She Was Married to Jekyll and Hyde: Healing From A Partner’s #SexAddiction

Sex addiction is a very real and scary thing that reportedly affects 12 million people and their loved ones in the U.S. Considering how hidden and shame-ridden the condition remains, that number is very likely low. And although being the partner of a sex addict can be deeply traumatizing (not to mention dangerous), they are significantly less likely to seek help than the addicts themselves. 

Yesterday I had the honor of interviewing M, a woman who learned of her husband’s sex addiction ten years into their marriage, just as they were preparing to become pregnant. While her world was turned upside-down, she was able to heal and find her way back to happiness.

On the air, she shared the details of her experience—how she found out, the red flags, what helped or hurt her recovery and lessons the ordeal has taught her. I can’t thank her enough for her courage and openness, which will no doubt help many.

M also took the time to answer additional questions for this post. Pop over to iTunes, Stitcher Radio or Global Voice Broadcasting to download or stream our live-recorded chat, then check out the followup Q&A below.

Listen here: Girl Boner Radio: Learning to Thrive After Her Husband’s Sex Addiction

 

Girl holding hands in heart shape at beach

An After-Chat Q&A with M:

August: What’s one common myth about sex addiction you’d love to see eradicated?

M: MYTH: ‘Sex addiction’ is a made-up excuse by people who just like fooling around to get them off the hook with their wives and the public. TRUTH: Real addicts with compulsive behaviors don’t enjoy sex at all; in fact, they believe it exists to control others and escape from reality, especially intimacy and vulnerability. Their behavior not only destroys relationships, but often results in financial, professional and personal ruin, up to and including incarceration and suicide.

August: If you could change one thing about your decisions since learning of the addiction, what would you choose?

I didn’t tell my in-laws (addict’s mother & stepfather), with whom I was very close, about his addiction. At the time I felt, “He’s the addict. He should tell them. Why should I have to be the one to break their hearts?” Of course he never told, and his family was and are still confused about our split. Their ignorance further enables his behavior to continue. Closer to home, it has also created an expectation that my own family has to ‘act nice’ still on Facebook, etc., about him, which denies them their pain and justified anger at my ex, a completely unintended outcome that pains me deeply.

M: What decision are you the most pleased with?

Leaving him.

August: What benefit of healing and moving forward has most surprised you?

The complete absence of loneliness. The day I left our house, the loneliness left me. Of course I was in pain, but it was the horror of betrayal, not a longing to be loved, especially not by an abusive manipulator. There is no life lonelier than one with someone who says he loves you but withholds that love in a thousand ways every day. I actually don’t think I’ll ever feel lonely again, regardless of relationship status, which takes my breath away sometimes still. I never thought I could feel this whole.

M: What are you most grateful for in your life now?

Peace of mind. The unwavering and never-ending love of my supporters – my parents, my sister, brother-in-law and their children, and the amazing friends who have scraped me repeatedly off the floor, who never stop telling me I am worthy and loved. And every day yet to come.

****

Resources for Partners of Sex Addicts:

Useful resources for partners are difficult to find and programs that subscribe to the notion of ‘co-addicts’ are considered victim-blaming (i.e., harmful) by many. If you’re struggling with a partner’s sexual addiction, M suggests the following.

Trauma-Based Models:

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope & Heal by Marsha Means & Barbara Steffens – the Trauma-Based Model watershed study; the first people in the field to NOT label partners as ‘co-addicts,’ responsible for the breakthrough thought: “You can’t know the truth when someone insists on lying to you.”

Note from M: Though both authors have been through this trauma personally, one chose to stay with her partner, and the other didn’t. Regardless, the testimonials in the book come largely from spouses who stayed, as well as from people reliant on a monotheistic God. Atheists, agnostics, and partners who choose to leave the addict are honored here, but pitifully underrepresented in addiction literature on the market so far. The trauma model of recovery however doesn’t require any belief system, and both models leave the decision to stay/go up to the couples themselves.

Partners of Sex Addicts Resource Center: A Trauma-Based support model that acknowledges this level of betrayal as Relational Trauma with amazing resources such as coaches and support groups and articles.

Psych Central: 6 Stages of Recovery for Partners (A quick article)

Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists: Helpful for finding a Trauma-Based Model Therapist for partners in your area

Married and Alone: Healing for Spouses of Sexual Anorexics by Doug Weiss, PhD

Note from M: Weiss, like many in the field, has lost faith in the ‘co-addict’ model of recovery, labelling it narcissistic and steeped in male privilege. You’ll have to be your own judge of what works best for you. Weiss’s work leans too however on the helpfulness of traditional spirituality in recovery. 

Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn & Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CAS and Jennifer Schneider, MD, PhD – from PoSARC: “This book is a must-read anyway, and contains many examples of how surreptitious acting out on the web can be.”

Have you or a partner struggled with sex addiction? What’s most helped you? What struck you most about our interview? 

Leave a comment

10 Comments

  1. I haven’t struggled with a sex-addicted partner — that I’m aware of. I’ve had unhealthy relationships outside the boundaries of marriage. Most were relationships in which I suffered (and tolerated) verbal abuse, inconsistent moods, and philandering. Most likely they were the oh-so-debilitating low self-esteem that haunted me for decades.There’s no way to tell now. That’s history.

    KUDOS to M for telling her story and getting the word out to those who suffer from bondage to a sex addict.

    SIDEBAR TO AUGUST: Yippee! I finally gained access to YouTube and got to add my LIKE to your many fans.

    I’ll bop to the site and listen to the podcast when I’m not in the middle of Starbucks or suffocated by my “watcha’ doing?” husband at home.

    Headed to the gym now to work off some of the stress I face when it’s time to go home. My last good nerve took a beating this morning. I’m strong enough to get through this. I’m strong enough to get through this. I’m strong enough to get through this.

    Thanks for another great post, Lovely.

    GB power! <=== My maiden name initials. How cool is that? Very.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the awesome support! It’s INCREDIBLY cool that we share GB initials. I hope you enjoy the interview! My longest yet, and it flew by. 🙂

      Kudos to you for escaping other kinds of relationship tumult, Gloria! I’m sure there are many parallels, and I’m so thrilled that you’ve found your way to a healthier place. At the same time, I’m sorry to hear you feel suffocated at home. YES, you ARE strong enough to manage whatever comes your way—and need not do it alone. Any time I can be of help, please let me know! Sending lots of love. xo

      Reply
  2. You know, one of my closest friends married a man who turned out to be a sex addict. Even as a licensed therapist (though her specialty was children & family), she never saw it coming. The discovery was devastating for her. He lied all the time… He definitely portrayed her in a less than stellar light with his family. And when it all ended (she did leave), he wound up bankrupt because he spent pretty much every cent he had on those interactive porn sites and in bars.

    Kudos to M for having the courage to speak so openly and candidly on such an uncomfortable subject!

    Reply
    • The deceptiveness is pretty stunning, isn’t it? Like so many addictions, it takes over — like a greedy monster. I hope your friend has found healing, too!

      Reply
  3. I have a video on sex addiction that I used to show to my Abnormal Psych students. Several sex addicts tell their story on it, and at certain points in the film, the whole class would suck in their breath at once. One of those points was when a minister who was a sex addict said he’d realized that he couldn’t continue being a man of the cloth and also continue the sexual behaviors, so he resigned from the ministry.

    As a therapist who specialized in trauma recovery and addictions (retired now) it always set my teeth on edge when colleagues would say, “The wife knew” or “she should’ve known” or in the case of incest, “the mother always knows.” (Yes, a fellow therapist actually said that last one.)

    Yes, sometimes the signs are blatant and denial is running rampant, but most of the time the spouse doesn’t know and shouldn’t be expected to know. You love and trust this person who is lying to you and hiding things oh so cleverly. This stuff is the last thing anyone expects to have happen in their own family.

    Okay, stepping off my soapbox now. Kudos to M for her courage and thank you, August, for all that you do to bring sexual enlightenment to the world!!

    Reply
  4. Raani York

     /  November 5, 2014

    This is a very strong message – and I’m sure will give hope to many experiencing this traumatic situation. I thankfully never was unlucky enough to face something like this.
    I’m sure not many victims would talk so openly about this!
    Thank you for sharing this with us!

    Reply
    • I think you’re right, Raani! M is such a gift, both for gaining her own healing and for speaking up on behalf of others. Hopefully many will hear her message and recognize that they’re not alone.

      Reply
  5. August, you continue to break through barriers! You might be interested in taking a look at the #BeenRapedNeverReported hashtag begun by two Canadian women (my age!) as a result of the shocking scandal involving one of Canada’s top journalists who is now accused of violence against women http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=200305 The hashtag has gone viral around the world with tens of millions of women responding. It sounds like something you might want to talk about. Keep up the great work you are doing! SO PROUD OF YOU!

    Reply
  1. Learning to Thrive After a Husband’s Sex Addiction | August McLaughlin

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