"My whole world feels upside-down," she said. I noticed she was tearful and her whole body was shaking. I asked her to tell me more. She said, "I found a secret phone with lots of names of women on it. I called a few of the numbers and the women answered in a sexy voice with my husbands name." She then began sobbing. I waited. Her sorrow deserved respect and even honor. She had just experienced the ultimate betrayal of intimate partners. She needed time to allow the shock of what she discovered to sink in. Healing from this type of betrayal can take years.
As a counselor specializing in working with partners who are married to a sex addict, I hear stories like this every day. Here are a few common ways a partner finds out about a sex addicts behavior:
- Looking through credit card statements and seeing purchases for hotel rooms, flowers, jewelry, gifts, etc. that the wife was not a part of and did not know about.
- Finding cards, matches, etc. from strip clubs in pockets, or in the car.
- Secret phones for calls and texting.
- Facebook or other social media accounts with inappropriate sexual innuendos.
- Chatting online through various social hookup sites.
- Finding stashes of porn on the computer or in the home somewhere.
- He encourages you to go do things on your own, and stays home alone to compulsively masturbate.
- You get a sexually transmitted disease, and have only been with your husband.
The list goes on and on because sex addicts are skilled at maintaining a secret life. They know, intellectually, they shouldn't be doing what they are, and that there will be consequences. But, emotionally, they are addicted and cannot stop themselves. Now, I'm not saying everyone who engages in the above behaviors are sex addicts. If you notice these behaviors and are bothered by them, definitely talk about them with your spouse. If your spouse can easily give them up because he values you and your relationship, he is probably not a sex addict. However, if he balks, and tries to make you feel bad for broaching the subject, you might be married to a sex addict.
If you have been married to a sex addict for any length of time, it is common to feel like you are crazy. Sex addicts are masters at deflecting any negative comments about themselves, in turn implying that you are inferior in some way (i.e nagging, unloving, bitchy, etc). It is crucial for you to recognize this pattern and stop your part in it. Solely wishing for him to stop his bad behavior is not going to make it happen. Partners of sex addicts deserve to be treated with respect. This process starts with respecting yourself enough to set boundaries with his behavior that feels disrespectful to you.
Learning how to respect yourself and set boundaries doesn't happen by reading a book or following a list of 1 to 10. It takes time, applying behavior changes one circumstance at a time, one day at a time. It's about learning from that incident, and applying that learning to the next circumstances the next day. It is learning to live consciously, and intentionally, with your eyes wide open. It is a process.
Our culture bombards us with instant gratification; we have access to information at our fingertips anytime we want it with the Internet. Never before in human history have we had so much access to instant anything. The journey to healing being married to a sex addict is a process that takes time and patience. You will go through a grieving process much like the death of a loved one. But in this case, the death is the death of the marriage you thought you had.
As the reality sets in that you are married to a sex addict, you may decide to cut and run, or stay and see what happens. Either way, you'll hold the pain of learning that your beloved had betrayed you in the most hurtful way possible. Some choose to push the pain away and not deal with it, but most who do this end up in similar relationships the next time around, or begin to resent all men.
A better way to heal is to allow yourself to feel the pain, work through the grief and let it go. Find a counselor who specializes in working with partners of sex addicts. You will gain insight into yourself and be healthier. Remember, healthy people attract healthy people.Comment