Living With a Sex Addict

No One “Visits” A Prostitute

 

It’s three in the morning and I’m lying in bed talking to my husband about the sex life of a guy I’ve never met and who he barely knows.

 

The guy we were talking about “visited” a prostitute. This is how it is always described: “visited”,  as though all that happened was someone kindly stopped by for a cup of tea.  I’ll hear it said, “I used to visit prostitutes” or “He visited a prostitute.”

 

On the one hand, there is this stark, shocking world of prostitution. On the other, the neighbourly language of visiting that softens its impact. This is just one example of how an addict will talk about his behaviour in terms that are so forgiving that it is difficult to grasp just how much hurt has been inflicted all around. You might also hear, “He engaged with a sex worker”, which sanitises the encounter so thoroughly that it all but washes it away.

 

The reasons for the euphemisms is simple. First, it is important that whatever language is used does not sound lurid or sexually arrouse the addict or anyone listening. Second, addicts often can’t face what they’ve done and what they might do again, so they use language that is particularly forgiving.

 

Partners often don’t know about these transgressions, or don’t know the extent of them. If they knew that by “visited”, their husband means brought a gift as well as a lot of cash to a woman he’d been fantasizing about for a day or two (or three) and whose photographs has been planted in his mind ever since he first found them on his phone, she might not be so forgiving.

 

Not that forgiveness is on the cards yet. The wife’s response is usually either total hysteria and a speedy exit, or total hysteria followed by a beautiful, sad, noble (maybe misguided) attempt to stand by a man they love in hope that the addiction can be resolved.

 

The addiction can be resolved, but only if it is faced head-on, which is why at three in the morning I’m making the case to my husband that this guy–whoever he is–has to stop saying he “visited” a prostitute and use a more direct word. He has to see it for what it is and name it.  The most infuriating aspect of sugar-coating the addict’s behaviour is how it is usually paired with miserable impatience toward the partner (in this case a wife) who isn’t so quick to forgive and forget. “Why can’t she let go?” you’ll hear an addict say. Or else, they’ll agree that there is no reason for the partner to forgive but expect it anyway.

 

I don’t have an answer to how to talk about “acting out” (read: having sex with), or how best to describe in in 12-step meetings. Perhaps in the context of a meeting it is important to use every euphemism available in order prevent sharing from sounding like a dreadful, erotic novel. But somewhere along the way, the addict needs to remove the cloak of polite language and see what he has done clearly, without excuses.

 

I say this not because I wish to punish an addict–they punish themselves pretty badly all the time–but because recovery is impossible without a complete confession, if only to the self.  As long as we are only “visiting” prostitutes, an addict can imagine he doesn’t  really have much of a problem.  It is easy for an addict to imagine the real problem is not his actions, but his wife who will not be patient with him, will not forgive him, “holds it over him” or any of the other justifications I’ve heard for blaming her.

 

Wives of addicts are victims. they don’t have to remain victims forever, but they are victims in the first instance. It is possible for a marriage to survive sex addiction, but only if it is clear between the couple that she is not to blame. You’d think this point didn’t need to be made–of course she is not to blame. Even so, I find myself having to make the case over and again.

 

She is the victim. He didn’t just “visit” the prostitute. Addiction is a disease, yes. Let’s call it by name. But let’s call everything else by name, too. It seems only fair.

 

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Elsie Amata
    April 14, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Hello,

    I’ve been poking around your site for a bit and wanted to share that you’re a great writer. Keep on doing it. It helped me quite a bit too. It’s always good to see when a marriage is not only surviving the addiction, but also thriving.

    I loved this, “It is possible for a marriage to survive sex addiction, but only if it is clear between the couple that she is not to blame.” It’s very true. When my husband was finally able to admit to himself that he had a problem, he stopped the blame-shifting. It was such a turning point for us.

    Best of luck on your book.

    Take care,

    Elsie

    • Reply
      The Wife
      April 15, 2017 at 7:29 am

      Thank you so much for your generous comment! I am delighted you find the site helpful!

  • Reply
    Michelle
    May 3, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Searching for months and reading everything out there…. His one is amazing. It hit the spot. I’m still trying to keep our family together but my bad days outnumber my good ones. I don’t know if my husband is recovering. He lied 12 years and how do I believe him now that he’s being good? That is what I would like to find out. I’m distant from my children and I just want to leave and run away. It’s such a sick and saddening feeling but I have only his words of “I don’t have those thoughts anymore” coming out of his mouth.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      May 7, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Hi, and thank you for your comment. I’m sorry I didn’t see it days ago when you left it. My fault.

      It’s really interesting to hear what you feel (so familiar!) and what your husband is saying. “I don’t have those thoughts anymore” is a significant sentence. It comes from someone who knows that the thoughts, themselves, were the most invasive and out-of-control aspect of an addiction. It comes from someone whose mind is now working differently. He’s made significant changes, not only to his sexual behavior but to the way he thinks. It’s a big deal.

      The question is whether it is enough to save your marriage, and that is something that only you can answer (and that you may not know for some time). The hurt, the betrayal, the sense of disorientation and loss are all so great. If you’ve only recently found out and are still going through the most awful first year post-discovery, expect to be unhappy for a little longer. However, also expect that you will feel better, because chances are you will. At least, that was how it was for me. I went through this awful many-years of his sometimes acting out and it about killed me. I still don’t know how I managed. He finally did recovery and even then it was a struggle, but I decided I was not going to be “loyal to my suffering”, a phrase I borrow from Jack Cornfield who is a kind of wonderful spiritual teacher. I think I was also just so bored of it! And even though I could have killed my husband a few times, I really did love him.

      The sense of isolation from your children is terrible. I had that, too. It did get better. I feel really close to them again. However, it was scary…I am sorry you are going through this.

      If you are in the US, you might try to find a Posarc.org meeting near you. I think that Posarc is very good because they don’t have the insane “Co-addict” model but understand you have been traumatized.

      It’s all very hard, I know. However, I have to admit that your husband’s words are promising. He has transformed. Maybe you can’t trust him with everything but you can probably trust him with most things. That’s a start anyway. But I think anyone would understand if you didn’t even want to make a start. I am glad I am in my marriage now, but honestly there was a time I could have easily walked away.

      Anyway, thank you again for the nice comment. I’ll be thinking of you.

  • Reply
    Nik
    July 20, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Hi,
    I’ve found this site out of desperation and frustration. 3 weeks ago I discovered that a problem that I had 11 years ago with my husband of 30 years had come to light again.
    11 years ago I discovered he was using prostitutes regularly and had done off and on for 10 years previously. He tried to lie, but I had got him bang to rights with bank statements and phone bills. He admitted it although there were variations in the story, so I didn’t get the resolve I wanted. We struggled to reclaim our marriage and eventually after some years I thought things were back on track. Over the past couple of years our sex life has deteriorated and he refused to address any issues.
    Then 3 weeks ago I found out that he was again using prostitutes, I’m devestated once again. I asked him to leave, which he did. I love him so much, but I don’t want to be the proverbial doormat. He has admitted that he struggles to control his urges and has sought the help of a hypnotherapist. We are also attending counselling to try and rebuild the hurt and pain that his actions have caused. I would like to try to rebuild our marriage but don’t ever want to go through this trauma ever again. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? He is being very honest about everything now and has said that he won’t return until he can trust himself as he can’t bear to hurt me anymore. I would welcome any advice or help. I’m in the UK and I don’t know if there is any support here.
    Kind regards
    Devastated wife

    • Reply
      The Wife
      July 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Hi,

      I read your comment and thought how awful it would be to believe that a long-ago trauma was resolved, only to find it had not been. Your devastation is understandable. I would feel exactly the same. I hear within your words all the love you have, as well as all the hurt from, your husband. What a kind, generous (if broken) heart you have. You ask if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, there is, but not if your husband’s source of help comes only through hypnotherapy. He will need quite a bit more therapy than that, if not an all-out residential rehab center….however, there is a cheaper, easier alternative that I’d highly recommend in the form of an SA 12-step program. Those people who take seriously their 12-step programs, go several times a week to start, get a sponsor and work the steps with total commitment, often do recover fully from sex addiction. When I say “fully”, I don’t mean he will never be an addict. He will always have to protect himself from recurrence. The best way to protect himself? Stay with the program, become a sponsor, help other addicts who are seeking a solution. I say this only because my own husband could NOT beat this addiction until he really committed himself to a 12-step program. I am not saying other therapies didn’t help, but the bottom line had to be that 12-step program. They are also free. I wish I could give you a hug and tell you it will all be okay. It can be okay but your husband has to get very serious right now. His resolve must be firm and, really, forever. Have you visited http://www.posarc.org? Worth a look. I like their underlying philosophy about the partners of sex addicts (that we are traumatized, not “co-addicts”). Let me know what you think.

      • Reply
        Nik
        July 21, 2017 at 10:32 am

        Thank you so much for your reply. I’m unable to access the link, I don’t know if I mentioned that I live in the U.K.? Is the best cause of action to contact our GP surgery? Or are you aware of any support groups over here.
        I’m very conscious that if I push him too hard too quickly, then some of the progress he appears to be making will go out of the window. I know I’ve got to stop blaming myself. I wish I could receive your hug, as I feel so isolated because I feel I’m being forced to keep his dirty little secret because of embarrassment and humiliation.
        Hugs back x

        • Reply
          The Wife
          July 22, 2017 at 3:59 pm

          Hi again,

          I’m sorry about that link. It’s http://www.posarc.com. Maybe I typed it incorrectly before?

          In London, you could try this group. They have a co-addict model but it’s better than nothing: http://s-anon-uk.org Tel. +44 (0) 7583 823449

          I know this is all so hard. x

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