Living With a Sex Addict

The Doctor Sex Addict Who Insists On His Wife’s Silence

 

There is a sad fraction of partners who feel it is their duty to be caretaker for their addict husbands because they consider sex addiction a disease like any other disease. Some of them continue to engage in sexual relationships with their husbands, even though their husbands are having sex outside the marriage. These wives (or partners) rely on condoms so that they don’t have to ask whether or not their husbands have “acted out.”

 

Asking is not allowed–I know this sounds incredible. However, the idea is that the addiction is a disease and that the symptom (sex outside the marriage) is only a symptom. If you ask about whether your husband is having sex with other partners (often prostitutes) you are “interfering with his recovery.” You are also behaving like a “co-addict”. I agree that sex may be a symptom of an underlying disorder, but not with any of the rest.  Let me explain as best I can, however.

 

In the view of those who subscribe to the co-addiction model, co-addicts are attempting to monitor  and control their partner’s sexual behavior. By contrast, a healthy person is one who understands her husband’s behavior has nothing to do with her. She uses condoms to protect herself (or abstains from sex, which may be expected anyway as some addicts reach a place at which they can’t have sex with a human being any more). She says nothing. She keeps her “side of the street clean” and doesn’t get into “his business” with questions about his recovery.

 

That’s healthy, according to a small, vociferous group of poor advisors, but not according to anyone with any sense. Please don’t feel you have to subscribe to these beliefs or label yourself a “co-addict” when you are doing your best to adapt to an intolerable situation and make the best decisions you can for yourself and your family.

 

I’ve written about the nonsense some people spout on the subject of co-addiction, which has a place in psychology literature, though a very small one. In short, unless you are encouraging the addiction, you are not a co-addict. However, you may believe you are a co-addict once the COSA people get a hold of you and convince you to join their cult, which is a cosy cult (they are very nice to you!) but one that insists upon compliance to its beliefs about sex addiction and co-addiction.

 

For most of us, there is no question. If what we expect is a monogamous relationship, we have every right to ensure that is what we are getting. And imagine using condoms with your husband just in case he’d been with someone else. Imagine fidelity being too far a reach for a married man. Those of us who are the wives of sex addicts live extraordinary lives.

 

I remember hearing a well-known speaker on the subject of sex addiction boast to his audience that his wife had “never thrown sex addiction in my face,” as though she was honoring their marriage with her silence. I resented this speaker, an addict who had once been a doctor. He still tours the world, talking about the addiction that once ruled his life. His wife speaks to the partners. Does she tell them to stay silent? Does she acknowledge how her own husband seems to insist upon her own?

 

Shame triggers sex addicts—I’ve written about this subject here—and it may be too painful for this doctor to imagine the shadow of his wife’s trauma stretching into her life today, or that there are scars from it, or that she may think occasionally about how things might have been. Perhaps this doctor’s pride in his wife’s silence may mask his need to downplay the impact of his addiction. Or perhaps he wishes to extend a kind of control on all the other wives. He needs the whole world to be quiet about his addiction because, like so many addicts, he insists that others keep his secret.

 

She never once threw sex addiction in my face, he says, as though behaving this way is a virtue.

 

There is no dignity in martyrdom here. I speak freely of my situation while, at the same time, trying to protect my family. It’s a difficult line to walk. Some women tell nobody of their husband’s addiction. They are too ashamed or too scared of the consequences. I understand. Maybe such secrecy is a form of self-preservation, though not necessarily an effective one. Maybe it is self-sacifice. Self-sacrifice has its uses but one can eventually run out of self to sacrifice and start on others. It is difficult to know what to do in such trying circumstances. There is no prescription. However, I have heard too many stories of women being coerced by their partners into silence—try to resist being coerced into anything, especially your right to speak.

 

When a trauma of this magnitude hits, it is possible to live inside its aftermath so fully that life, itself, feels stolen away. It doesn’t have to be like that. But it’s hard at first to identify what “help” looks like. Is help a divorce lawyer or a family therapist or a sex therapist or a rehab center? Is help a 12-step group or a 12-step Anon group or a bunch of good friends or a new lover? It’s difficult to see how you might be able to feel better—and easy to get desperate in your attempts to do so. But things will get better. Whatever your husband may have done, and now regrets doing, will stop playing so heavily in your mind. Eventually, as he recovers from the addiction (a process you can do almost nothing to speed up or slow down) the past will become merely a source of information and not the terrible weight it feels now.

 

You can be happy again—I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. It wasn’t easy or comfortable or quick, but it happened.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela
    June 17, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Your writing always makes me feel not-so-alone in the emotional fog I have been in since d-day#1 in New Year’s Eve 2016, and d-day #2 on March 19, 2017 via suicide letter (a very serious attempt which resulted in near death and 2 weeks in the hospital). I always seem to be waiting for d-day #3 and am scared of it, but I’m trying to do one day at a time and sanely as possible.

    I truly appreciate your blog and can honestly tell you it was only your writings that kept me sane in the days following #2, and allowed me to understand that it is ok to love him still. You once wrote about how nothing “before” felt real, but the happy times did actually happen. I appreciated this so much as there truly feels like a before and after but I still feel and remember loving memories and times we shared.

    I try not to think about it as much everyday, I am trying to have good days with him and build something better (we were pretty amazing before, hard to write that considering what happened and had been happening long before me; but it’s true). What he did was such a shock to all as he is truly a good person – what he did does not define him. I know I could not have done anything differently (except maybe find out sooner by demanding answers to my suspicion and questions) and cannot keep him from acting out if that is what happens. He takes 100% responsibility for what he did and I know that I am not responsible. Do I look at phone records and his texts? Not everyday but yes. If he was to act out I would like to believe that I would act on my bottom line and would leave him. I hope I never have to think about that.

    Thank you so much for being so honest and relatable xoxo

    • Reply
      The Wife
      June 17, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Oh Angela, I am so grateful for your message and for your amazing willingness to try to understand what is going on with your husband. I am not surprised about d-day #2 as so many addicts (addicts generally, but especially sex addicts) are trying to kill their addiction and end up nearly killing themselves. I had an awful evening one day many years ago when I thought that my husband was going to kill himself. He’d sent a number of texts that seemed to point that direction. I ran all over our property, into the woods behind our house, in every shed and the garage, looking for him. I finally got him on the phone. He was miles away. He said he’d gone on a walk but I don’t know…I drove to get him and he was limping. I don’t know what was going through his mind but I think he wanted to die he felt so bad.

      There is nothing wrong with loving someone with an addiction, even sex addiction. Of course, I am going to say that as I am sitting here married to a man who has been a sex addict through almost the whole of our marriage. We have been through some terrible times but he had what it took (finally!) to stop acting out and to begin to grow in all sorts of unimaginable ways. He shares with your husband the willingness to take 100% of the responsibility for what he did. That is vital. With that, everything else is possible.

      And everything is possible! That is, a very bright future. I no longer ache with the weariness and dread of wondering where he has been or what he hasn’t told me. I am no longer driven crazy by it all. Why? Because he stopped. He really did! He’s been sober for over two years. I am delighted and I love him so much. I am also so proud of him!

      Yes, I’ve been known to look at his phone once in a while even now. But not nearly as much and, guess what? There really is nothing there.

      Big hugs to you, and thank you for all the generous words you said about my blog!

  • Reply
    Angela
    June 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    I understand the fear and sheer panic of the thought that he may be trying to stop the acting out, shame and guilt by trying to end his life. I knew within 2 minutes of him leaving the house and it took everything in me to wait 2 hours to phone the police. He was missing for the longest 28 hours of my life and I am so so grateful he finally answered his phone after it going straight to voicemail 400 times. This is a horrible “thing” and I call it thing because I agree, it is not the same as diabetes.

    Your writings have exactly the right amount of piss off factor AND understanding. I hate the reason you’re writing, but I am so thankful.

    I am also so happy that your husband is sober, mine is as well and I’m very proud of him and his commitment to 2 meetings and 1 psychology session with a CSAT each and every week. It cannot be easy to see it on my face what he has done, he is truly devastated but is starting to understand the why. I just don’t know when I can accept the d-day #2 story and stop trying to figure things out.

    Do you think you know everything about what he did? Do we need to? That is what I’m struggling with now, that I may not know everything and if I don’t, he and all of the women still have intimate moments that are just theirs. That’s what makes me angry, the unknown of what they shared.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      June 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Thanks so much for the message. I think your comments help everyone else reading the board, too. 🙂

      No, I don’t think I know everything he did. There were prostitutes, casual sexting affairs, at least one or two actual affairs, and random sex with whoever is insane enough to have random sex these days. Do I need to know more? I certainly HOPE not! It was always with women and, apparently, usually didn’t involve intercourse because he (or they!) were trying to avoid disease, etc. This last part is a bit difficult to believe. I’ve had every medical check and so has he and I’d say he got very lucky to not have picked up a sexually transmitted disease. It angers me that he took that risk, both with his own health and mine. However, details…what more do you want? I think we can fill in the blanks if we want to do so. The point is that the past is over and here we are. Your husband (or partner…it doesn’t matter) sounds as though he is trying to put things right and that he is aware of how fortunate he is to have a wife that will give him a chance to do so.

  • Reply
    Angela
    June 20, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I guess the problem for me is that I don’t believe he has not been honest in his answers as some things still don’t make sense. Some of the stupid details I’m stuck on are:

    1. Were they in our car or our home? He says never.

    2. How many women were there really, he says 10 but I think more based on what I saw

    Things like this. If it were 20 women would it erase what happened? No. In our house or car? Maybe or maybe not, but I may need a new house or car. I just want honesty because I do think if he is not honest, they still hate secrets and intimate moments. Will it change anything? Not one bit.

    He left me twice (once for 2 months and another for 2 weeks) for what I thought was due to depression and anxiety (both of which he has) but he admitted in his suicide letter that it was because he thought he was in love with 2 of the women. He admitted that once he ended our relationship, the risk and excitement of these other women was gone and he quickly realized that he didn’t love them and leaving me was a mistake. He ended up being with the woman in the last break up for 2 years (an additional 8 months after coming back home from the 2 week break) while sexting many other women at the same time. He has ended our relationship a total of 5 times, the other 3 times for just a day. None of the break ups made sense because of how close we were, so I just excused it as a symptom of the depression and anxiety.

    What you replied helped a great deal, the past is in the past. 10 or 20, car or no car, left me twice or five times from being in love with others – not of it will not change the past. He is a wonderful and loving, and is now able to be intimate (in the past I would wonder if we actually had sex the rare time we did, because he just was not present). I have a hard time remembering “the past is the past” as the movie reel of all of what I know, but mostly my imagination of what I DON’T makes me forget who he is and how he is today.

    Thank you for the reminder, you have helped me more than anyone because I do believe you and I have the same beliefs and path desire in our futures with our husbands (and I pay big money for therapists!). My friends just don’t understand (and I’m happy for them that they don’t).

    • Reply
      The Wife
      June 22, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      Angela, I wish I could say that his behavior was shocking, but I am apparently unshakeable. My husband kept copies of love letters he’d written to one of the women with whom he’d had an affair. I found them on his computer and they broke my heart. Really, it was unbearable. Then there were the gushy texts I also read. I might have found it impossible to get over that but there were similar letters written to women who were on a massage website…so did he really feel those things? I don’t know. I doubt it. I think he was convinced he’d destroyed our marriage, that I would find out the truth and leave him, and he was looking for an “out”. Not necessarily a for real out, but a fantasy out. But know knows what is going on in their minds when they are swept away by addiction? We can’t understand because we aren’t addicts. If he were to return to these behaviors I’d walk, but he hasn’t. He’s been a lovely husband for years now so I try (and it is sometimes a struggle!) to think only about that.

  • Reply
    Angela
    June 20, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Sorry, correction to my first sentence. I don’t believe he HAS been honest.

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