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


    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,


    • 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
    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 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
    July 20, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    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


      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 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
        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 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: Tel. +44 (0) 7583 823449

          I know this is all so hard. x

  • Reply
    August 4, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    > “But somewhere along the way, the addict needs to remove the cloak of polite language and see what he has done clearly, without excuses.”

    Step 1 of a 12-step program is precisely about facing one’s addiction. It usually consists of a detailed oral account of it to one’s sponsor and/or to the group. It is a formalised component of the recovery.

    I think the “polite language” is for respect of other’s people safety: addicts are insane, and insane minds might get triggered. It does not reflect self justification.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      August 9, 2017 at 7:26 am

      Hi, and thank you for the comment. I have heard the despair in my own husband’s voice when he comes back from meetings during which a person with sex addiction has gone into too much detail when sharing, so I know exactly what you mean. What is interesting, however, is that to the wife (okay, to me!) it always felt when my husband was talking about his acting out he was cleaning up his language as a means of sanitizing his actions. For me, if someone says to me that they “visited a sex worker” it doesn’t quite conjure up the remarkable extent of seeking out sex with a random woman who may or may not be coerced into the action through economic and social reasons. It doesn’t even begin to describe the danger he puts himself and me in through the possible transmittal of disease either. When I heard about one act my husband paid for I was disgusted but also I thought how hateful his action was against the woman he was paying. It sickened me and yet the expression “visiting a prostitute” or “visiting a sex worker” was used in that case, too. I think he was just trying to make himself feel better so that the shame, itself, didn’t trigger more self-loathing. I can understand why he did so, but for me it also felt self-serving. Perhaps it was just the best he could do. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 12, 2017 at 2:01 am

    I’m struggling big time. My husband is in counseling and desires to change, but tge damage is so overwhelming. I just don’t know what or who I’m fighting for. What does recovery mean? What exactly is my role in this? What does, a “better marriage” mean if they will always be an addict? I really don’t know how to separate myself from the addiction and remain in love. This disease is sickening. The fact that he loses himself in woman’s bodies to comfort himself is so repulsuve. I just don’t know if I can rekindle the love I had. I wish I could stop feeling naked all the time because of how vulnerable and stupid I feel. I just don’t know how to coexist in the midst of recovery. I feel like I’m losing my mind. I really don’t know how much more of this I can take. I just want peace. I just wanted the guy I thought I married. I have never wanted to undue anything in my life as much as I wish I could undue my marriage. I feel both curious and guilty for thinking of a better life that I might have if I stay. There’s so much I don’t understand.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      September 12, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Hi “Lost”, I think I know exactly how you feel…I am so sorry. I think it is great your husband is in counselling, though I would suggest strongly he go to a 12-step program for sex addicts in addition to the counselling. In my experience, it was the one thing that really made a difference.

      His recovery and your recovery are two different things. He has to recover from an addiction. You have to recover from a trauma. Barbara Steffan’s book for spouses of sexually addicted people may be helpful to you:

      You can’t really separate the man from the addiction right now — I remember being asked if I could do that back when my husband was a contrite but active addict trying to shake off the addiction. I told the psychologist that I could not separate them at all because I was his wife, not his shrink. In fact, it made me really angry. I think I wrote about that on the blog somewhere, in fact.

      Agree with you that it is an ugly, disgusting addiction that strikes at the heart of a relationship. However, as he recovers (that is, stops “acting out” and starts thinking rationally) he will find it equally disgusting if he doesn’t already. And he will eventually stop, then work for the rest of his life to maintain a different point of view as well as a means of handling his anxiety that is not so destructive and wrong.

      Meanwhile, you will feel exactly as you do now for some weeks or months and then, unbelievable though this sounds, you will feel better. I am not saying you will stay married or that you will part from him. Either direction is difficult. However, you will eventually feel that peace you crave now. Unfortunately, you will have to live with uncertainty, hurt, anger, and loss for some time before that happens.

      It took years for my husband to truly, 100% recover. I thought I’d lose my mind several times. I think that is normal — you’ve been traumatised. However, it does get better…just not right away.

      That isn’t much help, I know, but I just want you to know that you are not alone and that the way you feel now is exactly how I once felt.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    This is an excellent post. My husband’s “acting out” with prostitutes disgusts me and when he uses that phrase I want to fill his mouth with shit and ask him how it feels for me to “act out” my disgust. I know it sanitizes his acts in his mind but it is harder for him to say, “I paid for sex”. He only said that when he disclosed to me. I was floored. Over the two plus years since his disclosure to me I’ve become calmer but I am still disgusted with his choices and so is he. I just use crude words and language when I trigger around it and it sends him into a tail spin. All I know is that if he does it again I’m out of here and I suspect I will destroy his good guy image to everyone. Perhaps I won’t feel like that in another year or so but right now, I believe I would. Do you plan to keep posting on your blog? I just found it today. I’d like to sign up to get updates if possible. Thank you for bearing your heart and soul to those of us on this unwanted path.

    • Reply
      The Wife
      November 12, 2017 at 10:34 am

      Hi, and thanks so much for your comment. I understand exactly what you are talking about! My husband used the term “visited with” when he paid for sex with was so trivialising that it sounded almost as though he’d done something nice for the world. He still uses this ridiculous language, though not around me as I would always tell him what he really did (and he doesn’t need to be reminded these days). I think newcomers to 12-step can only take so much acknowledgement of what they’ve done and so that is the justification for the reduced language. However, those who have been recovered for years might try to stop thinking to themselves that they “acted out” or “visited with” or whatever as they really should be want to look at it all more squarely. I will be updating some of my blogs and adding more soon, yes. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    So, how do you suggest they talk about this?

    • Reply
      The Wife
      November 20, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      I don’t know that I have a specific recommendation. It depends upon where the addict is in his/her recovery and also who is listening. So, to another addict who is just starting on a recovery process no “triggering” words should be used. But to a wife who is tired of the window-dressing, an addict who is well into his recovery might stop saying “visiting” and at least say, “I paid for sex…” or whatever. I should writ more about this…will do when I’ve got a moment!

      • Reply
        November 21, 2017 at 1:29 am

        Well that is exactly what he said when he told me and sometimes he says that now but on the occasion he sanitizes this I get so pissed off. I suspect he dies that to make himself feel less shame.

        • Reply
          The Wife
          November 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm

          That is exactly why he does it. And I kind of understand why as addicts are sometimes “triggered” by shame. Dr. Rob Weiss has a lot to say on that. I think the link to his video or article on the subject is in my blog about about triggers. Of course, we wives are infuriated by the way such acts are presented in this sanitized way but sometimes it is necessary…I suppose.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 1:30 am

    Of all the the articles and books I have read, yours resonated with me deeply…it helped me put things in perspective…thank you so much….do you have book with all of your articles? I would love it if you did…

  • Reply
    July 18, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    I read your blog early on in my discovery as I resonated with more the “pro-dependent” approach for wives. It’s been quite some time since you posted, and it makes me wonder if you’ve left your sex addict husband.

    It took me a long time with much hope that my husband would do the right thing, only to be disappointed time and time again. That’s OK, because it gave me time to examine the very deep character flaws (the foundation that supports the iceberg called addiction), and spent time rewriting my marital history with the correct lens. I’ve come to a conclusion that even after 30 years of marriage, it’s not worth living with any longer.

    You’ve gone quiet over the past 2-3 years, and wonder where you are now in your emotional journey?

    There seems to be plenty of support for wives that choose to stay with their recovering husbands, but not much for those of us who decide to move on with our own lives, on our own. If you can speak to that, it would help an underserved audience.

    In addition, I was reminded that prostitution is illegal in most locations. One of the things my husband did was illegal, but it wasn’t prostitution. So you have to wonder how someone can not recognize the illegality of such an act, the risk to their families if caught, the cost for a defense and possible jail time. It’s an incredibly selfish act without regards to the consequences. What kind of person thinks that way?

    Regardless, your blog helped me in my journey. Thank you.

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