I found this information this morning on the Out in the light...Women against pornography website that I shared in my last post. It is both comforting and disheartening to realize that so many women have been through exactly what I have and have had the same fears and frustrations as me. It is nice to know I am not alone, but it is also so heart braking to know that so many others are going through this same horrible trail in their lives. I hope that other women will visit this site, to gain incite, hope, peace, and to educate themselves on addiction.
Ask the Expert
Q: I didn’t know that my husband was a sex addict. Is something wrong with me?
A: Nothing is wrong with you. The majority of women who seek treatment after learning of their husband’s addiction did not know that their partners were struggling with a sexual addiction. However, many women report that they felt that something was not “quite right” in the relationship. Addiction thrives in secrecy. Many men with this problem have become experts at hiding it from their spouses.
Q: Why would my husband hide this from me?
A: Most men hide their sexual addiction from their wives out of embarrassment, deep shame, and fear that disclosure will lead to divorce and the loss of the family. They can become so deeply entrenched in feelings of despair and self-loathing that they are unable to imagine disclosing their addictive secret to their partner. They get caught in the addictive trap of believing that it is something that they must resolve on their own.
Q: My partner has lied to me in the past about his sexual addiction. How will I ever know if he is telling the truth?
A: You may not be able to tell. But if your husband seeks support and counseling you can be confident that he is being held accountable, supported, and encouraged to tell the truth. Over time many women report that they are able to trust again due to the openness and transparency that their husbands have learned in recovery.
Q: Is this somehow my fault?
A: This question is evidence of one of the most damaging consequences of addiction for the partner. Many women fear that they were somehow not “enough” in the marriage and consequently their husbands turned to porn and sexual addiction. Unfortunately, some men reinforce this fear in a misguided effort to place the blame on their wife instead of accepting the responsibility for their own behavior. The majority of sexual addicts had problems with sexual compulsivity before they were married. As the partner of an addict, you are not responsible for the sexual addiction. It is not your fault.
Q: Who should I tell?
A: Choosing to share that your partner has a sexual addiction is a personal decision and will vary according to your individual circumstances. It is recommended that you join a 12-step or a “Partners of Sex Addicts” therapy group where you can freely share and receive support. Where possible, share with a trusted spiritual leader or clergy. If you choose to share with family and/or friends, choose those whom you can trust to be understanding and supportive of you and your partner. It is important to share only with those individuals who are mature enough to allow you the time to make decisions that you feel are best for you and your family without giving unsolicited advice and asserting undue pressure.
Q: Should we tell our children?
A: Generally speaking, no–at least not at first. If possible, it is best to give yourselves some time to sort through and try to manage the trauma that the disclosure has caused you and your spouse without bringing children into the situation. Later, as you and your partner become more stable, you can counsel with a therapist or clergy about telling the children, guided by what is in the best interest of the children and their ages.
Q: Is there recovery from sexual addiction?
A: Yes, recovery is possible. It takes time and hard work, especially in the first year, but with guided help the sex addict can experience restoration in their emotional, relational, sexual, financial and even spiritual lives.
Q: What if I can’t be supportive of my husband right now?
A: Finding out about an addiction can be a devastating and disorienting experience for women. It is important that you take the steps to take care of yourself and your own healing. By doing so you will eventually be able to be supportive of your husband, if that is what you choose.
Q: What can I do to be supportive of my husband?
A: The best thing you can do is to seek support for yourself. A counselor, a spiritual leader, or a therapy or 12-step group can assist you in understanding what you can do to be helpful while not taking on the responsibility of your husband’s recovery. Another way to be supportive is to get educated about addiction. Education will help you see your husband’s addictive behaviors in a clearer light. Encourage your husband to seek help. Many men in recovery attend a 12-step group, a counseling group and see an individual therapist as well as their spiritual leader in dealing with addiction. Disclosing a sexual addiction is merely the starting point for recovery, not the ending point.
Q: Where can we turn for help?
A: When seeking help look for a professional who is trained and experienced in working with sexual addiction and compulsivity. Many clergy or spiritual leaders have access to resources for sexual addiction 12-step programs for addicts and partners. Nonprofit organizations such as SAlifeline.org are good resources for helping individuals find an appropriate therapist and/or a 12-step group.
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Dorothy Maryon is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in sexual addiction and partners’ issues associated with sexual addiction in marriage. She is in private practice and works with the LIfeStar program.