My first step after I caught my husband sexting with a stranger was to confide in some friends, and I’m so glad I did.
Not only did they enlighten me about sex addiction — I had never heard of it before — but they also gave me other advice. Therapy with professionals was already on my must-do list, but these friends also suggested that husband and I should meet with our pastor as soon as possible.
I figured more helpers couldn’t hurt, so I scheduled the appointment right away. It was a horrible experience, and this week I am putting a letter in the mail to our pastor’s supervisor.
During our meeting with him, the pastor rambled about male sexual needs, told us that “all men masturbate,” that men need to orgasm approximately every 72-hours (yes, that infamous and completely outdated myth), and actually told me that my husband was unfaithful to me because I did not have sex with him often enough.
“Men need sex. Women don’t need sex,” pastor said.
The pastor repeatedly referenced Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus — a pop psychology book from the 1990s, which I certainly don’t think qualifies as an acceptable pastoral guidebook.
It feels like you’re in the twilight zone when your unfaithful, barely-begun-treatment, sex addict husband has to explain to your Christian pastor that this is a load of nonsense.
My sex addict husband told the pastor that he was wrong; that I actually have a higher sex drive than he does and that we had sex plenty, but that this is irrelevant because sex addiction has nothing to do with sex drive; and that he — like other sex addicts — acted out sexually because he wanted to escape depression and self-hatred, and regulate his moods. He explained to the pastor that it wasn’t arousal or libido that would lead to sexual acting out. It was the other-way-round: negative emotional states would cause him to seek out arousal in order to avoid the negative emotional states.
I won’t be turning to this pastor for help, ever again. His victim-blaming and condoning of sexual infidelities could be so harmful to any couple that may come to him in the future for sex addiction or any type of infidelity, that I feel I have to let his supervisor know about this. I choose to forgive him, but I need to do something about this before another woman is hurt. I feel sick every time I see this pastor and have begun attending services on Sundays elsewhere so that I can spend my time at church thinking about God, instead of thinking about how hurtful this man’s words were. (We belong to a large denomination, so it’s easy for us to switch to a location in another town.)
So much harm can come from this type of misogynistic thinking, which is also quite insulting to men, of course, implying that they have no control over themselves while also insisting that women are to blame for men’s every sexual misdeed.
What if I didn’t know better? What if I was inclined to blame myself anyway, and this confirmed guilt and made me feel it was all my fault? What if my husband was emotionally abusing me by placing all the blame on me, and this pastor aided him in doing so? What if I did not have a clear idea of healthy human sexuality, and did not know my value as a person? What if I did not know that I am never a sex object for anyone’s use, including use by a spouse?
Sadly, I am certain that my experience is not an anomaly. I have seen enough so-called “Christian” advice columns and opinions to know that there is a prevailing belief that it is somehow divinely ordained that women exist to fill the sexual needs of men and that a holy marriage is one in which the wife is some sort of domestic servant and sex slave, never permitted to say no and obligated to appeal to the husband at all times in a frantic competition with the lurking dangers to the man, whose male sex drive is supposedly ever-ready to strip him of free will, force him to break his vows, violate his own integrity, and treat other human beings as objects.
I have heard horror stories of counselors, even professional, secular ones, advising women to have sex with their cheating partners more often in an attempt to control the situation.
If you were raised in an atmosphere that embraced this toxicity or a version of it, or if you have been confronted with this as a hurting adult, please, please know that you are a person in your own right. You don’t exist to be used by or to please any other human being. Your needs matter. You were right to say no when you wanted to say no, and to say yes when you wanted to say yes. And there is nothing you could have done differently that would have prevented your partner from being a sex addict. He was a sex addict long before you knew him, regardless of when his addiction escalated. This is not about you. This is not your fault. It’s not even about sex.
Have you had a bad experience with a pastor or other authority figure? If so, did you address it?