It’s Not About Sex, Either

As I wrote recently, sex addiction is not about the partner. I’m a very imperfect person, sure, but my husband’s sexual acting out had nothing to do with me. He would have done it with or without me in his life — in fact, there’s reason to believe his addiction would have escalated faster without a wife and kids in his life, but that’s beside the point.

Not only is sex addiction not about me or you, it’s also not about sex. I know, that sounds contradictory. But hear me out. Sex addicts don’t even enjoy the sex.

“The Wife” at LivingWithaSexAddict.com, in her post, “The Life You have Been Living,” writes:

“Before I understood much about sex addiction, I believed it grew out of what could be called “ordinary cheating.”  That is, I thought my husband had enjoyed casual sex so much he repeated the action until it became a habit he found difficult to stop. I used to point this out to my husband, telling him that he didn’t start out as an addict, but as a regular guy who cheated on me for years before the behavior became an addiction.”

Thankfully, this is decidedly not true, but I do understand thinking that way. When I first discovered my husband’s multiple online adulteries, I thought he was a sociopath. I wonder sometimes, whether I could forgive him and how different my life would be now, if that were the case. But while some sex addicts are sociopaths, and the two categories are not mutually exclusive, it so happens that my husband is not a sociopath, and your sex addict partner probably is not either (more about that in a later post).

“The Wife” continues:

“This thought kept me miserable for a long time. Only recently have psychologists established that it wouldn’t have been like that at all. He didn’t make a practice of cheating and then turn into an addict. He was an addict looking for a fix, and eventually alighted upon sex. He found the fix and settled on sex addiction as opposed to some other addiction. Sex was simply the drug of choice.”

Sex addicts, as this writer goes on to point out, have usually suffered a childhood trauma of some kind. As the pioneer in the field of sex addiction, Dr. Patrick Carnes, states in his book Out of the Shadows, sex addicts were usually either abused or neglected as children, whether sexually, physically, verbally, or emotionally. In some cases, peer abuse also plays a role. Exposure to pornography, as “The Wife” quoted above mentions in her article, can create in a child a neurological reaction similar to having been sexually abused.

If you are still going through the shock and anger of discovering your partner’s betrayals of you, you may not want to hear about this. It might seem like I’m asking you to feel sorry for him or her, instead of for yourself — as though you don’t have a right to be angry. Please know that is not what my point is at all. You do have every right to be angry! Anger is an important emotion and your anger is so justified. You have been treated poorly. Lying to a partner habitually, and breaking promises, and being sexual with others, exposing you to diseases — all of that means that you have been the victim of emotional abuse in your relationship. Anger is certainly an appropriate response.

But my hope is that in learning how and why your partner’s addiction developed, you may find it easier to empathize, which in turn, makes it easier for you to feel all right again, while also taking the necessary steps to protect yourself.

It’s Not About You

Sex addiction is absolutely never about the partner of the addict.

“I never felt a desire to get away from you, only myself. I was flabby, ugly, insecure, weak-willed and pathetic… I didn’t feel worthy of attraction or respect.” — my husband

I think we often have an assumption or attitude, perhaps without realizing it, that blames the victim of infidelity. There’s an idea that when a person “cheats” on his or her partner, then maybe the cheater’s needs just weren’t being met by the partner. And this is total BS even with — what should we call it? — “regular” (non-addiction?) infidelity. Even if the unfaithful person is married or in a relationship with someone who is unloving, distant, or even outright abusive, infidelity is always the choice of the person who does it.

Maybe the unfaithful partner didn’t feel “in love” anymore. Maybe she was intoxicated and acted irresponsibly. Maybe he was tired of being threatened with the kitchen knife. Maybe she was heartbroken over being criticized daily. We may shake our heads sternly or sadly. But we tend to see these incidents as a rejection of the partner, for reasons we can empathize with a little or not at all. And when cheated on, we perceive it as a rejection.

Of course, in any case, no one “makes” someone break their promises. Unhappy in a marriage? You could ask for a couples counseling or pursue a divorce or separation without compromising your integrity. There are numerous options for dealing with unhappiness in a relationship. Lying and breaking promises is a black mark on the person who does it and not the fault of the partner. And so we tell the betrayed partner that even though the offending partner may very well have meant it as a rejection of him or her, the adultery is still “not about you” in the sense that it’s not your fault. You may have been rejected, but it’s not your fault your partner doesn’t love you anymore. It’s not your fault he or she preferred the company, or the sex, or the affection, or whatever, of someone else.

But sex addiction is different. When experts tell you that “it’s not about you,” they actually mean something beyond what that phrase means when we’re talking about infidelity in any other context. Because even though we, the betrayed partners, initially perceive it emotionally in exactly the same way as infidelity for any other reason — it IS infidelity, after all — it’s actually totally, completely, not about us. It feels like a rejection. In some sense, it is a rejection — after all, time and attention was spent on something rather than the relationship with you — but it was most likely an unwilling, unwelcome rejection on the part of the addict.

sexaddictionisnotaboutyou

In most cases, the sex addict partner DID still feel “in love” with you. The sex addict may even have tried desperately to stop acting out sexually, because he was terrified of losing you. The sex addict may have only loved you, may have told you this often in words or gifts or quality time, and may have meant this sincerely, and made many other loving choices that prove her love was more than a mere feeling of affection.

It does not matter whether the sex addict who brought you to this web page is ready to be honest and admit not only the addiction but also the reasons for the addiction, or he is currently blaming you. Perhaps, cruelly, he is telling you that you weren’t “something enough.” You weren’t affectionate enough, you weren’t available enough, you weren’t sexy enough, you weren’t pretty enough, you weren’t young enough, or you were too critical, too distant, too stressful, too stressed, too overweight, too old, too boring, too whatever. LIES. That’s all lies. One thing that all sex addiction experts agree on and that you need to remember even if you remember nothing else about this post is that sex addicts lie.

Sex addicts lie to hide their addiction, and they also lie to hide the reason for the addiction. The one thing that sex addiction is all about: their deep, crippling insecurities. Their emotional instability. Their desperation for love, affection, and approval. The emptiness that they’re running from. Sex addiction is not about you. No matter who the sex addict married or lived with or dated, he would still be a sex addict. She would have acted out in all the same ways, or maybe worse ways, if not partnered with you. It has nothing to do with you. Nothing. It is not your fault. You could not have prevented it (and you cannot fix it.)

Maybe your sex addicted partner is not blaming you. Maybe you have not yet talked to him or her about this aspect. Maybe you are blaming yourself, comparing and contrasting yourself to people in magazines or on the beach, or simply people in your own imagination. I read an article on Ella Hutchinson’s blog recently, and scrolled through the comments underneath it. One person wrote that her husband had been addicted to pornography for years, and that she knew why. It was, she insisted, because she had been “born ugly.” A cousin teased her about her spider veins at age 12, and her self-esteem was forever damaged. Moreover, she was no longer young. She was convinced that her husband preferred looking at pornography because men prefer young, flawless female bodies to ogle.

NO. No, no, no. Men and women with a pornography addiction look at pornography for a host of reasons and NONE of them have to do with their partner being less than perfect. And what is perfect? Edited images of very young women, barely over the age of consent, engaging in sexual acts in return for money? No. And honestly, I think non-porn users tend to romanticize it. That’s frequently not what pornography is.

I’ve never seen a single image, myself. Somehow, in the internet age, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid it. But without being too graphic, it’s important that you realize that pornography is ugly.  Your partner might not have been viewing a single whole body, at all. I understand not wanting to know the details, but if you think knowing the details might alleviate fears, consider discussing with your therapist the pros and cons of asking exactly what the addiction entailed.

You’re not competing with anything. Pornography, especially internet pornography, is specially engineered to appeal to a very base part of the human brain in an overpowering way, but the growing numbers of men and women who are addicted to pornography don’t actually like it. Addicts who stare at it for hours a day don’t enjoy it. No joy, no enjoyment, and no real, genuine preference for it. Just an addiction. Even if your partner spurned every attempt you made at sexual intimacy and “preferred” to spend hours in front of the computer, that choice was about his own insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, and a process addiction he could not overcome without professional help. It had nothing to do with you. It does not mean that you aren’t totally lovable and desirable. It means that he has a serious problem.

People addicted to pornography or any other type of sexual acting out feel pathetic. He or she may not be ready to admit it yet, because that involves being vulnerable, and fear of vulnerability is likely one of the reasons that he or she is a sex addict!

I recommend checking out some articles by Dorothy Hayden on this topic. This may be a good one to start with: Internet Porn Makes You Stupid!

Please remember — it’s not you. You’re not lacking in any way that could ever cause someone to become a sex addict or cause the addiction to escalate.

I plan to write more very soon to allow my husband’s own words to explain why the sex addiction began, persisted, and escalated. No individual’s story is the same as any other’s, but it is my hope that by hearing his story, you may find a path to empathy and forgiveness — not for the addict’s sake, but for yours. I hope it may help you find freedom from your insecurities and help lift some of the pain of this betrayal.

Betrayal and Grief

In late February 2018, I caught my husband sexting with a woman. This was the second time, to my knowledge, he had been unfaithful, as four years prior I had caught him flirting in a non-sexual way with a childhood acquaintance of his. That first incident hadn’t shocked me, although I was definitely angry and it took about a year of therapy and effort from him before I trusted him again. But it hadn’t been as shocking, because it wasn’t sexual, and our marriage was going poorly at the time. I knew he was unhappy. I was unhappy.

But February 2018 was completely different. We had just had our third child. We were happy — I thought. We spent time every day just cuddling and talking about our days. He was always telling me how much he loved me — how happy he was.

I had never seen this coming.

And I had never heard of sex addiction. So what kind of man is unfaithful to his wife while at the same time acting like he’s happy and he loves her? He must be a sociopath, someone completely devoid of empathy, an opportunistic pig.

Moreover, he had used people. I thought of him as a predator, someone who had found women with poor self-esteem and used them for his own pleasure and ego-trip.

And he had done the one thing I felt certain I could never, ever forgive. He had sacrificed our children’s well-being and happiness, their ability to grow up in a loving, intact family.

I didn’t know him. The man I was married to was kind, loving, hard-working, a wonderful, attentive and engaged father who would sacrifice anything for his children. He was deeply concerned with human rights, frequently volunteering for various good causes. He was well-educated, witty, and fun. He was my best friend. He was absolutely nothing like the man I saw standing in front of me, telling me all the horrible things he had done.

My husband was dead, and in his place, all I could see was a monster.

It felt as serious a loss as if he had really died. Perhaps worse, because all of my happy memories had been turned into lies. I sobbed daily for weeks, burst into tears when I saw our wedding pictures or remembered activities we had done together only a few days before, when the whole world was a far different place. I read that it was important to grieve the loss, so I let myself cry as much as I needed to, and I wrote letters to the man I loved, the man who was, as far as I could tell, non-existent. Maybe you can relate. Maybe not. It’s still painful to remember how it felt to live through the first day, the first week, the first month.

If you’re still going through the devastation of discovery, you’re not alone. It can get better, although I know that sounds impossible. Getting “better” doesn’t mean that it will stop hurting or that your relationship will ever heal or go back to the way it used to be. But you can be happy. This does not define you.

How to Survive Sexual Betrayal

About

I am a 30-year-old woman, a published writer, an educator, and the mother of three children. I live in the United States, on the East Coast. I love hiking, baking, painting, biking, and bringing my kids to the beach to splash in the water.

I have been married for six years to a 35-year-old man who has, for 24 years of his life, self-medicated for depression, anxiety, and self-hatred, using sex with himself and others as his drug of choice.

While his addiction and my healing process after the trauma of discovery will be the topic of this blog, neither he nor his addiction defines me. The sex addict in your life does not define you, either.

It is my hope that by sharing my story as I live through it and the resources for healing that I find along the way, I may be able to provide some small help to you for your own healing.

Resources

The first book I read about sex addiction remains the most helpful I have found to-date. It is a short read by Dr. Linda Hatch, a certified sex addiction therapist, that explains exactly what sex addiction is, signs that someone has it, what this means for you, WHY your loved one has it in the first place (my most burning question), and what to do next.

Living With a Sex Addict: From Crisis to Recovery

You can find it on her website, which is also extremely helpful. In the first few months after the devastation of discovering my husband’s addiction, I read every single article on her website.

Sex Addictions Counseling – About Dr. Hatch

Another tremendously valuable set of articles by another certified sex addiction therapist is that by Dorothy Hayden. Her articles are addressed to the addict, not the partner, but if you want to learn about WHY your partner is a sex addict, her articles go into some depth on that — and offer hope about the possibility for healing, if you are ready to think about that.

Articles by Dorothy Hayden on selfgrowth.com

You are not alone.

I am so, so sorry that you have found this site. I am sorry that you had to type those horrible words, “my husband is a sex addict,” into the search engine and be directed here. I am sorry for you and I am sorry for myself.

In the days after discovering my husband’s infidelity and friends telling me that the reasons he gave, the excuses he tried to make, all sounded like something called “sex addiction,” I typed numerous terms like the name of this website into Google, trying to find out what sex addiction even was, and wanting someone — anyone — to tell me what this meant for me and for my children.

I had so many questions.

Was my husband a sociopath? When I first realized he had been unfaithful yet again — even though he knew how much it hurt me the first time, even though he swore any type of “cheating” was totally, totally contrary to his values — I thought he must be a sociopath. I couldn’t think of any other possibility. Then I heard about sex addiction.

So what is sex addiction?

Should I throw him out of the house?

What about my children?

Can my husband ever change?

Do I even want to see if he can change?

Am I going to be cheated on every few years for the rest of my life?

How could he do this?

Why did he do this?

What else has he done?

How will I ever know whether he’s telling the truth or not?

As I type this, it’s June 12, 2018. I caught my husband sexting with a stranger in February 2018. It’s too soon for me to have answers to my questions. But I have started to find those answers, and I’d like to update this website as my story continues in the hope that it will be a resource for other partners of sex addicts — both women and men — who are following on this horrible path.

Please keep in mind that I am not a therapist or a mental health professional. I may very well not know what I’m talking about half the time. This is my personal experience and any opinions I express are my own, very raw, lay opinions.