Sex addiction disclosure was a positive experience with no surprises

Last night was my husband’s therapeutic sex addiction disclosure. Honestly, it feels like no big deal. I think there are enough horror stories on the internet and from the other people in our support groups about shock and grief, sitting in a therapist’s office finding out that we’ve been exposed to more STDs than we ever thought possible. So I’m sharing this in case there’s someone reading this who has been told as I was, that there’s always more to the story. It doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe your partner’s disclosure, too, can be no big deal.

If the disclosure process was painful for you and you think it might trigger waves of resentment and anger toward your partner to read this, feel free to skip this post, and please know that you have my deepest sympathy.

Brace yourself, friends told me, when I caught my husband sexting with a stranger seven months ago. There’s always more.

So a few days after “D-Day,” I gave my husband an ultimatum. “I know there’s more, and I understand that you’re scared to tell me what it is. But I would rather find out anything than be lied to anymore. I can’t promise I’m going to stay with you or try to save our relationship in any case. But I can promise you that if you continue to lie to me about anything, it’s over. And the truth will eventually come out. Your best bet is to start being honest.”

Of course, my husband was a sex addict. So his response to me was a lie. “I swear, there’s nothing else!”

Bull.

“Don’t answer me right now! I know you’re lying to me,” I told him. “Think very carefully about this. You have two weeks. When you’re ready to be honest, let me know. As long as you make the decision to tell me the truth by the Saturday after next, I’ll listen calmly and keep an open mind. But if I find out there was more after that date, it’s over.”

That Saturday arrived, and when he came home from his second Sexaholics Anonymous meeting, he asked me to sit down. I felt extremely anxious and my hands and knees were shaking, but I just breathed deeply and didn’t say anything, as he told me various things he had done.

From age eleven to the present day: Masturbation, sexting, flirting, phone sex. “Soft porn” from Google images. Calling a prostitute once shortly after college, but cancelling. Going to a strip club once in college, but deciding not to go in. That was it. No in-person, physical sexual acting out that would carry the risk of disease or be an even higher layer of betrayal and infidelity, except for sex one time with a then-girlfriend, years before he met me. Most of his acting out was fantasy-based and took place alone or over the internet. The worst of it, to my mind, were the things he has done while married to me (flirting in a non-sexual way with a woman by facebook messenger; sexting and having phone sex with two women, also over the internet).

And he told me the exact same catalog of offenses last night at the formal therapeutic disclosure. His therapist believes he is being honest.

I’m not minimizing the pain of what he has done, and my reaction will always be anger and disgust that he used other human being as sex objects. But in the greater scheme of things, I guess it could have been worse.

So last night, I met his Certified Sex Addiction Therapist for the first time, and after checking that I was ready to listen, my husband pulled out a piece of paper and read the list above with dates and time periods. It took about two minutes.

I didn’t have any questions really, as I’ve had seven months to process everything already. I’ve asked innumerable questions, usually a few times over. We’ve had so, so many conversations about why he acted out, where all of this came from, and how it makes me feel.

For me, the things he’s done ceased to eat at my peace months ago, as soon as I understood the “why” of it all.

The rest of the forty-five minute session, we talked about the outlook for recovery, how to make sure the cycle doesn’t repeat with our children, how toxic his family of origin is and how they caused his mental health problems, what my husband needs to change to become trustworthy, and steps toward healing our relationship.

It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The therapist said that especially since my husband hasn’t had trouble maintaining sobriety for the past seven months, he doesn’t anticipate that he will ever act out sexually again. Maybe he says that to everybody, but it was encouraging to hear.

The therapist said that if he continues in therapy and recovery programs, my husband will likely be free of the underlying mental illnesses (depression, self-hatred, suicidal ideation, anxiety) and can be considered fully recovered by about the five-year mark. Again, very encouraging to hear.

I’m left feeling hopeful. Life goes on as usual today. All in all, the disclosure feels like no big deal. I have a therapy appointment for myself tomorrow, but I don’t even expect to talk too much about this, as other things going on in my life right now are on my mind more.

My husband still has a very, very long way to go in becoming healthy. He needs to develop integrity, practice self-care, continue to become assertive, exercise empathy and so on. But as I started to feel a few months ago (not sure when exactly), a sex addiction diagnosis really isn’t the end of the world.

 

Waiting for disclosure

My husband has been “sober” for the past five months, and is finally starting to prepare with his therapist for a disclosure. That’s when the sex addict sits down with his partner and tells everything: all the sexual acting out, all the lies to cover it up. He has to do this without making an excuses, without explaining mitigating circumstances, in front of one or both therapists, by reading a formal statement. And I am supposed to sit there, listen, and ask clarifying questions at the end.

In the very beginning, when I first caught my husband and, about a week later, learned of sex addiction for the first time, I read everything I could get my hands on. I heard about the disclosure process and found numerous warnings to partners from certified sex addiction therapists and other partners who had traveled this road before. Sure, I might think I already knew everything my husband had done. I might think he had told me the full truth. But chances were good, they wrote, that there was still more, perhaps worse things, he had done, that I did not know about and that would shake me all over again.

Thanks a lot, guys. So I sat my husband down and told him that I refuse to be lied to anymore. I told him I was sure he was still lying to me, and that I understood how scary it must be for him, that I empathized with his fear of losing his family and needing to move out, of never being loved or accepted if he was known in entirety — but that I refused to accept being lied to.

I picked a day two weeks from then and told him that he needed to tell me EVERYTHING by that afternoon. When that Saturday came, he got home from his 12-step meeting and asked if we could talk. And he did tell me about several other instances of acting out that I had not known about before. Then he swore that he had told me the full truth.

But none of the things he told me involved what, in my mind, would be the most devastating. He said he had never been sexual with any other person for real, physical, in-person intercourse, and that everything had been sex with himself (masturbation), or over the internet (and that there had been no video- or image-sharing, either). Well, this seemed, and still seems, a bit “too good to be true.” From what I had read about the tendency of sex addiction to be ever-escalating, it seemed unlikely that a man in his mid-thirties would not have acted out more than he was claiming.

As the months have passed since that day, I have to admit that I do “get the feeling” that he is telling the truth about this. It isn’t so much that I trust him, but more so that I trust my own intuition and “gut feeling” about his honesty. In the past, when he was lying, I had a bad feeling that something was not quite right, and told him so. This time, I am convinced that, at the very least, he believes what he is saying is true.

So the nauseating anxiety I felt in the past about he disclosure is gone. I feel nervous, but also peaceful. I have firm boundaries and although I dread certain outcomes because of how painful they will be to me, and more especially, how they could devastate my children, I feel prepared. I will write again as the disclosure approaches some time in the next month or two, and I promise to update afterward and let you know the outcome. My husband will also be taking a polygraph so that I can have some peace of mind.

If you went through the disclosure process, how did it go for you? How did you feel about it afterward?

UPDATE: Sex addiction disclosure was a positive experience with no surprises