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.
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.