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When Your Husband Is A Porn Addict

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Esther Simpson

Odilia - published on 05/28/14

Advice on coping with sexual addiction.

I read the recently posted anonymous letter from the wife of a porn addict and simultaneously felt hurt, sadness, and anger. I offer these brief practical and spiritual suggestions for both the spouse and her husband. I hope others may be helped, as well. In a later article, I will offer a brief analysis of the problem and some pastoral suggestions for priests.

Everything you write is absolutely true….not just for you, but for many, many other spouses (including men). And you should know that there are in fact resources for spouses of porn addicts. A few dioceses have resources, but it sounds like you’re not in one of those.

However, let’s first be brutally honest. Your husband is probably addicted to more than porn. We make a serious error to talk simply of “porn addiction.” Pornography is a gateway drug that facilitates or works with many other compulsive sexual behaviors. We ought to be using the term “sex addiction.” To talk of addiction to pornography both minimizes the issue (since pornography is so gratuitously accepted) and ignores the reality that there are probably even more serious behaviors involved.

Here are some practical suggestions for the anonymous wife:

1. Your husband’s addiction has nothing to do with you not satisfying him sexually. Stop beating yourself up. There are difficulties in your intimate life, but they are not the cause of his addiction. In fact, it’s the other way around. The addiction is causing problems in your intimate life, not to mention your marriage. Your husband will never be satisfied sexually so long as he is an addict who is not in recovery.

2. Get tested for STDs. It will pain you. It will put you on a roller coaster of emotions. But you need to know if your health is at risk because of your husband’s behavior. He is an addict which means, unfortunately, that he is a liar. He has to lie in order to attempt to manage the addiction. You have no way of knowing that he has told you the complete truth about his sexual acting out. Chances are that he has told you a partial truth, one that’s enough to satisfy you in the moment of confrontation. Chances are your mind doesn’t even go where he’s gone.



3. There are support groups. Find one that works for you. You need help. You are carrying a tremendous load and suffering immensely.
– S-Anon is a 12-step program for the partners of sex addicts. Yes, your husband is a sex addict even if you really do think he’s “only” addicted to pornography. You may have to try several groups because they all can vary greatly. You need to find one where you can feel safe. That doesn’t mean you should feel unchallenged.
Al-Anon can be a help if you can’t find an S-Anon program. 12-step programs are free.

– If you can’t find a 12-step option or you want a different route, try finding a
CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) professional. Many offer both individual and group counseling. Like all therapists, CSATs are a mixed bag. Some are good; some aren’t. Be smart. Listen to your gut. There are other certification programs for sex therapists, but CSATs are the most widely known and possibly the most reputable. Their training has been shaped by Dr. Patrick Carnes, the leading expert on sex addiction. His research, particularly on the family, is in line with Catholic teaching. CSATs also are trained in the process of a husband giving full disclosure to his wife (or as little disclosure as she wants). You will need this process in order to move forward.

– Do NOT go to a therapist who is simply a sex therapist. They typically will not understand the concept of sex (or porn) addiction and will not infrequently blame you for your husband’s problems. If you would just relax, put on something sexy, try something adventurous, light a candle, watch porn…. They will be your husband’s dream therapist.

– I would caution you against going to a therapist who advertises first as a Catholic (or a Christian) and then as a therapist. What you need is someone who understands what you’re going through. Whether or not they are Catholic is a minor issue. You need to know if they are an expert therapist who can help you. Do an internet search. Call the state board of health to find out if there have been any complaints against them. You can also ask your primary care provider. Some maintain lists of mental health professionals who are values neutral.

4. Read up on codependency and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for partners of sex addicts. If the codependency diagnosis doesn’t resonate with you, don’t let anyone stick you in that box. More and more, therapists who work with the spouses of sex addicts are finding that the spouses suffer more immediately something that looks a lot like PTSD. There’s probably an element of codependency, but the PTSD effect is much more immediate because sex addiction is such a deeply personal and intimate addiction. It’s not like drug and alcohol addictions which also hurt loved ones terribly. It causes a pain that is radically more personal for the spouse. Also, it is often far more secret and hidden. Typically, there’s a brutal moment of discovery for the spouse of a sex addict.

5. To understand more about sex addiction in general, read Dr. Patrick Carnes’ book, “Out of the Shadows.”

6. Read up on resources for spouses (partners) of sex addicts. There are many books and online resources available. Some are written by Christians, others are not. Take what works for you. Being in a group should also help you to sift through the available resources.

7. Settle for nothing less than sobriety from your husband. As you get stronger, encourage him to get help. There are three main 12-step programs relating to sex addiction. Here’s a brief summary:

– SA
– Sexaholics Anonymous. Members of SA agree that the only legitimate form of sexual behavior is between husband and wife. There’s no sex with others or self. SA lines up very well with Catholic teaching on sexual morality.

– SAA – Sex Addicts Anonymous. They define sobriety for themselves; so it could include behaviors that are not strictly faithful and chaste.



– 
SLA[A] – Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous. Members also define sobriety for themselves.

8. Your husband can also find help from a CSAT therapist and/or group. However, I would recommend working with someone who first requires your husband to achieve some sobriety (90+ days) before delving into the psychological issues. Your husband is an addict. Chances are that he’s an intelligent man since he’s been able to maintain at least some semblance of a façade so far. The therapy will become a distraction from his immediate work of sobriety. He can also manipulate the therapy and your hopes. Only settle for sobriety. He’s sick, and there’s only one way that he can get better. Sobriety.

9. Don’t argue with your husband. He’s not in a reasonable space. He will turn everything against you. State your needs, requests, etc. But don’t engage if it’s going to become an argument. This is where your own work will be utterly essential. If you are not doing your own work, your husband will pull you into a devastating spiral every time you argue.

10. You are not your husband’s accountability partner, sponsor, therapist, or spiritual director. The great thing about utilizing these resources is that you can start to free yourself from an impossible role in which you probably find yourself trapped.

11. Don’t start marriage counseling. Until your husband is sober and you are both somewhat healthy, there’s nothing that can be done for the marriage. Any therapist who suggests otherwise is a quack. The marriage is on hold for now. If you do reach the point of marriage therapy, only work with a therapist who does not keep secrets from either spouse. Ask the therapist for their approach to marriage therapy. Does it include transparency? There has to be complete transparency. The marriage should be the patient, with each of you having a role in it. But the therapist should be focused on healing the marriage, not offering cover for one or both of you. It should be tough work. If it’s easy, it’s probably not real.

12. Take care of yourself. You owe it to yourself, your husband, and your children. Get a physical if you haven’t had one in over a year or if you’re experiencing significant health changes. A real physical, not just your regular visit to your ob-gyn. Exercise. It will help to clear your brain, it may even help you pray. Eat well. Do good things to make you feel good and be strong – for yourself, your children, and even for your husband.

13. Don’t make any decisions about the marriage unless you need a legal separation to protect yourself financially or you need separate residences to protect yourself and your children. As you begin to recover from this horrible situation, you will get to the point where you see clearly what your next steps should be. You’ll know because you’ll have peace about your decision even if it’s scary.

Next, here are some practical spiritual suggestions.

Generally, a spouse who has been wounded so deeply finds themselves wondering where is God in all of this. “If God is Love, why am I alone and unloved? Why doesn’t God care enough about me?” Betrayal can cause us to harden our hearts, not just towards the person who has betrayed us, but towards ourselves and God.

Here’s the thing, God does care about you. He loves you deeply even if you’re not feeling the love right now. The fact that you realize this situation is so very wrong is a sign that God is beside you, confirming that you are worth more, that you should be loved, that you are loved. Without God beside you, you would not have the confidence to shake your fist (or scream) at your spouse, the world, and God himself. Keep asking these questions. Demand answers. They will bring you closer to God. You will experience his love as you grow in the certainty that your husband’s failures do not reflect on your self worth and dignity. They simply reflect his very, very sad state. Ask God for consolations. He will give them to you. They may be random. They may be obvious. Go to confession often, at least every two weeks, if not more frequently.

You need the grace to heal your justified anger. You need the grace to pick you up when you feel so low that nothing matters. That grace is there. It’s yours for the taking. Take it, use it, run with it. All of this has robbed you of your peace. Let God restore it. If you can, get a good spiritual director. When you find yourself in a situation where you are losing your peace notice two things:

1. Losing your inner peace is a sign that deep down you do know that things should be better.

2. But as soon as you start to lose your peace, do whatever it takes to stop the process. It might take all of your energy and strength or it might be surprisingly simple. You will not be able to know that you are loved if you have no peace within. That’s precisely why the devil likes you to lose your peace because then you lose your grasp of reality. Unfortunately, he’s probably working hand in hand with your poor husband to make you question everything you know about reality, but especially the reality that you are loved deeply and passionately by God, regardless of your husband’s failings. Regardless of your own failings.

Go to Mass whenever you can. You are being crucified which means you have so much to offer in the sacrifice of the Mass. If you have small children, take advice from the mommy bloggers, let other people be bothered by them. Don’t let that be what keeps you from going to Mass where you so desperately need to be.

For the sex addict:

You need to decide to get serious and stop the behavior. [Here I’m assuming the addict is the husband, as in the case of the letter above, since that is the case in the majority of sex addiction; but that is changing. The addict could easily be the wife.]

1. Resolve to get help right now. Go to an SA meeting as soon as possible. Today. Don’t make excuses; you’ve made them for too long already.

2. Sure, explore other treatment options; but an SA meeting is a really good way to start without further delay. Today. If there isn’t an SA meeting nearby, go to another 12-step meeting.

3. Love yourself enough to want to get healthy. You’re probably in this situation because a lot of crappy things happened to you and you’ve chosen a lot of crappy things for yourself (not to mention for your spouse and children). You can deal with all of that later, but first get sober.

4. If the computer is the problem, throw it out, lock it down, get an accountability partner.

5. Your wife is not your accountability partner, your therapist, or your confessor. She’s also not God, not the parent who failed you, or whomever else you’re angry at. Stop using her to make you feel superior and better about yourself. Stop blaming her. Stop pointing out her flaws. You may not be ready or able to love her as you should since you can’t even begin to truly love yourself until you get sober and stay sober. But stop hurting her more than you have already.

6. Understand that she is angry and will be for a long time. The only hope you have of being any help to her is to own your behavior and stop the sexual acting out.

7. If other addictions are involved, seek help for them, too. Your sexual addiction, however, will be the most challenging to overcome.

8. If you have children or want to have children, stop your addiction. Otherwise, your children will go on to marry men like you or become men like you because you’ll be the example of a man that they know most. You can only start to turn things around by living sexual integrity.

Stay tuned for Part II: “A brief analysis of sexual addiction and pastoral advice.”

Tags:
AddictionPornography
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