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When Your Husband Is A Porn Addict

Esther Simpson
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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.

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