Monday, November 23, 2009

Sex Addiction: Is that why your husband cheated?

It took six months, following the initial discovery of my husband's affair, for him to confess the truth. It wasn't just one was dozens. He was, he confessed, a sex addict.
The night my husband told me, he curled up on the floor in the fetal position, sobbing. He told me that I was disgusted with him and that he'd leave.
The truth is I was relieved. Relieved because the missing piece was finally there to complete the puzzle I'd been agonizing over. "Why, why, why...?". I suddenly got it. While I wasn't exactly happy with this revelation, it gave me something I could understand. His affair had always baffled me. He'd chosen someone nasty, troubled and unattractive, inside and out. When I learned that their relationship wasn't really a relationship at all but a transaction...well, I could begin to let go of the questions that had plagued me.
But that was only the start.
My husband had already been working with a counsellor that specialized in sex addiction. Though he wasn't a CSAT (certified sex addiction therapist), he was responsible for setting up a number of sex addiction treatment centers and was a recovered sex addict himself.
We spoke with him immediately and he gave me a quick Sex Addiction 101 chat. "Don't ask yourself what those women have that you don't," he advised me. "What they have, you don't want. They're very troubled people."
He explained to me that sex addiction is perhaps better termed an "intimacy disorder." The emphasis isn't on sex at all, really, but on the sex act as self-medicating. Most addicts use it to numb emotional pain, loneliness, anxiety. They turn to it the same way an alcoholic turns to a drink. But when the act is over, the addict can be overwhelmed with feelings of shame, guilt, self-loathing...which often leads to promises of abstinence, further acting out...and the cycle repeats.
I am, by no means, an expert. I am, however, someone with a front-row seat as this addiction is being wrestled with.
Today, Oprah, together with Dr. Drew Pinsky (he of Celebrity Rehab fame), are tackling the issue of sex addiction. Dr. Drew's new VH1 Show is Sex Rehab...and my fingers are tightly crossed that it doesn't become voyeuristic, but rather shows the gritty, sad side of an issue that too often becomes joked about.
I continue to learn. It has been extraordinarily painful. It's even tougher, I believe, to heal from an affair when your spouse is often so busy beating back his own demons that he has little time for your own angst.
However, I remain hopeful that the day will come when we will be able to talk about sex addiction in the same manner as other addictions – that the cloak of shame will be lifted.


  1. I do hope that this comment will be seen as it is so long since it was published!
    Elle, I am almost two years past dday, have read hundreds of blog comments, books etc and this is the first time that I have heard a betrayed wife describe the OW as you describe yours. My H betrayed me online for just over a year with the most horrendous 'woman' I have ever met in my life...I knew her and my H and I made many a comment on how vile she was. Little did i know that he was doing what he was doing! I said so manmy times during these past two years that, in some ways, i wish he had just fu***d someone that he 'liked'. It has blown my mind that he would have even smiled at her (outside of his professional capacity). He has explained that it was BECAUSE she was so vile that he did what he did and had the (pornographic) thoughts about her that he had. That he could never have 'porned it up' with any other woman he had met because he knew it was disrespectful.
    while i understand this, I still get stuck in 'but you MUST have liked her in some way!?!?!?'
    How do you deal with this?
    Thanks in advance, and much appreciation for this amazing website!

    1. I'm glad you found us. Yes, the whole sex addiction thing is confusing as hell. In my husband's case, the "main" woman he cheated with was so much like his cold, domineering mother (I'm sure Freud could have had a field day). It was BECAUSE he had no respect for her at all, that he could objectify her, that he could, essentially, use her. When he sobered up, he felt deep shame about that too - that he had treated her like her humanity didn't matter. She was deeply sick herself and they really used each other to act out their pain.
      Have you worked at all with someone who understands sex addiction? I was lucky (ha!) that my husbnd's therapist spoke to me that very next day because he set me straight early on. Sex addicts often seek out people for whom they will never have feelings for. So, yes, your husband sought her out BECAUSE he wouldn't develop feelings for her.
      I know how confusing this is. But once you kinda get it, it becomes clear. In the meantime, however, you need support and healing yourself. I hope you have a therapist who can help you through. And, of course, I'm so glad you found us.

  2. ...just to add...he came to see, fairly early on post dday, that he is a sex addict (porn and masturbation until it progressed to this online 'thing' with with miss beautiful



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