Spouses of Sex Addicts
Discovering Sex Addiction in Your Relationship
- Brenda walked in on her husband ‘working’ on the computer and saw him viewing pornography.
- Celia received an anonymous email with an attachment containing her spouse’s online sexual chats and picture exchanges with random women. The subject line read, “I just thought you should know.”
- Melanie went to the doctor for her regular annual exam and discovered that she had an STD. She has been monogamous with her husband for 20 years.
- Vickie noticed that her spouse was staying later at work, was constantly texting and emailing on his blackberry, and was increasingly short-tempered with her and the kids. She began to investigate and found texts and emails full of sexual content from her husband to several different women.
The Traumatic Nature of Betrayal
What Spouses Experience After Discovery
For most partners of sex addicts, when they discover the sexually compulsive behaviors they enter a period of crisis. Partners will often experience the following:
THE PROTECTIVE FOG OF SHOCK
Shock is the brain’s effort to protect a person from what seems too overwhelming to deal with. Someone who loses a loved one suddenly will often go into shock. A protective cloud will envelop them, numbing their feelings, holding all the implications of their loved one’s death at bay until they can absorb what has happened.
This type of protective fog lets them get up, shower and get dressed, answer questions about funeral arrangements, attend the funeral and interact with family and friends. It helps them to function when otherwise they might collapse. This same type of protective shock often envelops partners when they initially learn about the addict’s sexual behaviors.
In addition to shock, most partners will also experience some changes in their daily functioning. During this initial stage, whatever you are feeling and experiencing, others have felt the same.
– Forgetting things
– Clumsiness, accident
– Sleeplessness or a desire to sleep all the time
– Difficulty concentrating
– Mixing up your words
– Inability to complete small tasks
– Wanting to isolate
– Anxiety, panic attacks, overwhelming fear
– Unstoppable crying or the inability to cry
– Anger, rage or frustration
– Racing thoughts or an inability to ‘turn your mind off’
– Intrusive thoughts of real or imagined scenes of your partner’s sexual behavior
– Twitching eyes, legs, arms
– Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
– Body aches
– Feeling numb, robotic, or disconnected
– Sour or churning stomach
EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
After discovery, most partners experience a period of emotional variability. During this time, one of the things that can be confusing is how rapidly thinking and emotions change. Partner’s may one moment feel hopeful and that they are doing well. The next minute they feel that their world is ending and they are falling apart. They may call a divorce lawyer in the morning and then in the afternoon find themselves online looking for a couples counselor. The rapid shifts from hope to despair, calm to rage, certainty to confusion, and fear to stability can be crazy.
This is normal. The human brain can only process one emotion at a time. That is why it can seem like feelings change in a split second. This is the brain processing each emotion in turn so that each one can be felt and move through the body.
LOSS AND GRIEF
Discovering sexual betrayal plunges partners into loss and grief. Suddenly the losses are mounting up on all sides. Loss of trust in your partner, loss of trust in yourself, loss of the relationship you thought you had, and loss of your dreams for the future.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneer in the study of grief and loss associated with death and dying, identified five stages of grief. These five stages have become recognized as the stages that people dealing with all types of trauma and significant change go through. The stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are not linear, it is common to move around in them, forward and back sometimes experiencing several simultaneously.
Is It My Fault?
What Spouses Experience After Discovery
Is There Hope?
When your world has been shattered by sex addiction it is difficult to imagine how there could be any hope. Here are the some things that partners of sex addicts have said that they have gained from their journey. These are offered in a spirit of hope and optimism that you might know that new life and healing are truly possible.
- I am in the present, not fretting about the future and not angry about the past.
- I can feel.
- I have gained a loving husband who listens to me and is my caring and attentive life partner.
- Today I don’t operate from fear.
- My whole body feels joy, nearly every day.
- I am able to pass on my gains to others.
- My husband and I learn and grow together; program work and recovery are a welcome part of our lives.
- I am much more authentic.
- I have learned that I deserve better than I have accepted and that I can be happy.
- I have learned that I am resilient and can cope.
- I have gained a stronger faith and closeness with God.
- I finally like myself and believe that with God’s protection and love, I am safe.
- I learned that I could be a whole person with myself, and not be a “subset” of the addict. He does not define me.
- My opinions, ideas, feelings, thoughts, and emotions are all valid on their own.
- I have found my gut and I listen to it.
- I am able to figure out what I want and I now believe that what I want is important.