I normally write for the spouses and partners of those who struggle with a sex addiction. However, I wanted to highlight a post that was shared this morning by Joshua Shea recoveringpornaddict.com It’s very realistic and practical.
Usually, an addiction first takes hold when we’re bored, at a loose end, when we’re feeling a bit down, or when we’re anxious about things. Hence, we’re looking for distractions that will help us pass the time … maybe lift our mood a bit … and take the edge off feeling blah.
So, with continents of people stuck at home and out of work, away from their routine, and cut off from all their friends, it is likely that more people will use pornography. I think we must accept that this will likely be the case. And it means a lot more people will become addicted, too.
Also, this doesn’t bode so well for people fighting the addiction. They’re in their homes alone, with powerful triggers everywhere. This is going to make the struggle very difficult for them.
Perhaps there’s little we can do. This situation is unique. But we need to be aware of the real dangers that exist. If you’re partner’s been addicted maybe talk this through with them. It’s much better to be honest and face this thing head on. It could make all the difference to your relationship.
I’m a lot of things without you.
I have qualifications. A good career. I have done lots of interesting things in my life. I have friends I enjoy, and who seem to like me, too. I know I’m nothing special – but I’d say I was OK.
And I don’t hate myself. I can see the positives. I don’t need you in my life. I am able to survive.
But even so, we were a couple. And those roots go down so deep. And I’d still prefer to love you, and to have you in my life.
For it’s not that I despise you. I just hate the things you’ve done. And it truly mystifies me that you acted in those ways. I can’t wrap my mind around it. Why would you live a double life? Why would you break my trust and hurt me if I meant so much to you?
So, I know I can’t continue if you don’t completely change. Yes, I loved our life together but it wasn’t based on truth. Sure – not everything was awful. There are happy memories.
But I’m caring for myself, and I’m putting myself first.
Partners who’ve experienced betrayal trauma can sometimes suffer from panic attacks. These are both unpleasant and frightening. So, what can you do to help you cope with these attacks, and to regain some control when you feel out of control?
Here are some steps that might help you with this:
- Remind yourself that these feelings of panic are simply exaggerated stress responses. They are also very normal in your situation.
- Although they feel dramatic and worrying, the sensations aren’t likely to be dangerous. Usually they will pass, and nothing worse is going to happen.
- Interrupt the tendency to add to the panic by starting to worry about the feelings, and how they might affect you – both now and in the future.
- Keep the present as your focus. Don’t let your mind run wild. Assume the persona of a detached observer. Simply notice what is happening inside you right now. Try to be curious instead of anxious.
- Focus on your breathing. Try to slow it down. Take deep, calm, steady breaths from your diaphragm. Notice how this helps – both mentally and physically.
- If you are cold or shivery put a blanket round your shoulders. You want to feel comfortable and comforted.
- Try to ground yourself firmly in your environment. Notice the feel of the carpet on your feet, or slowly run your hand over the fabric on the chair.
- Be patient. Wait it out. Let the feelings run their course. Eventually they’ll fade and you’ll return to feeling normal.
- Take it easy, and relax, when you feel the symptoms end. Give yourself time to recover from what you’ve just gone through.
- When you return to normal, think about how far you’ve come. Think of how well you have coped – despite tremendous challenges. You know you will survive, and you can deal with these attacks.
When I took my new car for a service last year, I left some money lying in the empty drink holder. Just some coins and loose change that you might need for a toll.
When I went to get the car, I saw the coins had disappeared. I suspected what had happened but I let the matter go. It was only a few dollars and, of course, I could be wrong.
When I went for my next service, I left coins there again. And when the car came back there were no coins to be found.
It wasn’t a huge thing but it had undermined my trust. I found another garage. It was time to make a change.
I had a lovely dentist who I’d seen for many years. I rarely needed work done. Just the odd filling replaced.
But then this man retired, and a new one took his place. I needed root canals, and crowns – or so this dentist claimed.
I didn’t quite believe him. It was such a turn around. I found another dentist for I needed peace of mind.
I made a life commitment when I took my marriage vows. I promised to be faithful, and I chose to trust as well. I didn’t think to worry, and I took him at his word. But then my world was shattered when betrayal reared its head.
A sex addiction’s awful. It destroys relationships. This isn’t cars and fillings. It’s your life and it’s your heart.
Rebuilding is a nightmare for you’re stalked by constant fear. And any trust is fragile for you can’t erase the past.
I could have left my marriage. I was anxious all the time. Rebuilding’s very risky and there are no guarantees. And truth is fundamental. There’s no future without this.
It takes a lot of courage to take that risk and trust.
I wonder what things you thought were real before you learned of your partner’s double life. It is likely to be things like believing you were loved, and your partner wouldn’t hurt you, or ever lie to you.
And it can feel as if the losses are added to each day. They pile up in a heap, and that heap just grows and grows. Every loss must be acknowledged, and grieved, and then worked through. Denial slows the process and hurts recovery.
Oh …. I wish this hadn’t happened. I wish it wasn’t true. I wish he hadn’t hurt you and ripped your heart to shreds.
I wish it had been different. I wish reality was totally aligned with everything you thought was true.
If you’ve just discovered that you’ve been betrayed, then you’re dealing with a crisis of immense proportions. And the chances are you’re shocked and you don’t know what to do. It’s also highly likely that you don’t know where to turn.
So, let me share some info while you’re trying to digest, and slowly come to terms with, this devastating news.
- Any feelings or reactions are normal at this time. You’re not going crazy. You’ve been traumatized.
- Sometimes you might feel nothing, or you might just want to sleep. At other times your feelings might scare you with their power. Expect a choppy journey and a rollercoaster ride.
- Get help IMMEDIATELY if you’re afraid you might self-harm.
- Insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks are all very common, and can last for many months.
- Be wise in who you choose to share the information with. Not everyone will care, or have your best interests at heart.
- You might find you’re surprised by friends who do not
- It’s crucial you find someone who gets what you’re going through. You need to get support, and you should get it right away.
- Take care of yourself first. Don’t try to please another person. Prioritize your Right now, you need to LOVE YOURSELF.
- Avoid, and close your ears to, anyone who is judgmental. They do not understand, and they can’t help you at this time.
- Withdraw – and only do the things you feel you have to do. You’ll find you cannot think, and you will have no energy.
- Don’t think about the future. Just make it through today.
- You don’t have to decide if you will stay, or leave your partner. Give it at least 6 months. There is no hurry to decide.
- Don’t listen to the voices you hear inside your head that say you’re unattractive, or say that you’re to blame. These voices are all lying. They’re poisonous and WRONG.
- It’s not naïve to trust, or think your partner will not hurt you. You didn’t miss the signs. Your spouse has lied, and hid this from you.
- Don’t repress strong emotions. You will need to grieve the loss.
- Don’t give into the pressure that says you must forgive. It’s way too complicated. It’s going to take some time.
- Ask all the painful questions that play upon your mind. You have a right to ask them. You need to know the truth.
- Take strength from other women who’ve walked the road you’re on. Who’ve hurt like you are hurting. And know YOU WILL SURVIVE.
I have a friend – let’s call her Jane – whose husband has been viewing webcams for years. He has also had a couple of one-night stands. (Let’s call the husband Joe.)
When all this came to light, Jane was absolutely shocked. The couple had been married for over 20 years, and Jane had never thought that Joe would do something like this. There weren’t any signs – and Joe “didn’t seem the type”. (Jane’s words.)
Also, to the outside world they were the best of friends. They had three lovely kids; their lives were intertwined; and they spent their holidays and leisure time together.
Who would have believed it? A total shock to Jane. But, sadly, not an uncommon storyline.
So what happened next?
Joe was sure that Jane would leave him. He wanted to get help. He begged for Jane’s forgiveness, and he went for counselling. In counselling he learned the following:
- Joe had always had troubled with intimacy and had formed an avoidant attachment to Jane. This was something Joe could recognize, and wanted to work on.
- Joe started viewing porn at around 12 years of age. Hence, his brain had become primed, and then addicted to porn. As a consequence of this, sex for Joe meant secret thrills.
- In his mind, all this was separate from sex with Jane. It was something very different. An illusion and a game. The women were just objects. They were tools to turn him on. There was no competition. They would never replace Jane.
But here’s the thing …
- To Jane this sounds like garbage – for he chose them over her (or as well as her). He says it all meant nothing. It was just a mental thing. But it all feels real to Jane, and especially since she knows her husband had a couple of one-night stands.
- Perhaps he was addicted, but Joe made choices too. There were numerous points in time when he consciously gave in. He knew what he was doing when he broke his wedding vows.
- Joe would say it was a way of avoiding intimacy. But paying girls to strip, or to have illicit sex, sounds intimate to Jane (though she “gets” what Joe says too).
Why recovery is a slow and messy process
Understanding can be helpful but it doesn’t ease the pain. Betrayal’s still betrayal. The wounds are just as deep. If only mental knowledge was enough to heal our hearts. Jane’s trying to forgive – but it’s not an easy road.
Thus, there are four realities that make this journey so complex: Joe’s actions, and the reasons, the questions that remain, and the damage that’s been done – and can never be undone.
Being part of a group of betrayed partners and spouses was nothing I envisioned in a million years. For who of us expects to be betrayed by their spouse, or expects to be married to a sex addict? It’s not the kind of thing you ever think or dream about. And it’s not the kind of thing you really want to talk about.
In fact, you think you must be starring in some other person’s life – for you simply can’t believe that this is happening to you. It’s scary, and it’s crazy, and it cuts you to the heart. And that’s why it’s so important to encounter wives like you.
A community of women who are walking this road, too. And a group of shell-shocked women who just get what you’re going through. It becomes a kind of life-line for these women understand. There is no need to explain things. It is obvious to them.
You can feel the deep compassion. And you know they’ve struggled too with the unanswerable questions and the overwhelming pain. We are all disorientated. We all wish that it would end. We all struggle with deep feelings. We’ve all hate this is our life.
But there’s also strength and hope from those who’re further down the road. They’re real about it all, and never hide what it’s been like. You know they’ve had low lows, and they’ve been desperate just like you. But they’ve survived and made it – so, perhaps, there’s hope for you.
So, thank you to each woman who has opened up and shared. We’re thankful you’re there for us. You’ve enabled us to cope.
Recovery is a journey that is unpredictable. There are landmines on the road, and painful triggers everywhere.
You think you’re making progress then you’re hit by memories, or waves of pain and sorrow over how things ought to be.
And the best thing you can do is let the feelings rise and fall. It doesn’t help to fight them. They will need to be worked through.
Allow yourself to feel them, and be patient with yourself. Believe you will recover. Don’t give up. You WILL survive.
This is a letter to anyone who has discovered that their partner or spouse has been unfaithful to them. It’s especially relevant to those who have learned that their partner has been heavily involved in pornography or has developed a sex addiction. It’s for anyone whose partner has led a double life, and lied, and kept secrets you knew nothing about.
- Let’s start with trust. Trust is at the heart of all relationships. It is normal and should be a given. Something you can assume and rely on. Period. You shouldn’t have to look over shoulder to make sure your partner or spouse is still trustworthy. You shouldn’t have to check to see if they can still be trusted, and are still telling you the truth. That is an absolutely crazy way to live.
- You were not naïve, you were deliberately deceived.
- Once trust has been destroyed it’s almost impossible to regain. There will always be that fear at the back of your mind. Even when you choose to trust again, and are relatively sure that your partner is trustworthy now, that simple, carefree trust will never return.
- It’s not your fault. You did nothing to deserve this. You deserved the kind of relationship where you felt loved, treasured, valued, respected, honoured and safe. That is truth. Anything else is a lie.
- You shouldn’t have been the one to pay the price for your partner’s undealt with baggage and sexual unfaithfulness. It is totally unfair and unjust.
- Whatever you are feeling is right and OK. It is much better to be 100% honest about how you feel, than to repress your feelings, or to try to talk yourself out of (or to allow other people to talk you out of) negative, angry and painful feelings or thoughts.
- Living with fear is an absolute nightmare. Fear that you were wrong to stay with them. Fear that they’ll go back to their old ways again. Fear that some other painful truths will come to light. Fear that you this will affect your health (because of the stress you are living under, or the insomnia and broken sleep you now live with, or because you might still have an undiagnosed STI).
- You will constantly feel that no-one truly understands what it’s like to live through a trauma like this. The chances are that none of your friends will have learned what you have learned, or gone through what you’ve gone through. And that leads to a painful sense of isolation. Also, it’s not the kind of thing you can discuss openly, so you end up pretending in front of everyone.
- You can’t just put it all behind you, as if it didn’t happen. You can’t just start again – though you really wish you could. Healing is a process, and the time it takes feels endless.
- You are stronger than you think. You will find unknown reserves. You will make it through the pain. You are going to survive.