I discovered over the summer that my husband is suffering from "Sexual Addiction." It's been the most painful and gut churning experience of my life. He is in therapy now, but that doesn't really help ME deal with it. As I look back over our years together, I am faced with re-framing everything, because it all feels like one big lie now.
As more and more details come out, I feel more and more discouraged. His "acting out" behaviors ran/run the gammut from compulsive use of porn (for hours at a time while I was at work supporting him through school), suspected acts of voyeurism (it seems to me that not even our friends or family members were spared), obsession and fantasies about almost any female acquaintance I have ever had, and "sexual anorexia." Not to mention all the times I caught him, only to be talked out of what I saw. He was so very intent on NOT being discovered that my sanity and peace of mind were of no consequence at all. He became very talented at lying to my face, and then becoming enraged and verbally abusive if I didn't accept his explanations. Boy, do I feel stupid now.
I stayed with him. I am not sure why, but I keep hoping that the man I thought I married will come back. I miss my best friend. How strange to learn that my entire marriage was a fabrication. Now I have to try to put the family back together with a man I really do not know.
If you have any resources for me (education, encouragement....just whatever...) I would sure appreciate it.
Signed, Trying to Put it Back Together
I am so sorry to hear of your troubles. That must have been a terrible shock, and obviously is still a minefield of emotions and challenges to battle your way through.
My first thought is that you are most definitely not stupid. Trusting, loving, caring, maybe ... all the things a spouse is supposed to be. And now add "hurting" to the list.
Your marriage can only ever regain happiness if he truly changes. It sounds like he has been defining himself for some time by his compulsions. This is big part of how he defines himself, which means he has an enormous mountain to climb if he wants to truly change. This is not just ditching some habits -- it is a makeover of his complete self image. This is not easy and not everyone can do it.
You need to protect yourself. That can be tough to do while also trying to rebuild the relationship. The protection involves building protective barriers, while the rebuilding requires opening yourself up, being "out there" and emotionally vulnerable. I'd say protect yourself in the beginning and put yourself "out there" for him only to the extent that he proves himself, that he proves he has made true progress in changing.
In some of my earlier posts I talk about losing fear in relationships. It goes something like this: Imagine that he is unable to change. Imagine that you are eventually forced to live a life without him. Now build a picture of how that could be okay, or even way better than okay. See yourself in a nice home, with friends to spend time with ... whatever would be a pleasant existence without a significant other. See yourself being content, filling your life with plenty of positive experiences.
If you can succeed at that exercise, then you will realize your life will not be ruined if this relationship doesn't work out, or even if no relationship ever works out. Then you can relax. Sure, you still want to make it work, but you are not so panicked about the possibility that it might not.
And it might not. Like I said before, changing his entire self image will be truly difficult.
Strangely enough, by deciding that you would be okay without the relationship, you are actually increasing the chances that it might work out, or at least the part that depends on you. By relaxing, you will contribute more positive energy to the relationship, and maybe a little less stress.
But honestly, he is the one who has caused the problems, not you. The burden of change falls upon him. If he is as obsessive as you describe, then he is unlikely to be able to accomplish the change alone – he will likely need professional help, which he probably won’t get without sufficient motivation. That could be your contribution, motivating him with the promise to leave if he doesn’t change.
But don’t make that promise unless you are willing to back it up. If he doesn't change and you stay with him, then you have become part of the support system for his problem.
I truly hope you can find a happy ending. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. Good luck!!
All the best,