A few days ago, Sonia commented on one of my more popular posts, The Anatomy of a Relapse. It’s been a busy few days getting ready for back to school so I didn’t have the time to give her more than a brief answer. While she’s been reading everything she can get her hands on, her husband’s therapist has been telling him that it’s okay to masturbate and watch porn as long as it’s not secret.
I’m so sorry to hear you and your husband are dealing with sexual addiction. And worse, your husband has therapist who obviously doesn’t know the first thing about sex addiction. Sometimes I wonder. Don’t therapists like this watch Intervention? Everyone in the family knows. And so far, I haven’t seen an episode where doing drugs together helps anybody. It’s just not an effective strategy.
Besides that, it’s not very respectful to you, is it? I’ve heard more than one woman share that they’ve done things sexually that make them feel dirty, sad, and ashamed in an attempt to satisfy their husbands. To sacrifice yourself, change yourself like that is the epitome of co-dependent behavior.As I’m sure you’ve read, co-addicts misuse their sexuality when they try to bleed off their spouses sexual tension so they won’t act out in worse ways. They think it’s better to suffer a little sadness and degradation than take the chance their spouse will pick up a prostitute. It doesn’t work.
Here’s my truth based on my experience. Good sex has nothing to do with vibrators, porn, outfits, fantasies, or positions just like a good dinner depends more on the company and the conversation than the food. Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches can be more satisfying than filet mignon. And that’s not to say that filet mignon can’t be great too, it just depends on the company. It’s all about intimacy. And intimacy comes with talking, laughing, and crying together. You have to tell the truth.
Telling the truth isn’t easy though. One of the hardest things I did was to tell my husband the truth about what goes through my head when we have sex. I was frustrated because without this violent porn tape playing in my head, I couldn’t reach orgasm. But I knew that running that tape was bad for me. First of all, it triggered my addictive cycle; secondly, it was gross. I want to be turned on by my husband, not by porn, especially not by sick, violent porn. Sharing this problem with my husband was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I tend to think of him as sexually pure and innocent, and assumed he’d be disgusted with my depravity. But that wasn’t the case at all. It made perfect sense to him, given my childhood experiences that my fantasies trend in a certain direction.
But that’s us now, well into recovery. When our marriage was on the rocks, I was suicidal, and my husband was reeling from disclosure, we weren’t thinking in terms of good sex, we were just trying to survive as best we could. Luckily, we had very good help. I can’t over emphasize the importance of a csat trained therapist.
My therapist gave my husband a book edited by Stephanie Carnes called Shattered Hearts. I have met and talked to Stephanie and can personally attest to the fact that she has compassion and understanding for the addict – this book doesn’t demonizes us. Neither does it excuse or rationalize addictive behaviors. Although he’s not finished the book yet, my husband says that it’s very good. He wished he’d had it to read a few years ago.
There are also some excellent blogs written by spouses of sex addicts. A Room of Mama’s Own is one I really like. MPJ has a list of bloglinks to other co-addicts’ blogs that would be well worth checking out.
Finally, Sonia, here are some insights that really helped my husband:
1. It’s about pain, not sex and not about him (my husband).
2. I am a good person. His intuition about that was right.
3. He can survive and eventually thrive without me.
That last one is the most important. Knowing he can survive and thrive without me has cut a huge swath through the enmeshment that entangles us. It makes our relationship together a choice, not a necessity. We are both intelligent adults and neither of us would have ever said that we were enmeshed with each other. But we were, we just didn’t see it. Today, we’re more separate as individuals and more intimate as a couple. We both healthier, both more free.
At the time I was in treatment and going through disclosure, it was pure hell for my husband, without a doubt the most painful thing he’s ever endured. But he isn’t in pain now. We both changed and our relationship is stronger and better than it was before. And if I hadn’t changed, we’d be apart and he’d still be doing well.