by Dorothy Maryon CMHC
In most cases, there is nothing that can prepare you for when you find out your spouse has a pornography and sexual addiction. To be on the receiving end of addiction leaves many women dealing with a deep sense of betrayal, uncertainty, and hurt. Addiction hits at the core of a woman’s relationship, often at the center of her soul, and damages the marriage. After learning of their husband’s addiction, many women have reported their relationship feels false and empty and many find themselves asking, “who can I trust?” and “who will be there for me now?”
As the betrayed spouse, women often don't know where to turn and often struggle with the deception alone. This type of trauma shatters the internal world of the spouse of an addict and affects all aspects of her life. The betrayal disrupts her ability to function with the day to day aspects of her life, alters her sense of self, and can have a huge impact on her spirituality.
What many fail to realize is the experience of pornography and sexual addiction falls into the category of trauma for the spouse. Responses to trauma can vary widely, and may include any of the following symptoms:
Partners are sometimes surprised that reactions to the trauma last longer than they expected. It may take months or even years to fully regain a sense of balance and equilibrium. You may feel you need to just “get over it” when in reality you need a strong support system to get through the hard and challenging times. Research has shown that one of the key components of successfully navigating through trauma is the level of support an individual has.
Most women feel isolated when confronted with their spouse’s addiction. The statement, “when an addict comes out of the closet his partner goes in,” rings true for many dealing with addiction and because of that, it is important for the spouse to find a safe place to talk about her feelings.
Self-care is another tool to use while navigating through the trauma. Self-care involves finding helpful, coping strategies that assist in nurturing oneself at a very difficult time of life. Some examples might include:
Just like anyone who has been through a traumatic event, it is important that you treat yourself with gentleness and patience. If possible, try not to make major life changes at this time, as thinking and judgment may not be as clear as usual. And again, seek support and information about sexual addiction as this is a very difficult experience to navigate by oneself.
About the Author: Dorothy Maryon CMHC, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor who specializes in partners' issues associated with sexual addiction in marriage. She has worked as a counselor in the LifeStar program for 15 years, focusing on addiction and relationship issues. She is in private practice and has presented at several conferences on addiction, codependency, creating safety for partners, and grief and trauma issues.
The following is a letter a wife wrote in response to her husband’s sexual addiction. It is rich with insights and hope for any woman facing similar betrayal and heartache. If you are a wife struggling through the discovery of your husband’s secret sexual sin, please contact us for help.
His addiction has left me empty, cold, and bitter. Totally exhausted. I study myself and question myself constantly. I am not pretty enough, I am not thin enough, I am not sexy enough. Fun? What is fun? I used to have fun going to the mall or going out to dinner or the movies. I used to want to get out and do things, but now when I am in public with my husband it is a sort of dread and anguish for me. Questions and thoughts run through my head. I scan the room to see which of these women is my husband lusting after? Who is my competition?
Women used to be my friends, now they are my competitors. I used to feel pretty, I used to feel sexy. Now I just feel that I am the consolation prize. I don’t even know if it is possible to feel pretty and sexy again. Mental exhaustion is a way of life. Trying to remember to take the laptop with me when I leave, hiding the Kindle Fire, checking the cell phone. When I get home, and he has been home alone, I look for clues. Asking questions 5 different ways to make sure he is not lying to me. Paying close attention to details, checking the bank account for miscellaneous charges. Wondering when is he going to go so far that I will have to make a decision to leave.
I am thankful that my husband went to Gateway to Freedom and I believe that if he works the program and if I allow God to heal me of deep hurt then I do believe there is hope for us. I want to trust my husband again, I want to forgive him and I will, but I don’t want to be a fool. I am willing to walk this walk with him but, he will be required to to work this program harder than he has worked anything in his life.
He will have to be honest, no secrets. He will have to answer the questions that I have and understand that it is going to take time for me to trust him and believe what he says. I want him to work this program just as intently as he sought his porn. He coddled it, he protected it, he fed it, he hunted after it. He defended it. I, on the other hand, also understand that I need help. I need to be restored by the Restorer.
I am committing to pray for my husband daily, to ask God for wisdom for my husband, for strength. I will ask God to restore our marriage and my husband as a Godly man, for direction for our family. I will work daily not to condemn my husband, but to ask God to show me how to help keep him accountable. I also commit to spending more time in God’s Word, allowing Him to love me, define me and heal me. I will get involved with other women who have dealt with the same pain I am dealing with now and commit to help other women when God restores me.