Spouses of Sex Addicts – Good News: we’re all alike!

This is a must-see video by my new favorite, Diane Strickland, MA, of Your Story is Safe Here. If you don’t have a lot of time, skip to 6:17 to hear how amazing we are, and why that made us a target for sex addicts. They chose us, we didn’t chose them!

In the video, this is how Diane describes wives of sex addicts:

  • “antithesis of co-dependent”
  • “strong”
  • “incredibly intelligent”
  • “capable”
  • “huge capacity for commitment”
  • “loving”
  • “many interests”
  • “lots of relationships”
  • “successful careers”
  • “good at managing families with passion and creativity”
  • “competent”
  • “independent”
  • “dependable”
  • “honest”
  • “loyal”

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear that. Diane helped me to remember who I truly am at my core – who I was before being systematically abused by a very sick man for so many years.

It’s pathetic that they chose us for these wonderful characteristics, then spent years tearing us down to keep us confused and off their dirty trail. It takes a very sick person to do that to a woman. Very sick, indeed.

One Shot at Truth

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” ~ Winston Churchill

From talking to dozens of wives of sex addicts, I’ve come to a conclusion: you are likely to get exactly one shot at truth. Even then, you must remember that this “truth” has likely been decorated like a Christmas tree – all shiny and pretty, but underneath all the glitter, the tree is actually dead.

I remember insignificant details from that day; it was midday -cloudy and cool. He wore a blue plaid shirt and a tan jacket. I sat alone on the sofa. He sat across from me on the leather chair I’d purchased with my tiny inheritance from my mom. I worried that if he cried he would stain the chair with his tears, and it made me mad.

I wanted my dad, who had died when I was young, to hold my hand and look this man in the eye. I felt so very small and alone, and would later come to understand that it had been orchestrated that way – there would be no witnesses to this truth.

And so it began. He read, without emotion, a long list of his deviancies, starting from early childhood and cruising thru to the present. I went numb. My head buzzed and I couldn’t move. I didn’t cry; I just sat there. The depth of the betrayal was beyond anything I could imagine – he’d been playing in an underworld I didn’t even know existed, then coming home to perfect his hypocritical role as “Godly man”.

I asked only one question: “How do you find these people/places/things?” to which he replied “I just have to show up.” Those words chill me to this day. He left quickly, taking with him his notes – and leaving behind a traumatized woman with a broken soul and no trace of his having been there.

I instinctively knew I hadn’t gotten the whole truth, but I mistakenly thought I would get another chance. I thought once he opened up, he would continue to be honest. I  was wrong. I also knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I was married to a very sick man.

You, too, may only get one shot at truth. Here’s what I wish I’d have done:

  • Have a witness, preferably a counselor trained in PTSD and knowledgable about the damage done to spouses of sex addicts. I could never have imagined that he would spill these truths, then later call me a liar for even saying he was a sex addict. I had no idea he could and would, for years, confuse my children by denying even the simplest of truths.
  • Consider a lie detector test. Remember, these men are gifted liars, and you will need the test administered by someone who knows the word games played by sex addicts. They often use the old Bill Clinton “it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” thing.
  • It is his responsibility to tell the children, appropriate to age and with counselor’s help, that he broke the marriage. It’s part of owning what he’s done. If he doesn’t do this in the immediate aftermath of disclosure, don’t expect it ten years later. Ain’t happening. To take this responsibility on yourself is to cast yourself as the whistleblower – and if history has taught us anything, it’s that whistleblowers don’t fare well. I should know, I am one.

If He Never Cheats Again

“One lie is enough to question all truths.” ~ anonymous

Will I be happy in this marriage, to this man, if he never cheats again?

This is the million dollar question. For me, unfortunately, the answer was a resounding “no”, but arriving at that answer was a grueling process that took years and required me to fully analyze the marriage, understand personality disorders and abuse, and take responsibility for my part in the messy aftermath – all without then blaming myself for his morally bankrupt life choices.

Those around us think the answer is so simple. We hear a chorus of  “I would have left immediately” and “I told my husband if he ever cheats I’ll cut his penis off” to “I always sensed your husband was creepy” and “why didn’t you just do x in the bedroom so he didn’t have to cheat?”

Wow. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

It’s not that easy. Abuse is cunning; charming one minute, angry the next, in an unpredictable dance literally designed to keep us confused.

My abuser chose wisely from his bag of weapons, striking with military precision then retreating into the shadows not having left any marks. The spiritual, emotional and financial abuses were tossed into my life like raisins in cake batter – little ugly surprises that ruin the birthday party and leave you feeling tricked.

He assured me that other men would beat me because I was so unreasonable.

He would randomly have our power and phone cut off (always while he was out of town) to teach me to be more thankful and because I “talk too much”.

I was told repeatedly I’d be living in a cardboard box on the outskirts of heaven because I was such a terrible person, but he’d let me visit him in his mansion.

Once his sexual depravity was outed, the full gravity of the abuse rushed at me. In order to protect his double life, and feel good about his wretched self, he had gaslighted me to keep me in the dark while slowly chipping away at my very core. That’s not just mean, it’s systematic evil.

Was I thankful enough? Perhaps not …. or did I simply learn there could never be enough thanks or praise, so I gave up?

Did I contribute to the dysfunction? Absolutely ……. or was I responding to the abuse?

Did I throw myself into my children and focus more on their needs than his? I did …… or was this a response to a marriage void of intimate connection?

Was I able to recognize a lack of true intimacy when I met and married him? Sadly, absolutely, no …… or was I simply played like so many others in his life?

Are you starting to understand why unraveling the knots is difficult when you discover that your partner is a sex freak? Every question becomes an unsolvable mystery left to be analyzed under the new “he’s an entitled abuser” filter.

Add in a splash of friends, counselors, and family insinuating or downright claiming that we the wives are “as sick as he is”, and you, too, will waste years of your precious life trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

With many addictions, there are checkpoints that the addict cannot manipulate.  Not only are wives of sex miscreants up against the “great guy” image fostered by these little-boy men, but you will never really know if he’s cheating again. You have NO WAY to reliably determine the truth, because you are depending on liar to self-report.

Are you willing to spend years of your life in essence babysitting a little boy-man? Putting up with abuses and character assassinations? Wondering if this is the year you’ll sprout blisters on your nether-regions because he’s given you a little something he caught on one of his “adventures”?

I couldn’t forget that, at the end of the day, most of these men care so little for their wives and children that they think nothing of snagging a quick blow job when you send them to the store for diapers. You know, because they feel so sorry for themselves – like a 4 year old when you make them clean up their toys.

And because I couldn’t forget that, or the nearly 20 years of being duped and abused, my answer to was “No” – but it sure as hell wasn’t easy getting there.

Help Me!

“She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach, like when you’re swimming and you want to put your feet down on something solid, but the water’s deeper than you think and there’s nothing there”
― Julia Gregson, East of the Sun

As I went through discovery ten years ago, even Tiger Woods, who would make “sex addict” a household word, had not yet been outed.  Back then, we spouses were marginalized, labeled co-addicts, treated as if we were to blame, and taught to focus on the addict’s recovery needs – a model of treatment now known to further intensify and increase the trauma already heaped upon us. Not only did it not help, it was like handing a drowning man a life vest made of lead.

In keeping with this flawed model, within a few weeks of my husband’s very limited disclosure I was packed off to a weekend intensive group for partners of sex addicts (get this, it was run by a sex addict!) There, the moderators focused like laser beams on our faults and shortcomings, teaching us how we could and should support the addict and understand his pain.

Support him? I wanted to scream “He’s had a lifetime to get used to the idea of his secret little world and focus solely on his own needs. To hell with him and his needs! Somebody please look at me and see that I am drowning! Help ME!”

That weekend, we walking dead were actually taught that we should check our husband’s sheets and underwear every day for evidence of wet dreams, as that was a good indicator that he was no longer “acting out”. While I refused, many other wives seemed to think that was a valid suggestion.

To this day, it makes me sick for all of us. A sex addict promoting such advice to a defenseless and broken spouse at their most vulnerable time in life is unconscionable.

Please don’t misunderstand this as judgement. I made many, many other grave mistakes, but checking his underwear just didn’t happen to be one of mine. I have my share of shortcomings and faults  (you know, because I’m a human) – the type of faults these men like to falsely equate to their secret “mistakes”. 

I’ve since learned that my faults had nothing to do with his hidden addiction. His deviancy began in childhood, and was well into it’s maturity long before I met him. Unbeknownst to me, I just happened to be the unlucky one he thought could rescue him out of his sickness.

Some might say he preyed upon my naiveté. In my defense, it must be said that  many sex addicts are personality disordered, gifted at deception and manipulation. They tend to focus like a laser beam on capable, competent, loyal, empathetic, trusting women. Apparently we’re magnets for liars.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Dr. Omar Minwalla, author of the article “The Secret Sexual Basement” we now know that the discovery of a partner’s sex addiction causes deep trauma that needs immediate, appropriate treatment.

I suggest you read it thoroughly and make certain that any counselor you choose is familiar with this particular sex-addiction induced trauma model as well as personality disorders.

It could mean the difference between truly moving on and being stuck for years as your mental and physical health decline.