“I kept saying, “What’s wrong with you? You don’t seem to care about us anymore.” And he said I make too big a deal out of things. He’s under a lot of stress, working a lot of hours.
Just give him some time. It will get better as soon as … So, I gave him more space. Again.
It wasn’t until he forgot his phone. That was when I found it all. The texts, the phone log, the porn history, and an email account I knew nothing about.
I read the emails, now I wish I hadn’t, but I did, and that’s when I started to shake.
He must have had sex with hundreds of women.”
The discovery or disclosure of sexual betrayal is a profoundly painful and traumatic experience and deep and painful injuries are more the rule than the exception.
Please understand this – Sexual betrayal affects your deepest sense of who you are, your sexuality, your values, your beliefs, even your sense of safety. It’s a violation of trust and a betrayal of vows and values.
“Was anything real? Has he ever cared? How could someone who loves me do something like this? How could he do this to me? What’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I enough? I just held my head and sobbed. The pain was so great. It seemed like it would never stop.”
This is “Infidelity Induced Trauma” and the wounds are deep and immediate. The partner’s whole personal identity including their values, their beliefs, and their reality are affected by this trauma. Nothing makes sense anymore.
It’s a big deal and it requires more than time alone to heal.
Unfortunately, too many partners of sex addicts, both women and men, do not seek out the support and compassion they need when they need it most.
Often, it’s a matter of not knowing where to turn. “Who can I tell?” “What if I decide to stay?” “What will they think of me?” Sometimes, it’s about protection and the fear of being vulnerable and hurt again. Other times, it’s defiant anger that keeps a partner from asking for help in healing.
“It’s his problem!” “I didn’t do this, why should I see a therapist?”
Your anger, your fear, and your pain are part of your wounding and they’re a normal response to a traumatic stress and grievous loss.
Discovery is an overwhelming crisis when you have support, but it’s much tougher alone.
The next minute my pain turned to anger. Rage really. I was still shaking. I’m not a violent person, but I wanted to hurt him pretty bad right then.
Make him hurt like he’d made me hurt.
An hour later, he walked into the house. He must have forgotten his phone and he hoped he’d find it before I did. But then he saw me and he knew the lie was over.
My shaking stopped and I went numb as he began to disclose the secrets.
It was like everything I thought was real was stolen from me in an instant and the person I trusted most was the thief.”
When you ask for help, remember, it’s not about his or her recovery from sex addiction. It’s about your healing.
Healing is about you restoring a healthy sense of self. Reaching out is good self-care and you’re worth caring for, regardless of the thoughts you might sometimes think.
Ask for help – There are people who understand. People who can support you, answer your questions, and provide guidance. Find a counselor with experience. Better yet, find someone who has been where you are now and who knows what it takes to heal.
Read – “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse” (Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means) and “Mending a Shattered Heart” (Stephanie Carnes).
Attend – a Co-Sex Addicts Anonymous (COSA) meeting. They are available in most major cities, they’re free, and the members understand what you’re going through.
Give yourself time – Be gentle with yourself while you set boundaries and consider what to do next. Remember, you can’t “un-tell” anyone you tell, but you also don’t want to be alone without support.
An experienced counselor can help you decide what to share, whom to share with, and guide you through many other difficult decisions.
You can trust your intuition.
You can care for yourself.
You know how to be safe.
You can be strong without being abusive.
… And a secure sense of who you are, in every important way, can be restored.
Your sex addicted partner has a decision to make for sexual sobriety and sexual integrity. It’s up to them to find qualified sex addiction counseling and to begin a serious process of recovery. This is their work. These are their actions to take.
You can choose to support your partner in their work, but please know that it’s up to them to do it.