The Sex Adict’s Wife
The Emotional Journey of Being Married to a Sex Addict
South Platte Counseling is excited to continue our blog series “Mental Health and Me,” where we have one of our clients anonymously and openly talk about their mental health journey about a topic they’ve personally experienced.
We are continuing this series in hopes it helps de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health, therapy, and counseling. We want to let people know that mental health is an individual journey and a ubiquitous life experience.
With that being said, let’s read about one person’s experience with this week’s topic: being married to a sex addict.
Editor’s note & warning: This blog touches on addiction, emotional and sexual abuse. Please take care while reading.
No one anticipates getting here. No one walks down the aisle expecting to find themselves married to a sex addict one day. And yet… for many of us, that’s exactly our story. Addiction happens slowly and then all at once. Slowly for the addict developing the habit; all at once, like a tidal wave, for the spouse who discovers it.
I remember the day I first caught my husband watching pornography. We’d been married all of three months, and blindsided isn’t a strong enough word for what I felt that day. Nauseated. Shocked. Afraid. Like my whole world just turned on its axis. Then, in one moment, I realized that this person who I trusted with my life had a dark side; he was a walking Jeckyl and Hyde, and I only knew one of the two. At first, I accepted his excuses, wanting so desperately to believe that it was just “a one-time thing” so we could move forward with the life we had planned. But deep down, even from that first discovery, I knew the truth.
Months passed, and “one-time things” became “eighth-time things,” then “seventeenth-time things.” The clips of videos I saw over his shoulder grew darker and darker, descending into a depravity I hadn’t even known was possible. Finally, as the addiction monster grew, it was no longer enough for him to watch things on a screen, and he began performing unspeakable acts on me behind closed doors. When I got married, I didn’t know sexual assault was possible within the context of a relationship; I know now otherwise.
One day, I received a phone call from the school he taught at, advising he’d been accused of assaulting a 16-year-old female student. I talked myself into believing the story he spun to explain it, but in my heart knew something was very, very wrong.
After seven job losses in 12 months and uncountable “one-time things,” I was at my wits’ end. I put my foot down, demanding that we see a therapist. I had no idea that sex addiction was even diagnosable then. I just knew something dark had taken root inside the man I once loved.
I’ll never forget that first appointment with our therapist. He calmly asked me to share my side of the story, and I did. When I finished, he looked straight at me and said, “I’ve been doing this for over 25 years. You are the first wife to ever sit on that couch, share the things you’ve shared with me, and not shed a single tear. Have you always had a difficult time expressing your emotions?” I sat there, stunned. “I came here for HIM,” I thought. “HE’S the one that needs the help. I’m fine!” But as my therapist’s words sunk in, I realized he was right – I needed help now, too.
I’d spent so much time keeping my husband’s secrets while simultaneously trying to save him that I’d completely abandoned my own emotions. I thought I was being a “good wife” in trying to help my husband deal with his addiction before my own mental health needs. I was trying to rescue him, and in the process, I emotionally lost myself trying to keep it all together.
I left that day with a printed Feelings Wheel: a tool to help me begin placing a name to and understanding the emotions I’d left ignored and detached from for so long. It was the first step on a very long, arduous journey towards acknowledging my feelings and needs again for the first time in years. In the months that followed and my husband’s persistent refusal to address his addiction, I made the difficult decision and filed for divorce. Unfortunately, his story is not one of success – but thanks to an amazing therapist that truly SAW me, mine is.
Four years have passed since I first sat on that sofa, and the woman writing these words is stronger, wiser, and abundantly more self-aware than the one who sat emotionless and disconnected that day. Of course, not every marriage has a happy ending, and sadly, not every addict’s story has one either. But mine does, and it’s all because an exceptional therapist saw beyond my defense mechanism to the hurting soul beneath it.
To any spouse who finds themselves married to their own Jeckyl and Hyde, I lovingly encourage you: your needs, your feelings, and your trauma matter, too. Your partner may need help navigating the path to healing, but so do you. Don’t be afraid to take that first step because all of us – yes, even you – deserve to be healed and whole – no matter the situation.