My name is Kay. I am the wife of a recovering sex addict.
Much of the advice I write in my posts here comes from experience gained the hard (and often painful) way. There are things I wish I had figured out sooner in the process, like the fact that I needed counseling, too; there are things that I have learned actually help, like encouraging transparency; there are also things I still struggle with, like learning not to let suspicion rule my life. In sharing these insights here on Feed the Right Wolf, I hope I can offer something that will help other couples going through this process; in a way, though, I also hope that I can find peace and insight for myself as well.
In theory, I knew what I was getting into. My husband and I met online, and we talked extensively and in great depth before we met in person; he was active-duty military deployed overseas at the time, so circumstance left us little choice. During the course of our conversations, he told me that he suffered from both depression and sexual addiction, specifically related to pornography. I respected him immensely for facing his problems so directly and for being up front with me, and he assured me that he was in treatment and had control of his addiction.
Several months later, when we had been in a committed relationship for some time, I discovered that he had been sexting and exchanging pictures with a female friend of his; I was appalled, disgusted, angry, and hurt. Once that came to light, other things did too- the massive archive of pornography on his computer, the adult dating sites he continued to visit. He, too, was devastated and ashamed, and within a week he was back in counseling and working toward recovery.
I was proud of him for his courage and his determination to recover, but that could not erase the pain caused by his actions or the damage to the trust I had previously placed in him. We still fought about it on an almost weekly basis when he deployed overseas again. Neither of us was really sure we would make it under the circumstances, but we were both determined to try.
With him so far away, no longer in counseling, depressed, and with access to the internet and and no form of accountability, I was terrified that he would relapse. Unfortunately, I was naive enough to think that if I could just give him what he wanted, he might not turn to other women or pornography sites for it. During that time, I did a lot of things that I was not comfortable with and that in retrospect I am deeply ashamed of, in an attempt at appeasement. Later I learned that my behavior- besides being very damaging to my own mental and emotional health- was really enabling his addiction, and it did not work.
Within a month, I discovered that he was active on more dating sites, had planned liaisons with a former sexual partner and implied to her that I would participate as well, and had shared details of our intimate activities with another former sexual partner in addition to sending her money. When confronted, his initial responses were angry and accusatory before he collapsed emotionally and became very depressed. I was devastated, furious, and lapsed into an equally unproductive depression.
That discovery became a turning point for us, and both my husband’s condition and our relationship have moved steadily forward since, but it was a very difficult time.
Deciding to Stay
Why did I stay? My husband still asks me the same question once in a while; sometimes it is sincere, and sometimes it is flung at me in the midst of an argument, usually after I have flung reminders of his infidelity at him.
A long time ago, I read an article by a woman who had discovered her husband’s extramarital affair. She wrote that she was furious and badly hurt, but that she also, in her words “still felt married to him”; she still felt an emotional connection and commitment between them, and she felt that if she had to face recovering from the painful fiasco, she wanted to do it with her husband. I discovered that I felt the same way about my own husband, even if I had not articulated it so well; I felt that even after what he had done, I was still better with him than without him.
This realization was greatly aided by his admission that he had a problem and his willingness to seek treatment and offer me the transparency I needed. “As long as you’re working to get better,” I told him, “I’ll stay and try to make this thing work.” He is still working, and so am I.
That’s what all love is, in the long run.