Our little community certainly has grown! As I sit at my computer trying to wrap my brain around all the new software for the redesign of the website I am constantly reminded, by a somewhat annoying little sound from my computer, that another e-mail from a commenter has arrived. I try to read each one as they come in, but sometimes the sounds become an irritating cacophony that forces me to turn my speakers off so that I can concentrate on what I am doing.
It’s all so bittersweet for me. On one hand I am so pleased that my goal, of reaching women who are struggling with their partner’s Sexual Addiction by offering them a community of support and resources, is finally emerging, but, on the other hand there is a deep sadness within me for all the pain, turmoil and frustration that comes with each one of those comments.
So many of you have posed questions or thoughts that never get answered. I only wish I had more time, but right now the website, it’s maintenance and development, my research, writing and answering private e-mails takes up about ten hours a day, every day. Hopefully the new software will lighten that burden a bit. But, those nagging unanswered questions haunt me into the wee hours.
So, I have spent the last few days reading over the most recent comments and I will summarize some of my thoughts here. Please forgive me if I miss something, but I’ll try to make my thoughts as general as possible in order to cover most topics.
So many of you have children living at home and you worry about the effects that the Sexual Addiction and/or divorce will have on them. Many have asked how or what to tell them.
I will bracket my comments with my one core belief. If you lie to children you are teaching them how to lie. They deserve the truth. Of course, any information about Sex Addiction needs to be age appropriate, and I believe that any disclosures of the addiction should be done with the help of a counselor, and, as time goes by they will need all of their ongoing questions answered honestly.
Don’t kid yourself. Children know far more than you think they do. I have received quite a few private e-mails from women who have discovered this fact in devastating ways. When they make the discovery of their partner’s Sexual Addiction and the family becomes torn apart by the turmoil, separation or divorce, these women have discovered that their children either knew about their father’s activities for years, such as internet, printed or video porn, affairs, phone sexting, online dating or, in the worst case scenario, that their child has been the victim of incest.
These are very real cases, so please, don’t think you are protecting your children by not telling them. They probably already know at least ‘something’ and their imaginations will conjure up things much worse than the reality. By keeping it a ‘secret’ you are encouraging the very same ideal of shame and secrecy that fuels Sex Addiction.
Effects of divorce on children:
So many of you feel that a divorce will have a negative impact on the children and rationalize that maybe it’s better to just stay in the marriage with a Sex Addict for the sake of the children. Sorry, but I would call that ‘stinkin thinkin’. Any child would rather come from a broken home than to live in one. Staying in a relationship with an active Sex Addict is harmful to the children. Let me say that another way. A child who grows up in a home with an active Sex Addict is quite likely going to grow up being a Sex Addict. How do you think your husband got that way?
And, on the flip side of that, how do you think children learn how to manage their emotions and problem solve? They learn by watching their parents. You, as their mother, are their beacon. You are their mentor. Teach them and show them, by example, that you and they deserve respect. Show them that working through problems is difficult, and that mistakes will be made. Show them that decisions are not always 100% right, but sometimes 60% works. Show them that no one is perfect, and that all decisions have consequences. A decision to divorce may require a different standard of living, moving away from friends or a prolonged sense of sadness and grieving, but that does not make the decision wrong. Show them how to deal honestly and with integrity to life’s challenges. Share your doubts and feelings with them in an appropriate manner, but, above all else, be honest with them.
Yes, many Sex Addicts have wonderful traits, let’s face it, even Adolf Hitler loved puppy dogs. But, you need to take a hard look at, and discuss at great length with your counselor, the serious effects that Sex Addiction has on children. That’s where the seeds are planted. Are you willing to take the risk of your child becoming a Sex Addict?
Protecting the Sex Addict’s reputation:
This is a puzzling concept for me. I have received many, many private e-mails from women who were afraid to post their stories or comments online for fear that their husbands would find out. FIND OUT WHAT? That they were seeking answers? Advice? Comfort? Resources? Good grief! Isn’t that what people in crisis are supposed to do? Many are afraid that somehow, someway, a friend, co-worker or relative will ‘figure out’ who their partner is. Well, who ran that truck into the ditch? You weren’t driving–he was.
So many have also expressed that they do not tell any of their closest friends and family members about the addiction because they don’t want to embarrass or expose their partner’s behaviors.
Wake up ladies! Who risked their own reputation? Who participated in shameful or illegal activities? Who is responsible for the consequences of those risks if they are discovered? And–what is it called when we protect someone from the consequences of their own behavior? It’s called enabling. Don’t do it. You may make a decision not to tell someone because you don’t want to risk your own reputation, but I think that train of thought should be examined very carefully. You have done nothing wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s tough sometimes to hold your head up high in the face of criticism, but just remember, for every person out there who is critical of you there are at least a hundred more who are silently admiring your strength and integrity.
You have every right to seek whatever help you need during this crisis; you have every right to confide in anyone you choose, tell anyone anything you want or need to and scream it from the rooftops if you choose. That is your decision. Of course, you may have to face some consequences too, like the wrath of your partner or the distancing of untrustworthy friends, but you have every right to seek whatever comfort or help you need. If exposure is a result of that, your partner will just have to take responsibility for what he has done.
Recently I have read so many comments that are just filled with such indecisiveness. Yes, making life changing decisions is extremely difficult and should never be taken lightly or done when under extreme stress. But when I hear women who have had ample time to adjust to the situations they are in, make decisions and then rescind them it makes me wonder about their emotional health. A prolonged inability to make decisions is a prime example of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, in my mind, should send up a giant red flag that you need a counselor, more counseling or a different counselor.
The inability to make and carry out decisions shows that you are ‘stuck’, both physically and emotionally. You do not trust yourself. You do not trust your decisions. This is common at the beginning of discovery, but later on in the game it’s a sign of more serious emotional trauma. This will not go away by itself and you cannot talk or think your way through it. It requires professional help.
Friends, relatives and in-laws:
Good ones are a lifeline, bad ones will make you crazy! Choose your confidants carefully. It is quite common to have a dear friend turn their back on you after a revelation like Sex Addiction. And, it hurts terribly. But, we cannot control the actions or feelings of others. Sex Addiction and all the images it conjures up in the minds of others is a volatile subject that the majority of people are uncomfortable with.
As for the in-laws, if you have even one good one count your blessings. Remember how Sex Addicts are made? Consider the source and brush them off of of your plate. You have too many other things to concern yourself about.
Separation or Divorce:
In some states a Legal Separation functions as a framework for a divorce. It can be turned into a divorce at any time, which makes that decision very simple. It outlines all the legal and financial aspects and protects you financially. For some women who may not be able to work and obtain health insurance on their own, or who want to maintain the rights to insurance policies, retirement benefits and other widow’s rights, a permanent Legal Separation is a good choice.
Some women, for various reasons, choose to stay with a Sex Addict. In that case a Legal Separation agreement or a post nuptial agreement may be a good choice to protect her financial security.
Each of us must weigh all the circumstances carefully, get all the facts we can and finally make that decision whether to stay or go. Just remember, you can still love them and still leave them if it’s in your and your children’s best interest.
Someone asked in the comments what the divorce rate was for Sex Addicts. I researched that and accurate statistics are just not available. So, I’ll give you my best shot. In the US 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.
I cannot imagine a relationship or marriage not being affected by a partner’s Sexual Addiction. So let’s say that 100% of all marriages are negatively affected if Sex Addiction exists. From what I have seen and read almost all women are willing to try to save the marriage after they discover the addiction (hooray for us–how many men do you think would do the same?). So, in the beginning most relationships have at least a chance of surviving.
But, from personal experience, research, talking with other wives and their partners and facts gleaned from Larry’s 12 step groups I would guess that the divorce rate among Sex Addicts is much higher than in the general population. It only makes sense. Sex Addiction is a major burden on the relationship. It affects the intimacy, the trust, the safety, the communication and the finances of the marriage. How could it not affect the divorce rate?
Anyone who has studied statistics knows that you can make numbers mean whatever you want them to mean. I have read of addiction recovery rates as high as 90% for some organizations. But, they never tell you what the criteria is. Is that for one year? Ten years? A lifetime? And, is that figure for (a.) those that actually attend meetings or treatment? (b.) those who have dropped out? (c.) those who are addicts but never attended meetings? (d.) those who relapse but come to meetings or participate in treatment anyway?
In the end it really doesn’t matter, does it? If your partner has no relapses for the rest of your marriage, then he has a 100% recovery rate with 0% relapses. If he fails, those numbers are reversed.
What studies have shown is that the relapse rate for Sex Addicts is extremely high, approaching nearly 100%. The longer a Sex Addict is sober the better chance they have of avoiding relapses. Just about every illness has at least a 5% rate of spontaneous remission (this goes for everything from the plague to cancer). Professionals state that all addictions have an approximate rate of 5% recovery with or without treatment, which equals the spontaneous remission rate.
Someone also asked about Sex Addiction and aging. Apparently it doesn’t make any difference. 12 step groups are populated by all ages of Sex Addicts. 70 and 80 something year old men are still out there surfing for porn, using Viagra to masturbate or perform with a hooker or, tragically, still pursuing underage children as sex objects.
It all comes down to the fact that they will stop when they want to stop and not before and no matter how many meetings, counselors, lost jobs, jail time or failed relationships they encounter.
Out of control emotions:
I read, with deep concern, a few comments that included some troubling descriptions of physical violence toward the Sex Addict. I understand the volatility of feelings and emotions that occurs when dealing with Sex Addiction. It hits us where it really hurts the most and cuts more deeply than any other type of betrayal.
What concerns me is when stable, caring women somehow lose control of their core beliefs about themselves and allow their emotions to overcome their better judgment. Again, I feel that any time we act or react in a manner outside of our personal norm that this is a red flag and we should recognize it as a cry for help from ourselves.
I remember a time when I was very seriously plotting a way to kill Larry. I indulged myself in that thought for hours. It was not just fantasy, I was serious.
The next day I called my therapist. I was actually sick to my stomach over the fact that I could actually have those thoughts. Now, my therapist reassured me that this was a very normal reaction to the extreme betrayal I had experienced, but acting on that thought would be another matter. Strangely enough, at the two COSA meetings I went to several women shared stories of hitting, punching and kicking their husbands along with pouring liquids over them and spitting at them.
Acting out on these urges is not only ineffectual, it is demeaning to our sense of self respect and can only complicate the already tormented situation of dealing with Sexual Addiction. It is normal to want to hurt your Sexually Addicted husband, but it is not normal to actually do it. Physical violence is always wrong. We would never accept it from our partners so let’s not accept it in ourselves.
I think I addressed this pretty will in a few comments and in my post Is Your Sexually Addicted Spouse Maintaining His Sobriety? Don’t Bet Your Life On It.
Why not just have an affair?:
A couple of comments broached the subject of having an affair. I can understand that train of thought, I’ve been there myself. We are lonely, deeply in need of recognition that we are attractive, desirable and worthy. We long to be touched. To be held. We want to feel needed and wanted. Hell, we just want some sex!
But, trust me, if you really want to muck up your life, just try to solve your problems by having an affair. I cannot think of a worse solution to the problem. You will feel guilty. You will feel remorse. You will feel ashamed at violating your marriage vows. You will be either (a.) unhappy because you cannot find a lover (b.) unhappy because you cannot be with your new lover (c.) unhappy because your new lover is pressuring you to leave your husband before you are ready (d.) unhappy because your new lover dumped you (e.) unhappy because it wasn’t what you expected (f.) unhappy because your husband/friend/relative/child/co-worker found out about the affair or (g.) unhappy because you now have a new STD.
It’s an immature decision and we have to remain the mature ones during the crisis.
That’s a huge subject and will be discussed in my new eBook.
Well, I hope that addresses at least some of the questions out there. We all know that Sex Addiction is a highly complex issue and that’s what this site is for. We all have different, yet similar experiences and our sharing and commenting will hopefully help light our way through the dark times.
Love to all.