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sad coupleFinding out that your spouse or partner has a Sex Addiction is both devastating and life changing, but what follows that discovery is often so much worse. It is rare that a Sex Addict ‘comes clean’ about his addiction. Often their secret life is discovered by a spouse or partner who confronts them with the evidence, or their activities result in job loss, legal action or arrest.

Sex Addicts live in a world of lies and denial, lying even to themselves. This chronic lying is a way of life and the addict feels so much shame that their only defense is to lie. So, when confronted they hide behind their lies, admitting only to what is necessary to stop the questioning. Not able to cope with facing the truth about themselves, the Sex Addict will say or do anything to avoid conflict or the questions about their actions and behaviors that they have rationalized, compartmentalized and buried.

Spouses and partners in the early stages of disclosure become frustrated with the inconsistent stories, half truths and denials, and often feel as if they are going crazy. The addict often believes the lies they are telling or they convince themselves that lying is the best thing for everyone. All of this results in what is called ‘Staggered Disclosures’. You are given the information in bits and pieces over weeks, months or years.

I did not get most of the facts from my husband for over three years and I know there are still things that he absolutely can’t face telling me, but these are minor and I did get the brutal truth. Finally I got enough information to feel secure within myself that my instincts had been right, that I had been blatantly lied to and that my husband had finally faced his addiction and was willing to admit to himself and to me what he had done wrong.

Some counselors and 12 step groups overlook the need for the spouse or partner to get all the information they need; some will advise you to work on yourself and let the addict work through their problems. This is true, but the rest of the story is that you will never feel safe, never feel secure and never be able to begin to regain your trust until you have all the answers that YOU need. My imagination was so much worse than his truths, and knowing those truths, no matter how painful they were, was what I needed to heal.

Once I had the truth, the whole truth, the truth that I knew in my gut was was honest, I quit obsessing over it. Of course I felt angry, sad and disgusted, and each truth needed discussion and resolution, but then it was over. Then I could put it in it’s proper place and evaluate the relationship from a point of reality rather than fantasy. Then I could then make an informed choice about whether to stay or leave. Until I had all the pieces of the puzzle it was impossible to see the whole picture.

There were times when my husband said that I didn’t have the right to question him about certain details of his acting out. He said these details were too personal to discuss, that he felt too uncomfortable talking about them. Well, too bad! He ran the relationship into the ditch and if he wanted to have any chance for a future with me he had to put aside his discomfort and answer my questions.

It took a long time, thousands of dollars worth of counseling, long hours of talking, yelling, crying and leaving, but we finally got through it. Now we can talk about the future rather than the past.

Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgivable. ~Nigerian saying~


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  1. My husband and I talked about this today. In his meetings they advise NOT to talk about the details, that it’s too damaging for the wives to really know *exactly* what was done.

    I through a HUGE fit about that. I want to know, I want my questions answered. There have been so many lies, I want no more. I want the intimacy that I deserve, that intimacy that comes with telling your most embarrassing and scary secrets. I want what I thought we had…I want the f-ing TRUTH.

    I explained to him that he saves himself no trouble by not telling me. I always sense the hole in the story and then that hole becomes the MOST IMPORTANT part of the story to me. There are so many “white lies” he told 16 years ago that he’s having to answer for now, he would have been better off just telling me the truth…it would have saved me a lot of scars.

  2. It’s always the half-truths that kill me… i saw that my husband was texting a hooker on the night when i found out about his addiction,while we were fighting through text mesaaging (i left the house the moment i found out). i was so furious when i saw the text that i started packing (again) and guess what he did?? he tried to kill himself. i wish he would just tell me everything that i need to know. not knowing everything simply makes patching things up a farce.

  3. I think if I had been told the truth early on, I might have been able to work through the details, in time.

    But now, after 30 years, I don’t know if there is much point in knowing all the details. I’m not sure that’s actually good for me. It’s 30 years of betrayals, the ten thousand details of which might just be soul-destroying. I don’t know that living with the descriptions and the events set with “me” floating around in the background–innocent and trusting, is good for my own well-being. It sounds a little like more abuse.

    In my life and in my work I deal with a lot of horrible information about people. And I’m no longer sure that others knowing the details is a necessary part of recovery or reconciliation. How horrible was my partner? Your partner? It’s not a competition, and it’s not like we learn the details and decide they aren’t addicts after all.

    I think betrayal is an arcetypal wound–I mean that its potential for harm is vast and unfathomable, even though its commonality in human experience is a fact.

    So I guess I’m trying to say—we need to be careful with disclosure.

    1. Diane,

      You make a good point. In spite of what I wrote above, I neglected to mention that I do think there are exceptions to the rule. Each case should be looked at individually. I do think that the truth is a necessary part of recovery (for both partners), but the details are not necessary for each person. And, no, the truth does not undo the past or change the reality of it. The botton line is, like you said, you deserved the truth long ago, and it is tragic that you didn’t get it.

  4. Hi Diana

    I agree with your thoughts. Even now (8 months after leaving) I still wonder about little things. The black long hairs on the bed in the spare room (I have fair hair), the empty condom wrapper that was explained away as ours although we hadn’t used that form of contraception for months, the women’s deodarant that kept appearing that wasn’t mine (it was left behind by some mutual friends) the women’s clothing (sexy) that I found that was an ex girlfriend’s you see, the bra that was given back to me that wasn’t mine – laundrette had mixed up with someone elses – the spam email from sex sites, the texts from an unknown number. The trips away where timings just didn’t make sense. I wonder, I wonder and I know. But I leave it at that. The end came when I confronted him about a woman he’d been seen going home with.
    Everything suddenly fell down on me and us like a tonne of bricks and I realised that everything that I had insisted to myself was my own insecurities and just couldn’t be anything sinister indeed infact was what my instincts were crying out and telling me it was. He never explained or denied but insisted (later) that he’d never been unfaithful without denying that this woman had existed or that anything else I confronted him about was untrue. At the time perhaps I was hoping for some kind of explanation but I really don’t think I would have been able to cope with knowing more than I already do. The sordid world of escorts, porn, dating sites, secrecy, lies. I know enough. And now I’m glad of that. He loves me and I love him but we’re not together. He knows I can’t be with him and I know I can’t be with him. I can’t have him in my life as a friend because it’s too hurtful and I can’t corrolate what we were, with what happened and where we’re at now. So we’re moving on. Without each other.

  5. Seren…8 months since you left? How is it, other than the wondering? Is it worse without him? Funny… I found a long black hair in my bathroom sink. I, like you, at first tried to excuse it as the dogs (yeah… I know). Even after he was busted, and admitted that the hair came from the Asian girl at the spa…The very next day, he tried getting out of it by saying “well, what did it look like, you are always ACUSING me of things I don’t do. It could have come from somewhere else”. Where might that be???! I’m blond, not stupid! Just as I suspected, his “treat all of my problems, as they are my work problems” practice is working well. NOT! I found his secret locked security box in his work shop last night (recently purchased). Never a minutes peace! I know, we are just so damn trusting. Do you suppose they think we are really that stupid? Like my husband recently told me (to avoid admitting the real problem)”I just did those things because I thought I could get away with it”. That was the last excuse I heard fall from his lips. Always something! Do you sleep any better at night, now that you aren’t with him? I use to sleep like a baby. Now I don’t. He is up at all hours, roaming the house, and on the computer. Tylenol P.M.s… My new best friend! LOVE YA.XOXO

  6. Over 10 years I made numerous discoveries, too many to count. Finally on June 5, 2010 I was given the gift of a real disclosure in the safety of our therapist’s office. I knew most of what was disclosed due to my own snooping and sleuthing and detective work. However, I did not know everything. The disclosure was a gift to both of us. It wasn’t a low level of detail as it started with “when I was 4 years old” and my husband is now 33 … so nearly 30 years of history is huge and really how many details does he even remember through some of those years especially when drug use was involved.

    I decided that once you know something, you can’t un-know it. So after the disclosure I wrote in a notebook all of the detailed questions that I felt still haunted me.

    A few weeks later, in a couples session with our amazing therapist, she had me rattle off many of my detailed questions and she helped guide us through a conversation to give me more details to ease my PTSD response but not too many details. She walked a very fine line and did a brilliant job of it. Now a few months later I do still have some detailed things I’d like to know so I imagine we’ll do another similar session with her.

    The disclosure was really necessary for both of us. I think its very individual how people do them, if they do a polygraph, when they do them and so on. I am glad that our experience with it was positive and we had guidance in support that allowed us the freedom to make it what we needed it to be.

  7. In my head, something comes up (like who initiated the first kiss? Did you pleasure her or was it all about you? et cetera) and once it is in my head, I will mull it over, torturing myself imagining it, often assuming the worst.
    If I hear the brutal truth and shed a few tears the thought is then COMPLETE…if that makes any sense? It’s no longer a fear, it’s the truthful account of what happened and I am able to accept it and try to dismiss it (until a trigger I suppose).

    1. B, to me, this makes absolute, 100%, complete sense! I don’t recall if I have ever heard another woman describe it this way, other than me. It is such a wonderful feeling to be validated!

  8. Oh, it blesses my heart to see this! I am in training to become a Certified Clinical Sex Addiction Specialist and a few weeks ago I was taking a class and this topic came up. What a debate! That poor instructor (Richard Blankenship) had no idea what he was getting into when he let me into his class. Like so many other things in this field, “no details” is pretty much an accepted, agreed upon concept amongst therapists. Well, from the beginning, I have known that I needed to have all my questions answered openly and honestly. The fact that my husband came around pretty quickly (after a lot hemming and hawing and sugar coating which was excruciating!) is one HUGE thing that got me through and helped save our marriage. Another almost universal belief amongst therapists is that individual work must happen BEFORE couple’s work can be done. I’m sorry, all the individual work in the world can only go so far for the wife when you have to go home to your addict husband. It must be a 3 pronged approach if the goal is for the couple to stay together.

    I recently had a client who joined one of my support groups for wives of sex addicts four months after discovering her husband is a sex addict, and four months into counseling (individual and marriage) with two different CSATs (Certified Sex Addiction Therapists). She had initially wanted a full disclosure (the clinical kind that takes place with a therapist and in my case, with a polygraph), but when the therapists did not push the issue or see it as something that was urgent she eventually came to a place where she thought she didn’t need it. She thought she was doing pretty well and believed her husband when he told her that she knew everything. Like I tell all wives, unless there has been a full clinical disclosure with polygraph, you don’t know everything. When she heard my opinion of the importance of a disclosure she started questioning whether she should do one. I was so angry that their therapists had let them come this far without one. I knew what inevitably would happen, and it did. She decided she wanted the disclosure and they did one with me, in the context of an intensive. Of course all that hard work was undone when she found out new information. It is like ripping off a scab.

    Why did I think it was important, even when she felt she was doing okay? Well, a few reasons. First, she was just doing “okay”. Without the truth in the open, the couple would not be able to experience true intimacy. Secrets form a barrier between a husband and wife, even when one spouse doesn’t know the secrets are there. Further, by thinking things were fine, she was in denial. She had not fully dealt with his addiction because she didn’t yet know everything she needed to deal with. But chances were good that things would come up for her (thoughts, emotions, questions) down the road. Secondly, an addict needs all the truth out in the open in order for him to start learning to be honest with his wife in the future, and in order for him to learn to start living in the light. In this case, the addict was a guy who was really in recovery and genuinely wanted to be free of this addiction. Otherwise, a disclosure would have been pointless. Third, she deserved to know all the truth, for her own safety if nothing else.

    I tell the couples I work with that every question must be answered honestly. Every wife needs a disclosure, whether she wants one or not, if she wants to save her marriage (assuming he is in recovery). Whether or not she needs details is up to her. Some wives don’t want them and that is okay. Some wives need to know everything and that is okay too. That is why I have addicts give a disclosure he has prepared in advance without details and then the wife has the chance to ask questions that she has prepared in advance. This is where she can get as much information as she wants. I tell her to think carefully before she asks certain questions and make sure she wants the answer, but so far I haven’t had anyone tell me they regretted asking a question.

    I am probably in the minority in that I wanted every singly graphic detail (position, hair color, ethnicity, circumstances etc.) and every peice of information was like a dagger to the heart. But I don’t regret knowing anything. Otherwise I would feel like my husband was still keeping secrets from me and I couldn’t live like that. Yeah, the visions invaded my mind obsessively for a while. But, for me, it would have been harder if I didn’t know. Now, at this point, three years later, there are very rare moments where a thought will come into my head and I think I either never asked or I forgot the answer. I sometimes feel tempted to ask now, and I know he would answer honestly. But I am in a different place now. I have worked through my junk and usually I now choose not to ask. I have no need to bring it back up. But back then, I couldn’t not ask and if I wasn’t given the answer I would have gone crazy (well, crazier).

    Back to the client I was talking about, after the intensive she sent me a long letter about how thankful she was that she now had the truth and how she felt more hopeful about her marriage than ever.

  9. Does porn and masturbation addiction almost always lead to physical cheating???

    1. Yes, unless they stop completely the Dopamine receptors in their brains become desensitized to the surges that they receive when viewing porn.

      The escalation usually goes to different types of porn, to more extreme and exotic types of porn to physical encounters.

      If they continue to use porn it will ALWAYS escalate. It is impossible to predict where it will go. Many men escalate to fetishes, gay porn, transexual porn, child porn and all types of physical encounters.

      IT ALWAYS ESCALATES. 100% Until they stop. ~ JoAnn

  10. Its NEVER NEVER only about porn.

    COz you never find out about the porn viewing when it is infrequent.They are very good at concealing it.It is only when the porn escalates and becomes an addiction that they get careless coz of their compulsion to keep going back to it.

    So you find out about it when it has already become an addcition.

    All the porn sites have live webcam chats.They have citywise listings where these women live.

    It is natural for any person frequenting these sites often to explore all that these sites have to offer.most of them have chat rooms and no woman visits chatrooms on a porn site unless she is looking for business.

    When the SAs sees these women on the site their addicted brain tells them that these women would offer the same sexual services they see in the porn clips.

    You dont need to be a rocket scientist to think that it can stop only at porn unless you want to live in denial.

    Sorry if i was a bit explicit in what i said but it makes me see red when i see SAs once away getting
    away by telling their wives that ist only porn and nothing else

  11. After 12 years of marriage I discovered my Husband owned pornography WEB based business, He operated as a producer, photographer, and performer in his adult pornography internet business. He operated this business in secrecy from me . During this time he contracted with many Women (Models). He traveled to promote his porn business, attending porn conventions and traveling out of state to meet models for shoots in hotel rooms. He also went on sex vacations in the Dominican Republic once a year. We have been in therapy for over 2 years. He attends a SA recovery clinic (using Patrick Carnes methods) which includes group and individual therapies. He also actively attends SA meetings, has a sponsor and is completing his 9th step. I’m in a POSA group and am in individual counseling with two therapist one for SA and one for PTSD. We had full clinical Disclosure in an intensive the beginning of August. Before the intensive I was promised all my questions would be answered. I typed them out and gave them to my husband and his therapist two weeks before disclosure. My questions were answered for the most part, but I wrote down some questions from my husband’s answers I want to know. My questions were put aside during the intensive and never answered. I reviewed the questions with my therapist before the 2nd day of the intensive and she advised they were asking for details and did I really need them answered. At the time, I took her advice but as time has gone on the questions weigh on my mind. I know they Open old wounds and a lot of pain again. I have gone over this in my mind, prayed a lot, and have tried to move on. I can’t. I need to have my questions answered. What do I do?

    1. Please do not use this site as a forum for asking and answering questions, The Sisterhood site is for that. This site does not have enough bandwidth for that and will shut down when it’s reaches it’s limits. Thanks ~ JoAnn

  12. My apologies I thought it was okay after reading Question from Linda and response above. I misunderstood and completely understand. I’ll check out the sisterhood site.

    1. No worries. I use to allow commenting as you can see on some of these older articles, but it just became too expensive. I actually stopped allowing any comments for a while, and now I have opened it up just for discussion of the main article or story.

      But, I will say that no one can or should tell you what YOU need to know. That is your choice. Some women, like myself, need to know everything before they can start to heal. Others do not want to know. If you want details you have every right in the universe to ask for and get those answers.

  13. So, if I divorce my SA after 11 years of marriage and he gets joint custody of our 9 year old and 10 year old daughters, what if he doesn’t stay in SA meetings? Will he escalate to molesting my girls when he has them a couple nights a week. Should I stay married to him to try to protect my girls until they are older?

  14. I’m getting ready for formal disclosure in a month. Through this 1st year of recovery, since discovery he had answered every question I asked.
    I don’t. Know how so could survived it any other way.
    Our therapy group says I have details I shouldn’t. I have more triggers. But I can’t express how much I am glad for every detail. I felt insane with need to get the truth. No matter what it was. I was not willing to accept anything but 100% honesty for that point on.