When I worked as a RN in the hospital I encountered numerous cases of obvious Domestic Violence and abuse. It took me a long time to understand why these women did not ‘just leave’ their abusive partners. Eventually I began writing articles and working with local groups to raise community awareness of the problem of Domestic Violence. I was recognized with an award for these efforts.
Now, over a decade later, I am seeing that same pattern of hopelessness in women who are involved with Sex Addicts. This week I was reviewing some of my information on the cycle of abuse and I was just blown away by the similarities between relationships scarred by Domestic Violence and relationships damaged by Sexual Addiction. Then I asked myself the question, Is Sex Addiction just Spousal Abuse in disguise?
I have always said that the Sex Addict is an abuser. They abuse others by objectifying them and denying their sense of self and being, by denying or ignoring the emotions and needs of others and, most importantly, they abuse by the extreme emotional pain they cause to their spouses and partners. This emotional abuse produces the same effect on spouses and partners of Sex Addicts that I saw over and over in victims of Domestic Violence.
Just think about it. Think about the women who comment here on this site, or others that you know who have been involved with a Sex Addict for a long period of time. They begin their relationship as whole, healthy, caring people and end up broken and depressed, unable to stand up for their rights, willing to compromise their morality, integrity and personal standards for their Sex Addict partner or spouse.
How can this happen? What kind of a person would agree to allowing their life partner to continue to humiliate them by engaging in sexual behaviors outside of the relationship. What kind of person would humiliate themselves by engaging in sexual acts with their spouse or partner that are not pleasurable and often offend their deepest convictions? What kind of person lies to cover up their spouse or partners behaviors? What kind of person willingly stays in a situation like this while swearing undying love and devotion to someone who treats them so badly?
What kind of person? Someone who has lost all sense of themselves (due to abuse).
This insidious, repetitious emotional abuse that you endure while living with a Sex Addict will break you so smoothly, there’s an excellent chance you won’t even realize that you’ve lost yourself. It may take years… but it will break you.
The cycle of abuse differs ever so slightly with Sex Addiction., but it is a very clear cycle. Just look at the chart below that outlines the cycle of domestic abuse. By changing only a few words we can see this same pattern in most Sexual Addiction relationships.
Just look at the first cycle–the tension building. The tension and stress are like a time bomb for the Sex Addict. I think most of us living with an active Sex Addict, whether we are aware of it or not, live with this unease that we feel in the relationship, which we try to resolve by placating the addict. If we were just a little nicer, cuter, thinner, sexier, etc. things might get better. The fact is, the Sex Addict is living in their own hell and we have nothing to do with it.
Now, let’s look at the second cycle. An incident. I remember the times before I discovered my husband’s addiction when he would become angry, withdrawn or argumentative for no apparent reason. Whatever the ‘incident’ was it had nothing to do with me, but I took the brunt of it. Sometimes the incident would be an argument over his flirting with other women or because I had found out that he was in chat rooms again, but it always ended badly with him somehow making me feel as if it were all my fault.
The third cycle, the reconciliation is the time of manipulation for the addict. They want to sweep the incident away and act as if nothing had happened. They can compartmentalize and wall off their feelings, but they just can’t understand why we are unable to forget.
The fourth cycle, the ‘honeymoon’ phase I think is not always consistent with the smaller incidents, which most Sex Addicts just want to forget, but is certainly a major factor in Sex Addiction when they are ‘outed’ or discovered in a major relapse. I hear it over and over from women who have just recently discovered their spouse’s or partner’s Sex Addiction. Suddenly the addict becomes the perfect spouse. They are attentive, sexually considerate, loving, caring, thoughtful, sensitive, introspective, remorseful…and on and on ad nauseam. At this stage the addict is afraid of being abandoned, afraid of facing the consequences for their behavior and they will do anything, say anything or agree to anything just to make the tension go away. As soon as you let your guard down and start to feel comfortable…BAM! It starts all over again.
I think if counselors, treatment centers and we ourselves looked at Sexual Addiction more from the viewpoint of an abusive situation rather than a relatively new and unexplored mental disorder there might be more and better treatment options available. What do you think?
Emotional abuse is underneath all other types of abuse. The most damaging aspect of abuse is the trauma to our hearts and souls from being betrayed
by the people that we love and trust. ~ Robert Burney