JoAnn’s Fury! 12 Step Enabling Of Sex Addicts

I try to stay objective about the comments and e-mails I receive, but alas, I am only human. And, you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad that I am still filled with passion and emotion. I’m glad that I can love all of you enough to just fly off in a fury over something one of you has written about your Sexually Addicted spouses or partners.

As with most emotional outbursts the little things add up. I try to understand that everyone here is in different places, as are their spouses. I try to send good energy to everyone and hope that everyone here can find peace. But I hear it over and over about how these men use their 12 step groups as a shield for their behavior and as a way to keep their secrets. I got a private e-mail today that just made me furious! This woman was belittled by her husband for wanting to know about his 12 step meetings.

I just have such anger over the way a lot of the 12 step groups are run. These meetings are only as good as their members, and, unfortunately, many of the members simply use the meetings as a cover for their acting out. As long as they tell their wives and partners that they are ‘going to my meetings every week’ and ‘you need to let me work my program myself ‘ (hear–stay out of MY business) then the ‘little woman’ has nothing to complain about. Right? It’s just such an issue of condescension, deceit and control it makes me want to puke!

The original base for the 12 step program was started by a conservative, religious zealot named Bill Wilson who, among other things, had a severe drinking problem. Oddly enough, his 12 step program was not responsible for his sobriety–it was an early 20th century cure involving large doses of the drug Belladonna that made him turn his back on alcohol. This  Belladonna Cure, also called the ‘puke and purge’ cure would be enough to make anyone stop drinking.

Bill Wilson, deity of the 12 steps, lived a life of hypocritical irresolute self-indulgence, preaching “spirituality”, “absolute purity”, “rigorous honesty”, and self-sacrifice to others while indulging in all of the pleasures of the flesh himself — with the sole exception that he did finally quit drinking alcohol after it nearly killed him. (The old ‘switch addictions’ story)

Bill Wilson cheated on his wife Lois with many different women, both before and after his sobriety. He even cheated on her while she worked in a department store to support him. “I’m going to a meeting” was often a double-entendre when Bill Wilson said it. Bill actually invented the old A.A. tradition of  ‘Thirteenth Stepping’ the pretty women who come to A.A. meetings seeking help for alcoholism. (First you teach them the Twelve Steps, and then you take them to the bedroom and teach them the Thirteenth Step….).

Sound familiar?

Even worse, Bill Wilson’s treatment of his wife Lois can only be described as “cold, cruel, vindictive, and heartless”. But, Bill, obviously also a Sex Addict, went on to form his infamous 12 step program that now serves as a model for addiction recovery.

The first step of any 12 step program is “Admission of Powerlessness” That is really just a veiled excuse to continue such behavior: ‘I can’t quit because I’m powerless over my sexual urges. So I guess I’m doomed; I’ll just have to keep on enjoying all of the cute young babes because I don’t have any control over the situation.’

Honestly, many, many men who have been in my husband’s 12 step meetings say almost that exact same thing. They admit that they ‘expect’ to act out. It’s like…’Oh well, I just can’t control myself and everyone else here understands because we all admit we are powerless in our chant of the 12 Steps at every meeting.’ Many of these men have been coming to meetings for decades and still continue to act out.

Any man who comes home and tells you that you have no right to ‘interfere’ with his recovery, that you have no right to hear what goes on at the meetings, what he shares with his sponsor or even who his sponsor is, or that you are being a co-addict if you won’t allow him to ‘work’ his own recovery needs to be flogged! That’s not recovery, that’s not helping make amends to you for what he has done and that’s not good for rebuilding your relationship. All it does is allow him to continue with his secrets and his deception via Bill’s good ol’ boys club philosophy.

12 step meetings do have their place in most Sex Addict’s recovery. Larry still attends, but does not in any way credit his recovery to them. 12 steps, at their best, provide structure, spiritual guidance and a safe place to share emotions that have long been buried, but, at their worst, they are nothing more than another rationalization for bad behavior and keeping secrets.

It’s up to us, the spouses and partners, to set  boundaries and expectations for anyone who wants a place in our lives.

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Responses

  1. JoAnn,

    wowwy wow wow… This is just the most amazing post!!! And so timely too, as Predator, only three days after his beloved partner’s birthday 41st birthday, has posted yet another disgusting ad on Craig’s List—

    hmmm… I see clear signs now of escalating disease… Oh my…

    She just doesn’t want to know. Its all so sad…

    You’re a pioneer in this field, JoAnn… Absolutely brilliant! Thank you, thank you!!!

    Let’s rewrite those lame steps!

    Here’s one that I’ve come up with. Anyone else want to jump in?

    Step 1) We seek to manage and control the inappropriate sexual compulsions that are harmful to ourselves and loved ones.

    The secrets MUST stop!!!

    xo,

    L

  2. Lorraine, I second the wowwy wow wow. And, I like your suggestion for Step 1.

    JoAnn – What an informative article! You hit the nail on the head again. It is time these things are exposed.

    I remember one of my bosses stated to me, that “It is easier to beg forgivness than to ask permission”. That mentality never did sit right with me. Here he was in management and supposed to lead and set examples. What a sorry state we are in.

  3. I know the deceiver so well. Those kind do what they can to fool you so they can use you, and everyone else. Belittlement is their number one weapon and coping device when confronted about who they really are. Confront them, ask for respect in any manner, and you are the beaten in every way.
    In my experience, there was never any honesty what so ever, with my ex-husband. Only terrible cruelness and falseness. Everything and everyone is a game to people like him. To me, these are people that have more than sexual addiction. They are thoroughly selfish to the extent of absolutely not caring one bit about any other human being.
    As my therapist said several years ago as I found out my entire life, marriage, and “best friend”, was a complete sham, he has no conscience he has no empathy, and he will never have regret.
    He continues, with a new woman, a good woman who stands behind him now, fooling her and lying and cheating on her. Just like he did me. These types in my opinion, are more than sexually addicted. My therapist told me that sociopaths enjoy the dirty, lying side. But they need a cover, and use a good woman to hide what they are.

  4. This is way to ironic. I was just talking to one of the s-anons and said the exact same thing. I went even deeper saying that the SA program is really some secret society where they (SA’s) go to “work their program” all the while they are lying to one another, themselves and their partners. It took me nearly 10 years to figure that out – that’s how long I have been in recovery – my SA too.
    What a joke and how terribly sad for them. I am feeling so much better about my decision to leave ……….

  5. And one more thing,
    My SA has “shared” his program with me. 99% of it. The other 1%????????
    So what I am saying is that my SA would tell me everything he thought I wanted to hear. Honestly, I am not even sure he is fully aware of that. A sick mind is just that . . . SICK. He would come home and tell me he got an email from an old sex partner, and he deleted it. Or he would even show me the text and we would delete it together. Moreover, I would go into my S-anon meetings and tell new comers about my experience, strength and hope!!!!!!!! I totally bought into the program that I could detach with love, do gods will bla bla bla. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for the S-anon program, there are many gifts from working a 12 step. But I am getting to the other side- finally – and he is not in the picture. I know the process will be very hard as I imagine my husband will not be fair in our divorce. In fact, he has a very high profile job and is in touch with a number of high powered Lawyers. But there is nothing I can do about it. I will try to get more than my fair share of course, but I know the law is not fair.
    OYE!!!!

  6. I can’t believe that this was posted now Thank you Joanne.My SA was just telling me he didn’t think he was going to go back to his meeting.He went to his first last Friday he said it was OK but they were taking about how they go to meeting but still act out. My SA said he wanted to chock the s**t out of them and ask them if they don’t get it. He was serious!!!no BS about it. Hes goes for counseling and has reg with RN he has put much thought it to his lessons there to. I know its a long road for both of us and I have committed to myself something I never ever have done before MYSELF. He seems to realize he needs to put as much effort in recovery as he put into his addiction. I now that July 13th d-day scared the hell out of him its almost like he crossed his own line

  7. Hard to know where to jump in here…

    But one of the irrational pieces of the 12 step recovery process and how the “wife” supposed ly fits into it, is the highly co-dependent cradle upon which it sits. The wife or partner is required to accept secrecy, SA arrogance, being interpreted by his addiction, acquiescing to priorities unrelated to her own experience, assuming a negative identity, and the relentless refusal to allow her to be whole person in her own right.

    Doesn’t this seem like co-dependency is being served up as solution the same time as it is being flung in your face as your part in enabling his addiction?

    In what kind of weird mental process does this have credibility?

    Last night I was treated again to the ongoing saga of my husband’s recovery journey–what workshop he’ll be going to, what SA hero will be speaking, blahblahblah. But our whole planning for full disclosure before moving back toward each other was hijacked by extreme claims around the need for secrecy, the demand that I should accept he would tell the truth because his therapist said he didn’t lie, and her demand to be present to assess the codependent dynamics present in me. It’s completley irrational, dishonest, and has no capacity for mutuality in understanding a relationship. It’s got to be all about him , all the time, and controlled by his group.

    that’s just abuse, control, and more lies.

    enough,
    D.

    1. Diane,

      I LOVE this part of your post “But one of the irrational pieces of the 12 step recovery process and how the “wife” supposed ly fits into it, is the highly co-dependent cradle upon which it sits. The wife or partner is required to accept secrecy, SA arrogance, being interpreted by his addiction, acquiescing to priorities unrelated to her own experience, assuming a negative identity, and the relentless refusal to allow her to be whole person in her own right.

      Doesn’t this seem like co-dependency is being served up as solution the same time as it is being flung in your face as your part in enabling his addiction?”

      I also SO relate to the ladies above that talked about how their husbands can look them dead in the eye and lie w/out blinking an eye, and then also the mention of “This is someone I still deeply love and I took a vow to become one with”, and now, when we realize just how “sick” they are, we are supposed to just up and leave because of fact they don’t want to face the fact they are sick, or refuse to do the things that might help their illness.

      If our husbands had a physical illness, would we be called codependant bc we desperately wanted them to seek treatment? We’d be considered heartless if we left him in a physical illness, because as he got sicker, he was destroying our marriage. I’d be furious with a dr. that would look at me and tell me I was making his physical illness worse. I was only trying to help my husband realize the severity of his illness, and help him to get better, just like I would have done for a physical illness.

      I GET that this illness is his to deal with, and I can’t MAKE him do a darn thing if he refuses to, but it’s like I’m just supposed to just walk out the door and never give him a second thought, or just sit back and watch him waste away to nothing, while the husband I thought I would grow old with, lets this illness overtake him. No wife could do this with a physical illness he had, and it not upset her, change her, or she try to convince her husband to seek treatment, and then question how in the world he can continue to do this.

      I wouldn’t be told doing any of those things made his physical illness worse, I would instead receive empathy and understanding as to how difficult this is to watch happen, so I fail to see how this label of codependancy can be slapped on all of us so quickly when we are dealing with our husbands emotional and/or mental illness that fuels their addictions, no differently then we would do for a physical illness.

      Sometimes, from where I sit, I feel we too much time focusing on how to become “seperated” in this mess, when instead there should be focus on how to work together to get through this. Yes, HE has to be the one to do the work, so hold him 100% accountable for that, and then instead of shifting part of his illness and recovery on ME, by calling me “co” anything in this mess, show me how to DEAL with illness recovery, or how to deal with his “death” by his refusal to do anything.

      It’s like they want to build this wall between us as a couple for recovery, but then we’re 50% of the problem?? How does that make any sense??

      1. MyRewardIsComing, Chapter three of Your Sexually Addicted Spouse (which by the way begins with a little bit of my story, with some minor details changed of course, that Marsha got my permisssion to use) discusses attachment bonds. One part says, “When we develop relationships, we establish what psychologists call attachment bonds. We form expectations of how we will be treated in the relationship, and the connections grow as we share experiences. As they do we begin to look to the relationship for a sense of safety, security, and fulfillment…..the more significant the relationship, the more intensely we feel the fear and threat to the relationship”. So, it is not codependency we are suffering from, but a fear of the loss of this person we have formed an attachment bond to. The chapter goes on to explain this in more detail and the entire book is just WONDERFUL!

        I totally get your analogy to staying with someone who is sick in another way. These men truly are sick. Howver, my thoughts of woman who stay when it is clear their husband is not going to get help, is that most men who are abusive in some way are sick. Maybe it is Bipolar Disorder and they refuse to take their meds, maybe it is Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder and they can’t feel empathy so they have no regard for your feelings and abuse you emotionally without being able to see the damage they are doing. In fact one or more of these disorders is often present in sex addiction. Maybe they are alcoholic and come home angry every day and take it out on you physically. This IS different from a person suffering from cancer or diabetes. You may make many sacrifices for them, but you are not being abused. That, to me, is the difference. Eventually you have to realize you deserve better and while it may not have been his fault that he is the way he is, it is his fault that he isn’t getting help and staying in recovery. I understand slips can happen, but I am talking about the men who simply refuse to even try or are in denial that they even have a problem. In my opinion, no one deserves that or should continue to put up with it.

        As for this part of your post, “Sometimes, from where I sit, I feel we too much time focusing on how to become “seperated” in this mess, when instead there should be focus on how to work together to get through this. Yes, HE has to be the one to do the work, so hold him 100% accountable for that, and then instead of shifting part of his illness and recovery on ME, by calling me “co” anything in this mess, show me how to DEAL with illness recovery, or how to deal with his “death” by his refusal to do anything. It’s like they want to build this wall between us as a couple for recovery, but then we’re 50% of the problem?? How does that make any sense??”, I can add nothing to it. You said it all. I completely agree and this fact is tragic.

      2. Ella I agree, there is a definate distinction between those illnesses. My head understands ALL of that, and sees the handwriting on the wall after a few years of finally putting everything together. I don’t know, maybe if I never saw so many hopeful glimpses that he finally DID get what his actions were doing to me, and to himself, enough to finally admit he needed help, my heart would be more in line w/what my head knows. My head knows he’s sick, but he CAN get help, he just WON’T. It’s my heart that is so overwhelmed with sadness that he won’t.

        Where I do get angry, is being told I’m codependant bc I feel this utter sadness, and it HAS affected me. Who wouldn’t be affected?? Kind of feels like I’m being called codependant or “weak” bc I’m a caring, compassionate person. Would it be better if I were more like the addicts who sometimes seem to have no heart?

        Seems like just the few therapists we saw all had a differance of opinion as to how we should both be dealing with these issues, so those of us w/out formal training are branded simply be of how we tried to handle things? Once my husband crossed a line, I took steps to make sure he couldn’t do that again. To me codependance is saying, I KNOW you will hurt me again, I don’t care, just stay. But it seems to get carried one step farther, that if I am sad over what’s happened, or full of grief over it, that’s ALSO codependance. I just don’t see it that way. I saw a life I thought I was going have, with a husband I adored, evaporate before my eyes. HE’S the cause of that, but bc I’m going through a grief process to get my heart to catch up to my head, that throws a label on me. Sort of like being called codependant for being human.

  8. SO…I have a question. Should I not encourage my husband to go to one of these? And if not, what should he be doing? He just met with a psychiatrist and we have talked about doing the Mort Fertel marriage boot camp together. I had talked to him about SA groups but we weren’t sure even where to start. Any suggestions? Also…about the privacy thing…he filled something out for his psychiatrist about his addiction (like a questionaire analysis). I wanted to see it but he didn’t think it would be “helpful”. I somewhat agree but he said he would ask his psychiatrist his thoughts/recommendations on me seeing what he wrote. What do you ladies think about that?

  9. Well that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? What to do?

    The 12 step seems program has helped my husband sober up. But it has done NOTHING else for our relationship, and therefore I no longer hold out the hope of reconcilation. He remains self-centred, cowardly, and immature. I’m just as stumped as you are , Elise. If the whole thing worked, then I’d be there in spades.

    I guess you try it. After all, there isn’t much else. But just don’t drink the kool-aid. Stay alert and insist on what seems right in order to maintain a relationship of mutuality. If you are his partner, then he has treat you that way.

    On the other hand, I’m just sick of the whole damn thing. And if you get there too Elise, I just don’t want you to feel guilty about it. Maybe I’m just not cut out to play the wife of a recovering SA.

    good luck with whatever you choose, and what you choose after that. etc.
    D.

  10. I can’t say I blame you. I (most times) would love to hop on that side of the fence and never EVER look back. Im positive the grass is truly greener and better kept than the crab grass I am standing in now.
    Can I ask you something? When you first found out, did he admit he was a sex addict? Did he see it? Did he apologize and try to make efforts to change and make things right?
    I guess I am just worried that this is all out of guilt and the wave of denial, blaming me, making excuses is yet to come. Right now he takes full responsibility for all his actions. I just have read so many stories of men that are acting the complete opposite and didn’t know if at first they were remorseful and then once the guilt wore off, they were back to their old “wonderful” selves.

  11. Dear Elise,
    I’m sorry this is happening to you. My husband never said he was a sex addict. He went to SA, got a therapist specialing in SA, but never actually said it to me. Once I called him an SA and he corrected me to “Recovering SA”. He does call himself mentally ill, and insane–which is accurate. He has giant pride issues.

    But he has been remorseful, weeping, clearing expressing what he did to me, taking responsibility etc. The problem is that when it matters most, he does not change the way he treats me. And that’s the kicker. So it’s much ado about nothing as far as it pertains to me.

    Your spouse may not be as damaged as mine. Mine had been at it for 30 years, and maybe before that. He’s almost 60. That’s a lot of habit and pattern to break. You spouse may not be in the same spot. He also had a monster for a mother, and so the mental illness is deeply ingrained. I realize now my recovery expectation were probably unrealistic.

    Since living apart, we have managed to build a good caring relationship that our young adult sons see when we are together. We are able to joke as a family with shared memories and eat meals together when we are all in one place. But I couldn’t do it every day.

    Also, since living apart, everyone tells me I’ve lost years from my face and body. I look and feel like myself. I take care of myself and have begun to know what I actually want. Everytime I say “no” to the “program” crap that comes along with his process, I get stronger.
    I am freer to live my life and be responsible for the happiness I seem to be able to gather to myself.

    I say it all knowing that what I really wanted was to grow old with the man I fell in love with. But I lost that dream. The man I fell in love with, didn’t really exist.

    We are many apologies down the road from discovery, and I have actually forgiven what I know he did. But I also took off my wedding band when he sabotaged the disclosure plan.

    I hope you find the wisdom to make the choices that are good for you now and later. No one can tell you what to do. We just post warning signs, design road maps, and do emergency road side assistance.

    xo
    D.

  12. Im sorry you ever had to endure all of this. My heart breaks for all of you women as I cry my own tears. Misery loves company, I guess (I mean that by me reading everyone’s stories so that I am not just crying for me). Although, it seems you are LIGHTYEARS ahead of me. You sound confident and strong. I feel like if this were a movie (which I am sure one day it will be in one form or another) you would be played by Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton. I guess I am learning what it means to have a backbone. For awhile I was sure I never had one to begin with. I really look up to all of you ladies. I feel young and dumb and totally unsure of myself. I didn’t have much confidence before from a mother who thoroughly enjoyed putting me down any chance she got. But when I met my husband, I have never felt so beautiful. He made me feel like no one in this world ever could before him. And I had plenty of guys try. 3 marriage proposals and only one of them was from a guy I was dating (my horn is officially tooted)! But I never bought in to those guys. My husband…when my family met him and saw how we were together, they knew he was different. I guess none of us realized to what extent =(
    ANYWAY, all that to say…I am sorry if I am always asking what to do. I like to just be told. Im fantastic at taking orders. I realize, however, that this new life means new me. No more laying down in the middle of traffic. I HAVE TO be my own advocate. It’s painfully obvious that no one else is stepping up to the plate for me this time.
    SO, may I ask how he treats you? I feel like I don’t even know the right way to be treated anymore. It somehow got lost in the shuffle. Sadly, I can honestly say I don’t know how I should be treated. I do know that I had the most amazing daddy in the world. We went on dates, he listened to me, he UNDERSTOOD me. We were 2 peas in a pod. And he died of cancer 2 years ago. He treated my mom like gold (and she is finally facing the harsh reality of actually parking the car and walking in to the grocery). And a lot of our marriage I felt like I was too hard on my husband because I expected him to be like my dad. But A) he isn’t my dad. B) he had a REALLY crappy dad that left his family high and dry for another woman. and C)I know my dad wasn’t the same man I knew when he and my mom first got married. SO, what should I expect? What do I have to teach? Should I even be asking you this? hahaha
    I told him that how he treats me is the model for how our daughter will expect to be treated by men. That has helped some, but I feel like I am teaching a child because he hasn’t the first clue how to treat a wife. It’s such a crazy view bc after his dad left his mom did ABSOLUTELY everything for him and his siblings bc she felt so guilty for marrying that kind of man. She still even calls to see if she can get us anything at the grocery each week.
    Have I had too much wine? Probably.

  13. Elise,

    I realized that you addressed this to Diane, but allow me to jump in if I may.

    You sound like a really terrific young woman who is married to quite a troubled young man. I don’t know if he’s just giving you a song and dance or he’s truly being sincere, and I want to also comment on a very important thing that Diane said regarding that a man can go to SA recovery and become “sexually sober”, but he can still be an asshole.

    Isn’t that what she was trying to say? Is there asshole recovery as well??? If so…Then someone would make a mint!!!

    As for how you should be treated? How do your girlfriends treat you? It really isn’t all that different, except for the sexual aspect.

    I think that in a successful marriage that one should expect to be treated with honesty and respect. I would expect a man to have a strong sense of honor and integrity and to know the difference between right and wrong and act accordingly. I would hope that we had an honest, loving, sharing sense of communication and were not afraid to speak about anything, to one another, no matter how painful. It is so important to be able to talk about the “tough stuff.” Cause no matter what, honey, life is full of it!!! After that, ideally comes an emotional connection and intimacy. And for me, I couldn’t live without someone who did not know how to laugh at themselves and others, for we are all so pitifully imperfect and truly laughable and quite often.

    But also, people are fluid and constantly changing…This is as certain as birth and death. Any relationship is also going to change— for the better or worse over time and the point is to keep growing and changing—for the better—together and this takes effort and strong communication skills that are not constantly degrading to the other. (If you have a narcissist on your hands, which I don’t think that you do, forget this and just run… They will never get it.) Good communication skills can be learned (especially when our role models may not have been so great) and there are many books and programs on this out there. Of course, we all have slip ups, but the key is awareness and acceptance that we are human.

    In the case of a SA, however, we aren’t talking about forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning or spilling bleach on the rug. This is tantamount to a Volcano erupting right in your very own living room and just about as damaging.

    Sweetie, we will always be here for you, but a lot of these issues that we ALL have need the guidance and expertise of a professional counselor, and it takes time. Diane and I both see a therapist and for me, I think I will need to, for a very long time. Its a life saver, for me!

    This is all tough stuff. No one can tell you what is the best choice for you and your husband. I will say, that being young is probably a plus, as the longer this goes on… its just so insidious—it becomes so deeply ingrained that’s all.

    He CANNOT keep secrets however. If he can’t show you what he wrote on a form, then you know what??? That is ABUSE. That is not respectful to you and it is not anything to build that trusting, emotionally healthy relationship on. If he’s doing something that he can’t share with you, then HELLLLLLLOOOOOOO… ITS WRONG!!! Now, if what he wrote on the form is something that would make you want to leave him…and he’s just afraid…Well, then TS. He’s just gonna have to live with that and maybe you WILL leave him and maybe you WON”T and can get past all of it, but how can you know until you are dealing with the REAL devil???

    I do feel strongly, however, that these disclosures which are going to be very painful, are done with the help of a professional and one that both parties are comfortable with in their sharing. I think its the only way for your SA to really see what he has done to you (that he has convinced himself has NOTHING to do with you) and for you to also feel safe and understood.

    Now, I’ll shut up and let Diane answer your questions. 🙂

    xo,

    L

  14. Elise,

    I would like to respond to your mention of the Mort Fertel marriage boot camp. First of all, his philosophy is to “step away” from your problems and spend your time and energy building your relationship through positive actions. This ‘burying of the issues’ is extremely counter productive in any relationship, but extremely harmful to one that involves Sex Addiction, which thrives on denial.

    In my opinion it is much too early to try to fix the marriage without fixing the Sex Addiction issues first. You cannot build a new house on the same quicksand that destroyed the old house. Ignoring, denying, minimizing or rationalizing the behaviors and its causes will only allow them to fester and continue. Trying to fix your marriage right now would be an unfortunate diversion from the real issues.

    Your husband needs to work on understanding himself, his childhood traumas and how the sexual compulsiveness developed. Then he needs to work through all those issues and start building a healthy set of behaviors, values and an understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. 12 steps can be a piece of that work, but intense psycho therapy and counseling are also necessary. It is impossible to do this work by yourself. For any chance of success it must be a priority.

    During this time, which easily takes many years with no guarantee of success, you should be working on ways to heal your own trauma, regain your strength both physically and emotionally and work on setting boundaries and goals for yourself and for the relationship.

    Then, and only then do you start the long and difficult work of rebuilding your relationship with your husband and possibly rebuilding your marriage. Both of you will be different and you may or may not even like each other at that point.

    As Lorraine said, we are always changing. The years ahead will be an opportunity for you and your husband to grow. You cannot control how, or even if, he will embrace those changes, but you do have control over yourself, what you want in life and what direction you will take that is best for you.

    As to the privacy thing, you can’t expect too much too soon. There is no quick fix and Sex Addicts accept themselves and the new expectations slowly, if at all. Expecting him to share everything right away is just not realistic. But, those are the changes that you should expect over time.

    Eventually, if he is working on his recovery, staying sober and working through all the childhood and addiction issues with a professional he will learn to open up and share more with you. If he doesn’t, then there really isn’t much hope. Secrets have no place in a good relationship.

    It’s a long and difficult journey with no guarantees. Please don’t pin too much hope on rebuilding the marriage just yet. Work on the foundation first and then see if you even want to spend the rest of your life there.

  15. Hi Elise and Lorraine,
    Lorraine, you are always welcome to jump in—I always want to know what you think and believe others do as well! You sketched things out very well, as usual, with your special flare.

    There are aspect of my husband that are great. For example, he loves my brain and everything going on in there. So, we can have excellent discussion about our mutual work challenges, issues, ideas, books and movies etc. I feel I am heard and enjoyed. Sometimes he actually runs and gets paper to take notes. That’s sincere respect and admiration. We also laugh really well together with a great sense of what is just ridiculous. We have many “in” joke stock-piled from 30 years of the ridiculous together. We partner well as parents—he has told our boys about most of his trauma from his mother and the affect on how he treats me. They don’t know he’s SA yet, but they probably know something (porn pop ups etc on computer). We are also good partners in projects like renovating, real estate.

    sounds good, doesn’t it.

    But emotionally I am invisible to him. He is a victim of emotional incest from his mother, and his loyalty is always to her, not me. She has been invasive and intrusive all of our 30 years, and he never stood up and defended our marriage. He allowed her to be abusive to me and insulting right in public. He becomes a mouse—weak, unable to respond, uncommitted to us. This has spillover in other aspects of our lives.

    His pride allows him to imagine he is better than me, and he justified his cruelty to me, which in the last three or four years escalated as his SA activities increased. He criticised me mercilessly as a means of justifying his behaviour. He with held affecttion, abandoned me sexually and I felt I was invisible. So all the good stuff was defeated by this escalating emotional abuse. Then I found the porn and shut down the marriage.

    Now he pleads and weeps and cries for another chance, which I gave him all this year. But the arrogance of the program only supported his natural arrogance and gave it permission. And his therapist’s co-dependency on the co-dependency model enable the two of them to find the new mother/son dynamic. And they went at me the same way he did with his old mother. I pointed this out, BTW, to much denial and finally a “oh, I get what you mean”. But I’m just sick of it all. I have given what i have to offer and it wasn’t enough.

    I think so much depends onthe damage underneath the addiction. In my case it turned out to be too much for him to overcome and be my husband. So I’m trying not to lose what is left, and keep the genuine love we do have for each other, keep the mind meld capacity for discussions, etc, keep the parenting bond, and keep the family vault of funny. that’s not a bad outcome, if I can achieve it.

    But I will never allow anybody to treat me they way he did in these last few years. No amount of tearful regret and pledges of love make up for it. You need to know what you need and what you want from this relationship that you have. Then you need to take a long hard look at what he can truly offer you.

    lightbeams,
    D.

  16. So here is my chime in for today!
    Anything that comes out of a sex addicts mouth is not worth a dime.
    My husband has looked me in the eye-ball with conviction and flat out lied . . . and that is the truth!
    Moreover, I used to believe that if I watched his behaviors, then I would know he was living a life of sobriety and he was victorious over his lust. To my shock, that was also a lie. My husband was able to do what I like to call the “OJ Simpson”. We all know he killed his wife and her boyfriend, in fact OJ knows it too. But OJ, like so many others including my sex addict husband, have this ability to compartmentalize . . . they basically separate themselves from the activity. It is scary and dangerous . . . but it does happen. It has taken me nearly 10 years to be fully aware of how toxic I have become by staying in this marriage. I am Looking forward to experiencing recovery from the other side of the street.

  17. I love you ladies. And I welcome all of your opinions! I actually vigorously check my email to see if any of you have responded. I see so much wisdom in each of you. It’s priceless to me right now.
    We had a talk/fight this morning about what he wrote on those papers. He said he just doesn’t want to hurt me anymore and these senseless details that are the intricate weavings of this addiction don’t matter, they are just helping the doctor understand the degree of the addiction. I simply told him that if he can tell a doctor he met just once, then he can tell his wife who has chosen to stick by him and love him through this. I also said that I would draw up a separation agreement because I wouldn’t stay in a marriage where there were still secrets being kept. So he got angry but eventually he showed me the papers. He said he didn’t want to discuss what was written and didn’t want a million questions about details.
    I have decided to hold my questions until we are with the doctor. There really wasn’t anything new. Just the deets of his addiction and he rated the frequency and power of them. It was actually helpful.
    I think part of his issue may be that he seems to be bipolar. He has extreme ups and downs. He can get SOOOOO angry over little things. And other times he is so levelheaded. It’s slowly getting better and I have seen a HUGE improvement since all of this has been put on the table.
    I think I may have caught this in time before we got thousands of dollars in debt and things could have gotten much worse. Some of the stories I have read scare me to death. I just continue to tell him that I worry about if he relapses. I had no clue this was going on and so what happens in 10 years he goes back to it?
    And thanks for the heads up on the marriage counseling. Im just anxious to get working on everything to make our lives right again.
    I really do love you ladies.

  18. Elise,
    I can totally relate on your family of origin issues. My father was a sweetheart, and my mom was very hard on all of us girls.
    She was critical on most issues but mostly hard on us about our appearance. We had to be skinny, happy and talented. My sister was and still is an amazing piano player, the middle sister was a professional ballet dancer and I was in local theater from the age of 5. We were not allowed to cry, and show any other emotion but happiness. Even when we were struggling with boys, mean girls, periods, zits . . . you name it. So when I met my boyfriend at the age of 15, I was able to escape from mommy dearest and he was my night in shining armor. He complemented me from head to toe, bought me presents, wrote me love poems . . . it was puppy love, but it made me feel so loved I never wanted to let go. Sadly, under that armor was a very sick young man (at that time) and I was to “in love” to look under the mask. Like you Elise, my husband and I also have a great time together. We have many inside jokes too. We love music, cooking, fine wines, working out, in fact we just bought road bikes last year and have been getting in shape for my 50th birthday trip to Italy. We are self made, no family money and have done amazing financially.
    We are philanthropic in our community, and live in a beautiful home, have two Country Club memberships. My husband adores me! He buys me diamonds, and sings my praises in public to all my friends and family. If you would ask, each and everyone of our friends would tell you that “WE HAVE THE PERFECT MARRIAGE”. My sex addict is great in his disease. In fact he has it down really really well. The cliche “Ignorance is Bliss” is quite fitting in my situation.
    But here is where it gets muddy! While all this “perfect life” is taking place . . . I have a husband who is short tempered, impatient, anxious, judgmental, and opinionated. He does not help around the home, unless I really ask him specifically to do a chore. And when he does a chore, he acts like a child who has just learned to tie their shoe. He wants a medal! Or actually a BJ.
    This is where I got caught up . . . Look at all I have, how could I be so selfish as to ask my husband to do stuff around the house.
    I should just be grateful that he buys me fancy stuff, and loves me right.
    ok getting off track…….
    Ladies, if I really knew what my sex addict husband was doing all those years ago, I am pretty sure I would have left.
    I kept my nose clean, worked my sanon program and prayed that he would do the same. I had not a clue that there were dozens of sex partners, prostitutes, porn site memberships, fetish club memberships, and compulsive masturbation. What is worse, he was sending photos of himself to some of these women over the years.
    And I can take a little porn every now and then, and I see nothing really wrong with self pleasure, but the sick images that a sex addict has to view in order for them to get “high” is in my opinion a disgrace to women and an act of violence. To think someone can get off on viewing these horrifying images, is no different than the person who gets off on rape, or murder.
    Ok, that might have been a little out there!
    I have finally come to grips with this. Everything my sex addict husband says is only 1/4 of the truth. I used to call them half truths, but not any more.
    Remember, when you see the tip of the iceberg all you are seeing is a small evident part or aspect of something largely hidden.

  19. Hi Ladies,

    I have been lurking on here for about a month and I find it incredibly helpful. I have been seeing a counselor that works with partners of sex addicts and she is helpful, but some of it just doesn’t ring true for me. So it is great to have a place to come and hear I am not the only one with these thoughts.

    I relate to Elise. I just need someone to tell me what to do. My husband has be seeing a therapist that specializes in treating sex addicts for about 4 months now. He is attending meetings and I do see changes lately, but he is still acting out. I don’t know how often, but I know as late as last Sunday he saw a prostitute he seems to be having a relationship or something with.

    I also discovered in the last two weeks, he is smoking meth with this woman. I am freaked out and floored to say the least. I went to his best friends and one of them went with me to tell his parents bc we are very worried about his immediate safety. Now I am hyper hyper hyper vigilant. If I played detective before now it is out of control. And yes, I know this is co-dependent but how else do I know the truth? The only reason I know anything that I have learned about his addiction is bc I uncovered it myself. What other options are there? He is certainly not going to tell me. The only reason I know he saw that woman last Sunday was bc he said he was at a meeting and I drove to check. He wasn’t there and when he came home he admitted he had seen her and smoked meth. He of course, says he will not do it or see her or anyone else for that matter anymore, but it would be stupid to believe it.

    So he is doing some of the things he needs to be doing and I know he will not be cured overnight, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. It is heartbreaking to watch him destroy himself and his life. The counselors just say until he is ready for help there is nothing to be done. But he has admitted he has a problem and he wants help. So what else is there to do? I know there are inpatient centers, but honestly I don’t know how we can financially afford for him to risk losing his job by going away for a month. We have a large amount of debt, house pymnt, etc.I work but he makes twice as much as I do and I cannot cover the bills on my salary alone.

    I truly feel like I am losing my mind. We will be married 4 years in October,together for 7. I found out he cheated on me with a transgender person while away for work 9 months after we were married. From there it has just progressed. He has just really started working on recovery in the last 4 months or so. Until then he resisted. At first I questioned his sexual orientation, then I thought he was just a jerk, then I thought he was addicted to porn and it was escalating and then finally I got that he was a sex addict. It is such a process.

    Such a very draining process.

    I am sorry if this is not the appropriate place to post this. I don’t want to hijack anyone’s thread. Just feels good to get it out there.

  20. HI Jennifer,
    I also “lurked” for several months before posting. Thank you for jumping in with your story.

    It really such long draining process of discovering, picking yourself up off the floor, learning, managing, planning, responding, deciding, staying sane, getting help, listening, filtering, challenging, reflecting. And we have to do it all without the person we need most. Because he doesn’t exist anymore. Instead we have the familiar stranger.

    Here’s my response to your story. I think this guy is dangerous. He’s still acting out. He’s going drugs. What is good about this relationship for you? Honestly, make a list. You may find there isn’t much point to fighting for this one.

    You seem to want to do the right thing. Get a therapist. And do the math. That means figure out how to get out. Extricate yourself. I downsized my whole life –house gone, living apart from spouse etc. And I’m doing way better.

    Jennifer, you just deserve to be loved—you shouldn’t have to pay with your sanity, your self-respect, your health. Start by loving yourself the way he doesn’t. I believe you will get there if you do. Make yourself a priority. It’s not our first instinct, but in this case, it is a crucial first step.

    Have courage to believe in yourself.
    D.

  21. Thanks so much Diane for your response. Thank you, thank you.

    I know, but I don’t want to know, what I need to do. I know it is messed up, but it is really hard for me to leave him to his own devices. It is sickening to see this otherwise wonderful person that I know him to be just destroy his life. He is not a bad person, he has a problem and I find it so hard to leave him when he is in so much trouble. It seems like the opposite of my wedding vows. But I feel like I am becoming warped and definitely losing myself. I’m becoming an angry, joyless, isolated person.

    He works from home and I know this is going on when I am at work so it’s not like my staying means it won’t happen. He just does it all while I am at work or out of town or whenever, really.I know I can’t protect him from himself. But there is a difference between knowing something intellectually and actually doing anything about it.

    He has opened up to a lot of people in the past two weeks about both the sex addiction and drug use so I do feel better knowing that if I go, he has other friends and family to support him.

    We don’t have any kids, btw, which makes leaving easier, I’m sure. But that is a bitter pill too at the same time. I’m 37 and now it seems kids won’t be in the cards for me.

    My counselor is starting a group. Its 7 other women that are partners of sex addicts. It is a deal bc it meets 3 times a month for 2 hours and is just a little more than the cost of one cousneling session. But we have to participate in psychodrama and do presentations. That is just not my cup of tea. Psychodrama? The rest sounds ok, but this part really turns me off. Anybody else participated in this and was it as bad as it sounds to me?

  22. Oh I love this site and all of you ladies! I have just started lurking but am just going to jump right in without having read everything first. =)

    I think 12 step programs are just ONE piece to recovery for both myself and my husband. He has a long history with NA and so has been shocked to find in SA/SAA how little sobriety there is. He has just shy of 5 months and is already considered a long-timer in his SAA meeting. Crazy!

    Another piece for us both right now is working with a really incredible therapist and psychistrist – both individually and as a couple.

    What I find odd is that each 12 step program likes to focus on the one addiction/co-addiction. What we’ve seen is people in AA smoking weed and claiming they are still sober, people in NA acting out sexually and people in SA/SAA doing all kinds of drinking and drugging. It seems to be a pretty narrow view depending on the members of the particular meeting.

    I am trying to take a wholistic view of sobriety including aspects of balance and health that aren’t just related to the drug or sex addiction that has been an issue in our relationship. Things like eating healthy, being good parents to our girls, not drinking/drugging/sexing and being financially responsible. All of that sort of stuff. But you won’t find all of that explicitly in a 12 step program so really its like we take it with a grain of salt … it is a big grain of salt for us right now but we can see the forest through the trees I think.

    I like the sense of community found within the S-Anon in my city. My husband gets that same sense of community from NA – but not the SAA here.

    Okay I’m totally rambling but I really love this post and can relate to it so much. Even though I am pretty active with S-Anon right now I have so many of the same thoughts/questions/challenges for 12 step programs in general.

  23. I got a question.
    Would any of you tell your sex addicted spouse that you have snooped on his computer?
    If the answer is yes, would you tell him that you have made copies of his web history and it shows all the porn sites he has been on?
    Reason I ask is that he has been in SA for nearly 10 years and I have back in August I found out that he was having sex with another woman. Outraged, I went behind his back – and looked through about a year an a half of web history.
    Now he is “REALLY WORKING HIS PROGRAM” but only due to his getting caught.

  24. Yes I have and Yes I would.

    First of all, I hate the word ‘snooping’. Isn’t it odd that this term is usually only used in reference to women? And somehow, we buy it. Was Sherlock Holmes a snoop? Perry Mason? Columbo? When men do it, they are clever detectives who gather evidence. When women do it they are sneaky, co-dependent, obsessive snoops.

    Investigating (which is what you did) in order to prove or disprove a crime (Sex Addiction is a crime against you and your family) to protect your own safety is not only healthy and wise, it is absolutely necessary to reassure us that we are not being fooled again.

    BUT–as I have said before, the purpose of your investigation should be to find evidence, and use that evidence to confront and problem solve. Or to not find evidence and feel just a tiny bit safer.

    Larry knows that I have the means to check up on just about everything he does. He accepts that because he has broken our marriage vows and my trust. He says that it is a reminder to him that he needs to always be honest and transparent.

    Investigating and then not using the evidence is senseless.

  25. Thanks JoAnn.
    I am really annoyed with the way he claims that “this time is different”. It was only the 15th of August when he was having a relationship with another woman. And he also claims that he has been sober before December( that was when they first had sex) when I have evidence that he has been on porn sites and searching for past sex partners.
    Thanks for the last sentence. I totally agree.

  26. Maybe it’s time to have him define, in writing, just what ‘sobriety’ means to him.

    Does he have a written ‘Recovery Plan’? He needs one.

    Why is this time ‘different’? Have him spell it out in writing.

    It’s time to have him define what all this means to him. That is a vital part of ‘REALLY WORKING HIS PROGRAM’.

    If he can’t, then he’s just blowing smoke.

  27. LOVE this post…and agree wholeheartedly…

    I had heard those same things about the founder of AA…very sad…

    12 steps are just a tool…and tools can be used correctly or incorrectly…

    I am curious if any of you out there have experience with “Christian 12 step meetings”….such as Celebrate Recovery or Partner’s groups through sexaddict.com

    I do feel my husband has tried to hide behind the secrecy…I have told him I am not asking ANYTHING about the other men there or their issues…but do feel I can know about his sharing as we are in a “one flesh” relationship joined together by God…he has been the one who has chosen to “tear us asunder” by his sexual sin…

    I do agree we are encouraged to do “co-dependent” things and then we are told we are the sick ones because we have enabled…just another way to try to blame it on the faithful spouse…and that just isn’t right!!!!!!!!!!

  28. Victoria, My husband and I both go to a 12-step study group at a non-denominational church that’s pretty good. But mostly what makes it work is that the people who run it have the common sense to understand when the 12 steps are useful and when they become unproductive. If you do get involved in 12 step, I think you really have to take to heart the line “take what you like and leave the rest” because the steps really weren’t designed for people in our situation. And, as JoAnn mentions, the people who designed them are people who struggled with recovery just as much as many of our husbands do.

    JoAnn, I love the accountability piece you talk about. Why make yourself miserable wondering what happens at those meetings? Ask! He should be willing to answer you.

  29. Diane,

    usually Lorraine is the one who has me either doubled over in laughter at the no BS way she lays things out, or welling up with the actuality of it all. Today, maybe because things have been recently unsettled and this subject is so timely, everything you have said has either rung true or helped. Especially the part about being sad that you can’t grow old with the man you love, and facing the fact that that man never existed.

    I’m not much for women’s empowerment or touchy-feely stuff, but I needed all of this today. I hope there are alot of women reading this that are too scared or ashamed to post, even anonymously, because they’re still hearing what they need to hear to start the process of moving forward – in whatever direction that is for them.

  30. Jesse,
    Hi, Ive been doing to partners side for me its been great. I guess the best part is really looking a myself, it has forced me to go deeper than I want. The psychologist I see has stated from what she has looked at its very good to. My SA has also started and I am able to read his lessons and posts, if I want both sides are open to all.I have gotten allot of insight to how SAs think and process all this. The support is extremely good when Ive had any questions or meltdown. This site is open to all so have a look and read what you can. You can post questions to both other partners of SAs and also to the SAs which I find can be helpful too.
    katt

  31. Jessie,

    I have recommended Recovery Nation frequently here. I have a link to it under ‘Resources’. Both Larry and I have done the individual pieces and I think it is a wonderful program.

  32. We both signed up. I asked if he would like for me not to read his recovery thread, feeling that if he knows I will respect this one one place of privacy, he can really be honest in his recovery. He said he thinks that me being able to read his posts is the first step toward being really honest with both me and himself, which I take as a good sign, although I am of course applying caution. I like that the forums are so well moderated.

    We have also decided that since real meetings won’t work, we will try telemeetings and online meetings. First steps….

  33. Sex addicts should not be expcted to share everything that happens in group or in therapy, BUT, they ABSOLUTELY must tell you everything they have done sexually (i.e. slips, relapses, second glances, masturbation etc.). They should keep you updated on where they are with their step work and other areas of recovery, how many accountability partners they have and who they are, their sponsor and who he is, etc. I know Dr. Magness has been a subject of friction on here, but his book Hope and Freedom gives some great advice on recovery for the addict and the couple. This is why I think every couple needs an intensive. Among other things, you both are taught about doing weekly check-ins and nighly intimacy exercises. You are taught what “rigorous honesty” really means. I am one of the very rare therapists that believes and teaches that the addict should answer absolutely any question you ask about his acting out, past or present. I also advise that you be careful what you ask and make sure you want the answer. Since addicts are liars, I think polygraphs are a very important part of a couple’s recovery. Yes, he must learn to no longer fear the truth, but the polygraph can be a great motivator for someone who has spent their whole life lying. The only two intensives I can recommend are Dr. Magness’s and mine, because I don’t know enough about any others. If your husband is leaving you in the dark, he is not walking in the light. Instead he is still living in the shadows. http://www.wifeofasexaddict.com

    1. Ella, I enjoyed your comments. I would like to share my experience on one of the points you made. It is the point that the polygraph is a great motivator. I’m not sure what it motivates. My husband left for his polygraph, practically skipping out of the door in an effort to convince me that he was going to pass with flying colors. I think he absolutely believed that he was going to beat a polygraph. The specter of taking a polygraph in no way motivated him towards truth. He was all smiles and courtesies, right up to the time the examiner stopped the exam because his heart rate was going out of control. I wasn’t at the site, but the examiner subsequently reported that my hubby’s heatbeat was close to a racehorse. Out of five questions, he failed three.

      I share that story to say, don’t think that what pours out of a SA’s mouth prior to the polygraph is the whole truth. Mine presented a great deal of bravado about how he WISHED we could go ahead and get it over, so that he could prove he was telling the truth. He said, “even after I pass this polygraph, you’re still going to believe I’m lying.” His psychology was to convince me that he was excited about the exam so that I wouldn’t demand it. And as the kids say ” EPIC FAIL!!

      I join you in recommending a polygraph for all SA’s. One good question is ” are you intentionally withholding any information about your infidelities from your wife, and make sure you insert your name.

      1. An Honest Wife, Thank you so much for sharing your story. This just increases my faith in polygraphs. I am so, so sorry for you that even in the presence of a polygraph your husband was unable to be honest. I said the polygraph CAN be a great motivator. Obviously that is not always the case. Many men refuse to take them and many others hold on to information until the absolute, very last minute. Others have secrets that carry so much shame that even then they can not bring themselves to tell the full truth. My guess would be that that was the case with your husband. I personally do not administer polygraphs to addicts who I don’t see are already very motivated in their recovery. Actually, to be clear, I never administer polygraphs, the examiner I contract with does. Anyhow, I have had many of my clients take polygraph tests so I know how they work and the type of questions that are asked. Any good polygraph examiner, who is experienced with sex addiction, will know to ask questions like the one you mentioned. So yeah, we shouldn’t expect “that what pours out of a SA’s mouth prior to the polygraph is the whole truth”. But we don’t have to because the polygraph doesn’t lie.

  34. I want to make a comment about the powerlessness comments some have made. These men have tried to “manage and control” their behavior for a long time and that didn’t work. Admitting they are powerless is not saying “oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it so I may as well accept it”. It is saying, “I can’t do this by myself, I finally admit I need help”. For me and many others, the first step is about admitting they are powerless without God. But I have heard some describe it as powerless without the support of others, or their higher power, etc. I think the 12 steps are wonderful (for addicts, not partners).

  35. I just recorded my sa husband checking voicemails from a phone he doesn’t have and from 2 men n one women he is not having sex with. I was gonna hold onto the recordings but u r right I should share with him and the people he has falsely told bad lies on me! ( btw he’s not gay) haha this is what I’ve been praying for but I know sa n he will twist how he wasnt even with those ppl n even though recording is plain as day that it wasnt him.