Dear Patrick Carnes, Stephanie Carnes, Robert Weiss, All CSAT Counselors and all 12 Step Advocates for Sex Addiction,

Please consider this letter an urgent request to change the current 12 step/co-addict approach that has been perpetuated in the field of sexual addiction. The historical underpinning of Bill Wilson’s model for alcoholism has serious negative implications for evidence-based practice, even for sobriety standards, even though its evolution at a time when nothing else was available did have merit. Wilson and his partner adapted religious principles for living a sin-free life – where does religion have a role in diagnostic acumen? (Maybe it did for Bill because he was plagued with so many compulsions and addictions himself including sex).

Religion is a cultural and spiritual function of our humanity but 12 Step seems to be the only place where religion is considered part of a medical treatment plan. The modification of the phrase ‘God as you know it’ does not change this fact. Just as the Bible was written for a world that existed over 2000 years ago and deserves to be considered in the context of contemporary mores, so too must the 21st century approach to compulsive/addictive behaviors.

People who are addicted or compulsive become increasingly deceptive over time. Possibly it is the capacity to be deceptive that might lead to the compulsion, who knows which comes first? Even the descriptions of mental-health disorders in this country are subjective and highly vulnerable to great scrutiny by different clinicians, unless somebody is revealed to be acting so egregiously that they have violated acceptable legal and moral standards. Isn’t that what propels sexual acting out into a diagnostic category, acting egregiously? Prior to that it is infidelity or as you like to distinguish adultery. Sexual acting out is a form of betrayal that changes the landscape of everybody’s lives (and it is only betrayal if the partner has not signed up to be in bed with 50 other people). Its origins are complex and rarely begin with the partnership and are usually not revealed until there has been some kind of bond established and then broken.

To describe a partner as a volunteer rather than a victim is actually another egregious betrayal by the professionals who claim to be providing care. Of course this is a family problem – the family has been blown apart and prior to the explosion was living in a fractured reality that was being established without their consent. Even in cases where the partner might have known ‘something was not right’ the culture of entitlement, socially gendered norms for male behavior, and economic and family displacement after divorce, does not render a partner as a co-addict or volunteer in the hi-jacking of their lives. Would you say this to someone who has been subjected to other recognized forms of domestic violence?

Sexual acting out is about power. That has been established through many years of rape research. Someone who acts out against the partnership and family is raping the principles of said partnership, unless both people agreed to screw whomever, wherever, and whenever. At the point that couples show up for treatment, and it is usually couples, sadly there are few men or women who are putting themselves in the hands of addiction professionals who haven’t first destroyed a family as well as themselves. It is therefore often because the story has become too unmanageable to hide and the scattered pieces of everyone’s lives are strewn about the roadside.

This is not a couple problem – let me emphasize this! This is not a couple problem!

This becomes a family problem when children are created in a union that is untenable because it is built upon lies. Of course every couple colludes when they marry, it is part of the ‘happy ever after’ delusion, but this problem, sexual acting out, lies within the person who is out of control. This does not necessarily mean that there are no other influencing factors but when someone robs a bank and their partner does not know about it and did not participate in the crime what part of the law says that they should also be arrested and thrown in jail?

The pattern of diagnosis toward partners is a symptom of the patriarchy that continues to victimize men and women, because male partners of women who act out are described in gendered terms that are also typically used to describe women in general: co-dependent, enabling, under-developed, clingy, hyper-vigilant. Who wouldn’t be hyper-vigilant when they are under attack from an unknown assailant (lies) and a known assailant, their partner?

The sad legacy of this behavior leaves everyone in shreds. Perpetuating the myth that you can have greater intimacy by accepting yourself as a co-addict is also abusive. Don’t get me wrong, it might work for people who, already victimized, are now vulnerable to being victimized by the system that they have reached out to for help, but if empowerment and liberation is the goal this is not the language or kind of care that resurrects anyone’s sense of self. Not the person acting out, the partner, or the family. And, let us not forget the people on the other side of the sexual acting out equation, the sex workers and prostitutes, who in a recent survey by a sex trafficking organization say, at a rate of 98%, that they hate what they do.

This behavior is not about sex. It is about lies, ownership, entitlement, power, trauma, despair, and patriarchy. The mental health system that uses these same methods to treat the problem is also acting egregiously. I am not saying that compassionate care is not warranted for the individual who behaves this way, I am saying that compassionate care is accountable-care, and accountable-care is complex. It is not 12 Step, or 13 Steps (and I am sure you know what that means). It is a million steps of indeterminate conclusion that leaves room for the stories of loss, abandonment, neglect, and possibility on both sides of this equation. Sometimes leaving is the best answer for both partners, what is not the answer is to diagnose one person with cancer and give the other one chemo.

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59 Responses

  1. BRAVO!!!!!! I could not agree more with you. Let us make it into a petition to change some out-dated views and above all the generalisation and labeling the betrayed spouses co-addicts once and for all.

    1. I agree. I would like to be able to email this letter to various people (for example, my nearly-ex spouse), but I don’t particularly want to link them to this website. I don’t want my nearly-ex or other sex addicts to start trolling this website.

  2. I can understand your frustration as to the unfairness of it all. But we do not want to be stuck in that stage. So I wonder what is your solution, after you have condemned 12-step programs and general healt care? I have tried to work 12-step program, and I can say that it works for me. Very well also. (It is NOT a religious program. I am not a Christian, Muslim og Buddhist or member of any other religion.) Even if one is agains religion, I think it is rather arrogant to brush away all ideas those religions convey. Ideas of honesty, self scrutiny, respect for self and others, compassion – and so on. Bill Wilson did not invent anything new but he was brilliant in merging ideas from religion, medicin and psychology and putting them together in a method of action that actually worked. It still works. It also gives room for me to understand my own story and to take responsibility for my own life. I believe it is essential that we become able to discern between the things we cannot change (other people for excample) the things we can do something about – our own attitudes (which in turn are essential for our actions and the consequences we get from them). One thing which is so true is what is said in the Bible: We are very able to see the wrongs of others (the piece of wood in their eyes) but not the wrongs in ourselves (the log in our own eyes). In 12-step programs we share our experiences and stories and learn from each others in a quite unique way.

    1. Hello Inger,
      There is a trauma-based model of partner care introduced in the book “Understanding Your Partner’s Sexually Addicted Spouse: how partners can cope and heal” by Dr. Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Further work by Dr. Omar Minwalla from the Institute for Sexual Health continues to develop the evidence-based research behind this model, and craft an effective practice for partners, and also the “addicts”. There is also a training program available to therapists and life coaches in this model through Both Dr. Steffens and Dr. Minwalla are key leaders in this group.

      The 12-step program does have a key component which is fundamental to its structure and program. Participants must surrender to a Higher Power. That is, in fact, a religious requirement and a religious act. Just because it not specifically named as a religion that you would recognize does not make it unreligious. I think your observations about attaining self-awareness and discernment in life are spot on. Unfortunately, as far as 12 step SA programs, the Bill Wilson model does not generate statistical evidence that allows anyone to suggest “it works”. I think we would all embrace it if it did! That’s kind of the problem, Inger. It is a program that does not generate the results it claims to be capable of, and this problem needs real treatment options that will explore the root sources by those qualified to do so. It is profoundly unfair to send men to 12-step programs to treat symptoms of what are multiple personality disorders emerging from hideous childhood trauma. They are destined to fail, and they do. That is why we have no stats on “sexual sobriety” beyond those measured in months. It is very sad, and time to work on the models that achieve real results, with diagnosis by people truly trained to do so.

    2. Thanks Inger, but that is no solution.

      These, for lack of a better word, Sex Addicts, do immeasurable harm to their partners and families. The programs out there do a great disservice to both. We need to understand that their behaviors are simply a symptom of their Personality Disorders. 12 steps is nothing more than an extension of a religious dogma. Search the internet and it’s all there.

      And, that is a whole other discussion. ~ JoAnn

    3. Hi Inger,
      I have a number of friends who are in AA and have been sober for 20 years or more. I think that in application to SA, it is being used a a stop point for sexual acting out but like AA additional counseling is needed.
      As AA says some people are constitutionally incapable of being honest. Being honest is the hallmark of the program, with yourself and with others. It is a long and hard road for those who continually lie. AA is definitely not a religion, though some people try to make it religious, they and are usually put in their place by other group members.
      As for S-anon, I do not think it fits partners of SA’s at all. I think it perpetrates the abuse by having you turn it over to a higher power and you get no guidance on what to do. The only thing that fits is that you are powerless over what he did….and will do again if he does not stay sober AND get counseling. 12 Steps programs are for people whose own behavior has become unmanageable. My behavior was not out of control. My husband’s behavior is out of control .He indulged in fantasy and altered his own brain until it became a compulsive behavior .He admitted trying to stop multiple times but could not.He truly believes he is powerless over it at this point and that the program saved him from a self he hated. I began attending s-Anon and felt very sorry for the women who kept using the program while their husbands continually shamed them with their behavior. Assertiveness training, boundary setting training is and PTSD counseling is definitely necessary, not doing an inventory of what I did wrong in my life. Also, the pain I suffered over the many years of deception is the hardest part of this. I found out in June and my mind just became unglued wondering what else he has lied about. So many more lies in all areas have come to light. I did not do any of that and the 12 Step program is not the way to good mental health not in this instance.

  3. Inger,

    I think that you are missing the point of the article which is that if two people are married and one of them commits a crime, that doesn’t mean that their spouse is in any way responsible for that crime OR part of the associated sickness of the criminal. This is NOT a couple’s problem. It is one person’s problem and one person’s problem—ONLY! Now, does the spouse have their own stuff to deal with? Of course they do! But it has absolutely nothing to do with a person who’s been carrying on a secret other depraved life for 25-30 years or whatever the time is, completely unknown by their TRUSTING spouse.

    If my husband had murdered someone in cold blood and then it was discovered that he had been a serial murderer, would anyone suggest that I go to a 12-step group so that I could deal with my co-addiction to a murderer? No, of course not. Once it was deemed that I had no involvement whatsoever, I would be left alone. My husband would be locked up in prison or executed and that would be that.

    Why is it any different for the partner of a sex addict? I don’t think that it is. Sure, no one got murdered (unless he got someone sick and they died because he gave them a life threatening illness) If the SA wants to get help and face the consequences of his actions, then I think that’s wonderful. If his wife wants to hang in there and stay married to him, that’s her business. My issue has always been with the wife who tries to get him to change and from what I understand that goes against the 12-step program. Of course, its folly to try and get anyone to change under any circumstances. I agree that some of the steps are very useful… but many of them do not apply to traumatized partners. I do not need to make a moral inventory of myself and make amends to my husband. I did not lie to him. In fact, he still will not admit that he’s a SA and that his activities are what destroyed our marriage. Him and him alone. We had a very lovely relationship aside from that. Hell, we still do. We are highly compatible, but I cannot stay married to a person who could betray me like that. Its as if he is two separate people and unfortunately, the evil twin refuses to leave!

    The consensus on this blog is that traumatized partners DO need support and counseling and places like SOS where they can feel free to share with other victims (Joann says “casualties”) of this heinous disease. No one is poo pooing the medical profession or religion for that matter. I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion at all! However, again, treatment plans and religious beliefs are highly personal and the partner needs an entirely different treatment plan than does the sex addict— that IS, if the SA even truly WANTS any treatment at all. Many are doing so, only to appease their wives— even IF they say otherwise!

    My question is… Once I know that someone has been lying to me for years and years… how am I ever to believe ANYTHING they say ever again? That is a risk I am not willing to take.

    I believe that the answer lies in LEAVING. Would you stay married to a murderer? I doubt it very much. Does it mean that you are a saint because you are married to a murderer? No, it doesn’t, but its irrelevant because what you do has nothing to do with the fact that your husband chose to go out and behave in an unacceptable manner. You could be an angel or a haranguing bitch. It matters not. He had choices and he refused to take them. He was supposed to have known right from wrong and he chose wrong. period. end of story. We are not co-anything, UNLESS we decide to involve ourselves in HIS crap! Some of us do for a time… with the hope that he can change of his own accord. Few truly can, for the long term. And it is then, that I believe the wisest choice is to get onto higher ground. There isn’t a one of us who left who wished that we hadn’t done it sooner. I hope that helps you to understand better where some of us are coming from. best, Kim

  4. MY issue with the 12 step for the partners is that the program is brought into play for them only when the addiction of the SA is discovered.Till such discovery since the SA was presumed healthy and normal so was the partner.

    It is only when the addiction is discovered that suddenly the partner too comes under the headlights.

    Till such discovery most of the SAs were leading a double/triple/multiple life merrily.

    The partner discovers the duplicity ,so BINGO, she is a co dependent?????

    What is this, if nothing , but blame shifting?

  5. I bristle at the very word “co-dependency”, and I certainly don’t think it applies to the partner of a sex addict. When I discovered this site and learned about the trauma model, and I could own my anger and pain, and not feel guilty about it, then I began to heal.

  6. I got an email notification of a comment from a sex addict named Jaan Sass (John’s Ass?), but it isn’t appearing here. Dang. I would love to see you dissect his comments for us. Poor guy – All his “inner pain” and “self hatred.”

  7. Sorry, I don’t publish or waste any more of my time on Sex Addicts. I don’t care what they have to say and I don’t care what their ‘excuses’ are for their behaviors. They are adults who are responsible for their choices and they must suffer the consequences of those choices, like it or not.

    Nothing else needs to be said to or about them.

    All I care about is helping the women and families whom they have brutally abused, damaged and destroyed. ~ JoAnn

  8. My 74 yr. old husband has been seeing prostitutes for about 4 or 5 years. I knew something was wrong for the last 2 or 3 years in that he started to treat me as invisible, stopped wanting sexual relations with me, was moody and irritable and seemed spaced out and disengaged. After I threatened a lie detector test, he began to spill details, little by little. After having him around for about 10 days, I kicked him to the curb. He has said he is sorry at least a hundred times – I don’t care – I have to take care of myself and my family. He made his choices and now he can live with them for the rest of his days on earth.

    There is a future for me without HIM. I know that after 32 years of marriage, a very, very good marriage, that his choices have damaged our grown daughter (pregnant with first grandchild) beyond measure. She and her husband look haunted – they adored my husband; he was their hero, until now.

    I told husband that every time he got in his truck and rolled out of the driveway to meet a prostitute, he also rolled over our 3 bodies on the way.

    There are no words for how I feel – sad, mad, hollowed out. Our friends are just stunned. I told husband that I would not keep his secret so the whole truth has been told to everyone.

    This website is the only one I have found that spells out the truth. Keep it up – tell the awful truths so that others can learn.

  9. Sandra, I too have an older husband who is 68 and has been to Thailand 4 times for ‘golf’ but of course he had to entertain the native girls as well. I found proof on his mobile phone, and no I wasnt checking up on him, I was looking at his phone because my mobile phone was playing up and his new ‘must have’ smart phone he needed after his first trip back from Thailand in 2-12 looked nice so I thought I would see if it was easy to use and thats where i found photos, porn videos, and I love you messages back and forth between him and more than one Thai girl. We had been married 38 years at the time. Two and a half years later I have separated from him, we still cohabit the same house but he does his own thing and I do mine. He is never home, still working full time and the rest is at golf so its doable. I dont cook or clean for him and I dont even talk to him. yes my husband also rolls over us in the driveway each time he leaves to go out.

  10. My husband and I have been married for 40 years and I discovered his sexual affair with a young, heroine addicted prostitute two years ago among other things. We are currently separated for the winter and I am not sure what will happen in the spring when we meet to operate our seasonal business. I am using these off-season months as a test to see if he seeks help again or gets back into a program for sex addiction. If he does, I may choose to stay in the marriage, if he doesn’t, I guess that tells me what his priorities are. We had the “fairy tale” marriage, I thought, until I discovered his deep, dark secrets. He went for individual and group therapy for a few months and then decided that since he’s found the root causes of his issues, he didn’t need it any longer and could end his acting out. He is a wonderful man in every other aspect of his being but unfortunately this one flaw is a serious, monumental one that effects the deepest core of our relationship. Needless to say, I still had suspicions about some of the “less serious” acting out issues (I know they can lead to the serious ones) and deceptive circumstances after he left therapy so decided to separate. I am finally seeking professional help for myself and this is the first time I have looked or participated in a support forum. I am doing it for myself. I am a strong, confident, independent woman and have no concern about being on my own. My only fear is that I don’t want to make one of the biggest mistakes in my life by ending our relationship too soon because I still love him and care for him deeply. On the other hand, I don’t know if I want to live the rest of my life with a broken man if he can’t truly be fixed. This is a difficult time for me because I worry that if he does get into another program, he will only be doing it for me to have a chance to save our marriage and not because he believes he really belongs there. I feel sorry for all of us who have this cross to bear and am so grateful for the many blessings I do have such as loving, supportive friends and family (especially my adult children). I think there must be a lot of lessons we need to learn to have something like this come into our lives. I know I have learned to be more patient than I ever thought I would while trying to understand this whole disease. Thank heavens for my spirituality; I know it will get me through this eventually and I pray that it will help all of you, my sisters, as well. For now, I’m still in limbo; one day thinking I can stay in the marriage and the next thinking it wouldn’t be the healthiest option for either of us.

  11. Oh thank you for this article. Thank you Kim for resonating my heart exactly. I could not agree more. I just joined the Sisterhood this morning. Thank you thank you to Joann for following her heart in creating this site. I have been so very broken for the last 30 days. I just found out about my husband after 30 years of marriage. I am shattered. The only help for me that I have been able to find is to label myself a co dependent. According to the experts, there had to be a reason why I was attracted to this man in the first place. It has only brought more confusion and pain. I can tell you all the books and counselors speak this. How refreshing to have stumbled upon your Married to a Sex Addict site. Let me rephrase that, I didn’t stumbled..I was directed.

  12. Barbara, you are just in the beginning of a very long journey with twists and turns and nasty surprises. You don’t say in your letter what your husband has done, but as he is a sex addict (sexual compulsive) you are feeling pain very real and deep. You are NOT to blame in any way for choices your SA has made — be clear on that because it is TRUTH. My husband of 33 yrs. has lived 4-5 years of secrets and lies and betrayal – and he is a man whom EVERYONE loves and respects – the last man you would ever SUSPECT of living a double SA life. He started with pornography (which has been called the “gateway drug of SA)” and went on to hire dozens of young prostitutes (all this during daylight hours – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – so I would never suspect) and last June, 2013 FELL IN LOVE with a prostitute l He told me (after confessing this past August – I threatened a lie detector test on him) that he was infatuated with her and that she was a fascinating woman. How to make your faithful and loving wife feel like NOTHING!! He saw her as many as 5 times a week and on some days called her 10 times a day when she didn’t call him right back! My husband is 74 years old – but Patrick Carnes says with the Internet, SA therapists are now seeing MANY SAs in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It makes me physically ill to think of what my husband has done to me and our family. All he ever says, over and over and over, is “I’m sorry. I screwed up.” THAT’S ALL! His new hobby is massage parlors for rub and tug – he thinks I don’t know. But phone records show everything. Please stay strong and do your homework on just how insidious sexual addiction/compulsion can be. It also has a very, very low cure rate. These men are addicted FOR LIFE.

  13. Hello! This is ALLLLLL like fresh air to me!!! I am sick of tired of the co dependent vomit I keep hearing. Everywhere we have gone for counseling, to the 12 step programs and me to S-anon, have all in some way made me feel like I was the reason why he did what he did!!!!! Back story: I met my husband at 17yrs old, him 19. Me a virgin, he experienced 3 other women. We dated for 4 yrs. then went on to have a wonderful marriage full of love and compassion. 2 beautiful daughters from our union. We’ve been married for 15 of those years. Him I fireman and emt in our community, I was an elected city board member, Girl Scout troop leader, we both volunteered for our community festivals and events, we both worked hard. Him a full time job, myself a full time and a part time job. Dates every month, a connection between us that was up breakable. We smiled, we laughed, we had amazing days but we also had terrible days. Bills, kids, work, life…. Some days we didn’t connect. But when we did, it was amazing!!! He didn’t talk much, but he never did and didn’t usually say much to anyone. He didn’t have ‘friends’ in the capacity of fire pits, beers and football games. He spent his evenings with his family. Didn’t go out much and was always home when he said he would be. Last year, nov 2013, my husband handed me his phone to read this article he found that he thought was funny. As I was reading it, a text came in, scrolling across the top…. “Hey baby, wish me luck for my hospital visit tomorrow.” My mouth dropped. My wonderful, kind, shy, thoughtful, helpful, husband of 15years, for the first time in our entire relationship, I felt betrayal. Never had I once thought he was or could be the type of man to cheat on his family. So my mind instantly went to, this has got to be the only one. Maybe I was doing to much at my jobs and our volunteer work. He has seemed overly disconnected to our family the past few months. I thought it was just worry about bills, etc etc. over the next 2 months, a few truths came out, but hidden in more lies. Once the whole story came out…. Which I’m still not entirely sure it’s the whole story but he says it finally is….. For the past 18 years…. He has cheated in me with various women. We’ve been married 15 years. This started only months after we started dating. Craigslist hookups at truck stops for oral sex, one women he kept on the side for 18yrs, a friend of mine, was at our wedding, another friend of mine, Craigslist women for sexting and phone sex, another women he kept on the side for the last 5 years. Women all of low self esteem, most married, most hundreds of miles away… Except for his truck stop hookups and they were an hour away but on his route to and from home from work. He kept the 2 women on the side for occasional hook ups if he was in the area or if they were in our area. He kept the others as one night stands and would drop them. That’s all they wanted anyway. Others he kept for sexting or phone sex. Most were only around for 2 months max except the 2 he kept around for his ego fluffing…. The 18yr woman and the 5 yr woman. Saying NONE were relationships. They we only and always there for him when he was having some emotional stress…. He then looked to them to release it through sex. I asked why didn’t you come to me. He said I was perfect in his eyes, they were trash, he didn’t care or give a rats butt whether or not he disappointed them…. He cared if he disappointed me. I asked…. What do you think this is then!!!!????!!!!! He couldn’t explain it. We went to Christian counseling…. Ugggg…. I was to dominant, I stole his “man card” by doing and doing to help the family and our community, it didn’t give him the chance to shine. Yes, I’m strong, independent, but fair and kept my mouth shut when I needed him to be “head of house” even though I knew how to stand on my own two feet. I encouraged him to get his EMT lic and join the fire department. We had sex 3 days a week minimum….. We are and were both extremely sexually attracted to each other. We went on dates, i did things for him to show him I loved him alllllll the time. I worked a part time job just so he could buy another car. I didn’t ridicule him, when I had an issue, I talked to him about it. Asked for his help or Guidance so he was included in all our decision making. I didn’t go out with friends much because family was important to me. Friends and some adult friend time was too, but my family always came first. Husband then kids! And now this happens. He says he will never do it again. The look in my eyes and the hurt I screamed out when hitting the floor cuz my knees couldn’t hold me any longer, told him he could never hurt me like this again. He then admitted during counseling he was also addicted to porn. 6-10 hrs a day, self pleasure daily, sexting daily, staring at women on the street wondering what their naked bodies looked like and how they would be in bed…. Etc etc. as well as then…. Admitting he was sexually abused by his brother while growing up. Then admitting his dad cheated on his mom through out their marriage…. they are still married. How sexual immorality ran rapid through his whole family. Uncles molesting kids, cousins involved in incest with their brothers and sister and other cousin family members. I was rocked with OMG my daughters!!!!!!!!!! They have been to family gatherings on his side, weekends at grandmas house, 2 weeks at grandmas house over summer vacation and winter break! Took my girls immediately in for counseling. My oldest daughter admitted my husbands nephew self pleased in front of her when she was 7 or 8 yrs old. Shortly after that, mothers intuition maybe, was about the time I insisted something was “odd” about that boy so I requested to my husband that we be around if he was around. He was 17 at the time. Then he went into the military after that. The counselor and my daughters said nothing else has happened. But as my girls are 14 and 13 and for their safety, I don’t know if this is wrong, but I demanded to my husband if his family wants to see our daughters….. They know where we live! We will be there and supervise… For lack of a better term…. The “visits”. I wanted to say no altogether but I don’t know who the abusive family members are and who are not. Over protective…. Probably. But at this point, I feel like yes….. I want to be in control of my daughters well being. Even though the 12 step program told me that was controlling and I can’t control. At any rate, I agree. I am heart broken, felt destroyed, felt like all our years together were and are a lie. That love was not what we had but I had for him. I still have no idea what to do. I moved out last month. Every time I looked at him and our home we built together I felt sick. I felt anger. I felt rage. I felt defeat in fighting for our marriage to be strong and good. I didn’t want to look at those walls, our bed, “our” anything because nothing felt like “ours” anymore. They felt like mine, his, hers, hers and hers and hers some more. I needed mine for awhile. Just mine. 12 steps said that probably wasn’t a good idea. I don’t care what’s not a good idea at this point, in someone else’s eyes. Just mine. And it was a good idea for me at the time. Do I still love him… Damn it yes. Do I want to make things work…. Not sure if I can. I’m going to continue to see what and where things take me. I’m not looking for someone to replace him. I need me for awhile. If he pulls himself out of the abyss he has pulled himself into and makes definite change in behavior…. Maybe. But I still can’t say because he has always been a kindhearted man! How will I EVER know if he is being honest with me, or has gotten really good at his lies and betrayal that I will never know! So many questions swirling around in my head and so many I can’t even imagine trying to answer right now…. Even after a year has passed. All I knowing the 12 steps have irritated me, Christian counseling has irritated me…. And HERE has been the ONLY place I found that doesn’t seem like a dang cope out!!!!!!!!! Thank you!!!!!!

  14. Jennifer, you should have JoAnn post this as your story. Everything you are writing makes sense to those of us who have been through it. Your confusion and anger are real and justified. Continue to work through it! YOU ARE NOT A CO-ADDICT. You are a traumatized victim. Your recovery from this trauma belongs to YOU.

  15. 22 years ago Patrick Carnes called me “sick” in front of a conference room full of people because my husband was a sex addict. He said I was as sick as my husband and that I contributed to his addiction. When I insisted I wasn’t codependent, he boomed that I was in denial. I was eventually asked to leave the lecture because I refused to give up in trying to get an answer to how I could be responsible for my husbands sex addiction when he had been one for 10 years before I met him. I went through years of couples therapy being called a co-dependent when my individual therapist insisted I wasn’t and I knew I wasn’t. Being told that his sex addiction wasn’t the reason we had a lousy marriage. It was me and me and me. That I needed to get over him being an addict and stop blaming it for everything. These were top notch professionals who specialized in sex addiction saying these things. After a few years of sobriety and a slip. Then a few more, my husbands addiction escalated to involve a romantic relationship with another woman and the usual porn. I kicked him out of the house and went online seeking help. That is where i found POSA and the trauma model. Imagine for twenty years being told you are blue and looking in the mirror every day and seeing you are not for 20 years!! then finally having someone agree with you that you aren’t. That was what it was like when I discovered the trauma model. I suffered for so long and am so tired of the out of date ramblings of these professionals who are unwilling to see how mistaken they were for so long. It is re-traumatizing to partners. The mess my life is now, the mess i am (PTSD, loss of friends, family, job, freedom to just enjoy life) I blame a lot of it on the out dated treatment model for partners. I have found excellent support now and feel like i am living for the first time in 20 years which sadly is the bulk of my adult life.

  16. Good on you. I too am married to a sex addict. I too did Patrick Carnes work & worked
    With addiction specialists & was labelled co dependent. I was recently told by our latest
    Psychologist that I ‘wanted to help’. I am fed up. His ‘addiction’ has eaten all our money, time
    And emotional resources. I’m exhausted. I got him into rehab and he is supposedly 15 months
    Clean. All I’m doing is dealing with cards I’ve been dealt. I’m ready to move on and separation
    Is looking like the only viable action. I am exhausted, my self esteem as a woman in the gutter.
    I keep being told to be more patient, more tolerant, understand his problems more. WTF???
    We’re told by the experts we’re co dependent while they insist we stick with the marriage
    And support and understand what the ‘addict’ is going through WTF
    I’m ready to walk away

  17. Nearly two years ago was D-day/ground zero for me. I discovered at that time that my husband had a serious addiction to porn. The same night I also found out that my 13 year old son had been struggling with an addiction to gay porn. I don’t know which one was more devastating since it was too much to process at once. I don’t believe that the two were related other than my husband disabling the protection software thus allowing my son uninhibited access to porn sites.

    I also want to be perfectly clear on another point. I had absolutely no knowledge of either addiction. My husband had always claimed not to be able to masturbate which apparently was true until 8 years prior when he went overseas for his work. My sister had been struggling with her marriage over the same issue, and my husband and I talked about it numerous times over several years. He always pretended outrage and complete incredulity at my brother-in-law’s struggles. Imagine my surprise to find out I was in the same boat after 15 years of marriage.

    I felt as though the sanctity and purity of our marriage was tarnished in a way that could never be polished new again. I still feel that way. We shared every first together. He was even my first ever date. I had always known to the core of my being that I was the only woman he had eyes for. I felt so sorry for my friends whose husbands had wandering eyes or worse. This “specialness” is something we can never get back.

    Over the course of the next month, I forced many confessions out of him; some more devastating than others. He has never admitted to anything physical, but I did find out that he had been having a secret friendship (I call it an emotional affair) with a woman that he worked with for over 2 years. Mainly, he claims she was a drinking buddy, but he was sneaking out to drink with her while I was working and he did admit to one time going with her and another woman to a strip club. Whether, this is the extent of it, or there was something more, I will never know. I have decided I do not really care. It would just hurt me more. He is sober and not acting out which is what matters. He cannot take back or make up for things in the past and after about a year of “needing to know everything,” I realized that i needed to let that go.

    So do I sound like a co-addict or a co-dependent or complicit in the demise of my marriage as I knew it. Absolutely not! I went to one s-anon meeting and left thinking, “What!?!” I have to do what?!? No way am I taking a punishment or blame for something I would never have condoned. I was so traumatized already, battered and broken on all fronts. I was worried about my marriage, worried about my kids; especially my son who had completely shut down when confronted. I didn’t need anyone telling me I played a role. No, he chose this when he was separated from me by 6000 miles. And then he continued choosing this in secret when he came home. This attitude towards spouses is so damaging to already fragile people and it has to stop.

    We have managed to survive mostly intact. There was a lot of therapy for about 1 year for all of us. Things aren’t the same and won’t ever be, but I decided that my desire to be with him overpowered my desire to punish him. He has beeny best friend for more than 20 years. We actually, had another baby a few weeks ago and have committed to make this work. And we both work at it every day. I can honestly say that this has humbled him and made him a better husband than he was before. I wish it had worked the same way for me. I still feel a lingering sadness or maybe disappointment that the innocence has been lost and I definitely don’t love him like I did before. But he is my friend and confidant again. I feel empathy for him because I see what he has lost and the guilt he struggles with. I have forgiven, but never forgotten and while I can finally say that I am no longer hyper vigilant as I was in the early days post discoverery, but I will never be blindly trusting and be blindsided again. To all my sisters out there, struggling with discovery, or picking their way through the warzone of their marriage, there is hope. Most marriages can be saved. I hated him for almost one whole year. And I will pray for all of you.

    1. I empathize with your story, Suzanne, but I disagree with your conclusion that “Most marriages can be saved.” That’s what Patrick Carnes would like us to believe, but that is not the reality of most of the folks who post on this site.

      I am shocked you decided to have another baby with a recovering sex addict, only two years after discovery. Even Carnes talks about a 4 or 5 year recovery.

      I have been trying for 3 years to end what will be a 29 year marriage. (Divorcing a liar is no easy task.) I couldn’t live with someone I couldn’t trust. He proved over and over that he is a brilliant liar and a complete farce.

      If your sex addict is truly in recovery, that’s terrific. I also think that’s unusual. I hope you don’t find later that he’s still lying to you. If I were you, I’d get a legal agreement from him NOW to protect yourself financially in the future.

      You are dealing with an accomplished liar who you now trust as a friend and confidant. Wow.

  18. Joanne- a few things- in no particular order

    1) I think you are very brave to write this and I admire your spirit
    2) In all my books I write of spouses of sex addicts as having been (being) victims of abuse/gaslighted/traumatized and deserving of as much support for their pain as possible. This is also how Stef Carnes has shaped all her spouse’s work -around a ‘trauma model’ not codependency- Please take a look at our work- you will see that clearly.
    3) I dont’ believe in the word or the concept of codependency- as couples need to be deeply dependant in healthy ways to grow and maintain strong families (my 2c)
    4) The reasons for 12-step recovery go far beyond the religous overtones and dogma – the group experirence, among survivors who act out as adults is required, necessary and a shame reducing, hopeful place to bond with others who have also hurt their wives, loved ones and selves. But are learning how to be better people. Those rooms offer hope, community and a path toward change- can also be a therapy group or faith -based group – but not 1:1 therapy.
    5) My hope is that you really do all your homework here as the SA/SLAA field is changing rapidly and a big part of that – is about more family and spousal support- this is not 1997 and we are much more in touch with spousal trauma

    Finally – please feel free to write me directly and I will be glad to help you learn more about the work as it is being done now. I think you will be pleasantly suprised.

    Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT
    SVP of Clincial Development
    Elements Behavioral Health

    Co-Author: Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age, Closer Together/Further Apart. Author: Cruise Control, Sex Addiction 101 (fall 2016)

    1. This is exactly the kind of patronizing, narcissistic response we’ve come to expect from the CSAT community, so many of whom are sex addicts themselves: “I admire your spirit”…”In all my books…”

      It is not uncommon for partners to be hurt by the sex addict’s 12-step experience. My own husband would come home spouting made-up statistics he’d heard at the meetings, such as “95 percent of partners cheat on their husbands after discovery.” Everything he reported to me smacked of a bunch of personality disordered men whining to each other that their wives couldn’t move forward or listing the endless abuses they were suffering because of their wives’ inability to forgive. Maybe if they’d spent more of the time focused on their own bad choices and discussing effective ways to repair trust instead of having pity parties, the meetings could have helped. But nope. And I hear similar stories from partners every day.

      We’ve done our homework, Mr. Weiss. We know exactly how the industry is evolving, who is making real change, and the names of the professionals who are simply hedging their bets.

      Perhaps you should go write some more obnoxious, objectifying “dating tips” for SA’s. Those are just brilliant.

    2. I notice you state work is being done to recognize the pain of families. I’ve looked in several places & I don’t see anything for teen children of SAs. It’s a very difficult topic to discuss with a teenager when they ask “Why does he need to look at that when he has you?” I don’t think anyone would want to disparage a parent in front of a child but it’s mighty difficult to teach a child respect for a parent who is a SA & exposes their teen to porn or some other questionable activity. There is a real need for support for teen children. Mine feels emotionally abandoned & isolated because of the upheaval brought on by the SA. There are intensives for partners but I couldn’t locate any for teens. Counselors (where we live) don’t seem prepared to work with teens in the area of helping them understand SA. Not sure about nationwide trends on resources for teens of SAs. Will be looking at your website.

      1. I approved Robert Weiss’ comment because my post was directed toward CSATs and I did mention him by name. His reply points out his complete lack of understanding of Partner Trauma. I felt it was important that we all understand how these therapists diminish our experience and continue to promote a program for sex addicts that has no statistical evidence of success. ~ JoAnn

    3. Even now, long after Mr. Weiss suggested WE needed to catch up, partners come to us with the same stories of the same treatment at the hands of CSAT’s. Their symptoms are dismissed or ignored. They are not treated for trauma. They are sent to support groups where they are asked/expected to label themselves and self-identify in soul-destroying ways. They are not urged to get a full panel of tests for STD’s/STI’s, and as a result have become barren, endured painful surgeries, deal with HIV, etc. because of undiagnosed diseases given to them by their “sex addict” who is coddled and protected from the reality he created. In many cases partners WERE TOLD NOT TO BOTHER GETTING TESTED because the sex addict tested clean. Partners are still paying the price for an unregulated group of practitioners sporting certifications to abuse partners and endanger their lives more. The largest licensing body has not reached out to its own certified group and told them what they are doing is now considered dangerous and wrong because real academic research (Steffens) says so. They have not reached out to partners to indicate they are no longer following an abusive treatment model. They just keep cranking these practitioners out, taking the money, and setting them loose upon clients who deserve so much more.

      We aren’t the only group trying to clean up the mess created by this morally and clinically bankrupt treatment model, but by God we were the first to call it what it is—abuse.

  19. Dear Mr Weiss- a few things in no particular order

    1) I very much doubt JoAnn needs to contact you in order to be brought up to date on what is going on in the field of partner trauma, as she interacts with actual partners EVERY SINGLE day. She knows all about how the SA/SLAA field is “changing”. The women who show up to her support group have often been hung out to dry by all that work being done in the field of SA/SLAA. Do you really think every woman on this site hasn’t read Step’s book? Hasn’t read EVERY book? I suggest you check out the work of Dr George Simon for a good read.

    2) paying lip service to a trauma model of care for partners and then continuing to attempt to fit their experience into the plan of care for the sex addict is a conflict of interest by any standard.

    3) there is little point in putting a personality disordered individual into a support group and many of these men are deeply disordered. If you want to waste your time and their money attempting to make them better people, well, that is very lucrative . Encouraging devastated partners to be part of the process and for a year, no less, is no different than having a rape victim go to therapy with her rapist.

    4) I don’t believe in the concept of sex addiction. It is simply a symptom of a much larger problem and that problem is not a disease. (my 2c)

    5) Please feel free to contact JoAnn and she can update YOU on what is happening in the field of treating partners. When you STOP speaking about the perpetrator as a “survivor” and you begin using words like domestic abuser then you will be speaking the up to date language of partners.

    6) We are fully aware of who usually brings the “sex addict” into treatment and so are you. I can really appreciate your concern about reeducating us? We are talking about a great deal of money here. I know, I paid 10,000 for my own husband to attend SRI. The only support I was offered was to book myself into The Meadows…..over the phone!! That was 2011, Mr Weiss, so all the changes you speak of must have come around very quickly indeed.

    7) There is a new guy on the block and a wave of change is coming for the victims of these men. As more and more partners become educated in all the various ways they are being abused, by both their husbands and the current prevailing model of care, they are going to STOP spending money treating the disordered men they married, and start spending it on healing from the trauma they endured. Then sit back and watch that cash cow swim. 😉

  20. I find Robert Weiss’ comment laughable considering how I was treated when my ex (who was then still my husband) went to Weiss’ Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch in 2012. I was treated only as a tool to help his “recovery”. No one even gave lip service to my or my children’s trauma. No one even mentioned emotional abuse, gaslighting, blameshifting, etc. My therapist and a local CSAT here in Houston were appalled to the point that the local CSAT even called to complain (and “appalled” was the CSATs exact word). So I don’t think Mr. Weiss has much credibility here.

    I have visited with a number of CSATs over the years, and I have found that a significant number of them will say, even during an initial consult, that while they do take into account the trauma model, that the co-addict/co-dependent model is still important in treating partners. Since my ex was not even identified as an addict until 2005, Weiss’ dismissive comment about how it is “not 1997” indicates that he himself has not “done his homework”.

    Furthermore, as when dealing with any addict whether “in recovery” or not, it is important to pay attention to what CSATs do rather than what they say. Typically CSATs tell a partner that she will get a disclosure of the addict’s behaviors only if she agrees to stay with an addict for a year. How is that honoring her trauma and abuse? The CSAT community tells her the only way she will be allowed information vital to her own healing is if she stays with an abuser thereby further exposing her to more abuse and potentially exposing her to STD’s (if she hasn’t gotten them already) and financial devastation (if they aren’t already in a mess) if the addict is still paying for sexual activities. The family also risks public humiliation and more financial consequences if the addict is arrested for illegal activities. And yet, she is told the only way to get any information on the risks and abuse she has actually been exposed to is to agree to stay for a year.

    Another example is what happens when a partner tries to communicate to a CSAT that the addict who is supposedly in recovery is still acting out or faking recovery. I tried this a number of times with CSATs including one who holds weekend intensives at Gentle Path and another at the Ranch, and I was dismissed each time and told that they would vouch for his recovery. When I produced evidence of the acting out (printouts of orgy plans), I was told that I had seemed “crazy” and then quickly dismissed again. Dismissing partners who try to speak up about ongoing abuse is not honoring or recognizing the trauma and abuse- it is instead enabling it to continue.

    Here’s the thing: my experience is not unique nor outdated. Mr. Weiss has the access and opportunity to stories like this regularly, yet he comes on this site and spouts his condescending, dismissive garbage that we partners know so well from much of the CSAT community and sex addicts themselves. If he really gave a crap about helping addicts and partners, he would be listening very carefully to us and to Dr. Omar Minwalla at the Institute for Sexual Health. But he would also have to admit that his treatment model is flawed and that he himself has perpetrated abuse on countless partners and families, It’s much easier to belittle and dismiss us, or so he thinks. There’s a change coming, Mr. Weiss. Are you ready?

  21. I think Mr. Weiss & Mr. Carnes must care to some degree about the field of sex addiction but I agree that the old school mentality & codependency models are outdated. Hopefully they’re both striving to do better research on how to treat partners & SAs. One thing I noticed in Carnes book Out of The Shadows is a part where he states the coaddict thinks all family problems are due to the addict. I’ll say that in my case 90% of the problems could be linked right back to the addiction. All partners bring some baggage to a relationship but when someone brings a sex addiction into a relationship, attempts to conceal it & then engages in manipulation, lies, deceit to keep the behavior then I’d have to say those are significant issues. The parts about controlling & anger are bothersome. What would anyone do or feel if their SA was burning through life savings, college funds etc? I think many of us stay because we recognize how sad this addiction is & we truly want to see the person we fell in love with have a quality of life. Many of us have kids & when the SAs aren’t acting out they do have the capacity to be good parents. I watched a video about a book called Porn Nation & the SA talks about how he had to lose it all to finally get help. Interestingly his ex-wife joins him in telling their sad story. If more SAs were willing to come out & talk about the damage they inflict because of their choices (in this case he says he didn’t want to quit) then it would be a small step in getting SAs to see the human costs of the misery SA brings to lives. Empathy seems to be a late stage development task for SAs but I think it’s one of the main keys to sobriety. If they could feel in their hearts the what we feel. There should be more research on teaching SAs empathy in my view.

    1. I agree, there needs to be more research. My opinion is that empathy is learned during a critical period of childhood. I doubt that it can be taught to adults who had that process interrupted. ~ JoAnn

    2. I would refer you to Dr. Omar Minwalla’s article located on JoAnn’s Blog on the home page on Sisterhood of Support. He clearly stated that “sexual sobriety” is only the tiny beginning of working with any SA. And, I’m sorry, but empathy is learned and cannot be taught. They can be taught to fake empathy but most have already learned that trick. They are embarrassed when they’re caught (maybe) and may recognize from an intellectual standpoint that they have hurt the family/partner. That’s about the best you will get. They aren’t normal and never will be whether “acting out” or not. Sad but true….

      And I must disagree about Patrick Carnes “caring about sex addicts”. He found a way to cover his own ass about his own “sexual addiction”. He was smart. I’ll give him that. He’s built an empire off men that cheat and taking the blame off of them and handing them a label that covers every excuse in the book. It’s actually sad. Again, please read Dr. Minwalla’s article. It explains a lot.

  22. For someone who says he never speaks of codependence when he’s speaking about partners, here’s his list of recommended resources for spouses of sex addicts:

    On it you will find numerous books about codependence and promoting that treatment approach. Also he recommends 12 step support groups designed for that hideous label co-addict, co-sex addict.

    So, nothing new here. Move on. Nothing to see here. Move on.

  23. I have a question. Where is any of Patrick Carnes’ research found? It seems all anecdotal and self reported. Isn’t that a little odd considering we are dealing with supposed addicts who are known to lie? I haven’t seen a scrap of scientific research that has been conducted in this field. I think they are misdiagnosing sex addicts. They may be just be run of the mill cheaters. They may have a personality disorder or a BPD…. And those are not mutually exclusive by any means. I would like to know where the actual research is published (if there is any).

  24. Yes I noticed Carnes work was based off his sampling & his own SA experience likely played into it. We all bring some baggage to a relationship but there’s no doubt that relationships with SAs do get dysfunctional over time. Mine traveled a lot so I had trouble catching on to the depth of it. Carnes work was helpful in identifying that his behavior wasn’t just porn (which is what I was led to believe the few times I did run across him watching it). I’ve looked at Dr. Minwalla’s work & there’s no doubt that he’s on track with recognizing trauma in partners. Carnes does say in his work that partners grieve losing their mate to the addiction & can stay stuck in grief. That hits home with me as I know he’s out there somewhere since walking out on our family & filing for divorce. It’s like he died but I didn’t have a funeral. I wish I had found this site years ago. I can’t say enough about how instrumental this site has been in understanding SA from the perspective of those that have lived it. I need to sign up for SOS.

  25. Ann, we would love to have you whenever you want to join 🙂

    And I want to point out that anyone can get stuck in grief. It’s a common response. BUT, they don’t go to a CSAT for the problem or a 12 step meeting. If these guys were treating any of our trauma correctly then I wouldn’t have a problem with them. We are urging partners now to seek out trauma therapists and never see a CSAT ….

  26. I agree with you all the way. My first program I went to was a Carnes program and it was terrible for the partner. However, I did find that Dr. Weiss program is very respectful of the partner. He does not put – up with this BS from these abusers and the program is supportive of partners. He helped to change my husbands abusive behavior. What they were not able to change over the long run was his acting out. He has been in a support group for over two years and today he is a better communicator and much more honest. He is really smart and I think he has used the program to figure out how to work with me and calm me down when he does act – out. They are hard on him. I did not like the partner support group as it was really to simple and not effective and focused too much on religion.

  27. In light of the Ashley-Madison breach, let’s get out there & encourage the media to do a piece on Sexual Addiction. Not hearing any discussion, in the media, that many of the people identified might be sex addicts. I would think this discussion would be relevant and good journalism for newspapers, magazines, internet sites & television. Contact your local media to suggest this idea. How can we have CNN do a piece about sex addiction? On a Dr. Drew show? I do not feel that currently our society is giving enough attention to this addiction. We need to educate people. Education is so important in dealing with this addiction for all involved. It is time to completely come out of the closet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. There is a lot of media attention to sex addiction. Unfortunately it is all the wrong kind. Most information is based on the Carnes and 12 step model that has no reliable statistics of positive results. The Sisterhood of Support and this site support truth and calling sex addiction what it is–Domestic Abuse. These men are not normal, they will not ever change (although some may stop acting out for a while) and the treatment models for sex addiction are nothing more than snake oil. ~ JoAnn

  28. JoAnn is right about the snake oil. Looking at Carnes 4 core beliefs about addicts it’s difficult to see how 12 step programs could actually change them. These groups may be a way to connect with others that have similar struggles but that’s about all. I never understood how the love and support of a family aren’t enough to change the “No one would love me as I am” and “I’m basically a bad, unworthy person.” These people seem to revel in permanent victimhood (the ones that start in childhood due to their family of origin issues) and it’s like a cult of victims that don’t want to be survivors. Oprah was sexually abused as a child. She went on to make an impact in the world. Even the SAs that start in their later years seem to be operating from perversion, selfishness and just plain insensitivity. These people don’t want to change. They like the cheap thrills & spend a lot of time planning how they will get high. They are gifted at lying, deceiving and self-preservation. They have no concern for the well-being of others and cutting them off is the only way to regain balance.

  29. This is truly a fascinating discussion. Many of the things identified here, are similar to issues I’ve discussed extensively, in my criticism of the sex addiction industry. I encourage all of the folks here to continue voicing these concerns, in order to force sex addiction therapists and treatment programs to be accountable. There are tremendous ethical and legal issues involved, in their failure to acknowledge that their treatment methods are experimental, cannot be billed to insurance, and have not been demonstrated to actually result in change. Kudos. I learned a lot reading this.

  30. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing this open letter. This information is needed to help the victims of “sex addicts” (not a valid diagnosis in the DSM V). Those who have been deceived in their relationships are not as “sick or sicker than the addict” as the followers of Dr. Carnes model seem to advocate. I have gone through the process of working with CSAT’s and others who follow Dr. Carnes model when I learned that my husband had been lying and cheating for the entire time we were married. I happened to be enrolled in a Master’s Program for Counseling at the time that I was in the process of figuring out what my husband had done to me and our children. What I experienced in sessions with “professionals” that I relied on for their expertise was blatant abuse. I felt like I was being encouraged to stay with my husband who had made no commitment to being faithful after the disclosure. I felt that my life was being sacrificed so that he would have a better chance at getting “better”. It was strange to see these counselors encourage me to stay in an unhealthy relationship and tell me that I needed to figure out what I should do to rebuild the relationship.

    There was no acknowledgement in this process of the pain and confusion that I felt at the time – I felt invisible which was a replication of what happened in my marriage. I learned that many of the CSAT’s are “sex addicts” themselves. So it made sense that they could not or would not take the partner’s well being into consideration. Lacking true empahty toward their partners or people that they have hurt is a hallmark of a person who engages in this behavior.

    The therapeutic system that is currently being used for partners of the chronically unfaithful needs a complete overhaul and therapy should not be based on the beliefs or perspectives of people who perpetrate this kind of destruction.

    As I have continued on my healing journey my heart breaks for those who are just learning that their lives have been shattered. The healthier I have gotten the clearer it is to me that what is happening to partners in this system is abusive.

    My husband went away to a “treatment” center which ended up being an expensive joke. My husband referred to it as his “retreat”. On a conference call with my husband and his therapist the week before he returned to our town I said that I needed him to be transparent and accountable for where he was, who he was with and how he spent money. The therapist acted like I was making too much of it and said “healthy” couples dont’ need to know where the other person is – and I said – I don’t consider us to be a healthy couple. I was astounded. His advice seemed odd considering the length of time (25 years) and the severity and extreme nature of his behaviors. This is an example of the type of abuse that is prevalent in the current way of dealing with partners. There was no concern that my husband’s behaviors put my health at risk..

    I realize that not all therapists are this insensitive but there is a big problem in this area of counseling. I have seen that my husband only considers counsel from those who say what he wants to hear.

    After treatment my husband moved into an apartment by himself, took Covenant Eyes off of his electronics, went back the same job, traveling with the same people to the same places that he acted out. He says he is an alcoholic yet he can go to nightclubs entertaining clients because it is not a problem for him.

    He found a sponsor who told him that he did not need to tell me anything other than whether or not he attended a meeting. Everything else was none of my business. I asked what his sponsor’s marriage was like and my husband blamed the wife for the discord in the marriage. When I asked him where he was he said that I needed to stay on my side of the street and that I was in my sickness if I needed to know where he was.

    Needless to say I filed for divorce and we are in still in the process two years later. It is a very sad situation for myself and my children. I have learned to stay away from people who distort the truth and cannot be in truth. I know that I am not responsible or to blame for their decisions.

    It makes sense that sex addiction is not in the DSM V at this time. There does not seem to be a lot of valid research on this issue. Sometimes it seems as if the sexual behaviors are an off shoot of a personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.

    There are no easy answers at this time. However it is time to build a system or protocol that will help partners heal and make informed decisions about what is best for them.

    1. I agree!!!! Thank you, thank you,thank you JoAnn for this letter! I came across this letter shortly before I filed for divorce in July, 2014. And finally, someone validated my feelings!!!! I was married 41 yrs + dated 5 yrs and divorced October, 2014. My first discovery of infidelity was in 1994 and my ex minimalized and lied about the evidence that i had of him being with a prostitute. I was totally shocked and in disbelief that he could do that? He said it was only 1 time and he vowed it would never happen again and he did go to counseling for a couple months. I decided to stay since we had children at home and I guess i believed him? Forward 8 years to 2002….I found a large amount of cash in a coat pocket of his and he instantly explained that he was saving for a surprise trip for us. We went to counseling and he never veered from his story. I did not believe his story, but I didn’t really think he had been seeing prostitutes. I do remember the therapist telling my ex that if he(my ex) EVER did anything else that was suspicious, he would risk losing me. I also said MANY times that I would leave if I ever found any evidence that he was seeing prostitutes. Forward to September, 2013. I find online evidence that my ex was searching escort services websites along with pornography. I immediately question him and he denies that it was him????? The next day, he admits to having a problem and agrees to go to therapy. We both went to a CSAT along with attending SA groups. With the help of his therapist, he said he was going to recover. One of the steps for recovery? is a disclosure of all sexual activity. His full disclosure took place November 1, 2013. I was traumatized by the amount of betrayals that took place shortly before we were married and continued throughout our 41 year marriage. Everything from prostitutes, affairs, one night stands, secrets, lies, and pornography. Much of his disclosure was worded as “numerous” times….or “multiple” episodes…and I am convinced that he did NOT include every act. Throughout therapy with the first CSAT (whom we both saw separately), and the COSA group I attended….I felt like nobody understood why I wanted a divorce if he was in recovery? I had given him several chances, plus throughout our marriage, I felt a disconnection and always blamed it on him being a workaholic or me not being nurturing enough. I totally agree with this letter and i totally agree with C. Schmidt! I have been in and out of therapy since the discovery of his secret life and I actually did find a therapist that is very supportive of the partner. I was doing pretty well until I discovered that he was in a relationship within 6 months after the divorce. This seemed to trigger my feelings of betrayal and I now feel like i am experiencing Betrayal trauma. I was the one who filed for divorce – he vowed he would change and supposedly is in recovery? I felt like he “dumped” all his guilt on me so he could be free of it. To this day, I don’t think I will ever be able to comprehend his behavior. Personality disorders make some sense, and he did have some childhood issues – didn’t we all? This divorce has changed my life and the lives of our children and grandchildren. I still suffer some guilt and I think it came from the first therapist and the groups that made me feel like i should try to make it work since he was trying to change. How do you ever believe someone that lied 1000’s of times and I had not felt connected to for 30 years?????? I do not regret divorcing him, but healing has not been easy.

  31. So you are all saying one thing… There is no hope. No hope for a happy ending for my husband and me. No point in me staying and loving him through. No point in believing in him and seeking treatment and wanting for the best. I should just leave him to continue this cycle with other women, even though I know his childhood traumas and twistedness and I know there’s shame in what he does and that he hates himself every time. That I should just give up now and walk away…that the black hole is reality and I should just embrace it. This site makes me sad, and it wasn’t at all what I was looking for. But, if this is reality…I don’t know if it’s worth it. I wanted hope. I wanted support for my choice to stay, yet an outlet for my frustration during the process. I didn’t know I’d be made to feel stupid for holding on to hope that it would turn out OK. So sorry for being one of “those stupid women.”

  32. As the ex-wife of someone that was found to be utilizing prostitutes, I agree with every word of this essay…. with one small exception. The author writes “This becomes a family problem when children are created in a union that is untenable because it is built upon lies.”

    My ex-husband and I did not have children together. However, as someone who doesn’t have much family of my own, I had been fully emerged in HIS family for 19 years. My marriage added in-laws, two stepdaughters, a sister-in-law and a host of nieces, nephews, etc to my family tree. Discovering my ex-husband’s secret life and divorcing him, not only cost me my marriage, but also this entire extended family who immediately turned their backs on me when I found out – and told them – what my ex was doing. So, to me, this was certainly a “family problem”, even without us having children. I lost pretty much my entire family over this, and it certainly feels like a problem.

    Otherwise, dead-on article. When my ex and I briefly attempted reconciliation, we attended 12 groups both separately and together I immediately took issue with the “co-dependent” label cast on me and spoke up about it. I said that I never considered that what I felt for my husband prior to discovery was co-dependence of any kind, I thought it was just love. I thought the way I thought of him and treated him was a very healthy way to treat the person you had vowed to love, honor and cherish until death did you part. My view on that was NOT widely accepted by the group, most of whom were (IMO) grasping for any way they could to deal with their situations and keep their marriages intact.

    Thank you for writing this.

    1. Absolutely. After 26 years of what I thought was a happy marriage, I guess the joke was on me. He had a brief weeks long affair, said she was his soulmate, but he loved me too, and wanted both of us. I said no, not accepting polyamory ever, so he ran away. Discarded me completely and my son and grandson. I have no idea if he still communicates with that person, as she lives 3000 miles away. His entire family turned their back on me, I knew they were narcissists and toxic, but I am still shocked by their abandonment too, when I did everything possible to make my husband happy. Now I found out I was infected with HepB and herpes. It’s like I was violated physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am divorcing him but he’s stalling. This was like an atom bomb.

  33. Great article. The big problem with all 12 step programs for people affected by others’ addictions is they are not trauma informed. In essence, all the “anon” groups advocate admitting to suffering then suppressing emotions via stepwork and spending the rest of your life as an unpaid preacher of this “cure”.

    It’s not only unethical, it’s a human rights violation for a health care professional to coerce people into 12 step recovery with unsubstantiated diagnoses based on bad research.

    But until someone sues one of these “professionals”, or associated treatment centres, there’s a lot of money to be made. Kudos to you for giving women a safe option to heal.

  34. Interesting piece. I think ultimately people need to find out what works for them and what scale their problem is. There are some sex addicts who eventually become pathological addicts towards their addiction but there are also some who have a problem with sex and sexually acting out. They may need to find a different approach and maybe a different therapist.

  35. This post is ten years old, but the sentiments still prevail.

    As an addict, I see value in the 12-step program. I can assure you, despite use of the word “God” (of my understanding), it is much less a religious program than it is a spiritual program. Many addicts have learned not to trust. Turning over to a “Higher Power”, a god of one’s own understanding, is an essential first step (actually, a second and then third step). The purpose of the fellowship is to provide human acceptance of the addict – without judgment, without anger. This is something else many addicts did not have during formative years. The fellowship also forces the addict out of isolation and provides a body of people whom the addict can slowly begin to trust; beginning to undo the negative narrative ingrained in childhood. When an addict takes his or her first step in the program and admits powerlessness over the addiction and admits how the addiction has rendered his or her life unmanageable, and that admission is accepted without judgment, the addict begins the journey of the 12 steps. The fellowship is there for support – and accountability. Both things at the same time. Support and accountability – without anger or hurt, or varying degrees of these emotions – are difficult, if not impossible, for a betrayed partner to provide. But this is something the addict needs more than ever. Consider that addicts typically come into the rooms at their “bottom” – when their life is most chaotic, stressful, and broken. At the same time the realize that acting out is what got them there and have sworn off acting out – the tool they have used for decades to deal with the stress, chaos, and brokenness of their lives. Isolating at that point can easily end in suicide. Being able to reach out to people who understand the pain, who have faced the same circumstances and lived through it, and most importantly, people who will not judge is vital to the addict’s mental health and possibly survival.

    That “gentle path” is not without accountability. That is the other function of the fellowship – holding members accountable to achieve and maintain a place where they no longer act out. The fourth step has people make a rigorous moral inventory of character flaws, the fifth step has them take ownership of the harm they have done to others. The sixth and seventh steps are about seeking help (ostensibly from a higher power, whatever that higher power may be – I have seen people use the fellowship as their higher power) to help take away the character flaws identified in step four. And in step eight and nine, people make amends for the harms they have done to others.

    The Twelve Step program “is about the solution, not the problem” the problem being the addiction. The 12 step program should be used in conjunction with a professional treatment program that addresses the problem. Addressing the problem is hard, and can be extremely stressful and emotional. The 12 step fellowship provides a support network for the addict who may be estranged from the normal support network of family and friends, or if not estranged, certainly a betrayed spouse isn’t going to want to hear about the “poor addict” as he or she deals with his or her own betrayal trauma. This support is vital to an addict continuing to do the work and uncover the traumas that are at the root of the addiction. By doing so the addict can root them out and, at the same time work to help the betrayed partner and family unit.

    I have taken Dr. Omar Minwalla’s Be A Better Man workshop. The Minwalla method is spot on in its approach to not only the secret sexual basement but also the concept of integrity abuse.

    I have been a patient of Dr. Rob Weiss. Believe me when I say that he is an expert at exposing the addict.

    I believe the 12 step program is a vital adjunct to professional CSAT, or at least addiction, therapy. Sobriety is not recovery. But sobriety is a vital part of achieving and maintaining recovery. That is the purpose of integrating the 12 step program into a holistic treatment regime.

    1. Hi BobKat. Thank you for writing such a detailed and heartfelt story, I truly hope that your hard work in recovery will prove successful. My thoughts on 12 step programs and sex addiction programs are all here for everyone to read and serious comments or questions are always welcome. I am always open to respectful dialogue from both sex addicts and partners.

      I do hope that you have read the stories here from the women who have been in relationships or who are married to, for lack of a better phrase, ‘sex addicts’. Hopefully those stories will help you to understand the trauma and pain, as well as the destruction of trust and hope that we go through. It’s asking a lot of us to be supportive of a sex addict’s recovery when our own pain and trauma needs our attention. And, part of our recovery is acknowledging our anger and denial and loss of trust. Sex addiction is not just a problem for the sex addict, it affects every relationship that they touch. Family, friends, children, co workers and peers.

      I hope you understand that even though we may reach a point of compassion and understanding–even forgiveness, but we may never be able to forget. From our point of view the healthiest choice for ourselves and our children is often the choice to leave a toxic relationship, move on and have a stable life that is not filled with doubt, mistrust and relapses.

      Wishing you all the very best. If you have any questions or more comments please don’t hesitate to post here. ~ JoAnn

      Every choice has a consequence. Deny someone that consequence and you deny them an opportunity for change. ~ JoAnn

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