Part Two Of An Interview with Barbara Steffens, Author of Your Sexually Addicted Spouse

Here is Part Two of the four part series of interviews with Barbara Steffens begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting. If you enjoyed part one you will LOVE part two. In Part Two Barbara discusses the ‘life quake’ of discovery of the Sexual Addiction, disclosures, honesty, trust and boundaries.

Once again, I would like to offer a great big ‘Thank You!’ to Barb for so generously sharing her time, knowledge and experience with us.

Be sure to check back next week for Part 3

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Responses

  1. Hi there,
    REAlly really appreciated Part two. I hope everyone is taking the time to listen to Part 1 and 2. It’s really been enlightening.
    I’m also reading the Book at the same time.

    Really liked it when Barbara said “she’s not listening to your words, she’s listening to your behaviour” That’s it exactly for me. I don’t listen to what he says. He’s a liar and I’ve learned the hard way that he lies about anything—whether it’s crucial or not. sometimes he may tell the truth, but how would I know? So I listen to what he does. That’s where the truth is. I wish he would get this. I’ve told him he’s the only one who believes what he says now. But it bounces off.

    This is such a learning curve. But it’s helping me to frame things in terms of “what I need”, and “what I know I can’t tolerate”. I’m making lists. And also lists of questions for the full disclosure, bearing in mind how much detail will finally push me over the edge.

    I also find the whole notion of knowing what my trauma triggers are to be a key element in getting off this manic emotional ride. I feel I am taking my recovery away from his power to recover, and it makes me believe I can make it even if he doesn’t.

    One nagging thing that haunts me is that I just don’t want to be involved in his accountability stuff. I don’t want to spend one more ounce of energy on it. Does this mean my marriage has no hope? I just don’t want to be his hall monitor. I look ahead ten years and see big trouble when he’s aging. Do we have any data/anecdotal records of what happens to these male sex addicts once they are seniors? Are relapses more frequent? As other freedoms and powers naturally decline, is this one freedom to sexually act out back in play?

    thanks JoAnn, Barbara, Marsha and all the incredible women on this site.
    Diane.

  2. I guess when they are old, they are just “dirty old men”?

    Is there hope for a marriage after the disclosure of sex addiction?

    I don’t blame you one bit, Diane for not wanting to be a hall monitor. I also enjoyed Barbara’s second installment, but there was one part that was troublesome for me.

    My ex-lover would say to me. “I don’t like to be told what to do.” and I think this is pretty typical SA speak and a clue to the roots of the problem stemming from childhood.

    I understand and like Barbara’s approach which is to turn it around so that the partner conveys what SHE needs–what her limits are– not in telling her partner “what to do”. However, is the SA capable of understanding the subtlety of that difference? I don’t think so, in most cases and definitely not for my ex. I think it comes back to the black and white thinking. My lover couldn’t care less about my limits, or boundaries. He doesn’t care about his partner’s limits, either, or anyone’s limits, except his own. If you fit into HIS life script, His needs, His wants– great and if not— too damn bad. When he doesn’t get his way or feels “insulted” by your deviation of HIS script, he will turn it ALL back on YOU, he sulks, demeans, ignores,(i just loved that one) or has a tirade. (like a toddler) The “playing field” is not even, at least not in the beginning, before he has had much intensive therapy to get at the root of his issues. He needs to learn constructive ways of communicating and to learn that the truth is a beautiful thing, not something to fear. His partner may also need help in learning constructive ways of standing up for herself and better ways of communicating, so that her “ultra sensitive” partner does not feel as threatened. I don’t think this means that partners have to “walk on eggshells.” And they should not have to. It takes time and work to learn new ways of dealing with problems and life, in general.

    One, the SA needs to understand the catastrophic effect his actions have had on his partner and to accept responsibility for that. And he has to learn that the trust is now GONE and its gonna take a long time to build that back!

    That’s the consequence of HIS actions.

    If, IF, IF… the SA even WANTS to change. My ex lover would say that it is “normal” fcr EVERY man to want many, many women– blah, blah… He’s a swinger. (a whole other very interesting topic) Fine, then swing with your PARTNER or if she does not want that, be fair and end that relationship and find another partner who does want that lifestyle as well.

  3. Hi Lorraine and Diane,

    I have just a few thoughts on your comments. First Lorraine. Of course addicts don’t like to be told what to do, they are like little spoiled children. But, by setting boundaries you are NOT telling them what to do, you are telling them what is or is not acceptable in YOUR world. Big difference. What they do is up to them. If they want to change and want to save the relationship then they will honor your boundaries. If they don’t, well, then it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with it.

    Diane, I know how you feel about not wanting to be a monitor. But, unfortunately that is a part of living with a Sex Addict. Once they are truly committed to recovery, and you have all the information you need to know in your gut that they are being honest, then the monitoring falls into the background. It becomes just an awareness of their actions. I would know if Larry were heading down the path of acting out LONG before he ever did it.

    I no longer monitor anything, but I do look at our bank statements and cell phone bills just as a matter of course for the budgeting, which he and I share. He always tells me where he is going and calls if he is going to be more than five minutes late. When he gets home he shares everything that he has done, whether it’s going to his 12 step groups or just to the store. He is the one monitoring himself and he shares all that he does with me so that I don’t have to monitor him. He does this willingly and without me ever asking. That’s what real recovery looks like.

    As for information on senior Sex Addicts, I do have some anecdotal information based on the last six years of Larry’s many 12 step groups and meetings in two states. Unfortunately getting old does not seem to have any effect on Sex Addict’s acting out patterns. They will take Viagra to masturbate to porn or visit a hooker. There are many seniors in these groups who are in their 70’s and 80’s who continue to act out regularly.

    The only way a Sex Addict stops acting out is because they truly want to and are ready to do the years and years of hard work to understand themselves and their demons and turn their back on the self destructive dark side of sexual compulsion.

    Love to all of you who share so much of yourselves.

    JoAnn

  4. Thanks for joining my ruminations, Lorraine and JoAnn,

    I think I had some breakthrough thinking on this monitoring thing from your input—

    As I create my boundaries, I manage those things for my own well-being. Since my boundaries are created out of my need to remove the trauma triggers, they clip his wings, so to speak. I think I see how they could fade into the background, but jump out at me if he’s heading down the wrong road. Mainly because what I’ve learned about these guys is that there’s no new track. They follow their own trail. They escalate, but it’s still the same trail they take to get there. Does that make sense?

    My dread of monitoring is built around trying to imagine what he’s doing that I know nothing about, and chasing him all day to make sure he isn’t.

    One thing i have thought about is that since we had to sell our big family home, this smaller townhouse doesn’t afford him much privacy. There’s nowhere for him to go that would give him time alone for very long. That’s a good thing. And I think I could handle check-in calls twice a day, (three if there’s evening work which there always is in our careers), and a day debrief to see no empty space.

    One of the triggers for me is his secret life dynamic which is fed (whether he realizes it or not) by the secret life of the SA organization in which I can’t know who’s in it unless I’m in it. This will need to be undone, because he has already told me there are people and at least one couple we socialize with. Of course, now they know about my life, but I don’t know about theirs because I refused to say “Hi, I’m Diane and I’m a co-addict”. I believe my husband uses this secrecy as a place of power–not in a heavy-handed way, but as an island for his superiority complex to endure in his mind, at least—sort of a comfort piece for him. (cue the puking chorus here). But he used secrecy to betray me, and also he used other relationships to demean me and criticize me and set me up as deficient. He also pursues emotional intimacy with other women at my expense.

    The upshot of this is that this site and Barbara and Marsha’s book have enabled me to see this trigger clearly, and to help me frame my boundary need—If there are people in our circle who are in the program that know about his addiction, I have to know who they are. I will not be one person out of the loop anymore. No opportunities for secrets. No opportunities for a whiff of arrogant superiority about whose in and whose out of the information pool.

    Also I like the suggestion that i have his sponsors contact info, and his counsellor as well. He is, after all, a liar. If I can spread the lying dynamic around, then I don’t have to bear it all by myself. The consequences will be met in the two other places where people aren’t afraid to give it to him with both barrels. His pride won’t like that possibility. I know deep down his pride (his counsellor told him he’s marinated in it, btw) wants them to believe he’s a star pupil. It’s all so stupid but true.

    I think I’m getting somewhere. And it really is because of finding this site and my counsellor.

    Thank you isn’t enough. But it will have to do.
    D.

  5. Yes, I agree with you JoAnn and I have adhered to this philosophy staunchly with my two boys (out of grave necessity as one has severe AD/HD and the other has autism) and it works!

    Its not easy, however, and me thinks our SAs didn’t have clear boundaries or limitations growing up, if any at all. That’s in the best case scenarios. In the worst, they also had physical, emotional and sexual abuse in their childhoods and yes, those are devastating things to have gone through, but there’s help available. This is also why contacting the parents may possibly be met with some not-so-great consequences, I am surmising. After all, their primary early care-givers might just be the source of HOW our SA came to be in his low, dark world, in the first place! (not always, but often)

    What was so difficult for me and still is, is that I would state something unacceptable for me (a boundary) and since I was not the primary partner, (enabler) I suddenly became totally dispensable. A throw-away. Or as my shrink liked to point out, I was nothing more than “a prop.” nice, huh? But true. Therefore, any boundary that I tried to impose was met with negative consequences and only added to the hurt. It was crazy making as there would be intermittent positive reinforcement, (telling me how amazing, beautiful, etc. I was) followed by crushing hurtful actions on his part. If the same boundary had been given by his live-in, it would’ve been met much differently. After all, at her initiative, he was checked into a rehab facility within ONE week of her finding out what was going on!!! (very interesting)

    As for continuous monitoring. I just think that if someone really really wants to act out, they’ll find a way to do it and yes, there’s nothing anyone can truly do about it. I don’t mean to sound negative and I hope that this doesn’t upset anyone further. My ex lover is still acting out and from his partner’s blogs, he has lead her to believe that he is on the road to “recovery”. (he’s still out there, however) Of course, its that whole “quick-fix-let’s-get-back-to-the-way-things-were, but WHY? (life totally sucked “before”)I also agree with what Barbara said in that you will see a tremendous change in their entire behavior and affect when they are truly on the road to recovery. But, to even start that journey, they have to really understand what’s at stake and that what they are doing is not working and that they are out of control, and that there’s no shame in this, that there’s help available and that there’s also no shame in getting that help. Sex Addicts are horrifically depressed and desperate people who have clearly lost their way.

    My ex-friend once told me that he identified strongly with this Thoreau quote.

    “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

    BTW, my mom’s a therapist (for those who don’t know) and I’ve learned a lot from her in addition to years and years of my own ongoing therapy and reading.

    This brings me to a question that I’ve never seen anyone discuss. But have some partners after finding out that their husbands have betrayed them to the nth degree, find themselves gravitating to solace and love (an affair) from another man either through natural causes or by actually seeking it out? Not in sex addict fashion, but simply as a means to make themselves feel better appreciated as a woman? I’m not making a judgment either way, and actually, its pretty much what happened to me.

  6. My fellow, and I was very very picky, is kind, honest, and hears me. I opened my eyes, wide, to only accept a man who had no traces of deception and respected me, cared about what I had to say.
    I also requested all passwords, and he gave them to me. He also believes in complete honesty and openness. He has nothing to hide, and that gives me pure joy.
    I think a lot of that is not only his high character, but that he was married for 27 years to a deceiver and sexually addicted wife. I have seen their marriage’s history in her love letters and lies to other men. None of them as handsome and good to her as my fellow is, but she could not stop having 2-4 men at a time. She also enjoys breaking up families.
    He gave her the one chance very early in the marriage when he found the first affair, and she continued through the whole marriage he suspected, and then he found the proof again and just said that was it. Done. He states she became dead to him then. His strength is key to his getting over all the deceit. I still struggle with the magnitude of lies and insults, but he helps me with it all and points out that my ex is getting off on causing me turmoil.

  7. That’s really cool Lynn. I do recall you talking about him; he sounds like a wonderful man!

    I also imagine that a lot of people are going, but “how do you know you have someone honest and open?” I thought my sex addict husband WAS honest and look where that got me!?! How am I ever going to be able to trust another man/woman ever again?” In fact I think it may be one reason that sometimes people stay in such horrible situations. Better to stay with the “devil you know?”

    In most cases, its not.

    Or “what happened to the man I married? Is he coming back? Who is this other person that seems to have invaded his body? Was he there all the time, and I just didn’t realize it?”

    But, you also touched on a very important point. These SAs are massively unhappy people and use sex as a means to control and demean others. They also engage in sexual aberrations as their disease escalates.

    I know its hard not to take it personally and to not feel as if you’ve been hit with a sledge hammer. We’ve been taught to think that if we’re good and nice to others that we will be treated with respect and love in return.

    We certainly should be and shouldn’t settle for less.

    We have to learn that the SAs behavior is about THEM– not us. We are simply the unfortunate collateral damage lying in the wake of their illness.

    This is what is so difficult for the non addict to comprehend. How could someone who claimed to love and cherish me, treat me like this? We try to understand and comprehend and we obsess and fret. Was it me? Did I do something? Did he ever love me? Its a revolving door nightmare that is the hardest thing to overcome and get past.

    Your BF is right though. Your ex is a sadist and gets off on causing you pain. Sick, isn’t it? If you wanna get retribution? Ignore him.(as much as possible) Be neutral. Unemotional, where he’s concerned. Treat him like he’s an object or a business proposition if you need to have contact with him because you have a son, I think?

    Focus on what’s ahead– (your hot beau!) not the dead horse, you had to dump on the side of the road.

  8. Hello everyone, I’m Beau- Lynn’s BF. I’ve been lurking for awhile, just reading. I’ve seen so many comments that directly relate to the situation I was in for so long, and I can honestly say that I get what each of you are saying. In brief, my wife of 27 years was a sex addict from the start, always having a man on the side and several in reserve. I stayed with her for my kids, and the hope that one day she’d change. Of course that day never came, and after the kids were grown and gone I decided I deserved better. As with all SA’s, she’s quick to assign blame for her behavior to me, but I know that for all those years I never strayed once (and there were plenty of opportunities) and I was a good husband. That is simply how those people justify their actions- by blaming others for their unhappiness.
    As I’ve told Lynn- if someone is wired to accept adultery and SA as being acceptable, they see no problem with it and will continue that behavior their whole life. In their world they’re doing nothing wrong, so there’s nothing to change. They just have to get better at deceiving their spouse so as not to get caught. I do not believe they can be “cured” because that’s how their brain works. My wife and I did the counseling thing, we talked, made promises, etc. In the end it was all for naught, as each time something came up she just used the experience to try and perfect her technique.

    All I can say is that you can’t let your experience with a SA dictate how you lead the rest of your life. I met Lynn 2 months after I kicked my wife out, and I went into our relationship with an open heart and no preconceptions about how honest and sincere she was. Love is a gamble, and we’ve all spun the wheel at some point and lost. Lives have been devastated, dreams lost, trust destroyed. But you must ask yourself- will I let this person who betrayed and hurt me so terribly win by never loving or trusting again? To me, the answer is a resounding NO! I, and you, deserve better. We deserve to be happy. We’re the good people, and if the bad ones are allowed to screw our lives up forever, they ultimately win. Every day that you spend hurting over the damage they caused is another day of your life they own. My ex is dead to me, and I give her no more thought than I would a stranger in a casket. She got 27 years out of me, and won’t get one second more.

    There are so many truly good men (and women in cases like mine) that will love you, care for you, and protect you. A good man, by his very nature, is a protector. Integrity and honor are not things one has to try to learn from a counselor or therapist- they come naturally, as normally as the air in his lungs. There are, IMO, more good men and women out there than bad, and I believe that there is a good one for each of you. You may find him or her tomorrow, next week, or next year, but I believe you will find them. They are looking for you too, so don’t give up. You both deserve love and happiness, and at some point you will come together and that’s when life really begins. Please don’t give up- if you do the bad guys win. You deserve the best, and I truly hope you all find it.

    Beau

  9. Many thanks for this website and this video interview.
    This website has been more helpful to me than anything else so far after finding out my husband was physically unfaithful, sexually acting out with *at least 6 women* ( that he admits to so far; the number keeps increasing as time goes on) in our eight year relationship, and many other “online” relationships, on adult websites, hot-chatting, etc.He even flew a woman out from across the country, to have sex with, in the bed I purchased. “Trauma” is such a little word for the enormous pain and damage to my life his behavior has caused me.
    I feel as if I have been emotionally just destroyed. Everything I believed was a lie, and I feel my entire marriage has been a sham. The pain has been compounded by the fact our society seems to encourage and reward promiscuous men while covertly encouraging women to “compete” with each other. Most of my husband’s “partners” knew he was married and did not care. They chose to believe his lies rather than ever contact me to find out the truth or even give me the benefit of the doubt. Not only do I feel unsafe with men now, I’ve been disillusioned by the behavior of members of my own gender as well.
    My husband has no empathy for anyone. He’s used and betrayed everyone he’s ever been in contact with. He’s attractive, charming, and an amazingly good, compulsive, liar…he’s even fooled his own therapist at times. I’m not sure he’ll ever change because I’m not sure he really even wants to. When we separated due to the pain, he used the time alone to act out even more, adding additional hurt to me by slandering me to the women he used…and of course never told me about this when we made an attempt at “reconcilliation”. He does not seem to have any normal emotional responses, a conscience or the ability to actually love someone. He’s done so much damage to me and my life that all I can do right now is try to repair myself.

  10. Hello KatieMN and Welcome!

    I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain, but as we all know here from personal experience, the only way out is through. I truly hope that you can find some comfort from the support and information here.

    If there is anything I can do please let me know. We are all here for you.

    (((((Hugs)))))

    JoAnn

  11. Katie,

    I have also seen your posts and responded a couple times on the JWC (under a different name) and I just wanted to say that every time I read about your husband—I am just shaking my head in knowing, but incredulous disbelief and feel so very badly that you are being subjected continuously, to this demeaning abuse by your husband. Yep, he’s another narcissist in addition to being a SA and it sounds like one, who’s pretty far gone too–a compulsive liar and passive-aggressive abuser. How very painful this must be for you. What upsets me the most about someone like this, is the utter hypocrisy of their actions. If being married to you is so f**king bad, then why doesn’t he ask you for a divorce? rhetorical question, of course.

    At this point, what is keeping you in your marriage? Do you have children and/or are there financial considerations? Do you have the support of a therapist and/or family and friends or a support group? Do you have some place safe to go, if that need should arise?

    I’m glad that you’re here.

    xo,

    Lorraine