Below are some questions we’re often asked when spouses learn that their partner has a sex addiction – a very distressing and disorienting experience.
1. Is it possible to identify when the addiction began?
The majority of guys say they stumbled upon porn, or were actively shown porn, at around 10 years of age. They remember the adrenalin rush they experienced, and the powerful pull to view more images, or to watch more videos.
2. Why did my partner hide it from me?Why did he choose to lie and deceive me?
Although guys know lots of people look at porn all the time, they’re usually convinced that their partner will be shocked. And their greatest fear is that you’ll walk away.
So, coming clean with you feels incredibly threatening. They’re terrified they’ll lose you, and their life will fall apart. There is also shame and guilt around a sex addiction being negatively judged by society. All of this adds to the need for secrecy.
3. How much do I need to know about the past, and his level of involvement?
If you work with a counsellor on a formal disclosure, your partner will be asked to list everything he’s been involved in (pornography, webcams, dating sites and apps, sensual massages, escorts, prostitutes, emotional affairs, etc.). He’ll also be asked to put dates to these behaviours, and to be honest about the frequency.
It is important that you know the extent of the addiction, and to also be aware of what you might have been exposed to (STDs etc.). However, most counsellors discourage pushing too hard for specific details (What was she wearing? What was her figure like? What exactly did you do?) The reason? Once you have those pictures in your mind, it’s almost impossible to extricate them. Hence, they can intensify your suffering and become extremely powerful triggers.
4. What was going through his mind, as he became more and more addicted?
Feelings of guilt and shame intensify – because of what he’s doing and the double life he’s leading. One way to deal with this, and to cope with life in general, is to compartmentalize, and deny he has a problem. This is a very common coping strategy.
In reality, most addicts want to stop eventually. They want to gain control of their lives. They tell themselves repeatedly that: “This is the last time.” But because they are addicted, they get drawn in again.
5. What is the turning point; what makes the addict come clean?
Very few guys come clean on their own. Most of them are caught by their wife or their boss. Sometimes they are blackmailed, or an affair partner threatens to reveal their secret. This is usually a crisis for the addict.
Saying that, very few addicts reveal everything at first. They admit to the minimum they think they can get away with. Then they drip feed the truth over weeks, months, or years. This adds to the trauma for the partner or spouse.
6. What could I have done to stop this happening?
Nothing. In almost every case, we find the partner was a user, and was going down this road, before they met their spouse or partner. The most important thing to take away from all of this is: you didn’t play a part. It was not your fault AT ALL.