An Intimate Look Inside A Marriage Affected by Sex Addiction— Part 2
A traumatic and hopeful journey from a woman who’s seen it all
In Part 2, we become better acquainted with Pam, the former wife of a sex addict. Pam, an anonymous close contact of mine, opens the window on her twenty-year marriage with an SA (the abbreviated term for a Sex Addict) and shares her endured pain, eventual freedom, and how she became a knowledgable voice for spouses of SA’s.
To recap, in Part 1, Pam defined pornography or sex addiction, provided the signs to watch for, described the slippery slope of descent into the addiction and outlined what chemical changes occur in the brain. She described how our current climate of self-isolation may exacerbate the issue for SA’s given they’re spending a considerable amount of time with partners. Pam also explained the symptoms of withdrawal. Finally, North American treatment opportunities and outreach resources were provided.
I continued to speak with Pam about her personal journey.
[Lisa] Tell me about your husband’s behavior leading up to your discovery.
[Pam] My marriage was in trouble for some time. He (Pam’s former husband, we’ll call Jake for anonymity) already slept in the spare room, and we seldom made love. Jake always had an excuse or didn’t feel like it. He never initiated it, and I got tired of being rejected. To help our marriage, I suggested a second honeymoon, and we went on a ten-day guided tour of Costa Rica. Jake was miserable the entire time — he was downright cruel in words and actions. No lovemaking for the whole trip, not even the slightest interest to hold my hand. I begged for an explanation, but he wouldn’t reply — just stared off into the distance and ignored me. I called it our “second honeymoon from hell.”
[Lisa] What was he like around other women?
[Pam] He flirted outrageously with all the young women on the tour right in front of me.
[Lisa] That must have been difficult. How did you find out about Jakes’s pornography addiction?
[Pam] When we got home from Costa Rica, my daughter called me and told me she had something to share. The night before we left for our honeymoon, we visited her, and together, we went out shopping for dinner. Jake stayed at her apartment. After leaving for our trip, she discovered all the disgusting porn sites he looked at on her iPad. I confronted him, and he initially denied it, although when faced with the facts, he had to admit it. I never associated the coldness on the trip to porn. My next few years were a vast learning experience.
[Lisa] What feelings emerged for you?
[Pam] When I learned what Jake was up to, my first response was shock, followed by disbelief. How could my husband look at stuff that disgusting!. I believed viewing porn and then masturbating were activities that interested pubescent teens, not grown married men!. Next, I felt rejected. If he was looking at other women and fantasizing, he was cheating on me. I thought I must not be good enough. I wasn’t enough. I felt ugly, fat, unappealing, undesirable, not a real woman, etc.
[Lisa] How did you react to your spouse? Did your reactions evolve?
[Pam] Initially, I responded with anger — rage almost. Being the person I am, once he admitted it, I asked Jake a million questions and knew he had been in trouble for a long time. It also became apparent I needed help. When I realized he had an addiction, my feelings changed, but it was difficult not to take it personally.
I felt empathy and anger at the same time towards Jake and my feelings were always on a roller coaster. I loved him and hated him.
He admitted to physical indiscretions with a girl I knew from his workplace, whom I had even entertained in our home! I become hypersexual. After doing some research, I came to understand this is a behavior women often experience when faced with these truths. It’s a ploy to try to win your husband back with sex. For a time, I was willing to appease his appetite for kinky sex acts that we had never engaged in before. Little did I know there was no intimacy involved. It only filled his desire for fantasy. His imagination was elsewhere during every sex act, and there was no love involved ever — he didn’t feel it. It soon became apparent my efforts were futile, and I tried several avenues of resources for recovery. We became celibate for quite some time. I went from feeling shocked, anger, sorrow, disbelief, rejection, lust, need, hatred, revulsion and love. These feelings always flipped back and forth.
[Lisa] Help me to understand. How do you relate to pornography addictions?
[Pam] I understand dependencies, although I find it difficult to relate addictions to something other than a substance. It’s the same with gambling. But I accept all addictions are diseases, so I do have empathy. It is difficult, however, when you feel you are the reason for his need to seek out others.
[Lisa] In Part 1, we talked about the progression of sex addiction. What stages did you personally witness?
[Pam] I saw it all — from Jake hiding in his computer room and emerging glassy-eyed and full of lust, but not for me. I checked up on his internet use and found all the porn sites he had visited. Listening to him talk about the women he worked with who were young enough to be his daughter, and seeing the desire in his eyes was particularly tough. I found inappropriate e-mails to women, saw him search for old girlfriends, and found evidence of chronic masturbation in his room. It went on from there.
The longer he was involved in porn, the colder he became toward me. If he was denied porn, his moods changed. He became anxious, depressed, withdrawn, angry, reclusive, and just plain belligerent.
[Lisa] How did your partner’s pornography habit impact his career?
[Pam] Jake usually lost his job within the first three months of being hired and never had an explanation. I found out by talking with his coworkers he had been warned about inappropriate behavior with female employees. He had been reported more than once resulting in termination.
[Lisa] Did Jake ever use screen accountability software? If so, what was the result?
[Pam] We installed Covenant Eyes and it did work but he complained so much about how it was limiting his use of the computer that I unblocked it for him. He said he was using it for legitimate searches although he went on porn sites and tried to hide it. The software only works if an SA is determined to remain clean.
[Lisa] In what ways did you receive personal support?
[Pam] I found an online support group called New Life Partners for significant others of SA’s and joined immediately. At first, I knew nothing when I started and learned as much as I could. Suddenly a lot about my unhappy marriage started to make sense. On top of this, I became involved with an S-Anon 12 Step Group for partners of SAs in a nearby town. The program has the same steps and traditions as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).
Finally, I also joined Celebrate Recovery, a Christian based 12 Step Program, and talked him into joining. Their tag line is “it’s a group for anyone who has a hurt, habit or hang-up!” I felt support in this group and continued to attend long after my marriage was over.
[Lisa] How did you come to mentor others?
[Pam] After a few meetings at the SA Support Group, a member asked me to be her sponsor, and I agreed. I was able to help this woman accept what was happening in her marriage and allow her to believe it was not her fault. She had spent significant amounts of time and money on self-improvement in the hopes her husband would fall in love with her again — new hair, body, clothes, Botox, etc. None of it helped, and she finally saw that.
On the on-line support group I became a mentor to new people who had just discovered the truth. People were filled with so much fear, hurt, and pain. I volunteered one day a week to answer everyone who posted. On an average day, I replied to a few dozen posts from ladies whose lives had been shattered by this addiction. I offered support from my personal experience and recommended books for them to read to learn and understand. Part of my responsibility was to provide the names of support groups in their local areas to join to get help. Once a year, I attended the online support group’s three-day annual retreat, which was always in a different US State. I looked forward to this time. Around 30 women met, shared, talked, and supported one another. Guest speakers who were professionals in the field came and spoke with us.
In Celebrate Recovery, I also had sponsees who would call me and ask for support, advice, or just needed a friendly ear. I openly offered to share my story within the group in the hopes it would help others.
[Lisa] What was the outcome of your marriage?
[Pam] After fighting to save my marriage for six years, I saw how much effort I was making and how nothing was changing for him. We had already separated twice in those six years, and I suggested a final separation and divorce. Jake seemed almost relieved.
[Lisa] And where are you today in your journey?
[Pam] After our divorce, three years later, I married a man whose life has never been touched by addiction. Today I know what it is like to be loved and adored by my husband and never fear that he will look at another woman either in real life or online.
[Lisa] Have you seen a change in public awareness towards pornography/sex addictions?
[Pam] I think to a large degree we are living in a world where it is becoming more and more accepted. According to The New York Times, the average age a child exposed to pornography is six. Pam google searches on her phone and reads aloud:
“It can happen at as early an age as 6 or 7, when a child may not yet understand the basic mechanics of sex. It is typically set off by a child’s accidental wanderings online or the deliberate searches of a curious teenager on a smartphone, laptop, tablet or one of the other devices that have made it nearly impossible to grow up without encountering sexually explicit material.”
Pam continues to speak with me. I know a mom whose 7-year-old daughter typed in “Barbie dolls” into the search line and sat with her mouth wide open, staring at a screen filled with naked women of all shapes and sizes in all types of positions when her mom entered the room.
It doesn’t seem parents monitor their kid’s internet activity as close as they should. We’re in an era where TV shows have become more sexually inappropriate, even at family viewing times. Children are growing desensitized to what would typically never have seen on public TV. During my childhood, The Flinstones were a favorite kids’ TV show. Fred and Wilma were not allowed to sleep in the same bed — and they were married! It wasn’t appropriate then. Leave it to Beaver showed a happy North American family and again, Ward and June slept in separate beds. Today young children are introduced to all kinds of sexual situations and perversions on TV, and it is considered normal and acceptable.
I think the human race has become desensitized and turned something that was intended to be the most intimate, beautiful expression of love between partners into something as ordinary and crass as wiping their backside.
[Lisa] Considering entire generations of people are now growing up online — what do you want to see changed?
[Pam] There needs to be a substantial public awareness movement pointing out the dangers of porn. Lawmakers need to be firmer in their legislation regarding online content, and the internet must be better policed with the highest penalties against those who are in violation. Think about the long-lasting results it will on the human race. I think parents need to teach their children at a young age to understand the real dangers.
[Lisa] I feel you’re leaving us with a stark warning…
Pam takes in a deep breath
[Pam] If not, I believe that in the not too distant future, families will not exist as we know it today. Intimacy will be a thing of the past and real love; we will know nothing….
If Pam’s story resonates with you, know you are not alone. There are resources available to help in your time of need.
- Sexual Addiction Anonymous Recovery
- Sex and Love Addicts Annonymous
- Recovering Couples Annonymous
- New Life Partners Support for Partners of SA
- Heart to Heart Counseling Centre
- Celebrate Recovery
- New Life Partners
Content Control & Screen Accountability Software
- Covenant Eyes
- Net Nanny — for younger viewers
Sr Scrum Master Transitioning To Agile Coach | Heart-Centric Leader | Gestalt Psychotherapist-In-Training | Writer on Medium | Brand Ambassador Plentyworld.com for Mental Health Awareness | Editor, Being Well and Medika.Life