While He walked this Earth, the Son of God proved again and again that He is capable of miraculously touching a life, and in that touch, delivering an instantaneous miracle of healing. Even since He left the Earth for his heavenly home, God has demonstrated himself through miracles on many occasions. Yet His display of instantly healing us doesn't happen often during the times in which we live. Rather, the Bible instructs us to "work out our salvation," and repeatedly it tells us that change is generally a process that comes from our obedience to Him over time, sometimes over a lifetime. Yes, the on-going freedom we long to see in our husbands often results from a process that requires that he diligently exercise certain spiritual principles in his choices and life.
That is one reason why the 12 step process provides the tools and skills we need to keep addiction in check if we use the process on a daily basis. Each of the steps is grounded in spiritual truths. We know that God promises that his word will not return to us void. This is one reason the steps work, if we work them, even for people who do not know God when they begin to work them. And when you understand that the 12 step process includes a cognitive/behavioral component proven helpful in the treatment of addictions, you realize that this process holds what can be a powerful 1-2 punch in the lives of those who work it.
So, yes, we need to utilize the elements of our Christianity to grow and gain increasing freedom from sin of all kinds, but the physiology of addiction is often more easily contained from the addition of 12 step elements.
A few women find that they need to know the details of their husband's behavior in order to let go of it. They explain that without full knowledge of the details of what he has done, and who he has done it with, their imaginations conjure up worse images and situations than actually happened in real life. But, unless you really need to know details, we suggest that you don't expose yourself to information that may set your mind up to repeatedly replay scenarios in full color and extreme detail.
The best answer to the question of "How much information is enough information" is inside you and you alone. Only you have walked in your shoes, and experienced your experiences. Yet many many women have told us they are sorry that they asked for the details. They say that now, no matter how hard they try to shut their minds off, they cannot. Their imaginations busily create chaos and won't be silenced. We suggest that you ask for truth in bare outline form to begin with. Then, if you discover that your need to know continues and won't be silenced, ask for a little more detail. In this way you will expose yourself to increasingly "colorful" information is small doses, and have the choice and power to say when enough is enough. You have already been deeply wounded; be cautious in asking for fresh wounds to be added to those that are healing.
Anger is a natural human response that most partners feel at some point as they move through the process of grieving their lost dreams and expectations of emotional and/or physical faithfulness. Anger produces energy that needs to be expelled in ways that allow us to release it without harming ourselves or anyone else. If we try to hold it in and clamp down on it because we feel guilty about our anger, we drive the energy inward where it can foster depression, illness, stress, resentment, or, it can boil and build until it explodes like a volcano, spewing damage on our relationships.
Understanding our emotions and finding helpful ways to deal with them is an important part of knowing ourselves and gaining emotional maturity. Some people find that doing physical exercise, such as running or lifting weight while mentally and emotionally processing their anger expends its energy. Creative people often find that painting, journaling, or playing a musical instrument works best for them. Others process anger best by talking it out with a counselor, along with using "experiential therapy" to expel it. One way to do this is to write down a word or two that represents the injury, such as the word betrayal, tape it to a padded chair, then use a plastic or foam bat, or something similar, to hit the "injury" again and again. You will know if this works because of the flood of emotion and tears that pour out when you give yourself permission to let it go.
Whichever method you use to deal with your anger, you may need to repeat your efforts to complete the release of negative emotions. But you will become aware that you are "done" when the anger feels like a dry well-empty, with nothing left to pour out.
If anger continues to plague you, you have probably not been able to reach forgiveness for your husband. Christian psychologist, Doug Weiss, Ph.D., outlines a helpful experiential therapy exercise in his book, A 100 Day Guide To Intimacy (Siloam, 2001), pages 47-66, to help readers reach out toward forgiveness.
We know well the pain you feel. Millions of women share your heartache. But if you make yourself a priority, and find resources to help you grieve and work through your feelings, time will heal most, and perhaps all, of the pain in your broken heart. In addition, take time to learn about sex addiction and co-addiction so that you can deal with any behaviors that you may have contributed to the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) games that typically play out in addict's homes. Learning more about this addiction will also help you avoid (or try to avoid) being attracted to another man with the same broken places. Of course, greater and quicker healing will come if your husband's heart softens and he commits to his own intensive recovery process so that your marriage holds hope for restoration. But regardless of what he ultimately does, work hard to become your own, separate person, a woman who can deal with life on life's terms. Ask God to give you the courage, wisdom, and strength required to walk through life on planet Earth feeling secure in your value as a precious daughter of the King of the universe, and strong enough to make the tough decisions about your future if your husband doesn't want to get help.
Right now you need to be loved and supported, and to recognize that what he has done is not your fault, nor is it "about" you. Hopefully, you have friends or family members who care, and won't shame or blame you. A counselor who understands sex addiction, or addiction in general, can help you grieve your loss and deal with the pain you feel, and later, begin to heal. A support group for partners of sex addicts is also a wonderful tool. Such a group offers a way to connect with other women who share similar experiences, to gain support, and to heal and grow together. Depending on where you live, finding such a group can be challenging, or relatively easy. Cities and metropolitan areas usually have at least secular groups for partners of sex addicts (as well as for addicts), but evn if you live in a small town, check to see if these groups may be available. Even if you must drive an hour or two to attend a weekly meeting, it will be worth the effort, at least for a few months. The secular varieties include S-Anon and Cosa. Use the phone book or the Internet to locate groups near you. Call the number given for Alcoholics Anonymous, explain what you are looking for, and ask if there are any groups in your area. The 12 step organizations around the world network through central offices, so information about a variety of groups can usually be found this way. Volunteers usually manage these offices, so it may take a few days to get the information you need, but it is worth the effort and wait. If you are using the Internet, do a search under S-Anon, Cosa, and sex addiction. You should be able to locate a list of meetings in your area, or at least the nearest city, as well as contact numbers to ask questions. Also, churches often have Celebrate Recovery groups, occasionally, even for partners of sex addicts. Celebrate Recovery can be found online, and their site contains a list of groups across the country.
To try to find a counselor who specializes in sex addiction, or addiction, search the yellow pages. To find a Christian counselor with the specialty, try calling the five largest churches closest to you, anonymously ask to speak with the counseling pastor, and explain that you are trying to locate a counselor who deals with sex addiction, or works with partners of sex addicts. You may also try calling or using the web to contact the American Association of Christian Counselors and asking if they know of anyone who meets the qualifications you are looking for.
Utilize the Resources link on this site, too. Visit other sites listed here, and look for additional resources.
Also, consider ordering the Journey to Healing and Joy Workbook from this web site. It is an very helpful tool, whether you use it at home alone, or take it to your meetings with a counselor.
If possible, consider forming and facilitating a Partner's Healing Journey support group by following the instructions in the Facilitator's Guide in the back of the workbook. The workbooks contains a several-week long structured process to help you grieve and move toward healing, as well as educate you about sex addiction, and co-addiction. Meeting with at least one or two other women weekly, and sharing your answers to the questions provides an invaluable tool for bonding, support, and healing.
Although your concern about your husband's feelings is seemingly kind and caring, in order to "get well", your husband must face how deeply he has hurt you, and compromised himself and his marriage. Yet we understand your desire to not use words or labels that would cause him to tune you, out or to get angry and direct attention away from his own behavior. The term, "sexually compulsive behavior" is a little easier for a man to wear, and if it seems important to you, it might provide the verbal bridge you are searching for. But do be careful not to work so hard to protect your husband from pain, that you make it easy for him to avoid reality. As partner's of sexually compulsive men, we often err on the side of over-protecting our partner's feelings, and by doing so, become a part of his problem. Let him feel his failure, and pray that it causes him to realize where he is going and to reach out and ask for help before he sinks any deeper.
Addicts of any kind generally have what is called an addictive personality. Therefore, multiple addictions, and or addiction swapping, are not uncommon. Over spending and overeating or bingeing on food seem particularly frequent in sex addicts. The key to understanding why this happens lies in understanding what usually drives addiction: the addict is trying to soothe emotional pain with a substance or activity.That is why it is important for the sexually compulsive person to work with a counselor to deal with leftover pain, usually from childhood, at this time in his life. But it is equally important to understand that addiction has a physiological component as well. Whether the "drug" of choice is heroin or sex, science has proven that neurochemicals are released in the person's brain, giving him a chemical "hit" that provides some soothing and satisfaction for the inner pain he carries. Over time, more of the chemical is required to achieve the same hit, which causes the addict to use more and more of his drug. With sex addiction, this reality generally drives the addict to move on to riskier sexual behaviors in his quest for satisfaction. For these reasons, 12 step programs offer a very beneficial component when treating addiction. Not only are the 12 steps a spiritual process, they are a set of cognitive and behavioral modification tools, and over several decades, they have proven they offer hope and help in treating all kinds of addictions.
Sex addiction is often called "a progressive disease," meaning that if left untreated, it often leads to progressively "worse" forms of sexual acting out (although this isn't true 100% of the time). In addition, Scripture doesn't categorize sin of any kind by degrees of "badness." So, while you may not be at risk of contracting Herpes or HIV today if your partner only uses porn, you cannot know ahead of time what your risk may be tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now.
Therefore, if your partner is using any kind of sexually inappropriate behavior to deal with life or achieve an emotional or physical high, you are married to someone who is violating your marriage vows, someone who is using outside sexual stimulation in place of true intimacy with you, and someone whos behavior could progress to more dangerous forms of sexual acting out behavior. And, no matter what he does when he acts out, his behavior drains away sexual energy that God intended for your mutual love relationship. That energy may hold the spark needed to add an exciting "zing" to your sex life, and make it the thrilling physical relationship you have always dreamed it could be.
So, no matter what form your partner's sexual acting out may presently take, you both have a problem, and you are most likely the only one who is currently ready to get help and deal with it. And for that reason, there is a good chance that you hold the key to recovery, not only for yourself, but for him and for your marriage.
I've come to feel a special empathy for women who face the discovery of their husband's same-sex attraction issues. My heart really goes out to you.
Though I've never had to face that heartache myself I've met many women whose partner falls somewhere along the continuum of struggle between bi-sexuality and homosexuality issues. And every time I encounter this reality I encounter raw, pulsing pain in the woman who makes the discovery.
Those who specialize in same-sex attraction sometimes take differing positions on whether or not it is possible to "re-set" the sexual attraction "dial." There are also differing opinions about the best therapeutic approaches for treatment. I encourage you to take care of your needs around the pain and loss that come with any form of sexual betrayal, whether it's hetero-or homosexual in nature. Your trauma and pain are compounded by this extra element that I've learned adds a painful twist of the knife many of us never have to experience. So take steps to deal with your pain and to get help to process it, as well as to evaluate where to go from here.
There are Christian resources to help your husband if he wants help. But it's important that he "owns" his healing and recovery, just as it is for all addicts, so you can't be the one putting together an action plan for him. While it's healthy and only fair to let him know what you need in order to feel safe continuing in the marriage, it wouldn't be healthy for you to do all the leg work for him.
On page 109 in my workbook, Partner's Healing Journey, there is a list of several things many women ask their mate to do if they want to heal their relationship. For the woman whose partner's struggles include attraction to other men, I encourage the addition of specialized help. There are several Christian ministries now dealing openly and lovingly with the extra challenges this attraction creates in a life and a relationship. Do some Internet research and call Focus On the Family, then begin to write or call those you feel drawn to.
Several women I've encountered have found the book, Coming Out Straight , a helpful, hopeful resource. Written by Christian therapist Richard Cohen, MA, it share his own story/struggles with homosexuality, as well as his treatment style.
I pray that you find the resources you need to heal your broken heart, and that your husband seeks help for himself. I also pray that in time your relationship heals, and that from this struggle a deeper, more powerful intimacy bond grows and continues to develop.
Outside of a marriage relationship, our options for helping a loved one caught up in sex addiction become much more limited. If the loved one is a minor son, of course you have more latitude for setting boundaries and requiring he seek help. However, finding help will likely present a huge challenge. Call 1-800-New-Life and inquire about Every Young Man's Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual Temptation (The Every Man Series) . And once again, contact every available resource and remain open to driving a distance, if necessary.
Your ability to offer help to those outside your immediate family will probably be limited to prayerfully offering one well chosen book and perhaps a printed page of available resources. Avoid shaming and preaching, which can only drive a wedge that will guarantee that you cannot help. Also, be aware that you may need to create boundaries to protect your children and teenagers if our loved one is attracted to underage girls and/or boys. And of course, if your loved one crosses the line with underage children, you must call Child Protective Services (known as CPS). It is listed in the city or county numbers near the front of your phone book. I cannot stress heavily enough the extreme importance of following through with this action. A child's life can be destroyed in moments if he or she is used for an adult's sexual pleasure.
Unfortunately, you are right; they don't understand your circumstances, nor do they realize the depth of the pain you feel. Of course you need to place your trust in God, but unless they have been where you presently find yourself, they cannot possibly know the anguish in your heart. Their words undoubtedly feel like careless quips and pat answers to the complex questions your soul is asking. Try to give them grace in their lack of understanding, and recognize that this is the best they can do with their limited experience with the tough issues you are dealing with. And make this commitment to yourself and the hurting women you will meet in the future: "Help me Lord, to learn from my pain, and to be willing to use it with love, empathy, and understanding to help the hurting women you bring my way in the years ahead, and to be 'Jesus with skin on' in their lives."