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Help! My husband is a porn addict.


Don't panic!

I hear this question frequently from women, upon the discovery of their partner’s secret life. They often feel the world doesn’t make sense anymore; life has been shattered since the truth came out.


This discovery can be overwhelming, and it can feel like you are Alice who has fallen into the rabbit hole. Many also feel that the past has been a complete lie, that there is absolutely no future, and that they are living in an alternate reality.


Are you feeling like you are a mess emotionally? Are your feelings ranging from numbness to depression, from rage to embarrassment, or from confusion to loneliness? Do you have a combination of worry and fear? Please know that this is all normal and typical. You have a lot to do, to make sense of your past and your new reality.


My mind is racing!


Forget the jokes about “sex addiction” that you hear from comedians. This is serious business. Porn, sex, and cybersex are conditions that can be devastating and can even ruin lives.


You are not alone. Many women deal with sex addiction. You can recover from your husband’s sex addiction, porn addiction, or cybersex addiction.


What do I do now?


Here are a few tips for how you can cope and heal:


1. His addiction to sex, porn, or cybersex has absolutely nothing to do with you!


It is common to feel like you, as partner, are the cause of his addiction, because his behavior involves sexuality. Worrying that it is because you aren’t a good enough lover or partner, aren’t having enough sex to stop him, or aren’t attractive enough is common. Yet, his addiction is not your fault. Sex addiction, like other addictions, is generally rooted in other issues—your husband or partner’s issues. Keep reminding yourself that his addiction has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. Even though his behavior is about sex, the basis is not sex.


It is probably a good idea for you to get some help, whether he’s ready for help or not.


2. Sex addiction is a true addiction that may require professional help.


The very definition of addiction is that the person can’t stop the behavior. In recovery lingo, addicts are powerless to stop. Individual therapy can be helpful for you to decide if you want to stay or go and to figure out what is acceptable to you and what is not. Couples therapy can help the two of you learn to build a better relationship and deal with the painful emotions that emerge.


There are many books on sexual addiction and how to handle having a partner with sexual addiction. Below are a few that I recommend:

  • Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts, by Stefanie Carnes

  • Women, Sex and Addiction, by Charlotte Kasl

  • Don’t Call it Love, by Patrick Carnes

3. Support groups for partners of sex addicts.


Support groups can be very helpful when a partner has a sex addiction. Meeting other people that are in similar situations can help you deal with loneliness, shame, and fear of judgment. Below are some support groups that can provide you specific tools in your own recovery.

4. Set your boundaries and keep them firm.


Generally, people with sex addiction have a tough time honoring personal boundaries. Without getting into a lot of psycho-babble, personal boundaries are limits that you set on what you find acceptable and unacceptable. For example, if you don’t want your husband to look at porn because you have children in the house, that is your boundary.


You will need to be clear about what you want from your partner, what feels right and wrong to you, and what you want your life to be like. Once you have figured out where to draw these boundary lines, it is important for your comfort and for your partner’s own recovery to communicate them directly to your partner and, even more importantly, to stick to them.


5. Recover sexually.


A woman’s own sexuality is typically her most injured area and takes the longest to heal. You will come to understand what healthy sex means for you. Sometimes living with an active sex addict can distort the sexual relationship. Yet the situation you might imagine is not always the case. It is true that some partners report having a very limited sexual relationship with their active sex addict partner. Sometimes the reverse can be true. You may need some professional help to identify what you want.


6. Trust yourself.


Part of your recovery is learning to trust your feelings. Sometimes living with a person with an addiction can be harmful to your self confidence because of the lying involved in covering things up. Get in touch with your feelings. You can do this by asking yourself: How do I feel? What do I want? Do I like this? Listen carefully to the answer from within.


Tell me what other questions you have by leaving a comment below. If you need additional help, please call us at 612-875-6416 or email at Segalpsychotherapy@gmail.com.

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