Written by: Andrew da Roza, Addictions Therapist, Sex Addiction Specialist
My Husband Has Committed Adultery – Is he a Sex Addict or a Sex and Porn Addict? Will Recovery from Sex Addiction Help? And Something in me seems Compelled to have Affairs – Am I a Sex Addict? Do I need Sex Addiction Recovery?
The Partner – Pain, shame and confusion
A partner facing betrayal by their loved one, who has been adulterous, is devastated.
The partner’s very identity and the identity of their betraying loved one has been assaulted at it’s very roots. Trust – that most fragile of “corner stones” in couples – has crumbled.
And those who have committed adultery live in shame and misery.
Both parties in the couple are confused.
The betrayed partner is wondering why? Is it me? I am I not enough?
Or is this betrayer simply pathological?
Is the betrayer narcissistic, a compulsive liar, deeply depressed and stress? – or worse, do they have a mental disorder – are they a sex addict? Or a sex and porn addict?
Is compulsive porn and masturbation adultery?
The betrayer is just as lost.
They may exclaim: “I love my wife and my children – and my parents and siblings! Why do I do the one thing that I know will cause them the most suffering?!” “I have no intention of leaving my family – I need my family!”.
“Why do I breach a trust that I suspect I can never regain – no matter what I do? I will always be mistrusted. Why do I end a relationship that gave me comfort, security, predictability and safety – the things that I crave and need?”
Why do I betray my best friend, the mother of my children, my biggest supporter?
Why do I devastate my family’s lives – again and again – and why do I devastate my own?
And why do I think those few stolen moments of sex or romance is worth all that destruction?
When both partners enter therapy with courage and determination, they can find the answers.
The Healing Questions and Recovery from Betrayal
In a safe space in Visions by Promises Healthcare, with a compassionate and experienced therapist, both can ask the healing questions of themselves and the other:
What did this affair mean to you?
What needs was it serving for you? Did you realize how powerful those needs must have been, to risk losing everything that gives your life meaning?
How did it feel to come back home after meeting the affair partner?
How does it feel now?
What do you value in your life most, and why?
And the “million dollar” question for the couple:
What are you willing to do about it – and when?
The End of a Relationship….. or a New Beginning?
Affairs mark the end of relationships that may have been “withering on the vine” for a long time.
Or it could be a fortunate wake-up call for the couple – an opportunity to turn around their lives together.
When the betrayal is discovered – the old relationship is gone.
All those involved may feel like it is mourning a death in the family – even though all the parties are still alive.
And perhaps mourning “live people” is the most confusing and therefore the most painful and prolonged mourning that we are ever likely to face.
Thus, the first step may be to mourn the relationship and move through the stages of grief toward cultivating acceptance.
But affairs can also be the beginning of a new relationship between the same couple.
It may be an opportunity to find new meaning, identity, joy, and transcendence. New strengths, insights, and resilience may be discovered and nurtured.
The primary importance of boundaries, openness, honesty, compassion, good communication, and respect – even playfulness and humor – can arise.
On these “fertile” foundations, flourishing can happen.
A therapist skilled in understanding the possibilities, strengths and hopes of the couple can nurture these insights and assist in building these strengths. The relationship can recover from adultery.
Sex Addiction, Porn Addiction and Recovery
Sex addiction (including porn addiction), requiring sex addiction recovery, is a diagnosable mental health condition.
It is characterized by impulsivity and compulsivity over time – and much work needs to be done on the sex addiction recovery journey.
Part of the diagnosis of compulsive sexual behavior disorder relates to how much distress, suffering and wreckage has been caused to (and by) the person with the sex addiction.
Another aspect is whether the person suffering knows and has experienced their suffering and the suffering of the loved ones – but despite that, feels compelled to continue sexually acting out.
It is also characterized by a history of the persistence, repetition and intensity of the sexual impulses and urges, that lead to the lack of control and sexual acting out – despite the consequences.
It’s relevant to know whether there is abandonment, neglect and jeopardizing of family, friends, hobbies and interests, work, vocational and family responsibilities.
Have there been repeated but failed attempts to stop?
Has the pleasure or satisfaction waned over time – even though the risk, acting out incidents, and intensity of the acting out increased?
Repeated affairs may be sex addiction requiring sex addiction recovery – or they may not. There may be no right answer – as it is not an exact science.
And there are dangers in labeling infidelity: “sex addiction”.
Betrayers may use this as a reason to take little responsibility for the harms they have caused (“I’m an addict, so I can’t change”) and avoid seeking help and taking action.
The partner who is betrayed may wish to use the label as a way to (once again) give the betrayer the “benefit of the doubt”; or to fall into hopelessness and helplessness (“he/she is a sex addict or porn addict – so she/he can’t or won’t change”).
The betrayed may avoid help for themselves – and end up taking no helpful actions: “It’s [the betrayers] problem – he/she has to fix it him/herself” “why should I seek therapy?” and, perhaps “why should I talk to a stranger and suffer yet further humiliation?”.
Without help, their rage, blame and hopeless, may lead to the end of the relationship – or worse – the perpetuation of a life of suffering.
Sex Adduction Recovery or Adultery Recovery?
Fortunately, sex addiction recovery for both the partner and the person with the addiction, dovetail with interventions where the sex addiction recovery label may not fit.
For sex addiction, there are certainly long recovery actions that be must strongly considered – to avoid relapse.
But both addicts and non-addicts must find their way to mourn the old relationship, and discover the courage, hope and resilience to build the new one.
Both will be faced with:
- finding, owning and sharing the truth of their past;
- clearing this “wreckage” away by making amends;
- finding the moment to moment awareness of their present;
- using healthy tools to manage the emotions, expectations, assumptions, people, places, things and circumstances that trigger urges and cravings;
- learning the language and the behaviour of healthy intimacy in the couplehood – including sexual intimacy;
- co-creating healthy expectations and individuation in the couplehood; and
- taking their part in articulating the couples’ shared vision and hopes for their future.
Trust may never reappear in the old relationship – but it may thrive in the new one.
When adultery occurs in a marriage, there are at least three victims – the two people in the couple – and their relationship.
When each member of the couple finds recovery, whether it be sex addiction recovery or adultery recovery – the relationship can flourish.
*Visions assist clients in Singapore to enable them to improve their lives; and our website provides the images, names, languages, qualifications, and experience of specialists who can help.