Sanctuary for the Abused

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sex Addiction & Spousal Abuse



Sexual Addiction is not Just about Sex, its also about Spousal Abuse

Shelly Marshall thought nothing in the addictions could shock her, until she stumbled on her husband’s secret life.


Patrick Carnes , Ph.D., author of Out of the Shadows, and I have appeared on the same seminar roster more than once. Having faced some controversy in my own work with adolescent addiction, I considered him brave for broaching such a controversial topic as sexual addiction. Yet, while considering Dr. Carnes courageous, I thought sexual addiction was a narrow problem pertaining to a few isolated deviants. I felt sorry for his patients, never entertaining the thought that the problem may some day be mine.

My husband, Bob, and I met in a 12- step recovery program. He was the man of my dreams. No matter what happened, we promised each other, our marriage would be run on the same principles responsible for our recovery—honesty, integrity, and service to others. “I have never been unfaithful to a woman,” Bob assured me, “and I will never be unfaithful to you.” The conviction in his voice warmed my heart and fed my arrogance at marrying such a virtuous man.

I stumbled upon his secret life
Almost to the day of our four year anniversary, I stumbled upon his secret life. Innocently double-clicking a jpeg image on our computer, it revealed my husband having intercourse with a woman on our couch! I gasped. The next double-click revealed a different woman in oral sex with my husband. The third contained a buxom and grinning blond on our yard in a rancorous sexual encounter with Bob.

“I will never be unfaithful to you,” rang through my ears. Because of his moral convictions and our commitment to 12-step principles, this was a crushing blow. What I didn’t know then, but would discover in Out of the Shadows, is that “the addict’s protestations of high sexual morality are like a smoke screen, obscuring the impact of sexual obsession.” Later, I would blame myself for not catching the warning signs during our courtship. Carnes response: “Friends and family tend to reject suspicions of sexual compulsivity because of the addict’s ‘values.’”

My husband changed overnight
From the first day of the honeymoon, my husband changed into a callus, angry stranger. And as a woman in love and a human service professional, I believed I could change him back. It seemed though, the harder I tried to make life good, the more unhappy Bob became. Although he never hit me, his abuse was in the form of constant unrelenting anger and criticism. Worse than my struggle to retain some sense of self-worth under the barrage, was the fact that he didn’t seem to realize I was a person. We did not connect. We were not friends. He made me an enemy.

The crisis that sent us to counseling came after we had spent thousands on keeping his ex-wife from moving his son out of state. Bob screamed at me, “You’re putting too much stress on me. You keep asking me questions and preparing papers and maybe I don’t really want my son living with us.” Since Bob demanded we fight for custody, since he was the one who screamed and threatened his ex-wife, since I was only playing a supportive role in his battle, what was he blaming me for?

In a rare moment of honesty, my husband broke down, sobbing, “If someone else lives with us, it will change things and I won’t be able to be comfortable, like walk around nude and things.” I focused on Bob’s outburst with me when the real red flag was a father not wanting his son because he wouldn’t be able to walk around nude.

In counseling I was told to concentrate on me
In counseling, I was told to concentrate on me and my co-dependency, not my husband. “Stop “fixing” him and take care of myself,” Dr. Beffa instructed. He explained where Bob ended and I began, defined boundaries, and insisted I not accept unacceptable behavior. After blowing up in a session, Bob quit counseling, “because I’m not going to sit there and listen to how everything is my fault.

As I improved in counseling, refusing to accept his abuse, Bob went downhill emotionally, “Well, I guess you found me out. I’m crazy.”

Strangely, I didn’t catch that he was trying to tell me something. Instead, my efforts centered on not being Miss Co-dependent. “I don’t think you’re crazy but if you do, go to a psychiatrist.” The psychiatrist put him on medicine and our lives changed overnight. The all pervasive anger, criticism, and blame seemed to melt away, making it appear as if our marriage might have a chance after all. Bob began therapy for himself! Had his problem been a brain chemistry imbalance all along?

Just as my husband went on meds, our neighbor, Jean, approached me, “I wouldn’t normally say anything but we all are fed up with your husband running around nude and riding the lawn mower naked. My granddaughter, Amanda, comes over now and asks about ‘that naked man’ next door.”

He denied it, accused them of lying, then claimed, “They just didn’t see my skimpy pants.” And promised to be more careful about something he maintained wasn’t happening.

Even though his anger stopped, we could not connect
Life came to a standstill. While Bob controlled his anger and I worked on me, not him, we still could not connect. My gut told me something was wrong. Was he drinking, smoking pot? Finally, I dropped to my knees, “God, something is wrong with my marriage and I don’t know what. If it be your will, please reveal it.”

The computer screen in front of me answered that prayer. A cursory search revealed, among other things, that my husband had photographed himself nude in our yard, found naked women on the internet, and digitally blended the images into them having sex. I was sick. What did it mean?

As a professional, I consulted other professionals before confronting him. The support groups I found online, the work of Patrick Carnes, the co-sex addict’s literature, and our counselor made the implications clear. My husband showed clear signs of exhibitionism. A form of sex addiction.

I had always thought that sex addicts were people who couldn’t stop having sex—like nymphomaniacs. But sexual addiction (SA) is far more prevalent than I had imagined and many sex addicts are technically faithful to their spouses. Brenda Schaeffer writes on her website of Love Addiction, “Sexual addiction is a sickness involving any type of uncontrollable sexual activity that results in negative consequences.”

Is he really a sex addict?
Not wanting to believe the implications, I asked my support group coach, is he really an addict? Jonathan Marsh, founder of understandingsexualaddiction.org (not up now) responded:

Your situation is actually more clear cut than most. Behaviors like, "...taking pics of himself in our yard in all kinds of positions, cutting and pasting himself in with nudes from the internet!.... Did a film of himself M-Bing in our yard...won't let folks live with us so he can walk around nude... neighbor's 'inadvertently' seeing him in the nude...took a wedding pic of a friend of ours and digitally made her nude --then contacted her when I was on a business trip..."

These are all classic patterns of sexual addiction. That he justifies his behavior (rather than considering that it might indeed be inappropriate) is yet another sign.

Hold your head up high...ask any and all questions that may help you deal with this situation. You may not find the answers you want, but at least you will have asked the questions openly and courageously.
Why didn't I see the warning signs?
After the shock, shame set in. I am a professional; why didn’t I see the warning signs? One of the women in my support group wrote, “You will begin to remember numerous behaviors that you will now see as red flags, but what you are not going to do is beat yourself up for not recognizing them.”

During our courtship, I recalled him nude sunbathing below two story townhouses and assuring me, “no one can see.” He seemed especially flattered that his gay neighbor spied on him and gave him a box of Poppycock for Christmas. Bob pressured me to make love in chancy places outdoors or in rooms with no curtains. He took nude snapshots of himself frequently, framed them, made cards and gave them to me. I thought it was a guy thing. Later, I would discover that his “flashing” was the talk of other neighbors in a former town we lived in.

The more insidious red flags are what destroyed our marriage. SAs are overly self-absorbed, objectify their partners, and have trouble achieving intimacy. Many SAs have anger issues and blame their spouses for their unhappiness. I came to understand that all the work we had done in therapy meant little because we never addressed the core problem, his sexual obsessions. My co-dependency only exacerbated the underlying sickness in our marriage.

Accepting the fact that I, an addiction specialist, married an addict without seeing the glaring red flags, has not been easy. Learning to overcome my need to “fix” my spouse and accept the fact that I am powerless in the face of his illness has been harder. Sometimes I think that if I had been just a little more co-dependent, I would still be married. At weak moments, I regret asking all those “courageous questions” that Jonathan Marsh spoke of. When I set my boundary for dealing with this devastating addiction my husband chose divorce, an easier softer path, I suppose. What he said was, “You wouldn’t stand by me.” But the truth is, I stood by myself.

You Are A Target

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shared by Barbara at 12:59 AM


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13 Comments:

Sometimes I think that if I had been just a little more co-dependent, I would still be married. At weak moments, I regret asking all those “courageous questions” that Jonathan Marsh spoke of. When I set my boundary for dealing with this devastating addiction my husband chose divorce, an easier softer path, I suppose. What he said was, “You wouldn’t stand by me.” But the truth is, I stood by myself.

Been there. Done that. We always see 20/20 when we look back. Although, the pain is greater when the vision isn't cloudy. Reality. Thank you.

2:19 PM  

I'm sorry to learn that other people are going thru this as well. This is so beyond anything I've ever experienced...I feel so stupid..and betrayed...by his addiction.(He refers to his collection of "Barely Legal" teen pics as just purely fantasy.Ex-wife says it's been going on a long time. Where can I get information about what I'm really dealing with? BTW his I.Q. is WAY high, E.Q....not so much.

1:54 AM  

anonymous - start doing some research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Get yourself (JUST YOU) into counseling asap with someone who understands abuse. Because he IS abusing you.

9:31 PM  

Barbara,
Thankyou so much for your comment.It really made me feel better.Sometimes I think I'm crazy or just stupid....I believe he has referred to me as a neurotic nag and a bitch. But most times...I don't think I am. I'm not comfortable telling more about myself right now, but you'd surely think I'd be on top of this problem.It just goes to show, even at this late age...one can still be shangaii'd.

6:32 PM  

Porn is abuse. Plain & simple. he will never see that. YOU need counseling... ASAP!

7:56 PM  

It is evident that your partner is a sex addict especially that he seems to be giving importance to sex rather than to your relationship. He is disregarding other more important aspects of life in exchange of this unhealthy behavior. He needs help but he also needs to recognize his problem. You are a strong woman as evidenced by your courage to share what you are going through. You deserve a better life and I wish you well.

11:11 PM  

I have been in this situation for a very long time. I left last year and plan on starting my life but the pain, anxiety, and sleepless nights have followed. I thought six months of therapy would heal me but I still struggle daily with the pain and isolation. People who haven't walked the walk can't understand this so you just keep the voices in your head and smile.

2:31 PM  

Absolutely but counseling is expensive and didn't really help me. I want free emotionally and physically.i need the courage and strength to leave. I am weak and beat down. Most likely pathetic. Hab3_19@yahoo.com...

1:47 PM  

you had the wrong counselor. Find someone who will work with you who has a sliding scale. And someone who does TRAUMA counseling.

http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/?utm_source=PT_Psych_Today&utm_medium=House_Link&utm_campaign=PT_Right_Find_Therapist

1:03 AM  

I strongly recommend working with a therapist trained and experienced with domestic violence and sexual assault - NOT sex addiction and NOT couples, marriage, or family therapist - A sex addict huaband who sexually assaults or rapes his wife is not held accountable as a sex offender, but treated as the "victim" all too often - And the assaulted partner is not treated as a victim of sexual assault but as part of the relationship dynamic. As if the partner wanted to be assaulted or as if she somehow failed to stop the assaultive behaviors - And most often confronted with expectation to analyze WHY she married a man who assaulted her. All traumatizing and dehumanizing to the partner/spouse.

7:48 PM  

I spent 2.5 years in support groups and in therapy -
Support groups helpful - therapist supportive BUT repeatedly asked "what in your past brought you to marry a see addict?"

NOTHING!

My husband continued to lie, defame me, terrorize me - he turned into a monster. He foreclosed home, took me off bank accounts... I had to access my retirement account too early and use nearly all savings to pay bills and attorney.

I developed SEVERE PTSD.
I did not trust friends, family -- my body became depleted --

My husband had sex with 37 more women, paid savings for treatment BUT still hooking up --

His therapists claimed that I had my own problems...

I have been so horrified, at times I wanted to die.

Then, exhausted, desperate, I tried focused, intensive set of acupuncture treatments! 12 sessions in one week. I later learned that acupuncture is increasingly being used to treat veterans with PTSD - with great results.

I never believed it was a serious treatment for healing. But NOTHING helped for 2.5 years.

After one week, I felt happy, massive inflammation left my body - still gone - energy returned - clear-minded, and empowered.

I cannot describe the radical improvement I have experienced.

Ugly court hearings listening to my sex addict husband and his attorney lie, accuse me of being the abuser, plot to take everything I own although he makes $300,000 a year and after 30 years of teaching I am left penniless ... Before, I went home and barely functioned for 3-7 days ...

Now, I felt alarmed, then had capacity to shift back to my errands and chores ...

My husband betrayed me for 18 years, and duped me into quitting my job BEFORE he told me the truth of his ugly secret life. I was absolutely shattered -

As painful, few professionals, NO attorneys, no judges, few family, few friends, understand the devastation ..:

Most believe his insane lies...

Now I know to avoid any person who is not "safe" for my recovery, and I am SO grateful for healing via acupuncture that I no longer care that anyone "gets it."

I am free! I found my own redemption...







4:12 AM  

Since posting this message, I had the opportunity to have 12 treatments of acupuncture for PTSD in only one week.

I feel so incredibly well ... nothing in 2.5 years has resulted in much help ---
I learned that acupuncture increasingly being used to treat veterans with PTSD.

Inflammation left my body, energy returned, brain fog cleared out, Joy returned...:

Incredible!

My sex addict husband abusing me legally, financially, and I am not traumatized by his sadistic, predatory behaviors --

I feel so joyful, so energized, I just want to be done with the nutcase!

4:21 AM  

These people will never stop playing the victim card of their childhood abuse. It's tragic that they never catch on to the fact that just because they may have been victimized in childhood, it isn't a free pass to victimize others as adults. These people enjoy their illicit behaviors too much to give them up. Healing is a choice and these people leave devastation in their path because they are evil. They cannot be fixed because they will not be fixed. God can change hearts but the person has to be willing and these people don't want to do the work to lead meaningful lives. They enjoy reveling in permanent victimhood and destroying others. It's like no one ever told them that they are responsible for their lives. The blame shifting tactics are immature and only serve to show their arrogance and unwillingness to recognize their own evil.

11:04 PM  

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