The Spouse’s Discovery – An Earthquake of Epic Proportions
Part 2 of a 3-Part Series When a wife discovers her husband’s sex addiction, she is likely to have suspected something was amiss for a while. In the pre-discovery phase, women report that they witness a change in their husband – a puzzling change in his character, his behaviors, and his attitudes towards her, their family, friends, and life-in-general. She may find herself watching him detach from what were once the norms of his life – and their relationship – as he becomes secretive and aloof, and often even sharp-tongued, egocentric, and insensitive.
Sex Addiction: The Hidden and Little-Understood Pandemic
In the first article in this series, we discussed why an addict reverts to this behavior set. His behavior emerges from his continuing need for the “feel great” effects of the hit – followed by his guilt and remorse, his shame and depression. Yet he still knows that through his addiction he is engaging in demoralizing, self-defeating, and life-destroying behavior.
A Discovery that Shakes Her to Her Core
When she either discovers irrefutable evidence of his addiction or he outright tells her of his addiction, a sex addict’s wife is shaken to her very core. It is as though her heart, psyche, and belief system are at the epicenter of a 10.0 Richter Scale-reading earthquake. In many cases, her perceptions of her life crumble around her; she can no longer discern, or trust, what is real and true in either the marriage or in her life partner.
At this point, a wife’s emotional distress is at an all-time high. This can lead to physical ailments, such as headaches, muscle aches, heart palpitations, chest pains, and shakiness. She experiences various degrees of trauma, including a combination of shock, anger, fear, betrayal, confusion, embarrassment, hopelessness, abandonment, and depression. If there are children in the family, she struggles to remain strong in order to keep them emotionally protected and to keep the family unit as whole as humanly possible. She is in a place of great trauma, which is sometimes incapacitating, and she may very well remain there well into the future.
There are No Easy Answers
Why? Hubby has taken a most precious gift of God, sexual intimacy, outside the vows and sacred bounds of marriage. Because of his actions, her trust has been shattered and, likewise, the integrity of their marriage.
Does this mean she should immediately divest herself of her marriage? Not necessarily. Does it mean she should hate him and despise everything he stands for when the truth is revealed? No. Should she automatically absorb all responsibility for his choices and his actions? Not at all.
Many females tend to be “fixers” – if something, anything, is broken, we do our best to fix it. In discovering their husband’s addiction, some women step in and try to make everything better and easier for him, thinking this is an answer. But it’s not. They can’t fix the addiction; they can’t make it go away. They can’t fix him, or the damage that has been done.
A Sex Addict’s Wife Requires Support
First and foremost, the wife of a sex addict must take care of herself. Finding support as soon as possible is crucial – both the therapeutic support of a Christian counselor and a support group for spouses of sexually addicted men. There are several Christian organizations that provide information and support for couples facing the issue of porn addiction. There are men’s groups and their counterpart women’s support groups, which meet the particular needs of each partner in their separate walks.
If there was contact with prostitutes when a spouse was acting out their sexual addiction, then each partner in the marriage needs to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This is an unpleasant reality, but a necessary precaution. There may also be financial ramifications for the couple and the family. For many wives, the discovery of the addiction comes through investigating unidentifiable charges to the checking account or credit card.
Then there is the matter of the trauma of the discovery. This is a specific kind of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and needs to be treated as a genuine, life-shattering, and traumatic event. Counseling for the wife, and specifically for the trauma, is needed.
A Journey of Growth and Healing
It is only through a wife’s dedication to her own education and transformation that she can hope for the chance of a healthier future with her husband. He can hope for a return to stable mental health if he dedicates himself to the deliberate work of an ongoing Christ-centered recovery process. But unfortunately, if he chooses his addiction activity over the relationship with his spouse and family, the marriage will be broken beyond repair. No two couples experience the impact of sex addiction in the same way, and so there are no guaranteed outcomes. The journey to healing, and the results thereof, are as unique as the people involved.
An ironic process may occur if the husband does not deal with his addiction, and the wife faces her new reality. Through her own hard personal work, she will have progressed and grown tremendously as a person. And with this wisdom comes fair warning: No matter what the future holds for the marriage, no matter if he commits to ongoing recovery work or not – the best and only answer for her is to embark on the sometimes grueling, but always beneficial, journey of investing in her own growth and healing.
Christian Counseling for Sex Addiction
For the spouses of sex addicts, the journey of growth and healing is best traveled with the guidance of a Christian counselor. If you are experiencing, or even suspecting, any of the issues described in this blog post, Christian counseling can provide a safe space in which to address your concerns and find support as you move forward.
“Preoccupied,” courtesy of Shella Sund, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Small bottle label read ‘rink me’,” courtesy of Heather Wizell, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “sad,” courtesy of Joe Penna, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)