'I'm going CRAZY! Whats WRONG with me!'. If I had a pound for every woman I had heard say something like that after discovering their partners secret sexual behaviours I would never need to work another day! Discovering that your husband or partner has a secret sexual life, whether that's porn, chat sites, other women or even prostitutes and escorts, can be an utterly devastating experience, it was for me! So many emotions begin to whirl around in a roller coaster that can last for weeks and months. So what is a 'normal response to finding out? How do I know if I'm really going crazy? The likelihood is that what you're experiencing is ENTIRELY NORMAL under your circumstances. You are NOT the only woman in your situation, I personally know of HUNDREDS, and the emotions and responses they report are all remarkably similar.
In this article I will list some of the most common responses we partners have after discovering we have been betrayed. This is by no means an exhaustive list and you may not experience all or even ANY of these symptoms (but I'd be surprised if you don't get a few). I also want to offer you the reassurance that pretty much any response is a normal and legitimate response, one which you are entitled to feel and which can be overcome with the right support. You have been through a traumatic event, it is not unusual for you to exhibit signs of trauma!
Here is a pretty good list of some of the things you are likely to experience as you move through the first few weeks and months after discovery. These are symptoms of trauma as laid out in the book Your Sexually Addicted Spouse by Marsha Means and Barbara Steffans (New Horizons Press 2009) :
Hyperarousal - Helplessness - Sleeplessness - Immobility - Reliving the event(s) - Hypervigilence - Anxiety - Nightmares - Intrusive Images - Withdrawing - Avoidance - Mood swings - Panic attacks - Phobias - Flashbacks - Denial - Over-sensitivity - Depression - Restlessness - Confusion - Dissociation - Loss of appetite - Overeating - Rage - Physical responses - Chronic fatigue
Alongside these trauma symptoms you are likely to experience some of the following emotional responses;
Sadness - Hopelessness - Infuriation - Fear - Isolation - Shame - Embarrassment - Low self esteem - Loneliness - Disappointment - Humiliation - Inferiority - Rejection - Grief
All of this? - NORMAL! Ask any woman who has been through this experience and I guarantee they will tell you some of the things I have listed above. They will identify with the feeling that your life and your marriage or relationship has been a lie, that you don't know who HE is anymore. They will share your grief and your pain as you realise that you don't know who YOU are either. They will walk beside you as you come to terms with the fact that life may never be the same again.
I also guarantee that a good number of them will tell you that IT DOES GET BETTER! That this new 'normal' does not need to last forever and that you CAN overcome all of the pain that comes with this experience given the right amount of time, love and support. They may even tell you that this experience has taught them things about themselves that they didn't know before, things that are of great value to them now.
In order to begin the journey of rebuilding their lives, many women seek support from peers and professionals. This can be found in online forums and support groups as well as 12 step groups such as S-Anon (partner to Sexaholics Anonymous) and COSA (for those who identify with the term Co-dependant). Many begin to see a therapist or coach, specialised in working with partners of sex/porn addicts to help them begin to make sense of their situation and begin to rebuild their lives and themselves. Whether you choose to stay in your relationship or not, whether he chooses to recover or not, YOU can move forward and become whole.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and would like some support to overcome them please get in touch to find out how Partners Recovery Coaching can help you to begin your healing. We have packages available to suit your needs and can even help if finance is a struggle for you. Also get a FREE first session as we decide how we can work together. Visit our webpage and Facebook page for more information about what's on offer.
Catherine Etherington September 2016 © First published at Full Circle Coaching