As a life and recovery coach working with betrayed women, particularly those in relationships with porn or sex addicts, I am keenly aware that this is an issue which is both overlooked for the majority and misunderstood in many ways. I know that there are many, many women out there who have these issues but don't know where to turn for help, who feel like they can't tell, out of fear of exposing their partners or being judged as inadequate partners. If that's you this article is for you...
I personally interact with hundreds of women on a regular basis who have lived, and are living, through the shattering discovery that their partners and husbands have a secret sexual life. I am committed to giving them a voice so I asked them what they would tell you if they had the chance. Below is a summary of the major points they wanted you to know.
It's OK to not be OK about this - First things first! The first words they want you to hear are words of support and validation. Whatever you are feeling about your husband's indiscretions is normal and legitimate. IT IS OK for you to object to the presence of porn or chat rooms or masturbation or prostitutes and hook ups in your marriage or relationship! You have a right to this! You are not a prude and you do not NEED to loosen up! YOU get to choose what is acceptable to you in your relationship!
It hurts a lot! - Discovering that you have been betrayed, especially when there is some kind of sex addiction in the mix, has been likened to feeling physically abused, beaten up, raped or hit by a truck by many women. The feeling that everything you knew has been a lie and that you can trust nothing about your life is like living in an alternate reality where everything looks the same but nothing FEELS the same! It could also hurt for a long time, this is a hard journey, whatever the outcome. But there are things you can do to make this road easier for yourself and they are detailed below.
Get help! - You will need support through this. One thing I know for sure is that women working through this do better when they have support. Many women greatly benefit from working with a coach or counsellor and find group support a major source of validation and comfort in the fact that you are not alone. There are a number of ways you can get this support, through online forums and groups, in group coaching or therapy. Whatever it is, make sure you find it! You do not need to do this alone! I can link you in to free online support groups if you contact me.
You did not cause this and you cannot make him stop - This is a tough one for many women facing this issue. Somehow we take this problem and make it ours. 'If only I was better in bed', 'If only I had been a bit kinkier', 'Maybe if I wasn't overweight' etc etc. Please, please hear me when I tell you that this is NOT about you. For starters, most men with this issue bring it into the relationship with them and were engaged in some form of sexually secretive or compulsive behaviour before beginning a relationship with you. In fact many believe that being in a stable relationship will 'cure' them - it doesn't, any more than it would cure any other addiction. If you were the most amazing lover, with the most amazing body, the greatest sense of humour and the most money in the world, he would still do what he does because this is about HIM, not you. This is about him medicating whatever pain he is hiding from, this is about a brain wired to respond to certain stimuli as a result of (often) years of addictive behaviour. You cannot love it out of him. It's true that love and support are helpful for addicts when trying to recover but they are by no means a guarantee of his success. No more than you caused it can you make it go away, no matter how much you want that to be true. And because it's not your fault, you have nothing to be ashamed of!
There is a reason the charity Fight the New Drug have chosen that name for their organisation. More and more, neuroscience is confirming that porn has a neurological impact on the brain similar to that observed in drug addicts and alcoholics. Porn and sex addiction is not a problem of the future, it is a problem of the NOW as the first generation raised on PornHub and the like are discovering for the first time what the long term effects of regular porn usage are. Porn induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) is dramatically on the increase as more and more men find that they are no longer able to perform in a normal, relational sexual setting, having wired their brains to respond only to certain types of images. All sorts of long term effects are being reported with equally alarming consequences. Don't take my word for it, a quick internet search will reveal what I am saying.
So, this is a real problem, happening to real people, affecting real relationships and families all over the world. It is more common than we think and more prevalent than we know. You are NOT alone and the women I have spoken to want you to know that!
If you would like to know more about the coaching support, including groups, offered by Full Circle Coaching take a look at our website. I also operate a Facebook page where you can contact me to be added to free support groups full of women like the ones I have mentioned in this post. You do not have to do this alone, recovery from betrayal works best in community.