De-mystifying The Behaviors Of Pornography Addicts: An APSATS Perspective

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I have Amy Kate back with us this week. Amy Kate is an advocate for partners of sexual addicts. She is a survivor two marriages that ended as a result of sexual addiction. She has six amazing children. She is trained by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She is also trained by the American Association of Sex Therapy. She is also a customer service representative at Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is an accountability and filtering software that is one of many tools that we need to use in our own recovery, both for the safety of ourselves and families.

Amy: Hi. I'm glad to be back.

Anne: We are going to talk about demystifying the behavior of sex addicts today. Being a recovering drug addict I'm sure has its advantages when you are talking about your ex-husband's sexual addiction and how that worked and how devastating it was. Can you talk about the definition of insanity and where you were in that process of serving your husband's behaviors and being in the chaos and not able to figure out exactly what was happening?

When we are in a relationship with an active pornography addict or an active sex addict, why is there some much chaos? Why is it so difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on?

Amy: To a non-addict person, when you see these behaviors that are insane--this is kind of what they look like--and they make absolutely no sense; you are unable to wrap your head around why they do the things they do. I tend to think this all comes from cognitive dissonance.

The brain wants homeostasis. It wants everything to be calm and centered and make sense and not be chaotic. Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when you have a certain set of beliefs and moral standards and your actions don't match that, it creates its own chaos and a super uncomfortable feeling inside of you.

So we have someone who knows that porn is some version of cheating, they know they aren't supposed to, they know they are hurting their wife, they know that having that affair is going to devastate their wife, but they are still doing it. In order to have those two things balanced within the brain, something has to change.

They have three choices:

  1. They can change their beliefs so they can decide that cheating is somehow ok. They can decide that porn is ok. This doesn't usually happen though because usually our beliefs are our beliefs.
  2. They can change the action: they could stop doing the behavior but that is not as easy as it sounds.
  3. Or they can change their perception. When they change their perception, this is where you tend to see all the other crazy-making behaviors that drive us insane.

Anne: talk about that. Do you mean their perception of their wife?

Amy: Their perception of everything starts to change. Essentially, when they are changing their perception, they are changing their reality to make their behaviors fit what they believe. We'll use lying which is probably one of the most rage-igniting things when it comes to partners. The lying drives us insane.

But the addict will change the way he views things like the female he is talking to all of the time and ends up having an emotional affair with, "she is just a friend; I don't even think she is pretty! I have no idea how that porn site is in the history. Maybe it's a virus..." He is creating this reality that is not even real. The ironic part is he starts to believe it. T

he brain has to come back to that homeostasis where things have to make sense or it’s a horribly uncomfortable feeling. So they start to believe their own lies which is insanity! This is what it feels like to me as a recovering addict. When I am in this place, it feels like insanity.

Anne: Especially because then you have two totally compartmentalized lives going on. The one life where you are this good person where you don't engage in these behaviors and your explanations make sense; and then your other life where all of these things are actually really happening. You really are engaging in these behaviors. You really are lying so it is almost like you've got Jekyll and Hyde going on in the same body.

An Emotionally Abusive Husband Is Like Jekyll & Hyde

Amy: Jekyll and Hyde was originally an analogy for an alcoholic. The boxes and compartmentalizing is a huge part of addiction. When the addict is actively engaged with his family, his addiction doesn't exist; he closes that box and it doesn't exist. And then when he is acting out in his addiction, his family does not exist.

They are two completely separate worlds so when they collide, like the wife finds something in the history on the computer, he has to figure out a way to make the two make sense. Lying is usually a really good way to do it. Justification is another way they can alter their reality and perception of what is going on, to make things balance out.

For example, they will say things like, "It's just porn. It's not a real person so it's not that bad. It's not cheating. I'm a man; I can't help it. I have a high sex drive and besides, all men look at porn. It's a guy thing. It's what they do. I only do it a few times a month. It's not a problem."

Women In Pornography Are Exploited & Abused

Anne: Yes, these justifications are very interesting I think, especially when they say, "The woman in pornography want to be exploited and abused." When you look at it from the porn industry point of view, we know the women who are in the porn industry are not treated well. Many of them are on drugs. Many have been exploited. they are miserable doing their job. The time they spend in the pornography industry is very, very short. Many don't spend a lot of time because it's so difficult for them. 

I've talked to someone on the other end, who produced porn for a while and then stopped producing it, and he said, "I always knew I was ruining the lives of the women I filmed but I just never thought about the people who were watching it and how their lives were also being ruined."

So I think it is very difficult for them to realize they are hurting their wives, themselves, and also the woman who is being exploited, the women in the pornography. And so it is very important to teach people that pornography creates a demand for sexual exploitation and that demand must stop...that as long as people are viewing pornography there will also be exploitation and sex slavery.

All of these justifications surrounding this make it very difficult for men to see the truth that they are using and exploiting other people and harming themselves and other family members. So instead of accepting this, they end up blame shifting and lying and all the things you are talking about.

Amy: My analogy that I have for my own addiction is like I have this little person in my head--I say it's a little demon--it has one goal in life: to get me to use my drug, whatever my drug of choice is, be it porn or like mine was drugs. It will do the craziest things and twist words to convince me that these lies make sense--like I deserve to take this pill because I have had a really bad day...or I really deserve to watch that porn because my wife won't have sex with me. and the addict literally believes it even though a sober brain knows that it doesn't make any sense. So it's all balancing back to the cognitive dissonance where it needs to balance itself out.

Anne: Let’s talk about blame shifting. This is another way addicts balance themselves out.

Blame-shifting Is A Form Of Manipulation & Emotional Abuse

Amy: That's a super fun one - I'm being sarcastic of course! It is so damaging to women because one of the big ones is the addict will blame the way the wife looks or the weight she has gained or the activities that she is willing to do . . .” if she did such and such sex act I wouldn't have to watch porn . . . or if she took care of herself and lost some weight, I wouldn't have to look at porn . . .or if she wasn't such a mean, demanding person, I wouldn't need all of this stress relief . . . or I've had a really bad day at work and all my customers are awful and I've been treated like crap by my boss and I deserve this treat.”

When You're Husband Tells You, "You Ask Too Many Questions."

Anne: In my case, I was "too much." I asked too many questions, I was too consistent, I was too demanding and controlling because I am a woman of my word and I have integrity. I was trying to figure out what was going on, and I was not going to stop until I had the answers. In my marriage, I was "too much" although in the end he told me that I was not attractive and he began to go down that route. It was very hurtful to me. These comments ring in my ears still...the blame types of things. You can't get better if you refuse to take responsibility for your actions.

Amy: Right. My ex was very good at projecting. He started isolating himself from the family. We would have things we were going to do, like carve pumpkins. I would invite him to come and he would say he was working in his office and he wasn't. Or I'd say, “Let's go to the park”--anything I tried to get him to engage in with the family he continued to refuse.

When Discovery Day came out, he said he cheated because I did not want him involved in his life. He literally would flip everything around. Then he would say things like, “I didn't want sex enough.” The reality was that I was sex-starved and turned down all the time.

Anne: Mine stopped initiating. Mine didn't initiate to begin with, I did, and then I stopped and I'm sure he tells people that I would never have sex with him. He only initiated twice during the six months when I didn't initiate. Both of those times were immediately after I had been severely emotionally abused. I wasn't safe and then he didn't ever try when I did feel safe. But he doesn't tell people that because he didn't initiate safe sex for six months...that gas lighting is pretty intense and traumatizing--part of the emotional abuse.

Amy: Yes. And the gas lighting for me made me feel crazy because I didn't know my reality. This is a hard thing to describe, to not know my reality, but when everything is twisted and all I had was him and me in the beginning--I didn't have anyone to tell me this wasn't making sense or it wasn’t right--I didn't know what was up or down due to the gas lighting. He would say something and then 5 minutes later I would repeat it back and he would say that he never said it. By the end of the conversation I was questioning what was really said. I really didn't know.

Anne: Or they say, "I know I said that but it's not what I meant. I meant this other thing..." And the woman remarks that it is in fact what he said and meant...

Educating Women About What To Expect When They're Married To A Porn User

Part of the reason we bring this up is not to rehash our own trauma; it's to educate women about the behaviors they can expect so they know they are not crazy, so they can observe their husband's behavior to know if he is emotionally safe. My number one goal with Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to teach women what safe behaviors look like so they can begin to establish safety for themselves because you cannot heal from trauma if trauma continues to happen. 

I want to review these things quickly. We have lying, justifying, blame shifting, and gas lighting. We've talked about gas lighting before. We have several podcasts at btr.org. We also really recommend the book, "Why Does He Do That?" It can be found at btr.org/resources. There are many books we recommend to become more educated about these things. The one we recommend most is the "Why Does He Do That?" by Lindy Bancroft. This book will teach you the safe behaviors you are looking for in terms of emotional safety.

I'm so grateful you were here today, Amy Kate, and for all that you have been through and the fact that you are using this now to educate women, especially in your job as a customer service rep for Covenant Eyes.

Amy: Another awesome book that is one of my favorites is, Worthy Of Her Trust. It gives a very clear picture of what true repentance in recovery really looks like. I know for me, I went through a lot of "Am I expecting too much; do I have this crazy vision of what recovery looks like?" When I read that book it helped me to realize that yes, what I was imagining should be happening was actually supposed to be happening. For me this helped to undo the gas lighting that was happening to me.

What A Man Can Do When His Wife Won't Talk To Him

Anne: That's really great to help women understand what they are looking for. My ex tells people, "What could I do? She wouldn't talk to me." I think that he doesn't understand that I could very clearly see through his behaviors exactly what was happening.

Someone who really loves his wife and wants to be back with his family doesn't shut down their bank account. He doesn't stop giving them money. He doesn't go to a singles congregation. He doesn't threaten her and say, "I'm giving you a three-week deadline. If I don't get back in the house in three weeks then I'm going to do get my own apartment." These are not the types of things that people in recovery do. So I could clearly see even though I was not talking to him during his behaviors. I love that there is a book that helps with this. Thank you for recommending that.

Amy: The APSATS difference is literally night and day compared to any option out there when it comes to the healing. The coaches that are at BTR are great. I've had the pleasure of meeting two in person and the others I have talked to multiple times online and they are amazing women with hearts of gold; they are so, so passionate about helping other women change their lives. If I could offer any parting words it would be to get yourself in your own recovery, no matter what is going on with him, there is hope for you. Your life can change. It can get better. You don't have to stay stuck right where you are. It will get better.

Anne: You are worth it! This is what I want to say to these women. YOU ARE WORTH IT! God loves you and He wants you to be safe. There is a little bit of cognitive dissonance with us because we think that God wants me to submit to my husband or he wants me to be a loving, kind, service-oriented wife...so there is the cognitive dissonance with the wives of sex addicts who are wanting a whole, peaceful, loving family. God is telling us, "Please, I love you. You are worth it. Establish safety for yourself." Starting with an APSATS coach is an excellent way to do that because from the get go, they can help you establish safety in your life.

Amy Kate, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate you being with us.

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Until next week, stay safe!