Is Pornography Addiction Just An Excuse? For Wives Of Pornography Addicts
Is Sex Addiction Just Another Excuse?
While this seems like a logical question, it's really not an either-or situation. This question implies that either a) sex addiction is real or b) people engaged in hurtful, sexual behaviors outside their primary relationships are using it as an excuse.
In my opinion, both of these can be true, but let me say straight away - it’s not a good excuse. It’s a reason, but not an excuse. Sex addiction no more justifies the addict's behavior than alcoholism justifies crashing your vehicle head on into another, destroying the lives inside. I imagine that there are individuals who claim, and truly believe, "I can't help it, I'm an addict." However this is very faulty thinking. And I want to offer this to the partners of addicts, in hopes of empowering you in a difficult situation… you can accept that there is such a thing as sex addiction without accepting sex addiction as something to tolerate.
Pornography Addiction Is A Reason For Cheating, But Not An Excuse
Sex addiction may explain why our partners do what they do, but it does not excuse continuing to do what they do. Any addict who says “I can't help it, I'm an addict” is shirking responsibility for his behaviors. He may actually have tried to give it up and failed. He may truly believe he can’t quit. I would tell him, you haven’t found the right help, or at some point, you quit doing what you needed to do to beat it.
Yes, an addiction is going to make quitting harder, but it does not make it impossible. And to partners who are hearing this statement, I would encourage you not to accept it. Addicts, like all of us, are 100% responsible for their choices, actions, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, and when those things aren’t working for him, only he can change it. They are responsible to live a mature life, despite what happened in their past.
When Your Husband Blames His Infidelity On Pornography Addiction Or Sex Addiction
When an addict blames his family of origin, his wife, the stressors of the job, etc. for his addictive behaviors, what he's really saying is “it's hard to stop,” or “I don’t know how to stop,” or “I don't want to work that hard.” This is where we partners need to have a clear understanding of our values, our boundaries, and a plan of action for what we are going to do when our boundaries are violated. The feedback loop of addiction took years, sometimes decades, to develop into the addictive cycle that it is, and the good news is, that that same neuroplasticity that allowed to brain to be rewired for addiction, will also allow change for its recovery.
However, that addiction, as we said, took years or decades to become the ingrained pattern that it is. Wives and partners don't have decades, or certainly we don't want to wait decades, for that brain to rewire itself again. And we shouldn’t have to. And we don’t have to. And so the addict has a choice; he can enter a recovery process or continue in his addiction and suffer the consequences.
Wives Have Choices Concerning Their Husband's Pornography Addiction
Partners have a choice as well. In his workbook Partner’s Recovery Guide: 100 empowering Exercises, Doug Weiss lists 6 options for the partner who is sexually betrayed:
- Stay and continue being abused
- Stay and be uninvolved
- Stay and be overinvolved
- Stay and both recover
- Stay conditionally
I might further divide divorce into two categories - divorce with and without a healing program for myself.
These choices include some that for some people are acceptable and some that are not. We are all different. We all have different, but equally valid ideals we are trying to live out. Someone might ask why in the world would someone stay in a relationship and let the addict stay as he is. But there are some women because of age, education, or financial position, who truly do not feel they have the choice to leave, and who do not want to fight this battle.
And they may come to the conclusion that I'm going to stay in this relationship and I'm going to be happy, whichever way I can. And some people can do that. Some people can make the best of a really good situation, they can live separate lives in the same house, and pursue their own interests, and do the things that they want to do. Others would have a very difficult time with them this. And they might choose, if they have the means, to separate or divorce.
In my work with wives, most have chosen to stay, at least for awhile, and work on their marriage. And I have seen great success among these women. Sometimes their husbands get into recovery and their marriages make it, sometimes they don't. But in nearly every case, what I find are strong women who learn to intentionally live out their values, who develop and enforce healthy boundaries to protect those values, and to learn to navigate the very muddy waters of healing with or without their husbands.
Some of these women have husbands who are trying and succeeding. Some have husbands who are trying and struggling. Some have husbands who are trying and failing. And some have husbands who are not trying. It is not for me or anyone to tell any partner what choice she should make for herself or what decision suits her life best. We are all experts in our own lives, as to what's best for us.
But in this situation, it is very easy to become overwhelmed, to not have a clear direction of which way to go, to have some real difficulty in making decisions. And there are many things that complicate that. Is it the things I said before like finances and conflicting values. Is it having children and wanting to do what's best for them? These are all things that could play into our decisions. It's not something that's easy to go through, and I don't recommend any woman going through this alone.
APSATS Professionals Can Help You Deal With Your Husband's Pornography Addiction
There are professionals with excellent training to help partners of sex addicts. The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) provides thorough training for professionals who wish to walk with partners through this process. APSATS trained coaches and counselors recognize the experience of partners as betrayal trauma. Not co-dependence, not co-addiction, but relational trauma.
This support can come in the form of individual coaching, face-to-face and online support groups, where you process what you're going through and receive validation, be heard and find understanding. There are face-to-face and online work groups, that lead partners through a workbook which is helpful in addressing all the overlapping layers of healing and processing that partners deal with - while providing the strengths of a group and the guidance of a trained coach. There are even Facebook groups where you can do the same healing work without the constraints of time and location.
What I have found over and over again, in the women that I work with, is that they are amazingly strong. They are strong already. It takes a lot of strength to pick yourself up from a situation you didn’t cause, you didn’t contribute to, and may not even have been aware of, and go get help for yourself. It is so much easier to say “He's got the problem, why do I need to do the work?” but I like to compare this to a person who's been injured in an accident. If you're in a car accident, and it's not your fault, you can shake your fist and get angry and yell it's not my fault, but that's not going to make you heal. It's very unfair, but when we are hurt physically or emotionally, the person who hurt us can't heal us. Especially when they are themselves ill-equipped to cope with their own problems in life, much less ours.
And so we we have a choice to help ourselves, or to leave things as they are. And most women I know don't have the time or energy for that. We are careers to succeed at, children to love and raise, friendships to enjoy. And while this all may seem in limbo, we want those things back, and we want to embrace them fully, and bring our best to those situations. When a betrayed partner walks into my office - and they may be crying, they may be cursing, they may feel lost or just completely overwhelmed; the three things I want them to know, on that day, are 1. this is not because of you, 2. you have the strength it takes to get through this, and 3. you are not alone in the battle. It takes strength to walk in my office. These women have all said “I'm not living this life. I don't know how to change it, but with help, I’m going to.” And I'm really proud of them.
I want to encourage any woman who is in this position to really take stock of what's happening in her life, and make the decision for herself. Do you want to stay this way, or do you want to change it for you? Because no one else is guaranteed to change it for you. And I can speak from personal experience, that this process, as grueling as it is, as unfair as it is as, as angry, sad, and frustrated as we are in the beginning, will end well if we choose to make it so. It may not end in a specific way we’re hoping for, but we can get through it and thrive in spite of it.
I can honestly say 100% of the women that I worked with they have come out stronger, better, happier, and more empowered. I won't say that 100% of them are grateful for this experience, and I would venture to guess that 0% of them would want to go through it again, but many of them, myself included, recognize that this trial as the reason they are stronger today and are living a very intentional life around the things that are important to them.
If you are the wife or girlfriend of someone who has repeatedly betrayed you, and you find yourself struggling, please reach out to the excellent trained coaches at BTR.org. All of their coaches are APSATS trained. Individual coaching, group coaching and Facebook support is available to get you the support you need as you navigate your healing.