As I wrote recently, sex addiction is not about the partner. I’m a very imperfect person, sure, but my husband’s sexual acting out had nothing to do with me. He would have done it with or without me in his life — in fact, there’s reason to believe his addiction would have escalated faster without a wife and kids in his life, but that’s beside the point.
Not only is sex addiction not about me or you, it’s also not about sex. I know, that sounds contradictory. But hear me out. Sex addicts don’t even enjoy the sex.
“The Wife” at LivingWithaSexAddict.com, in her post, “The Life You have Been Living,” writes:
“Before I understood much about sex addiction, I believed it grew out of what could be called “ordinary cheating.” That is, I thought my husband had enjoyed casual sex so much he repeated the action until it became a habit he found difficult to stop. I used to point this out to my husband, telling him that he didn’t start out as an addict, but as a regular guy who cheated on me for years before the behavior became an addiction.”
Thankfully, this is decidedly not true, but I do understand thinking that way. When I first discovered my husband’s multiple online adulteries, I thought he was a sociopath. I wonder sometimes, whether I could forgive him and how different my life would be now, if that were the case. But while some sex addicts are sociopaths, and the two categories are not mutually exclusive, it so happens that my husband is not a sociopath, and your sex addict partner probably is not either (more about that in a later post).
“The Wife” continues:
“This thought kept me miserable for a long time. Only recently have psychologists established that it wouldn’t have been like that at all. He didn’t make a practice of cheating and then turn into an addict. He was an addict looking for a fix, and eventually alighted upon sex. He found the fix and settled on sex addiction as opposed to some other addiction. Sex was simply the drug of choice.”
Sex addicts, as this writer goes on to point out, have usually suffered a childhood trauma of some kind. As the pioneer in the field of sex addiction, Dr. Patrick Carnes, states in his book Out of the Shadows, sex addicts were usually either abused or neglected as children, whether sexually, physically, verbally, or emotionally. In some cases, peer abuse also plays a role. Exposure to pornography, as “The Wife” quoted above mentions in her article, can create in a child a neurological reaction similar to having been sexually abused.
If you are still going through the shock and anger of discovering your partner’s betrayals of you, you may not want to hear about this. It might seem like I’m asking you to feel sorry for him or her, instead of for yourself — as though you don’t have a right to be angry. Please know that is not what my point is at all. You do have every right to be angry! Anger is an important emotion and your anger is so justified. You have been treated poorly. Lying to a partner habitually, and breaking promises, and being sexual with others, exposing you to diseases — all of that means that you have been the victim of emotional abuse in your relationship. Anger is certainly an appropriate response.
But my hope is that in learning how and why your partner’s addiction developed, you may find it easier to empathize, which in turn, makes it easier for you to feel all right again, while also taking the necessary steps to protect yourself.