Journal Entry: Friday, February 28, 2014
“Somewhere between right and wrong is a garden; I’ll meet you there.” Rumi
My husband has been officially diagnosed as a sex addict. He has a new therapist who specializes in this type of addiction. We now have a total of four therapists between us. I cannot describe how exhausting this process has become, and EXPENSIVE!!! My husband has core childhood wounds and he was a sex addict before I met him. We have been together for 30 years and due to my complete and utter ignorance of both the signs and symptoms of sex addiction and my husband’s chronic and pathological lying to me from day one, I had no idea.
So, what exactly are the determinants for whether a cheater is a sex addict, or not? As I understand it, having now read a few books and articles on the subject, the symptoms include:
– Frequently engaging in more sex and with more partners than intended.
– Physical or psychological feelings of withdrawal when unable to engage in the addictive behavior.
– Desire or unsuccessful attempts to decrease or stop the behavior.
– Feelings of shame and guilt around sexual behavior.
– Being preoccupied with or persistently craving sex; wanting to cut down and unsuccessfully attempting to limit sexual activity.
– Thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities or continually engaging in excessive sexual practices despite a desire to stop.
– Neglecting obligations at work, school or family in pursuit of sex.
– Continually engaging in sexual behavior despite negative consequences, such as broken relationships or potential health risks.
– Escalating scope or frequency of sexual activity to achieve the desired effect, such as more frequent visits to prostitutes or more sex partners.
– Feeling irritable when unable to engage in the desired behavior.
Not all of the above symptoms need to be present for a person to be diagnosed as a sex addict, apparently. What is astonishing to me is that my husband, unbeknownst to me, exhibits every single one of these symptoms. Sex addiction is like other addictions, except sex is the drug. I am sick to my stomach even typing this. How can a person possibly be in a 30 year relationship with someone and not know they have an addiction? I am still in shock and wonder if I will ever be able to absorb the magnitude of my husband’s betrayal. I do not care what causes all this behavior, I do not understand how a person can wake up in the morning, every morning, knowing he is doing things that are so destructive to himself and others and not get help for himself. How you can have a therapist for FOUR YEARS and not talk about who you really are with this person, this person who is there solely for you, that you sought out, yourself. Someone who your wife does not even know, where everything is completely confidential. How can you be a friend, boss, brother-in-law, CEO, father and husband, and yet keep such a debilitating secret that will most likely eat you alive from the inside out. Why? Unless you really just don’t want to stop. Why could he not control himself knowing he would literally tear apart the very foundation of my world, tear apart the life we have built together over 30 years?
Nature versus nurture, or both?
There is no doubt my husband grew up in an abusive home. Not an ugly, dirty, neglected house in the scary part of town, but in a beautiful home in the suburbs of a big, sunny city. I love driving by his childhood neighborhood and seeing where he took tennis lessons, swim classes, guitar, and art. I love thinking about him as a blond haired, blue eyed carefree little boy running in the street and riding his bike to the store to get a candy bar. Even with all the hurt and betrayal, I wish I knew him back then. I feel like I have known him forever. And yet… who is this man sitting across from me? His home and his family do look quite perfect. Just a typical kid born in the 60’s to attractive, successful people in a beautiful town in America. But this is no fairy tale. My husband’s Mother is a narcissist who spent more time ordering people around, playing tennis with the “ladies,” and throwing dinner parties, than mothering her children. She did not, in fact, nurture her children. This was quite obvious, even to me, from the beginning. I have known the woman since I was 20 years old. I have watched her belittle and disrespect her children while prancing around with self-importance, doling out insults and yelling orders with impunity. She is racist and elitist and exploitative. She is downright abusive and through control and manipulation, she left three children feeling shameful, lonely, and neglected, and yet emotionally dependent on her approval.
The first time I met my husband’s mother, I was in tears within an hour. I had never met such a horrible person, but that is a story for a different day. Meanwhile, Daddy is an arrogant workaholic who spent no time with his children. When he returned from work, the children were fed and put to bed (by the nanny). There is no doubt my husband required a strong father to give him the training and self esteem he needed to become a mature, responsible adult. There needed to be some nurturing and counter-balance to Monster Mommy, but there was none. Instead of “good job,” and “we are proud of you, son,” he got “you could have done better,” and “that’s just not good enough.” When not outrightly stated, the insults and belittling were implied through actions and body language, and that is if he actually paid his children any attention at all. There were beatings and other forms of physical abuse. How do I know his parents were like this? Because my husband has told me, and also they have exhibited some of their verbal abuse on my children. How horrifying that not only are they abusive parents, but they are abusive grandparents as well.
Then there was the sibling abuse. My husband’s younger brother was encouraged to be fiercely competitive and, unlike my husband, his brother’s insecurity and low self esteem were exhibited with angry and often violent behavior. The sibling rivalry was encouraged by the parents and one of the first things my future mother-in-law told me was that B was the “sweet, sickly and sensitive son,” while his younger brother was the “strong, intelligent, athletic, talented son, much like his father.” I could not believe what I was hearing. The woman is undeniably certifiable.
My husband did not get what he needed from his family of origin, but is that enough to change a sweet innocent little blue-eyed boy into the raging sex addict that has spent the past 30 years lying to me and the past 15 years blatantly betraying me? I know there are people who have grown up in scarier environments than my husband and have not turned to abuse as their outlet. If indeed I am to acknowledge and accept this diagnosis of “sex addict,” I have to believe there is an addict gene playing a part here. I understand a small child being neglected. I understand a child who was most likely left alone in his crib to cry, all his little human needs ignored, his attachment bonds going haywire. I understand a small child feeling worthless and unloved. I understand a young boy feeling like he is not good enough… feeling so much stress that he contracts two serious immune deficiency diseases by the time he is 10 years old. I understand a pre-adolescent boy prematurely entering puberty due to medications he has been taking since he was six years old. I understand that when the world is failing him and he feels like no one loves or cares about him he realizes he can self medicate with masturbation. He can make himself feel good, and the more he looks at porn and self medicates, the better he feels. He learns to shut himself off from his own reality to give himself over to the dark side. He was taught to lie from an early age. When he lied about small mistakes or less than desirable behavior, he was rewarded by being ignored and he also avoided punishment. He honed his lying skills and hid his obsessive sexual behaviors. He was awkward with females and although he had many chances to develop normal sexual relationships, he avoided them most likely because he was insecure about his own abilities, his body, which at times was ravaged by his childhood disease, and also because he knew he was an expert at satisfying himself. Females became objects, body parts. My husband’s first real girlfriend, the one that took his virginity, was a slightly older, sexually experienced girl who had been dumped by her boyfriend when she got pregnant, had had an abortion, but more importantly she had been sexually abused by her therapist when she was a teenager. She was broken and vulnerable and this started a pattern that would continue, albeit intermittently, for my husband for the next 40 years. His girlfriend would perform sex acts in public and wanted to have sex many times a day. What clearly seemed like winning the lottery (was the lottery around back in 1983?) to B, was more obviously a really messed up relationship where both parties were using sex to medicate deep wounds.
I have since found out that while we were at college together, while I was working two jobs to put myself through school, or at class, my husband would obsessively masturbate to mental images of his old girlfriend, his first acting out partner. This was in addition to the voracious, young, new love kind of sex we had together. No wonder he was always so sick and exhausted. Actually, he has been sick and exhausted most of the 30 years I have known him and now I know why.
My husband has nurtured his addiction and it has grown and evolved. His addiction is driven by anger and resentment and self entitlement. His behavior is not driven by loneliness, or a bad marriage, or a bad job, or lack of people around him that love and respect him. My husband has a horrifying disease that has been growing inside him for 50 years and there is no magic pill to fix it. He will have to change his way of thinking and his way of life from the inside out and there is nothing, no one person, and no group that can do this for him. He will have to do this by himself.
The only way I am going to be able to come out the other side of this mess with the man I have loved for 30 years, is if I acknowledge the addiction that has lived inside him, embrace it for what it is, and in my opinion that is an addictive gene coupled with faulty nurturing, and give him the opportunity to make things right for himself, for me, and for our marriage. In order for him to recover, he is going to have to change the way he deals with his life, every day, all day. Change what happens when he feels anger. Stop resenting me and lying to me and about me. Stop feeling entitled to behave like a self centered ego maniac that is abusive to women. Basically, stop the beast inside, and embrace the man we all thought he was.
The lingering questions in my mind… will he be able to do it (he hasn’t been able to manage himself for 40 years), and will I be able to stick around long enough to see this transformation happen?