Internet porn addiction has ended 40-year marriage
I discovered my husband had an internet porn addiction 10 years ago, after 30 years together. This turned my world upside down. But I thought I’d dealt with it by being very clear, saying that if it happened again, that would be the end of our marriage, and insisting he get therapy. We both went a few times. It seemed to help. I put ‘family’ controls on his account on our laptop, and thought that would stop access.
How naïve I was. Two years ago, I discovered a ‘secret’ smartphone in his workbag (otherwise we only had non-smartphones, that could not access pictures or the internet), after feeling something was going on – though I’d thought it was an affair. (He insists I’ve been his only real-life sexual partner.)
That night I told him I’d found the phone, and he said he used it to access porn. Again, I insisted on his getting therapy individually or us as a couple. After a while he went to see someone on his own. (They focused on raising his self-esteem – he’s been depressed for 3 years.) And I thought, again naively, that was it.
This summer I found he’d been using money from his mother’s account (over which he had Power of Attorney) for the last 10 years to fund phone use for porn, and cigarettes (he says). This is not yet a criminal offence. I did not then realise the problem was still continuing but realised it was serious.
We went to a Relate counsellor privately (because of the long waiting list), who was brilliant. He revealed to her (then me) his self-bondage, which I’d never known about, which he did to relieve stress, since a traumatic family event aged 7 and early exposure to his father’s bondage porn.
I would have given him another chance then, but found he was still lying to me even a month ago, even in the face of evidence (of buying a second ‘secret’ smartphone). When I asked someone to check the first smartphone, there were bookmarks of severe BDSM, which I find completely unacceptable.
We are now living separately. I insisted he tell our son and daughter-in-law of his addiction, as he was just about to start caring for their toddler. Which he did, in person, at a ‘family meeting’, after seeing a sex addiction specialist from the Marylebone Centre. Although there were hugs all round, anger has since set in, and our son and his wife no longer want him to do childcare (sensibly realising that an addict of any sort in the initial stages of acknowledging their problem and beginning to get help, is not an emotionally stable person).
I am so grateful this internet porn addiction only started when our children had left home, because it would have been much more difficult to separate earlier – he was a wonderful hands-on father, and has been an excellent emotional ‘carer’ for others (especially me) all his life. I can’t imagine ever being able to trust him again, so I think the separation will be permanent. Plus he has not volunteered anything about his addictive activities, only reluctantly admitting after I have made a discovery. Which makes me fear there is worse to come, though I doubt he will ever tell me. I must be careful not to forget this.
The good news is he has finally accepted he has an addiction which has, at present, ruined his life. He has been to his first Sex Addicts Anonymous group (relieved to find others with a problem he has faced alone for over 50 years), and asked for phone support. Meanwhile I’ve been to COSA meetings. Though I'm doubtful about the relevance of the 12-step process for all sex addicts' partners, it has been really good to be among women grappling with similar (and some much worse) problems, and to be offered phone support between meetings.
With luck, he will make a good recovery, but I think our paths are now separate and amicable.
The most useful mantra for me has been the AA one Paula recites in her fantastic U-tube talk for partners of sex addicts – ‘You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it’.