Sex addiction and lack of empathy

12 posts in this topic

Posted

Hi,

I've just finished reading Paula's book for partners and have found it very helpful.  My husband began using porn 10 years ago and I had absolutely no idea even though the signs were there.  He confessed 2 and a half years ago because he says he couldn't live with the shame any more and thought telling me would make him stop.  He has admitted that he didn't come clean because of any feeling of guilt or concern for me - I was never an issue  all through the years. 

I won't go into my shock etc as it's been well documented how partners suffer on discovering sex addiction in their relationship.  My question concerns recovery in the addict and the absence of empathy.  We have been to 6 therapists over the 2 and 1/2 years.  One of the therapists was a marriage counsellor and the others were all individual therapists - one for me and the others for him.  I have been determined from the start to stay with him for the sake of our two teenage boys.  They come first for me - of that there is absolutely no doubt.  But it's becoming impossible to continue living with him as he shows no empathy whatsoever.  From the outset he has insisted on talking about my "issues".  He says he's sorry for what he's done but that I have problems too that need to be addressed.  The marriage counselling was particularly hard to sit through as he would bring up petty incidents from the past to try and shame me and would minimise what's being going on for the last 10 years.  Therapists have pointed out his lack of empathy and used lots of examples to try and make him realise that he's not showing genuine remorse  but he simply doesn't agree with them.  I never really knew what the word "defensive" meant before but I could write a book on it now!  We're together 34 years and had a fantastic relationship up to about the time this started.  I've given up on the marriage therapy now as it just wasn't working for us.  She would tell him to try certain things to help with his empathy and he would seem enthusiastic but by the next day all would be forgotten.  He has admitted to feeling great anger and resentment towards me and I feel it in everything he does.  I don't understand it.  I sometimes panic because I think he's still manipulating me and I sometimes feel so helpless as if my brain is in a fog and if I don't get away I'll end up in a padded cell! 

Has anyone out there experienced anything similar to this?  I am desperate as I feel I can't take any more but I worry so much about my sons.

Claire

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Posted

Hi Claire

Yes I think many of us have struggled with this - I'm sorry for what you are having to deal with.  It really can mess with your head, like you say.  It sounds like maybe he isn't really owning his stuff and being totally committed to turning things around?  I get the feeling you are working harder on this than he is, which isn't the right way round when it is HIS stuff that is causing the problem!

Has your husband done Paula's course - this is something they address on it and my husband changed dramatically after doing the course.....he learned to take responsibility for his own stuff and not try and blame ANY of it on me which was such a relief and probably saved our relationship.  Even reading Paula's book may help him understand that this isn't about your stuff - yes, of course, all of us partners are imperfect and could do with working on ourselves but that is nothing to do with his sex addiction.  

do whatever you can to get him on the course - will be thinking of you.

 

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Posted

Hi Polesden,

Thanks so much for that.  It's a great help to me to hear from someone with similar experience to me.  No, my husband hasn't done the course as we're not based in the UK.  I wonder would it make a difference at this stage as we've had nearly three years of therapy and he's still playing the blame game with me.  He'd never agree with you that it's his stuff that's causing the problem.  During our last marriage counselling session he spent a considerable amount of time talking about a row we had in 1988 that was all my fault!

Having read Paula's book and other literature based on this whole ghastly nightmare I'm beginning to think that I'm flogging a dead horse.  Paula's 5 pillars that we are asked to read every day deal with not being able to change your partner and I think maybe it's time I accepted that and try to move on.  It's great that you both managed to turn things around but I seriously doubt at this stage that it's a possibility for us. 

Claire

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Posted

Hi Claire,

I've just read through the posts and wanted to make sure you were aware that we can provide therapy via video skype.  Many people come to our intensives from other countries, so that doesn't have to be a barrier.  But if travel isn't possible, we can support you, your husband, or/and you as a couple via skype.  I know it's not the same as face to face, but it's better to work in this way with an experienced therapist than face to face with someone who's not trained in this field. 

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Posted

Thanks Paula for that.  I hadn't realised that it was possible to get therapy via skype.  I will say it to my husband although I'm reluctant at this stage to try anything new as I'm worn out having been through absolute hell for the last two and a half years.  I'm afraid of getting my hopes up at all as I've been working on acceptance of the situation lately and your book has been a great help to me.  Hope can obscure reality and my reality for so long has been that I'm in an extremely miserable relationship with a man who refuses to accept what he has done and has blamed me from day 1. The only reports that I have ever got from him regarding his sessions in therapy is what the therapist thinks I should do ....one apparently "loves the sinner (me) but not the sin (mine!)!!  Confused?  Me too!  He insisted one time on accompanying me to my therapist so that he could tell her " how I have damaged him".  I'm seriously at the end of my tether and feel there's no hope. 

I will mention your therapy to him however in case he wants to avail of it.. It is extremely difficult to find a therapist here with the proper training in this field. He has been to 5 though and they haven't had any breakthrough.

Thanks so much for your reply.

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Posted

Hi Claire

How are things for you? Wondering if you talked to him about skyping with a trained sex addiction therapist - I guess you have nothing to lose by asking him - and if he's not willing to try then maybe that gives you an indication of his desire to work n his stuff.....hang in there

 

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Posted

Hi Polesden,

I really appreciate you  checking in but unfortunately things are not good.  He let me know with a shrug the other night that he had read Paula's book about partners a while ago.  I had hoped that reading it might make some difference to his attitude.  No difference whatsoever.  The book he read in his mind was "Sex Addiction:  The Addict's Perspective".  I just don't understand what's going on in his head.  How could anyone read that book and not have some sympathy or empathy for the partner?  More counselling would just be a waste of time.....

Claire

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Posted

Hi Claire, 
Sorry to hear that. My husband was also addicted to sex a few years back. It was about to ruin our relationship. I was thinking about having a divorce. Then, a friend of mine asked me to take him to a sex addiction treatment in Bellwood. The treatment over there was really effective and he is completely out of addiction now.
So, don't lose hope. There are several solutions available. You have mentioned that marriage counseling was not successful. Therefore, you can try taking him to an addiction treatment as I did.

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Posted

Hello Claire,

I read your post with great sadness about your husband's lack of empathy and understanding.

From my own personal experience, I found it very hard to acknowledge the damage I'd done to my marriage. It's taken me considerable amounts of clean time to be able to step back and discuss things calmly with my wife and really dwell in the situation from her viewpoint. It's hard because for me, my own self-loathing and guilt over my behaviour would get in the way. That then manifests as anger, defensiveness or indifference, which would be very hurtful towards her. It's taken a lot for me to challenge that in myself. Sometimes when I can empathise, it's a very difficult place for me to be in as I can feel how much hurt has been caused by the many years of lying and undermining of trust. More weirdly still, it would be easy for those difficult feelings then triggering me into wanting to act out more... ! 

It may sound brutal but for me, us separating after she had an affair was the rock bottom point where I realised things cannot go on. As an addict, I just wanted a quiet life where I could continue acting out really without needing to change or be bothered much by demands from real people and the real world. While things "kind of" worked, I was "happy" to go on - or rather, not sufficiently motivated to change. It was a horrible place to be but had become so ingrained into my thoughts at every level. This is the "bubble" you might hear addicts talk about. Only by spending a lot of clean time outside the bubble and with my own thoughts without distraction have I been able to work on myself. From there, I start to be able to see things differently. Rather than my wife angrily pointing out (correctly) my behaviours and the defensiveness etc. Strangely and interestingly, the longer I've spent away, the less angry and defensive I am etc. Continuing to use porn really makes your head very very screwy. But it takes a long time and commitment as well as being able to look at yourself objectively but crucially not judgementally or critically. That is all work your husband needs to put in though. You are not going crazy.

Us addicts fundamentally do not have a good healthy relationship with ourselves. So until we can develop that, we can't offer it to others. For me, part of recovery has been working that out. 

It's completely understandable that you find this lack of empathy as upsetting and frustrating because it's a core part of a healthy intimate relationship for most people. All the distress and hurt that goes with it is very hard to bear. Above all, just as your husband has to sort out his problems and learn to take care of himself properly, you have to look out for yourself too and find support however you can. My wife particularly found it very hard to be able to talk about it to friends and has found it isolating because of that.

Peace.

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Posted

Hi,

I really appreciate those of you who got back to me with such kind and helpful advice.  I found your message, Rob, to be particularly helpful as it gave me an insight into my husband's way of thinking as an addict.  My husband is very much still in the "bubble" you refer to but being unfamiliar with this term, I have always called it a shell which unfortunately is impenetrable. I have accepted this.  I gave up trying to reason with him a year ago.  I had revisited our marriage counselor in the hope of making one last effort to save our marriage and he seemed on board  - for a few hours.  Next day we were back to normal.  All my efforts were met with resistance - his words said he wanted a loving relationship his actions said otherwise.  I have wasted so much time in trying to make sense of this but have come at last to the understanding that one cannot reason with an addict.  Their actions do not make sense.  The addict did not want to make it work but that would mean having to commit to a life of sobriety.  We've been on this merry go round for over three and a half years and I'm exhausted. I realize now that there has been little or no sign of him being in recovery all this time.  His last counselor who was treating him for trauma in childhood terminated the counselling on the basis that she said he wasn't in recovery and needed residential addiction counselling.  I met her for one session and she spoke of his resistance, his obsession with my behavior and his unwillingness to own what he's done - all of this I witness on a daily basis.  His response, as always, was  to refute what she said.  

I have finally accepted defeat.  I desperately need to separate from him - but what about my two beautiful sons - it breaks my heart to see them embroiled in this sordid mess.   I have proposed a separation whereby they stay in the family home and we divide the time we spend with them between us.  I even moved out for 2 and 3 days a week during the winter to let him see that it would be the best way forward.  But there has been no cooperation from him.  We are still living in the same house.  I feel powerless against this disease.  Can anyone help?

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Posted

Hi Claire, 

I'm new here - only joined today. I came here looking for support in knowing I'm not alone. On reading your posts, I have to admit that my own pain took a back seat. Their are only two things I can say to you; 1) You have tried so very hard to support your husband and save your marriage. I can understand that you are now at the end of your tether. However, only you can call time on your marriage. 2) It is better for children to have one happy parent than two unhappy ones. 

Stay strong, and know that you are not totally alone. There are others, like myself, who are in turmoil too even though you don't know them personally; they are out there feeling just as lonely, lost and isolated. 

Take care of yourself. You are important, and you are, clearly, a compassionate person who has a lot to give. 

Miriam

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Posted

Hi Miriam,

Your message means a lot to me.  It is so comforting to know that I'm not alone .  I have only told my two sisters the truth about what's going on - I know it would help to talk to others but my sons haven't been told and I want to protect them from the truth, at least until they're older.  Besides it's not an easy topic to discuss.  I do realize however that this secrecy is bad for the soul and only compounds the loneliness and isolation. 

I hope you find help and comfort here on this site.  I realize that my posts are bleak and lacking in hope but that's only been my experience.  Many here have sought help and are in recovery so there is hope.  I would recommend Paula's book for partners as it helped understand some of what was going on.

I really wish you the very best.  Keep heart and keep strong.

Claire

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