Will things get better?


11 posts in this topic

Posted

Hello,

I'm new to using forums, and very new to 'being the partner of a sex addict'....

I need to ask whether it actually gets better. Can someone with strong and long running sexual addiction problems ever get better? Or will I spend the rest of my life paranoid and sick, because I don't trust my partner?

I know there are no magic formulas for this, and I have had some short term counselling for myself, but I have never experienced anything like this, and neither has anyone I know - that I could speak to about it. My support network is very small because I am confused and ashamed of everything that has happened. There are very few I feel comfortable discussing this with.

I have been with my partner for 3 years, we are engaged. We have a beautiful life together (besides this). I discovered 7 months ago that he has been cheating on me with numerous people, hundreds of online affairs / inappropriate behaviour, long term secret online girlfriends, porn addiction, shopping addiction, constantly cruising exes, reigniting exes.... it goes on. He has done some incredibly unkind and cruel things, and destroyed the relationship I thought we had. Without going in to too much detail, he has been gaslighting me and deceiving me so deeply and completely for so long, that he still believes his own lies to some extent. I have spent a long time in grief, trauma, despair.. in and out of anxiety and depression.

I discovered that he has been acting like this for over a decade, and created a huge web of lies for himself which crept across all aspects of his life. Unfortunately he works in pop culture, and is a little 'famous' so there is opportunity for him to access sexy girls pretty much 24/7. The girls he cheats with are all famous models (usually he has dated them), suicide girls, fetish models... nothing like me. I'm a babe, but I'm not a fantasy girl.

While things are improving significantly, there are still a lot of issues not being addressed. My main problem is that while things feel more level now after a heart breaking period of explanation, new discoveries, digging, therapy for both of us, revelation after revelation... we are both exhausted... I don't think he fully grasps the fact that he has addiction problems. He is directly addressing the core, root problems that caused his unhappiness with a therapist (childhood trauma, recent death of parent), but won't address the acting out behaviour or participate in the directly 'addiction' based things I want to talk about, or work on. He thinks it is all over now that everything has come out in the open. The pressure release was devastating but great, for both of us, but I'm worried it will be damaging for the future for him to sweep it under the carpet. To give him credit, he is working very hard to be better, to change our life, and to demonstrate his love and commitment to me now. I feel a lot of positive changes.

I want to know how to rebuild trust, and to love him fully again. I don't want to marry someone I don't feel safe with, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life feeling paranoid and crazy. It's truly truly awful.

Does it get better? Is it possible?

I believe in the life we have together, and in our future, but when you have been lied to so successfully, so fully, it is hard to trust your own judgement again. I have chosen to stay with him right now, because I am optimistic, but I am cautious.

I appreciate any words of light, or encouragement.

Thank you xxx

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Posted

Wow, what a dreadful experience for you Rena.  I am coming to this from the other side, as an addict but free of this stuff for 2 years.  I think I would say two things.

1. You intuition is correct, for an addict to recover, s/he has to be brutally honest with themself and I would suggest (though some others will disagree with me) honest with their partner.    It is painful, but it is the only way to recovery and the only way to rebuild trust in a relationship.

2. There is hope.  You can read a short post from me about my recovery in the Success Stories section.  People do kick this.  

Keep going.

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Posted

Hello Rena,

Your experience sounds really shocking and devastating with a huge amount of damage done. It sounds like your world has been completely turned upside down and the man you thought you knew is actually somebody else entirely.

My wife has expressed very similar feels of questioning her own judgement over my complete denial and covering up of my porn problem for pretty much 20 years. I think the fact that she had no clue whatsoever and all other parts of our relationship were apparently "good" caused a huge amount of damage. That you can recognise the very bad treatment you've had from him is really important although terribly painful too.

How long it takes for an addict to recover I don't know for sure. I can tell you that personally I am 18 months in and still find days and behaviours difficult and challenging. I think I have changed significantly but it's not something I feel has completely vanished from my life. It is something I could easily fall back into and recovery is still a fragile and precious thing for me personally. People can change but I think it's important to be realistic about the time frames involved - I don't think it's something that anyone can get over in a few weeks or months. It really takes years because you are reversing patterns of behaviour that have often gone on for years or even decades.

The shattering of trust is a huge issue and again that takes a lot of time to very slowly rebuild and is not a linear path. My wife had an affair shortly before I confronted my problems with porn and (for various personal reasons) we are only recently starting to tackle some of the root issues. There is a lot of brutal honesty needed on both sides and often the answers are painful and difficult to hear. Deciding to stay or go has been very hard for both of us and the emotional ground can shift day to day.

I think the painful truth is that it's not really all over because it's out in the open - quite the opposite actually. That is now the starting point for the real work to begin and things to change. I am learning to accept that it will never really be "all over" or done with - rather instead it has become part of my life experience and learning about myself and my wife and how relationships really do (or do not) work.

For me, it's critical that I owned my porn problem and stay on top of it. That's something that's totally on me to do and that I am responsible for. I can't expect my wife or anyone else to do that for me. I didn't always have that level of emotional maturity and sometimes I still find it hard to stay in that place but I feel it's part of shaping a different future and changing my behaviour. Sometimes accepting responsibility for all the hurt I've caused and the undermining of trust, hidden behaviour, anger etc. is very hard to do.

This has been my experience.

Some of these online links may help:

http://recoverynation.com/partners/

http://www.rebootnation.org/forum/index.php?board=7.0

All the phases of grief you describe - the anger, depression, anxiety, shame are very difficult to tackle and take a lot of time. These things in many ways have been thrust upon you by your fiance's actions. It might feel very unfair and frustrating and it is. The most important thing I think is to take all the time you need and find more help and outlets to help you process the huge range of strong and painful emotions that this situation creates. Above all be kind to yourself because this isn't anything that you've done in any way and is no reflection on you but instead on him. It many ways, the relationship that you thought you had and the man you thought you knew is gone - that's a extremely tough thing to have forced upon you and I can definitely connect a lot with those feelings of grief. It has got better for me over time as I slowly accept my wife's affair and working at my issues but that doesn't make it easy and there are no quick fixes sadly. It is a truly awful situation as you say.

Peace.

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Posted

Thank you PJ and Rob for your insight, and for the links to other forums. I really appreciate it.

It was good to read some success stories, thank you PJ. It helps to know that if you put your mind to it, you can change these behaviours and make your life better. I'm sorry I waited so long to reply - I did not mean to be rude - I think I still feel very ashamed of everything, and hid.

I'm finding it hard because I do understand on a theoretical level the detachment and illogical behaviour patterns. I see the train of thought - or feeling - that led to everything. I'm a pretty empathic person, so I do understand that it comes from a place of pain, and technically it has nothing really to do with me. But I struggle to detach myself from it, because it is MY being which has taken the hit. For me it has been a different journey. He has always known about his behaviour, but I was completely blindsided. The numerous affairs, deceit, and deep manipulation which went along with covering up his hideous behaviour, has just left me feeling very empty, ashamed and abused. Some things he did to juggle me and the other women are so cruel I can't even write them down. I always knew he had a bit of a problem with porn, and was constantly looking up ex gfs on the internet, but the rest was a complete shock. It has shaken my inner confidence down to the core. Therapists have said I am suffering PTSD, which makes sense, but it's getting better. One day at a time and all that..

I'm trying hard to get to grips with letting the past go, and rebuilding our relationship, but I feel stuck in a bad cycle just now. Because my fiancee feels so bad about himself all the time, nothing I say or do is good enough. I have been (I think) really supportive and encouraging, trying to use confidence building language, telling him that he is a wonderful person, gently complimenting him, being direct and calm when there is a problem, reassuring him that we will get through this.. but no matter what I say he takes it as a criticism - even really nice things like casually saying 'I love the way you kiss me'. Then he gets really stressed and is rude to me, I get upset because he is rude, and he tells me that I make him feel awful every day.

When we finally get to the core of it, he admits he feels so crushingly guilty for what he has done to me, and that he genuinely does feel bad all the time. But then he turns around and blames me for this stressful behaviour - He is rude to me and I get upset, and it's my fault for being upset.. and so on.. then he starts being secretive again, and deleting the internet history, or making up stories, I ask him directly why he is doing this again, and explain that this makes me feel scared. But then it is my fault - he says I make him feel so guilty every day that even when he isn't doing anything 'bad' he feels the need to hide it from me, he feels like he is being watched 24/7. This upsets me, which gives him more fuel to tell me I am the problematic one. It really worries me. It doesn't help with the trust, and it doesn't help with either of us in building confidence.

I really feel like I'm losing my mind. I don't WANT him to feel bad every day - that doesn't bring me any joy. Plus it is tiring for both of us. I also have no interest in policing him, or watching him - he is a grown man and in charge of himself. I just don't know how to talk to him. I don't know what to say, or how to say even the simplest of things any more without it spiraling out of control. I also don't like him turning it around and trying to make me feel guilty. Naturally I am upset if he is secretive, because that's what it felt like for years while he was cheating on me. But he really doesn't see it from my perspective. He is the cause of my pain, and now I am the cause of his! I feel bad for what he did to me, and I feel awful that I continue to make him feel bad.. it's too much feeling bad for one girl to handle!

Is this hypersensitivity towards me normal? Is he just being defensive/attacking because he is ashamed?

When people have deep routed fear and shame cycles, is there really ANYTHING I can say or do to make it better? I am so very very tired of 'doing it wrong'.

I know is all comes down to inner happiness and confidence, which he is lacking, but is there any way I SHOULD be talking to him? What I am doing now clearly is not working and I don't want to live like this. I want to help him feel better about himself, and I want to come to him from a place of kindness and understanding. I can't continue on a cycle of being the 'source of all pain'.
 

Unfortunately there is another thing blocking me at the moment - and is something I would be very interested in hearing opinions on from other men with SA problems - the general attitude towards women in 'acting out' behaviour.

My fiancee is a staunch feminist in his outer life. He loves women, most of his friends are women, he is very vocal about women's rights and equality - it is something I really love about him. He outwardly demonstrates 'respect' and honour, and a celebration of women. He hates men mistreating women, he has even spoken to me numerous times about an ex of mine who cheated on me and makes a point of saying 'how dare they treat you this way, that's awful - what an idiot! You are the best thing in the world'.
However, in his 'private life' behaviour for at least the last ten years, he has been absolutely awful to women in just the same way. Not only has he never been respectful, or faithful, but he has actively manipulated and deceived women over and over again. I mean, he has really been - what I consider - not in the slightest bit feminist, in fact he appears to really hate women, and uses them terribly. His treatment of women has been really truly appalling, especially while in 'relationships'- multiple affairs, compulsive lies, huge levels of deceipt and living multiple realities online and offline, plus making the women feel bad about themselves when they ask if he is cheating... Some people act like this outwardly and we just call them assh*les or misogynists. But when it is secret and covert like this, it is very confusing. Without going too deeply in to examples, it is like split personality disorder.  I cannot in any way reconcile the two sides in to the same person. I don't understand it AT ALL. That is not the man I know.

Is this something that happens with SA? Is it part of a fantasy, where you can be king of your castle, and women are awful and need to be punished? Does he actually hate women, or does he just hate himself? I know it is not directly answerable, but I am very interested in the psychology or rationale behind it, if anyone has experienced this,  because it really scares me. I am also scared of fooling myself any further. Any insights would be greatly, and humbly appreciated.

Our day to day life has been almost the opposite of his 'private life', so I don't know which part of it is real.
The strangest thing for me is that I am a 'hot'/beautiful person, smart, with a high sex drive and am tactile and affectionate. I also enjoy porn (not any more haha) and engaging sexuality. Without blowing my own trumpet, I'm quite a catch all things considered. I have always been very confident about my sexuality but the reality is sinking in that I am with someone who may NEVER consider me to be enough for him... and I don't want to experience that rejection over and over again. The feeling that my fiancee would rather hide in the bathroom and video chat masturbate with some 'super hot model' he was secretly dating, rather than make love to me  - his real life hot girlfriend waiting naked in our bed- is such a uniquely terrible feeling! I would not wish it upon anyone! I was deprived of intimacy for so long I felt incredibly bad, but couldn't put my finger on what it was, only in hindsight did I realise it was intimacy problems. I felt so rejected, and as I don't cheat, there isn't really a replacement for that kind of attention. The thought that I make my partner feel bad, instead of feeling loved and sexy, is a total nightmare! Loving yourself is the most important thing, but some external TLC is what makes us alive!

Sorry for rambling.. a lot...  I am really interested in perspective from people who have been through something similar. Does any of this behaviour, or split personality make sense?

No one I have spoken to has any experience in this at all, including therapists, so it has been really eye opening looking through forums, and through Paula's books. I didn't realise sex addiction was real until my world collapsed. It is so different from 'being cheated on', so complex, so deep.. we are all fragile little creatures haha.

I am trying exceptionally hard to be a loving and compassionate partner, but I'm a bit scared to be honest, and I feel like I'm doing a very lousy job.

Thanks for listening. XXX

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Posted

Hi Rena

Your story and feelings are very similar to mine. I don't have any answer to give you as totally in the same place. The double life and double moral standards are what I am finding very difficult. The cycle of shame, guilt, not being able to handle me being upset or asking questions. I am panicking that as stress is a trigger will the stress this is causing and causes him when I am upset will make him go and do it again?

I am just so glad it isn't just me feeling like this. (Although I would also prefer no other woman or man to feel the way I do) I too have felt like I'm going mad but am starting to realize this is normal reaction. I at a point where I think I need some kind of medical help to manage the anxiety. Which I never would have thought I would do. But I'm worried because if I tell him I'm on tablets he will be really upset, think he has caused it, be stressed and again will he relapse because of it? I've spent quite a long time over the last 6 weeks hiding my emotions but it reached a point last week (when I faced the reality he is a SA) where it has all come out. This has what feels like "pushed us back a few steps"

I really hope we can both get through this 

 

xx

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Posted

Hey Kitty, 

Really good to hear from you - as much as it can be on these topics! 

I am sorry you are going through a similar thing, but like you I find it useful to realise I am not the only person experiencing it. 

The double moral standards, as you very nicely put it, is a really big problem. I hope we can find a way through it. It certainly would be interesting to hear from any of the SAs on the forum, what their thoughts are, as from our perspective it is completely inaccessible. 

A bit like saying ' I am an extroverted introvert,'  is there also a feminist mysoginist?

I'm sorry you are having to go to medication, but I hope it helps. Certainly reducing anxiety a little should help all round. Some counselling, even short term, may help you to work out some of your feelings too.

I feel very alone with it all at the moment, and sometimes find it difficult to justify why I am staying with someone who is capable of being so cruel to me, and other women. We don't deserve it! 

I realised recently that while it has been about 9 months since everything came out in the open, there are all these new and confusing ways to feel bad about it, while my partner is angry that I am not over it already. 

The predominant thing is the complexity of trying to re establish trust with someome who appears to have a split personality, or, as I read in some of his messages to other women, thinks "I can do whatever I want". 

Love to you Kitty. I hope for both of us we can find happiness 

X

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Posted

Hi Rena

I have just read your post from 26th July.  What struck me from it was your desire to make your partner feel better.  The best thing your partner can do is to face his addiction, tackle it (through counselling, Paula's intensive course, 12 step programme etc) and in doing so develop a health relationship with himself that entails self-respect and self love.  In doing so, he will feel a whole load better.  Essentially though you can't fix him, only he can do that.

A lot of partners of addicts exhibit 'co-dependency'.  In fact there is a 12step programme for 'codependents' of addicts.  See www.coda-uk.org - they have a self-assessment questionnaire here they might be worth doing: http://www.coda-uk.org/index.php?page=am-i-co-dependent.  Might be worth finding a local group, I am sure you would find it very supportive to you in your present situation.   I personally have been very helped by a book called 'Codependency for Dummies' - might be worth looking at.

The other thing that struck me is your comment on his attitude to women.  I am not sure where to start on this but addicts split off a part of themselves.  As I understand it, it means they can act in a way that contradicts their values.  For me, I believed in monogamy very strongly but the addiction meant I was unfaithful.  As an addict, you are so consumed by your selfish 'addiction needs' that you start to use people, and your power of empathy shrivels up.  You can still come across as normal and principled but in your double life you act in the opposite way.  

I hope the above helps.  

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Posted

Firstly, Rena, I'm so sorry you have gone through this. It is so devastating.

I realise the last post on this was over a month ago, but I found this really interesting when you mentioned morality Rena, as it is one of the things I have really struggled to get a grip on with my husband's SA. He has always (so I thought) had such high moral standards, the last thing he'd want to do is hurt me, he spoke with disgust about one of my exes who cheated on me, we would hear about other people's flirtations/affairs and be shocked, he was such a 'gentleman', stuck up for me, defended me. Always said that if anyone ever hurt me he would destroy them, because he couldn't bear to see me hurt. Just had such a high moral code.

And then I found out everything (multiple forms of cheating - sexting, adult dating websites, flirting/sleeping with exes and a couple of other girls we know, sleeping with prostitutes, pornography, web cams, sex chat rooms - & meeting up/sleeping with some of the girls from there). I mean... he's done absolutely everything, he's cheated on me and betrayed me in the worst possible ways. I cannot even conceive of this man doing those things, saying those things to those girls. And I think back to how much on his high horse he was about things like my ex cheating on me... and just feel sick. It doesn't make sense.

He tells me he still has those values, that it's the man he "wants to be".. but now I know he is capable of all that other stuff, it's just incredibly, incredibly hard.

PJ, your response has helped me understand it a little bit better, I think. Thank you for writing it.

If anyone else can shed any light on the matter, I would be really interested to hear it.

 

 

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Posted

Firstly, Rena, I'm so sorry you have gone through this. It is so devastating.

I realise the last post on this was over a month ago, but I found this really interesting when you mentioned morality Rena, as it is one of the things I have really struggled to get a grip on with my husband's SA. He has always (so I thought) had such high moral standards, the last thing he'd want to do is hurt me, he spoke with disgust about one of my exes who cheated on me, we would hear about other people's flirtations/affairs and be shocked, he was such a 'gentleman', stuck up for me, defended me. Always said that if anyone ever hurt me he would destroy them, because he couldn't bear to see me hurt. Just had such a high moral code.

And then I found out everything (multiple forms of cheating - sexting, adult dating websites, flirting/sleeping with exes and a couple of other girls we know, sleeping with prostitutes, pornography, web cams, sex chat rooms - & meeting up/sleeping with some of the girls from there). I mean... he's done absolutely everything, he's cheated on me and betrayed me in the worst possible ways. I cannot even conceive of this man doing those things, saying those things to those girls. And I think back to how much on his high horse he was about things like my ex cheating on me... and just feel sick. It doesn't make sense.

He tells me he still has those values, that it's the man he "wants to be".. but now I know he is capable of all that other stuff, it's just incredibly, incredibly hard.

PJ, your response has helped me understand it a little bit better, I think. Thank you for writing it.

If anyone else can shed any light on the matter, I would be really interested to hear it.

 

 

Hi Eliza, 

I am sorry to hear you have been through this too! My heart goes out to you. I hope that you have some people around you to support you. 

PJs comment shed a little light, that's true. I am still struggling with it to be honest with you. 

I've avoided the forum for a while, as it feels like my partner's problems have consumed my whole life! It is so tiring! 

The morality thing is something we speak about a lot now. I found out that he has continued to watch porn and cruise ex girlfriends online for the last year, despite promising me over and over that he had stopped. It finally led to him saying the actual words 'I have a sex addiction problem' after nearly a year.  He tells me he wants to be a 'good person' and is trying really hard to 'be who you want me to be' ... but as always I think deep down he still wants distant lust and fantasy with his supermodel ex gfs and fetish girls online etc who he cheated on me with during our entire relationship. Intimacy scares him and he just is not capable of stopping. 

What has helped is actually reading more about codependancy. So thank you PJ. I am also reading more about self esteem. It has helped me to to establish boundaries, emotional and practical, and to talk to my partner in terms of what MY needs are. I underestimated the impact that gaslighting, manipulation and deceipt have had on my cognitive and emotional wellbeing. The book codependency for dummies is something I would recommend. Not that all of it is relevant, but parts of it certainly are helpful. I am focusing now on what I can do to make myself happier, and better. 

I would really like to hear more from other SAs to understand where this split moral personality happens, and if it is possible to reconcile the two halves. 

I don't know if I am ever going to trust my partner again, because he is literally capable of anything. 

I know it is different for everyone, and I really hope that you find some support and help that you both need Eliza. 

Love to you. 

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Posted

Hi Eliza & Rena

I feel for you both, it is crappy being a partner of someone who is addicted, and it is crappy being an addict.  Addiction is very **********

I once heard Paula say something like "Addiction is a compulsive habit that goes against your morals and principles".  There is a lot of truth in that, and it is why addicts hide what they do because they are ashamed, it is why they have such low self-esteem too.    Their deeper true selves are moral but many have this pain deep in their soul that they often don't know how to comfort accept through something that is immoral.  That doesn't excuse them of wrong doing, although many do rationalise their behaviour and excuse themselves in some way - often blaming others when they should be taking responsibility for their wrong doing.

In saying this, whilst I think your understanding (I want to say empathy but I am not sure that is quite right...) of 'us addicts' is important, I would encourage you to be morally clear and firm.  Don't lose your moral compass in the games we play, the self-deception that has to happen to allow us to compromise our own moral principles.   

Rena - so glad you are looking more to your own needs, putting in boundaries and your own well-being.  That is obviously vital for you (seriously) - and it is also important for his recovery.  We addicts can't do this on our own, we need partners who won't make allowances, who can despite our dysfunctions, function in a more healthy way.   I couldn't have done this without my wife. 

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Hi Rena and Eliza, I have struggled with the Jekyll and Hyde thing too. What I find confusing now is knowing whether the moral compass was every really there in the first place? I wonder and doubt his whole personality because of the acute ability to manage to live such a double life. Sometimes I wonder where the ability to lie really stems: is the sa a symptom of some bigger personality disorder or is the deceit really induced by the shame. Because if the standards were ever so high and genuine why would they behave in a such disrespectful way in the first place. And if they had such good grounding surely normal shame/guilt would have kicked their ass away from all that crap and as soon as they new they did the thing that violated their values they would have stopped before becoming addicted?? 

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