Recovery of a Sex and Porn Addict With the Help of Their Spouse

In my 20 years of dealing with sex addiction and porn addiction, I have recently realized that the chances of success are exponentially improved if the partner of the addict is included in the therapy and recovery process. This is especially true if one or both of them get into 12 step recovery. The addicts that bring in there partner seems to be recovering at a ratio of 5 to one. There are also meetings where the couple can recover together. Those addicts that bring in their partner stay sober at a rate of 5 to 1.

Some of the reasons seem to be:

  • The Partner shows great commitment to the relationship if they agree to be in conjoint therapy.
  • They are able to hold their partner more accountable than the counselor or therapist.
  • They are able to remind the addict that even though the addict is making changes, it will take a long time to regain trust.

The addict should not expect a lot acknowledgment for the first steps they take. The addict commonly says: I don’t understand why she/he is not accepting more, it has been a month.

It may be unconventional but I will treat both the addict and the partner, individually and/or together. Often each one needs a space to explore issues in more depth before they are able to bring it to the couples counseling. I often schedule a 2 hour bloc of time so that they can decide what they need for that day. Given the opportunity the couple does know how their treatment needs to proceed. I will not divulge secrets, but I make clear when I think that they have no choice but to let their partners know the full extent of the addiction. I allow this to happen in their own time. The addict is often surprised that their partner would rather know the full extent of the problems, rather than be kept in the dark. Not disclosing to the partner is one more lie. Partners have great intuition of when they are not being told the full truth.

I remember a particular case where the husband had told his wife almost everything he had done except the use of prostitutes. The wife was pregnant so he was afraid that the info would put her over the top. Though she was deeply hurt that this happened, and even warned that this would be the last straw, in the end she found some solace in finally knowing that she now knew the whole truth. The amazing end of this story is the child has a father: A dad that is totally involved in the mysterious gift of raising a child.

Can Online Porn Become an Addiction?

The new world of pornography starts with a computer. In times past, someone had to leave their home, drive to a store to purchase, rent or watch pornography. Those days ended with the Internet. Now pornography is only one click away. People, mostly men, (though 30% of porn watchers are women) can spend hours a day hiding in front of their computer screen. This behavior is a prerequisite to a diagnosis of sex addiction.

There are several behaviors that are signs of porn addiction. They include some of the following:

  • You fail to meet obligations
  • You watch pornography during work hours
  • You have recurring problems in your relationships
  • You spend lots of money that is probably allocated for basic needs
  • You hide what you do from others
  • Your sex life is less satisfying than your fantasy life

These behaviors are not limited to time online. Fantasy begins to take over one’s life. Men tend to spend much of their waking life thinking about sex. The images that one sees on the computer can be indelibly imprinted in the mind. These fantasies are available 24 hours a day.

Addiction is a way to soothe oneself, when unwanted feelings arise. Men are taught at a very young age that feelings are for women, or sissies. Real men need to be strong, crying is not allowed. When feelings of sadness, anger, or even love arise, men do not know how to react. They will want to reduce the anxiety. The internet will and provide an instant a respite from uncomfortable experiences. The problem is that once the behavior stops the feelings may return. In order to prevent this, more of the addiction is needed.

You may ask yourself: “how do I get out of this vicious cycle?”

Since pornography is done mostly in isolation, the quickest way to begin recovery is to get help from others. The first time one asks for help can be very difficult. The first call for help feels like impossibility. The shame that is involved with this addiction has no boundaries. Alcoholics no longer need to hide their problem. Sex addicts are spurned by the culture and live lonely lives hidden from everyone. The porn addict may not know that they are suffering with millions of other people. Once the first call for help is made a person’s life may change forever.