When I first thought about what addiction looked like, I definitely did not picture my husband. I pictured someone strung out, jobless, no life, unwilling to stop their behavior to spare their family the pain. Then it invaded my home. It was my husband, my son’s father, the person I pledged forever to.
My husband has been battling sexual addiction, and for the past seven years we have fought to save our marriage and this crippling disease. A disease rarely spoken about.
My Soldier is a Sex Addict…
Six years ago woman’s intuition kicked in and something deep in my gut told me to look at my husband’s phone. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw. He was cheating on me, at least what I would define as cheating. He was having what is now labeled as a “sexting” relationship: fantasy, pictures, descriptive language. It broke my heart. After confronting him, he admitted the wrongdoing and claimed nothing physical ever happened. I didn’t want to end my marriage; we tried to work it out. Until the next time it happened again, then the time after that, and even the time after that. It seemed like a cycle that I just kept falling into and couldn’t get out of.
He had spent tens of thousands of dollars on pornography, had countless relationships and every time an incident happened, it became more serious than the last one. Then one day I found him in a relationship where he claimed how much he loved her, how he wanted to make her happy, how he wanted to be with her and live happily-ever after.
That did it for me. I said get help or it’s over!
Reading this you’re probably thinking “How can she be so stupid? Why didn’t she walk away?” You’re probably right. So many times I thought I should leave, too many in fact. But by this last time, we had a son together and most of the time we were happy. These relationships were strangers, no physical contact and no sex. How could I divorce him when he didn’t physically cheat on me? Shortly after, he deployed and for the longest time we didn’t speak, until one day when he contacted me with a plea, something I haven’t heard before: “I need help.” I’ve heard the “I’m sorry” and I’ve seen the tears, but never has he admitted that this is a real problem. So now we are facing a long road of treatment, recovery, and the tough decision of whether to stay together or not.
Now onto another problem. We recently have come out and told some of our friends, family, and even our military community. So I am addressing the stigma that surrounds this because I have heard just about everything: “You don’t give him enough sex,” “He can choose not to do it,” “It’s just porn, it’s a guy thing,” “No one’s getting hurt, why care?”
So, let’s get started…
You don’t give him enough sex: This is not about sex. This is an impulse that is about the attention they get; a feeling of being wanted and the excitement that they get from it. One example occurred after we had sex, he had messaged one of the girl’s he was talking to. It isn’t about a sexual response or about gratification. My husband describes it “like any other addiction, it is very much about a state of feeling. Drugs cause the brain and the body to feel a certain way and to get these ‘highs’. The same is true for sexual addictions.”
He can choose not to do it: This one I still struggle with myself, but the truth is that it is just like any other drug, any other addiction. It is an urge to get that chemical release of excitement in the brain. No one questions if an addicted gambler is really addicted. Yes, the gambler can avoid walking into that casino; yes they have a choice, but it’s still an addiction that they have to fight every day. Until they get the tools to do so, they are subject to the disease.
It’s just porn, it’s a guy thing: This one blows my mind. Sure, it’s a single guy thing. If you ask any wife out there if she minds that her husband looks at porn and she says no, she is a liar. How could you be okay with your husband looking at another woman and thinking about her to get off? The answer is you can’t and anyone that wants to throw that up to “a guy thing” couldn’t possibly understand that because chances are, they aren’t married.
He isn’t hurting anyone, why care?: I heard this one, and thought, SERIOUSLY?! I could almost live with him just looking at images, but imagine opening your husband’s phone to see him tell another woman he loves her. It’s gut wrenching, a feeling I can’t possibly compare to any type of pain I am familiar with. For people to excuse this behavior, to try and explain it away, is absolutely horrible.
When I told my husband I was writing this article, I asked if he had anything to include. This is what he said, “Sexual addiction takes many forms: infidelity, pornography, adultery, lustful conversations, use your imagination. The outcomes are the same; they affect our minds, our bodies, and our relationships. I struggle with sexual addiction and have for years. The damage that it has caused my marriage, the pain I have caused my wife and other close family cannot be measured. In the military culture, these things are widely accepted and, in many cases, praised among peers. The truth is, this cannot continue, we must make an attempt to change the status quo.”
This is hard. Hard to admit, hard to put my family and marriage in the court of public opinion, but I am hoping to raise awareness for sexual addiction in the military, to fight the stigmas and to help people realize that this behavior is not okay. You are hurting the people who love you. This fight is personal to me and I don’t want to be a victim of this illness anymore. The fight starts today, here.