How do I Share my Struggle with Sexual Addiction with my Spouse?

Contributor: Paul Loosemore, MA, PCLC, and writer for Addiction Hope.

rp_Fotolia_72315277_Subscription_Monthly_XXL-300x200.jpgSharing a sexual addiction with a spouse is a disruptive event. And it can be life changing. You must be prepared to walk the tension of “tearing down the house” so that you can build a new and more satisfying one. The old house was moldy and disheveled. The new one, in time, will be cozy and fit for purpose—connection, friendship and intimacy.

If you are serious about sharing your sexual addiction you are probably experiencing some mixture of shame, discomfort or pressure. Give yourself space to read through the following information, digest it and embrace the work ahead.

Own your behaviors

The first element of the blueprint is acknowledging who has helped to make the blueprint necessary. Ask yourself this: “What did I contribute?” This is your chance to list out the behaviors you are responsible for within your addiction.

Let’s get honest; no one wants to do this part! It is hard work to look at and truly own our less appealing behaviors. Can you write a list of the behaviors you took part in, without excuses, and really own each one?

Often sexual addiction starts before marriage and fades during the “honeymoon phase” until real life hits and addiction returns as the familiar, comforting friend. As you comfort yourself, “you can work your way out of a reasonably good marriage by focusing on what you are not getting out of it.”

Ask yourself, “Am I focused on what I am not getting?” If so, you are probably justifying your behavior rather than owning it. Remember, owning your behavior doesn’t mean neglecting any legitimate hurt your spouse may have caused you. This is important because addiction, denial and pretense are the best of friends.

Rules for knocking down the old house

young man at balcony in depression suffering emotional crisisThe rules are: do it all at once, do it honestly, and do it completely. These rules are based in the reality that “Betrayal trauma shakes the foundations of our beliefs about our safety in our marriages and it dissolves our assumptions about trusting our spouses.”

A spouse will usually be deeply hurt by the disclosure of a sexual addiction, and by stringing it out you are exposing them to increased pain and insecurity.

You cannot make a disclosure “easier to hear”, or “more manageable”. There will be emotions with many possible expressions. Don’t try and avoid this—it will cost you both down the line if you do. Let your spouse know the full story the first time, with an honest account of your behaviors where no action is left unaccounted.

A position of care, not self-protection

Addiction is often a self-focused method of dealing with life and it may have caught up with you. If you are sharing just to lighten your load, or relieve the tension you are feeling, you may just be passing the burden along. Ask yourself if your motivation is purely self-focused, or if it is for the vitality of your relationship?

You can dig into your intentions with these questions: “What do I hope to accomplish with this disclosure?” “How do I think my spouse should respond?” “Am I willing for things to be difficult and different so that they improve?”

Is this disclosure ultimately about you, or growing your relationship and building intimacy back into your marriage?

Recognize the need for support through this process

You may find yourself feeling elated as the burden of secrecy falls off of your shoulders and your spouse may clench up their fists in anger, or sob for hours. The emotional tone is likely to be different for everyone.

coupleHaving trusted people outside of the relationship is a good place to process those differences. A trusted person isn’t someone who “has your back”, but someone who will speak honestly and point out where your blueprint has critical flaws.

If you demolish a house, it makes sense to have the right tools to rebuild. Counselors are trained to help you handle emotional tension and conflicting viewpoints. It is wise to seek out support before you disclose your sexual addiction and it will give your spouse a “crash pad”.

Decide what help or support you will put in place for your own addiction recovery and begin using it. Communicate your plans—the tools—to your spouse with the disclosure. A good counselor can help you discern the tools you need. As a general rule I recommend the following:

  1. Cut off access to the material or people that fuel your sexual addiction.
  2. Have regular accountability meetings set up with a counselor, sponsor or friend.
  3. Plan to meet with a counselor trained in this area to work through your behavioral patterns and underlying causes.
  4. Know where your wife can get support, but don’t force her there.
  5. Offer your spouse the opportunity to let you know what they need to feel safe with you and accommodate it. (This may take them some time to process—give them this time.)

A disclosure guide – Not to be taken lightly!

  1. Write a letter to your spouse:
    1. Spell out all the details of your addiction behaviors – but without traumatizing details (e.g. no reference to body part sizes, etc.)
    2. The consequences of your behaviors – this maybe financial or legal.
    3. Express how your heart is affected and your deep regret.
    4. This is not an excuse or defense of your behavior – you may need to explain some of your actions as questions arise.
  2. Read it to your spouse when you have plenty of time set aside and they have no pressing commitments that you may disrupt. If your spouse wants to read the letter, let them.
  3. Lay out the tools you have put in place (as above).
  4. Give space for your spouse’s emotional reactions, validate them, but don’t try to fix them.
  5. Affirm to your spouse your loving commitment daily, even when it is met by harsh or critical responses.

Remind yourself of your motivation

Man reading a bookHaving read so far, you maybe more than a little apprehensive. That is no bad thing, and I suggest you remind yourself now of why you want to knock that old, moldy house down. What is it that you desire for you and your spouse?

Finally, don’t expect this disclosure to be easy, quick or pain free. Recognize that you are taking a bold step to knock down a familiar (albeit far from perfect) house, which means you may feel “homeless” whilst you construct a much more satisfying home.

If it is true that, “Sexual intimacy is not like every other biological function. It has significant consequences at every level of our existence: neurological, psychological, social and spiritual,” then it will be worth rebuilding the house.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with sharing your sexual addiction with your spouse? What steps were taken to “rebuild your house”?

About the author: Paul is a graduate of Covenant Seminary and the University of Gloucestershire, and has an MA in Counseling. He is pursuing Certified Clinical Sex Addiction Specialist certification and is a counselor working with depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, relationship concerns, borderline personality, trauma, abuse, career concerns and more, in person and online.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 17, 2015
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