So typically i prefer TABOO TOPIC posts to have a face and a name to help make the issues being discussed more ‘real person’ to other people going through them. But i am going to make an exception in this case as it is a friend who i know sharing the story and the nature of the story is needing some protection from family and friends… but i hope this will be an encouragement and help to all of you who might be struggling with this or knows someone who is. i’m sure the sharing of it was not made all that much easier by doing so, and so i am very grateful:

‘I said “I DO, forever”, to a sex and porn addict.

My husband is one of the kindest, patient, most loyal, always ready for fun and a laugh people I know.

My husband is also a sex addict. A porn addict. In recovery.

What does this mean? It means that he has had a compulsion towards sex and pornography like an alcoholic does to alcohol.  It means that in his past certain sexual acts drew him into actions and behaviours involving pornography or sex workers.  It meant that he couldn’t get through a day without watching pornography & needing to masturbate to a fantasy.

This is a man who loves Jesus, loves people and wants to practically see the world shift into a place where people live knowing that they are valued.  There is not a lot of tolerance for sitting around and having intellectual conversations in this if there is no practical application of what it all means.  This attracted me to him – no matter which circles we were in before the butterflies began, this guy really wanted people to know that they matter and made sure that they were included and practically looked after.  It appealed to me a lot.   I am glad he chose me to ask the ‘Do you want to do life together forever?’ question.

Before he asked me this though, there was a whole lot of disclosing that happened.  My skeletons from the past, his journey in the present.  A journey which is still a part of our present.

He spoke about ‘men’s groups’ and going on retreats with a vagueness initially that made me wonder, then ask and then realise that as much as he was lovely, I wasn’t sure about marrying an addict.  Addicts who hide things, who emotionally withdraw, who blame shift to justify their addiction.

An addiction which speaks to the intimate, fun, make-up after fights, tender, playful part of a marriage.  An addiction which had nothing to do with me and yet offended me when it reared its’ head as it felt personal.  It felt as if somehow I was to be responsible for relapses or acting out, or pushing boundaries. What if I upset him or he felt rejected by me and acted out (watched porn or withdrew into a world of fantasy and masturbation which had nothing to do with us)?

His recovery has meant disclosing to me, before we got engaged, aspects of his past which meant that his shame and nervousness at the thought paralysed him. Some of these disclosures hadn’t been a part of his world for a number of years.  Some of them were still a daily wrestle when he told me.

It made me realise that he is in active recovery. There isn’t a vague ‘I am dealing with this stuff with my prayer partners’ – There was and is an active, intentional process in place.

It made me realise that this isn’t just about him if we want our relationship to flourish.  It has to do with me too.  It has to do with me being willing to be vulnerable.  It has to do with me being willing to look at the parts of me that aren’t so healthy.  Not so that he doesn’t relapse – but so that I am not asking him to change in ways that I am not willing to.

Sex addiction is often understood as an intimacy disorder – it’s where intimacy between two people is not fostered, or grown or seen as the purpose of being with another.  It’s where intimacy could help heal and deal and celebrate life, but instead an impersonal encounter is put in its place as a substitute.

Intimacy & grace instead of shame & judgement (self-perceived or other) really is the space we have had to learn to live in.  And keep learning.

There have been relapses – porn is everywhere.  There have also been a changed understanding of what constitutes a relapse as his recovery process has happened.  It was hard initially knowing that his fantasy world included images of women who weren’t me; that his way of coping with stress at work or with us was to escape into a fantasy world of sexual partners who had nothing to do with the realness of our day to day life.  It was hard to gulp back tears and say – have you spoken to your sponsor?  Have you checked in with the guys who pray and support you on this?  It was a good lesson to learn that not everything is about me, or hinged on me.

We do fight. We do have amazing weeks where I can’t remember the hard, tough, annoying ones and then we have hours, days, sometimes a week where our intimacy is challenged  BUT not because he is acting out, but because life has happened – and he & I are still working out how we help love each other in that space without pushing into each other’s fragile sensitive spots.

Practically, it means that when he goes away on guys’ weekends, to bachelor’s or work functions with men who have no issue with strip clubs and so on, that a part of me holds my breath until I know that he is okay again.  Not because I think that his intent is bad.  Because I know that temptation is hard for all of us.

Practically it means that there is only internet access in our home space when I am awake.

Practically it means that an external person (his sponsor) will be alerted if he attempts to access porn on the internet on any of our home laptops.  We have chosen to do things this way so that I am not the policeperson having to call him out – but rather it allows for him to come back into a space of ‘US’ with a supportive structure around him.

Practically it means that we cut budgets, evenings and outings short to ensure that the recovery work can happen – individually and in groups.

It’s a part of our rhythm.  It’s our normal now.

I wish that there was a way to wear this badge, of being clean, with an open heart and revealed face `like one would do with alcohol or drugs, so that we could publicly affirm the fact that my husband has also wrestled issues of shame, a lack of understanding of intimacy (not just the sexual kind) and had to manage on a day to day, sometimes hour to hour, the temptation of porn and available sex – for it is available, whether through one night stands or sex for sale.

I wish that he didn’t walk down that road to begin with – simply as it has drenched one of the kindest, gentlest, most caring men I know in shame and a sense of not always being worth of being loved for himself.

I wish that I could see you face to face as I share this – simply because there are far more people like me than we know.

[For my own story of Porn Addiction and a few others from people who have bravely shared theirs, click here]

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