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I am married to a sex addict.
I suffer from betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Sex addiction has been present in both my husband’s and my family for generations, but that is their story. This is about me, but their stories affect mine. Without betraying their right to choose to share their own stories I will simply say that the addiction in my family affected me in many ways. I entered adulthood with a very unhealthy habit of stuffing my emotions. I felt like my value was measured in how pleasurable the opposite sex found me. I made some pretty big mistakes including getting pregnant out of wedlock resulting in a very loveless marriage to an emotionally unavailable addict which ended in divorce 4 years later. It also resulted in a second marriage to an addict.
Today I have finally reached a point where I have been able to see the beauty in this trial. I feel like I have climbed a mountain to see a magnificent vista extending in front of me, complete with more mountains to climb. Even though I am absolutely terrified of the fallout from this post I am sharing my story because I want to share hope. I want you beautiful women who have been affected by a loved ones addiction to know that you are not alone. Did you know that 64% of Christian men (percentage rises to 77% for ages 18-30) said that they view pornography at least once a month. In the 18-30 crowd 36% say they view daily! Whether you or they believe this is a full-blown addiction or just a habit they don’t care to break the effects for you can be damaging. This is a problem that affects every woman in some way. Whether it’s a parent, a sibling, a spouse, or an extended family member the effects are lifelong and can damage your physical, emotional, and spiritual health in deep and drastic ways. Did you know that 68% of divorce cases involved one partner meeting a new love interest over the internet and 56% cite one partner having an obsessive interest in pornographic material? In addition 70% of wives of sex addicts can be diagnosed with PTSD.
My Betrayal Trauma Story
But enough about the stats. This story begins shortly after my second wedding. It was the first time my new husband and I had a reason to argue. When Cameron began to feel angry it was like a switch flipped and he turned into Mr. Hyde. I was in shock. where was the kind loving, patient man I had married. Who was this monster that was screaming in my face and saying hurtful things? In the beginning I would fight back. I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy. After a while though I kinda lost my fight. I would walk on eggshells always trying to please him so he wouldn’t explode. When he did I would try to walk away, talk calmly, not talk at all, etc. It never worked. He knew how to push my buttons and inevitably I would cave and start fighting with him. At this time we were both US Marines. The culture there was very harsh. You can read more about that here. The short story is emotions weren’t acceptable except anger. Lots of people yelled and were verbally abusive. That’s just the military for you.
Because of his temper I lost custody of my son from marriage #1 due to a restraining order my ex got between Cameron and my son. During the proceedings my ex said something like “I don’t understand why she is willing to lose her son for him”. I remember the judge saying “it’s common for an abused wife to stand by her husband.” What?! I wasn’t an abused wife. We had our issues, but abuse. I couldn’t see that even though he wasn’t physically hurting me what my husband was doing was clearly abuse.
At this time Cameron began anger management counseling. It helped tone things down a bit. He would still get angry and abusive, but not to the same level. Things were so much better that I couldn’t see just how bad they still were. Fast forward a few years and we had moved to Georgia, where cameron grew up. I was very isolated. I didn’t have any real friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my intense denial of the reality of my situation kept me from being able to bond with others. I didn’t trust anyone to be there for me. In April of 2012 I drove to Utah to spend time with my oldest son. Shortly before I had left my husband had stayed out all night “playing video games with friends from work” and we had gotten in a HUGE fight about it. A few days after I arrived in Utah Cameron confessed to me that when he told me he was playing video games he had really been in another woman’s bed. I was devastated. I was embarrassed. I felt so much anger, sadness, and shame that I couldn’t handle it. I locked it all down tight inside and assured him that as long as he was willing to work on it we could get through this. How could I let another marriage fail? We spoke to our bishop and Cameron was disfellowshipped (no privileges at church, but still remains a baptized member). The bishop said to me “you know you basically gave him permission to do this when you said it was ok for him to go play pool with this girl right?” You see Cameron had asked if I thought it was to play pool with a female friend for a few hours after work, and emotionally stuffing Emily was afraid to say no. I definitely didn’t give him permission to sleep with her! My bishop then told me I now knew there was a problem so it was my responsibility to keep him on a short leash and make sure he didn’t screw up again. There was no understanding or sympathy for me as a victim. I was the cause and the solution. I couldn’t be weak. I had to fix him. So I set to work.
We began marriage counseling with an AMAZING therapist. Unfortunately marriage counseling for us was really Cameron counseling with me in the room. He monopolized every conversation and I barely got a word in edgewise. He had so many issues to deal with from his childhood abuse that we rarely even discussed any marriage issues. After a few months he decided he’d worked through enough of his crap, and we were doing great, so we didn’t need any more counseling. I didn’t agree. Of course we were doing great because I never talked about anything that was bothering me! I wasn’t brave enough to say so, however, and our counseling ended.
Skip another few years in which the fighting never really stopped, we moved to Vegas to be closer to my son, the restraining order ended and my son moved back in with us, and moved back to GA with that son after Cameron went through three different jobs in 2.4 years. In November of 2014 My son was removed from our home because he was deemed a danger to the other kids (that’s his story, as for being a part of my story just know that I was in trauma). Then in February of 2015 Cameron told me that the Stake President wanted to meet with us. A few months prior Cameron had lost his temple recommend because he had been drinking alcohol. That ruled out a stake level assignment for him so I wondered what calling they wanted me to do. It didn’t feel right, however, because why would they talk to him for an appointment instead of me. The day of our appointment we had a sick child, so the Stake President and Bishop came to our house. I was a huge ball of anxiety not knowing what was happening. Cameron and I sat on the couch with these two men across from us and Cameron grabbed my hand, said “I love you”, and then confessed to me that he had had a second physical affair. I was in shock. I remember pulling my hand away from him and saying “don’t you touch me and don’t you dare say I love you to me ever again”. The next few days are a blur because I was in total shock and major survival mode.
The reaction from my priesthood leaders this time was completely different. The bishop looked me in the eye and said “The church doesn’t ever encourage divorce, but if you choose to leave I want you to know you are not alone. I will make sure that you and your children have everything you need.” He then asked me to give him 90 days to work with my husband before I made any decisions. He also told me that I didn’t need to work on the marriage AT ALL! He gave me permission to just focus on myself and my needs. For the first time in my life Cameron had someone talk to him very bluntly about addiction and what was required if he wanted recovery. He was set up with a sponsor who worked with him daily to get through a 12 step program in those 90 days. He began attending Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meetings on a weekly basis. After he had worked the 12 steps and we were doing a bit better we once again started marriage counseling. This time, however, he was also doing EMDR therapy individually and our couples sessions were really about us, not just him.
Things were going pretty well for a while. We had our bumps of course including slips, relapses, and even an attempted phone call to his former affair. Somehow we kept moving forward one foot after the other. In April of 2018 we had “The Great Debacle”. We had joined a Marco Polo group for couples. The men and women, TOGETHER, talking about recovery. We have the couples group, a men group, and a women group. It has been life changing. In the first few days of starting up this group we were asked to discuss the definitions of specific terms such as addiction, slip, relapse, sobriety, etc. As these discussion started I began to be really triggered. You see in the few weeks prior to this, Cameron and I had dealt with a LOT of arguing over the definition of sobriety. It had come to light that while he was following the first two lines of the SA definition “having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse” he was still drinking in lust on a daily basis. He was still acting out with fantasy, flirting, checking women out, and even using me for sex. In the course of this arguing I once again told him I felt he needed to reset his sobriety date to the day he called his affair partner because that was deliberate acting out in addiction. He didn’t agree. Things blew up. It got to the point that he said some statements to the men’s group that many felt were threatening my safety. They let me know what he had said and this led to Cameron spiraling into anger, defensiveness, depression, etc. It was a very dark few days. I refused to talk to him. For the first time in our marriage I was empowered to set boundaries that kept myself emotionally and physically safe. I was empowered to not let his drama suck me in. I instituted a sex fast (lasted ~45 days) and a separation. I gave myself permission to really just focus on me and my needs and stop trying to manage his addiction. As I set and maintained boundaries Cameron truly hit rock bottom and was finally willing to give up any and all lust.
The last 3.5 years have been rough, no doubt about it. There have been times I wanted to quit. There have been times when neither of us believed he could do it. I have still struggled with being isolated, stuffing emotion, anxiety, and depression. I have also realized just how strong I am. I have learned to be vulnerable. I have created connections with an amazing group of women who understand me and what I’m going through. I have learned more about my Savior and his love for me. I have gained an emotional health I didn’t even know existed. I have learned about boundaries. I have regained a deep joy and satisfaction that had been missing. I have gained the ability to speak my truth. I’ve been able to help others and validate their pain. I have gained a deeper testimony of the Atonement of Christ and the power it has to heal EVERY wound. I have been able to embrace my artistic side and find healing through art journaling. Best of all I have been able to create a strong authentic connection to my husband that has began to feed my strength rather than constantly sapping it away.
I know that we will be battling this addiction for the rest of our lives. I also know that if we both are willing to do the hard work that healing can come. Whether it is in this life or the next we can be 100% healed from the addiction and trauma of our mortal existence. In the end, I know we can be victorious.
There is hope. There is healing. Yes, even for you. Check out “The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide” for my favorite resources on understanding and healing from betrayal trauma. Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook to discuss this and other topics that help us grow together into strong, authentic, and vulnerable women, wives, and mothers.