Alone

My husband left on Friday to attend an intensive workshop at the Hoffman Institute.  I can’t speak with him while he is there but I am certainly hoping the process is as life changing as it can be for him.

It’s strange to be alone.  Over the past months, we have become so close and intimate through facing his relapse and my learning, finally, about the addiction.  Other than a few minor bumps in the road (mostly due to my overactive “anon” mind and control issues) the past 6 months have been some of the best we have shared.  We both did things this autumn that we never believed we would have the strength to do – especially formally disclosing our wrongdoings to each other.  But by each of us staying and supporting one another rather than getting angry and punishing – we have both been loved for who we really are – in a way we never believed we would be loved.

While my husband is out of town and unreachable at Hoffman, I am back home going thru some medical tests which all have the potential for horrible results.  I feared that the stress around my health would cause me to want to act out in old unhealthy ways.  But I have no desire or urge to do that at all.  I haven’t even wanted to contact my “ex” for support.  For the first time I can recall since my husbands indiscretions started, I am alone but don’t feel lonely.  I feel strong and hopeful and am proud of my actions.  What a nice Christmas gift to myself.

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Hypersexual Behavior Disorder

It was a pretty big deal in the sex addiction community that “Hypersexual Behavior Disorder” wasn’t included in the 5th edition of the DSM – V (Diagnostic Statistical Manuel for Psychiatric Disorders).  As the spouse of an addict, I agree that this addiction should be recognized and treated with the same attention as other process addictions – Food, Gambling, Debting, etc.  The DSM is revised every so often, and is making steady but extremely slow progress in the area of addiction.  For instance, Gambling Addiction was classified in the DSM-IV under the section called “Impulse Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified”.  This is the same category as things such as pyromania.  It has been ‘upgraded’ to “Gambling Disorder” in the DSM-V which is great news for those affected by and treating this disorder.  But Sex addiction is still left out.

As much as I would like to see it included in the sixth addition – I have to say that I take issue with calling it Hypersexual Behavior Disorder.  I am not a psychiatrist, but in my opinion it’s the “hypersexual” part that is not accurate or inclusive enough to be the official name of the addiction.  Hypersexuality is certainly one extreme of the problem – just like bulimia is one side of eating disorders.  But there is another side to sex addiction – it is the equivalent of anorexia.

I have been highly sexual my entire teen and adult life.  I’ve had countless sexual partners and when I was in monogamous relationships I had sex, on average, at least once a day, sometimes a dozen.  The surprise isn’t that my own sexuality led me to a relationship with a sex addict but that my husband, the ‘sex addict’, barely has any sex at all.  Am I a sex addict?  Unlikely.  Is my husband a sex addict?  Absolutely.  So the one in the relationship who acts in a hypersexual fashion isn’t an addict – but the one who goes months on end without sex, masturbation, sometimes even an erection is one?  Very confusing to the onlooker.

When I was first dating my husband, we had sex at most 2 times a week.   By the time we got married (6 months later) we were down to a few times a month.  And when we went to Hawaii for our honeymoon – with much prodding I convinced him to make love with me just once, on our last night there.

It seemed like a cruel joke that the girl who grew up as the town/high school/fraternity ‘nympho’ ended up in a sexless marriage.  I constantly craved sex with my husband, but no matter what I did I could rarely interest him.   I eventually told him that if we didn’t start fucking that I would need to take a lover – he promised to start paying more attention to me sexually and blamed his lack of interest on age, antidepressants and stress.  It was a few weeks later that I found out about his cheating and everything changed.

In the 7 years that he was cheating on me, he attempted to have an orgasm about 2 dozen times and achieved orgasm 15 times, give or take.  This includes sex partners, erotic massage parlors, masturbation – ALL OF IT!!!  This certainly doesn’t sound like someone who is hypersexual.

Sex Addiction isn’t about the sex, and most certainly isn’t about the orgasm.  My husband is a prime example.  It makes it harder for me to tell people that my husband is a sex addict because I think the image that goes through their minds is of him having sex and masturbating all day, every day.  It’s just not so.  He has such intimacy issues that he can’t go there and his shame makes him a sexual anorexic.  It would be helpful to have the DSM reconsider the addiction for the 6th edition and to include a broader definition of the disorder.  Maybe “sexual behavior disorder” would be more accurate.  But with or without the medical validation of the DSM, anyone with an addicted family member knows it to be a very true, and very lonely problem.

Sex Addiction in the movies: Don Jon

Anyone who has been to the theatre lately has likely noticed that sex addiction is the new hot topic for filmmakers.  Considering the increasing prevalence of this addiction in our society due in no small part to internet porn addiction, it’s a natural subject to be considered on the big screen.

Last year I saw “Shame” – a brilliant, uncomfortable, spot on psychological drama by the genius director Steve McQueen.  Shame was so well done, that my words could never do it justice.  Michael Fassbender’s performance is filled with pain, anger, sadness, fear…and of course, shame.  It is the cold, hard truth about the loneliest of addictions.  Just like McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave” it is a masterpiece.

Cut to this years stereotypical, unoriginal, sexist and repetitive “Don Jon”.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is better than this movie.  As is Scarlett Johansson.  Essentially, Joseph plays a sex and porn addict – as a viewer you know he is an addict because there are dozens of identical scenes depicting his addict behavior (this is the repetitive part).  The stereotypes come in the New Jersey box of bad accents, pushy mothers, guido clothes and Catholics  – they should have cast The Situation, he would have been more convincing.   I am all for comedy, even about painful subjects like addiction, but unfortunately there was nothing funny in this film – especially the sexism.  To say that fantasy trumps reality for sex addicts isn’t a surprise – we get that part.  But Don Jon puts the blame for his addiction not on himself or his obvious intimacy disorder, but instead it’s put upon on the women who don’t measure up to the porn standard in the bedroom.  If his real life girlfriends could just be freaky enough in the bedroom he would surely be cured.  Enter Julianne Moore…she is older, damaged and when she sleeps with him his entire world changes.  If only it were that easy.

Find one reason to love him today

It’s so easy to get focused on the negative while trying to cope with infidelity or to heal a broken marriage.  But when you only focus on the negative things, then all you will see are those negatives.  That isn’t a good way to get out of this rut.

For today, maybe you can instead focus on the things – even just one thing – that you still love about him.  Visualize it if you can.  Don’t let yourself think about anything else.  When the negative thoughts start trying to creep in again, force yourself to go back to that one good thing and think about it…really think about it…until it makes you smile.  

Letting yourself feel a little piece of love and happiness again isn’t the same as ignoring the areas that need improvement or allowing him to be “bad”.  It’s just giving yourself a well deserved rest from the anger and the hate.   

Someone once told me is you “act as if…” you can start loving again.  Maybe it’s worth a shot.

Metamorphosis

When this all began 6 years ago, I met some wives of other sex addicts.  In the few short times I met them, I concluded that these women lived, breathed and slept “program”.   They could spout off a 12 step saying for every situation, they attended as many meetings as their addict husbands and from my misguided perspective they were being duped into having every waking moment of their lives revolve around an addiction that wasn’t theirs.  I swore up and down that I would never be like one of them.  Needless to say, I was wrong about them and, as you can see from many of my past posts, I have indeed started to transform into one of those women.

If my husband had any other disease in the world – diabetes, heart disease, scoliosis, MS, even a drug addiction – I would do everything in my power to learn about the disease in order to be able to support and help him.  Why did I think that sex addiction was any different?  It’s not.

I clearly see that this change in me is a very good thing, but dare I say at times I feel a little “uncool” about it.   In the past, I always thought of myself as an independent, adventurous, resilient, strong, edgy, confident & cool chick.   If you had told me 5 years ago that I would use words like “higher power” or that I would actively encourage empathy and forgiveness on a public blog I would have said you are crazy.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but I looked down on these traits as some sort of pacifier or crutch and thought that if I practiced these things that I would become weak, dependent, predictable and, of course, completely uncool.  The contrary is true.  All of my growth and self examination and faith have started turning me into a truly strong person who is more resilient than ever and this in turn is helping me become a good & honest wife.  I see in hindsight that I wasn’t any of these things before.  It was all just a story I told myself.  I had an unreal image of myself that wasn’t allowing myself to see anything beyond my own fantasy.

Like anything else, this revelation is a process.  On the one hand, I still think I am edgy and cool and I celebrate the things about me that set me apart  and make me feel unique and special.  On the other hand, I have opened my mind to ideas I wouldn’t previously consider and have slowly become a part of groups that I would have turned away from before.  It may take a while for me to be able to bridge the concepts of these two different people and make myself feel comfortable with their co-existence, but like anything else on this journey, that’s OK….as the program says “you can’t know what you don’t know”!