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Lust and Pornography

CowardlyLion posted 12/6/2019 20:13 PM

I'm a recovering sex addict and I want to do serious work at repairing my relationship with my wife. Through a long series of events, she ended up moving halfway across the country in order to be with me. After that point, I became more and more selfish all while thinking she was the only thing in the world I could ever love. But you do not treat things you love the way I treated her. First, I made her feel ugly. I didn't follow through with self-esteem exercises that were advised to me on multiple occasions (even by my wife herself) and tried to find any shortcut to let her "know" that I found her beautiful. One of the things I did was show her my old dating profile, where she could see all of the women I had clicked "like". I assured her there were women on there who looked just like her. I didn't bother to check because I was so sure of myself, I couldn't be wrong. Only 1 in about 600 women were black, like my wife. That cut her to the core. In an attempt to convince her I wasn't racist or shallow, I decided to show her my pornography collection. Those were two of the stupidest things I ever did in my entire life. On one hand, she found exactly the person I was. But on the other, she was here, halfway across the country, living with the man she thought loved her as much as she loved him. The gaslighting and betrayal started there. She wound up in the hospital after I continued to stress her to the worst point she's even been before. And then she discovered pictures in a secret email account that I kept my pornography in. These were photographs I had taken in real life, of people I knew. One set in particular had been taken while we were together. These pictures were all taken without the other person's knowledge. They were of people at my place of work.

This all happened about 2 years ago. After a month or so of complete hell for my wife, I ended up leaving the job. I didn't have a physical or emotional affair with anyone, but this was just as painful for her. It was still me lusting after other people in real life. Not just pornography. I am in a program and therapy. I have stopped using pornography. I have no more secret accounts. I do not take photos of people anymore. I have told multiple counselors and groups about all of this. I have been working through my sex and lust obsession, along with my voyeurism. In my recovery, I am thriving. I have bad moments, I've had relapses, and I go into addict behavior. But I know I can live a manageable life if I continue to work my 12-Step program.

The problem is that my relationship has not been repaired. I continue to lose trust. I don't remain consistent nor do I act like the man my wife needs me to be. Because of this, we are not in reconciliation. My wife has had to push me every step of the way. She even told me about this website, almost a year ago. She has been on here almost every day for the last year or so. She even had to prompt me to write a post on here.

I'm tired of being this type of man. I want to live with my wife in a new relationship that we build together. I want to be the man she deserves. She is such an amazing woman. I ruined so much of her life.

I figured I'd open up a discussion. I know a lot of the infidelity on here deals with physical or emotional affairs. I suppose mine was a one-sided affair, where the other people weren't even aware they were a part of. I also know that I have a history of not taking the advice that is given to me. But I'd still like to hear from others. I want to bring something new to my wife that she hasn't had to prompt me for. I want her to feel loved and cared for. I know I'm the only one who can make that change. But I'm hoping there will be others here who understand.

DaddyDom posted 12/6/2019 20:55 PM

Welcome to SI CowardlyLion,

I'm glad you took this step, and that you are so open and honest about what you've done and why. I have to admit that your story is a little new to me, as it is indeed a little "one sided", however that makes it no less painful for your spouse. I'll be honest as well, it is/was also not fair to the people who you photographing without their knowledge. This does seem like SA behavior to me, and so I'm glad you are seeing a therapist and getting help.

One resource I always recommend to new people is the book, "How to help your spouse heal from your affair" which you can find for sale online, or there is even a free PDF version if you look for it. Is a quick read, just 2-3 hours for most people, and it is considered "the bible of what your spouse needs" from you right now.

Another great, free resource is the Healing Library, which you can find a link to in the top left of this website. Take some time to read both the wayward and betrayed sections, in order to help you understand yourself and your spouse better.

I have a question for you...

What is it that you feel you a really looking for, or getting from, your sex addiction? What need does it fulfill in you? When you don't have access to things like porn and photos of others, how does it make you feel inside?

The reason I ask these things (and the answers are really for you, not me) is to try and start to understand what it is that is driving you to act out this way. A lot of waywards, once they start to dig deep, discover that they really just need attention, or power, or feel so badly about themselves that they can't face others, and so on. Understanding what drives this is what will help you to start conquering it.

In the meantime, make some decisions about who you want to be. Who do you admire? Are you honest or a liar? Are you caring or selfish? Decide who you want to be, and then take steps to BE that person.

CowardlyLion posted 12/6/2019 21:40 PM

Thank you for responding DaddyDom. Interestingly enough, that was once my title in this relationship.

It definitely was horrible what I did to the people I took pictures of. I'm still trying to think about what I'm going to do for my amends when I get there. But hopefully my sponsor should be able to help me with that.

The sex addiction definitely fulfilled a lot of different problems I had. I always felt inadequate. I had been the victim of an affair previous to this relationship, which definitely escalated (though it didn't cause) my excessive pornography use. On top of that, there is a bit of childhood trauma linked to it all.

I'm very thankful for the suggestions of the different readings. I need to be doing more active work in this relationship and I'd rather find things that my wife doesn't have to point me to in order for her to feel safe, for her sake and my own.

There is definitely a lot to the person that I'd like to be. I have been a liar for most of my life, a "chameleon" is a term I once called myself with pride. I was proud to be able to manipulate others so easily. Now, all I want is to be a good, honest, hardworking man. I don't want to live a life that is outside of my control. I don't want to be special, but I want to be everything to my family. I know that someone doesn't have to be extraordinary to be important or cared for. I definitely have a lot of work to do on myself, even after all this time in recovery. I know it will be something I battle for the rest of my life. I just look forward to the day where my wife can just feel safe and secure. I know she won't ever be able to blindly trust me again, but I want to build a life of security for her.

secondtime posted 12/6/2019 21:49 PM

Has your wife posted on the "I can Relate" Thread?
My husband is a recovering SA, porn and masturbation is his MO. The I Can relate thread has been very helpful for me when I've needed it.

How long have you been consistently sober in the past two years, and what's your most recent stretch.

The 12 step tradition suggests that no relationship decisions are made for the first year of sobriety.

I wonder if you are really along in your recovery enough to focus on your marriage? If you are relapsing often, you should be focusing on your sobriety, not your wife or the marriage. That's the 1-2 gut punch of addiction. Addicts, whether active or in recovery, need to be selfish..

We actually found that we didn't need to do any joint work after DDay1. Simply cleaning up both our sides of the street was enough.

If you want to do something, make sure your wife is working on her recovery. Make sure she is putting herself first and doing the work to heal herself. Make sure she has time for her hobbies and gets a mental break from all of this.

[This message edited by secondtime at 9:50 PM, December 6th (Friday)]

HeHadADoubleLife posted 12/7/2019 00:14 AM

My ex husband is a sex addict. He was never as far along as you though, as he would not actually admit to it. However given the long list of behaviors, I know this to be true, and I have sought help for my recovery accordingly. I did end up catching him in bed with another woman, which is how our relationship ended. However his personal MO throughout our relationship was not physical affairs, it was compulsive masturbation and porn use, especially masturbation with the theft and use of my underwear, so I think I can speak to this a bit.

The fact that you are even willing to admit that your use of pornography is infidelity is a big step in the right direction. I truly hope that you believe that, and you are not just here to placate your wife. I applaud your honesty regarding the behaviors you engaged in. I imagine that brutal honesty is a byproduct of your 12 step work. It is good to hear that you are working the steps, but along with secondtime, I would like to hear how long it has been since your last relapse, and how long your longest stretch of sobriety has been.

Please, please, please start listening to the podcast, Helping Couples Heal. It is produced by 2 CSATs, 1 male and 1 female, who go into all of the facets of betrayal trauma and sex addiction. Start from the beginning, as it does progress forward. If I were you, I would listen to all of the podcast episodes they have available, all the way through. Take notes.

Something they speak about which will be highly useful to you is their use of the partner trauma model rather than the codependency model. It is essentially the acknowledgment of the partner (your wife) and the trauma they have endured, right from the get go, rather than pathologizing her behavior as codependent.

Also, as sex addiction is a shame-based affliction, please look into toxic shame. Devour any and all resources you can find on that particular topic. I think you will find quite a lot about that topic is relevant to you. Same with intimacy avoidance.

If you want to do something, make sure your wife is working on her recovery. Make sure she is putting herself first and doing the work to heal herself. Make sure she has time for her hobbies and gets a mental break from all of this.
If you want to do something for her, I would suggest sharing the podcast with her. And as secondtime wrote above, taking on some responsibilities for her so that she can have a much needed break.

Are both of you seeing your own individual counselors (ICs)? If not, this should be next on the list.

FoenixRising posted 12/7/2019 13:50 PM

Never say never. I didnt think Id ever be able to trust my H again. Not ever. I now trust him more than anyone else in the entire world. I feel so much more connected to him than I ever have before. Weve been through hell and back together. Hes my most favorite human on this planet and Id choose him over and over again if I had the chance for a mulligan. I think hed say the same.

secondtime posted 12/7/2019 15:07 PM

I think, trust depends.

In OPs favor, they haven't been married that long.

I tried trusting DH after DDay1. I did rationalize we could still have more years in our marriage where he was honest vs. when he lied. We'd only been married 5 years at that point, together for 10.

When DDay2 hit, I discovered out of our 20 year relationship, he'd be lying to me for 17 of them.

Sure, now it's been 23 years that we've been together and he's only lied to me for 17 of them.

The math is too complicated now, but I really think the best I can do in my marriage is have my husband being truthful to me for as many years as he's lied to me. I'll be in my 60s when he's been as honest with me as many years as he's lied to me.

And that's assuming no more lies for the next 17 years.

Now, my husband has been lying to himself for 21 out of 23 years of our relationship with regards to his addiction.

So, maybe I did get better end of the deal?

[This message edited by secondtime at 3:11 PM, December 7th (Saturday)]

CowardlyLion posted 12/8/2019 06:30 AM

Thank you so much everyone for you replies. I can't express how grateful I am for the things you've said.

The longest I've been sober has been a little over a year. I had a relapse that I discussed with my wife and then my sponsor after I was reading a thread on another site in which the topic was sexual. That in and of itself wasn't bad, but I became too focused on the subject to the point that I visibly made my wife uncomfortable.

After that I had one instance where I masturbated without prior discussion with my wife. She was 'okay' with it but I still recognized it as problematic, so I reset my sobriety date.

The most recent relapse occurred about a month ago. My wife had been pain shopping some and found a type of pornography that she wanted to show me and discuss with me. We discussed it, it was important to her, and so I reset once more. She was fine with me not resetting, but I didn't want any "technicality" to give me any excuses and get in the way of my recovery.

As far as IC, I have a CSAT who I see when money permits as well as a Psychiatrist who takes my insurance. I am currently looking into finding a good Psychologist who takes my insurance, preferably in the same place as my Psychiatrist since he does a really great job. We have tried some couples counseling, but they weren't the best experience for my wife. She is currently thinking about starting her IC, and has found one that comes highly recommended in our area for spouses of sex addicts.

CowardlyLion posted 12/8/2019 06:37 AM

Can a moderator please delete this thread please?

Lalagirl posted 12/10/2019 06:09 AM

Threads are not deleted on SI, CL, but please reconsider if you are thinking of leaving SI. You can do this - keep working your program and keep posting. You have been given some very good advice and support, don't turn away now. Remember, you want your wife to heal...please stick with us.

DoinBettr posted 12/10/2019 11:05 AM

I know you want to delete this but please listen to some people who like an AA group could help you.

I would ask the question about you stating you want to be a "Good" man, partner, and husband.
Lots of people who have affairs focus on external validation which sounds like one of your issues. Low self esteem is a common symptom.
Have you thought about writing out what "good" is to you?
None of them should be externally validating or reliant on others (If people recognize or not should never be part of the actions). This will start giving you a list of things you can do to be proud of yourself and make progress without relying on others. This is being good for your own sake. Doing things you are proud of will slowly trickle into the rest of your life. Even if other people don't notice.
Just something to try I heard on a podcast.
Good luck. Also, just because you reset the clock, I hope you keep moving down the steps. If you never progress you don't get into the real heavy lifting with the higher steps. At least if it is like AA's 12 step program.

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