Betrayal wounds. Terribly. However, those of us walking with women on the journey to healing from betrayal often hear how it’s not just his betrayal that is harming them.
There’s something about discovering our husband’s sexual/porn addiction that enables us to put down any rose-colored glasses we might have had on and begin to see how things really are. What we often discover is that there are many harmful character traits that grow along with the habitual sexual immorality.
As we delve into some of the all-too-common character traits seen in sex addicts please be assured that this is not an “us against them” post. Rather the purpose is to help us become better armed to stand against the dysfunction/evil in our midst. It may even help some addicts get free from the snare of sin and addictive thinking.
Coach Katherine (Journey to Healing and Joy) once said, “Wherever you have a sex addiction, you also have an addiction to lying and hiding.” Most of us who have lived with a sex addict have discovered, over time, just how true this is.
Many wives of sex addicts report that their husband, not only lies and hides the truth around his sexual acting out, he even lies about all kinds of little things in daily life. As one sex addiction trainer has said, “addicts will lie even when it’s easier and more convenient to tell the truth.” The reason? Habitual fear and distrustfulness. It may be that the habitual lying is a self-protective response begun in childhood.
Wherever it comes from, it obviously has no place in marriage, or any healthy relationship. Many, many ex-wives of addicts I’ve talked to have said that it was the lying — more than the betrayal — that ultimately ended their marriage. Lies kill trust. Where there’s no trust, there’s no relationship.
Recovery from habitual lying is often a long process. As I discuss in Beyond Betrayal, my mother (the retired addictions counselor) warned me that the lying would be the last to go. This turned out to be the case. However, Michael made an initial surge toward truthfulness a couple months after disclosure and then spent the next few years, shaking off the last vestiges of his lying habit.
Life with a liar
After disclosure, women will range from disbelieving everything their husband tells them to believing everything (even the lies). Most of us vacillate all over the place at various times: sometimes catching him lying and sometimes disbelieving the truth. It’s a painful way to live, but sadly the natural consequences of a life of deceit. Things I found helpful during this period included:
- Praying for light and truth in our relationship and discernment for myself
- Remaining watchful
- Asking tough, clarifying questions in a non-threatening (or “not very threatening”) manner
- Emotional detachment (I like Shelley Martinkus' metaphor of sitting up in the stands with my popcorn and observing the game)
For we also once were... enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. —Titus 3:3
In Beyond Betrayal I discuss the role that shame plays in making addicts angry people who often lash out at their wife and/or children. However, I recently came across a further explanation as to why sex addicts show these signs. Watch this short excerpt of a talk by Dr. William Struthers produced by our friends at Covenant Eyes.
Many of us mothers can readily understand what Struthers is referring to. I remember being shocked to find — in the early days after the birth of my first child — not only would I readily die to protect my son, but I would also kill to protect him as well. That's what it felt like at least.
How like the Enemy to take what God created for the protection of the family, and twist it into a weapon for the family's destruction.
The results of anger/hatred
Again, there are many women who have left their husband because of the anger toward themselves and their children. Many men, nursing an ill-founded anger and hatred toward their wives, also leave the marriage.
For some men the correlation between acting out and anger/hatred is so obvious, that wives know it as a sure sign of relapse. Common manifestations of the anger/hatefulness include:
- Blame (for my unhappiness)
- Irritability (with everyone)
- Sarcasm and verbal abuse (e.g. insults)
- Emotional pushing away
- Thinking about/expressing a desire to be permanently away from others in the family (e.g., suicide threats, continual threats of leaving)
- Inappropriately angry responses to normal situations, challenges, circumstances, etc. This often includes seeing normal situations/interactions in ways others would not (e.g., threatening, abusive, unfair to him).
It is not an overnight process, but as a man leaves behind his sexual sin, and allows himself to become accountable to others, he delivers anger and hatred a blow. As he continues to draw closer to God, and deal with the root causes of his addiction, and self-centredness the behaviors above can gradually lessen and disappear. In their place he may develop a new found love and respect for members of the family and the ability to take responsibility for the unpleasant circumstances, emotions, etc. in his life.
Just as with the lying, the rebuilding of trust within the family of an angry/hateful addict, is usually a long, slow process. For more on how deal with a chronically angry/selfish husband, see The Self-Centred Spouse.
Note: if your spouse's anger is endangering you, or your children, please seek help immediately through your local domestic violence hotline, shelter or women's refuge. If it is less immediately threatening but still amounts to abuse, speak to your counsellor about the pattern.
Next week we'll look at the character traits "fear" and "cowardice."