As a reminder, the purpose of this series is to validate what we may be seeing in our marriage to a porn/sex addict or someone with patterns of chronic sexual acting out. Not every such man will display every one of these traits. However, these destructive traits are commonly present in the life of a sex addict, and it can be very helpful for wives to be able to identify what they are dealing with.
Many of us have witnessed that as our addict/husband found help and healing, these traits subsided. However, for some of us, healing also required us to stand up to him at times and confront him about these traits.
The information in this series may also be useful to those supporting us individually and as a couple (therapists, support group leaders, pastors). Sometimes healing requires our support folks confronting him about these traits as well.
Betrayal devastates us wives on a number of levels. One of the levels I think we frequently fail to explore is the breach of our (perceived) shared values. This is particularly the case when those shared values include a shared faith in God.
It is not uncommon to find sex addicts who not only say they are Christians… they proclaim a vigorous faith in God. They are often found reading the Bible… and quoting it (particularly at others). They are often volunteering to lead the bible study, the youth group, the support group or preach on Sundays (more on this when we cover pride and narcissism in a later post).
As I mentioned in Beyond Betrayal, “hyper-religiosity” is actually common in sex addicts. However, when they are found out, it’s often clear that there’s been a hyper-hypocrisy at work in them. Examples I’ve heard over the years:
- The pastor who is having same-sex liaisons all over the place, but who proclaims from the pulpit that all homosexuals are condemned to hell
- The man who berates his wife for attending support group on the sabbath, but then acts out on the sabbath
- The man who publically disowns a family member for his sexual brokenness while hiding his own sex addiction
- The Christian addict who uses social media to try and “catch his ex” being unfaithful to her new partner, but who is also acting out using social media
- The father who tells his children (who have fallen into the trap) about the evils of porn while he is using it — and hiding it
Now, it is not hypocrisy for an addict to warn others away from the source of his problem, be upset with others’ acting out etc. Where it starts to become hypocrisy is when the addict speaks of it as “someone else’s problem” but not his own. When we warn others out of a place of vulnerability, we are being completely authentic and our warnings can help. When we work, hypocritically, out of a place of feigned strength, our warnings may help for a time; but when we are found out, we will likely do immense damage in the lives of those we intended to help.
How Can He Do That?
Hypocrisy is very painful to many wives. That’s partly because we can’t conceive of living like that. As one wife said to me, “When I’m not connecting well with God, I don’t want to lead our devotionals. I want someone else to do it, because I know I’m not in a place where I can be leading.”
When we are living in a way that runs counter to our values, it creates what therapists call a “cognitive dissonance.” This in turns results in psychological pain, or at least unrest. I lived in a place like this for a couple of years after my divorce, when I walked away from God. It’s truly horrible.
As it turns out, men, with their greater ability to compartmentalize seem to be better able than women to cope with cognitive dissonance. However, I like Dr. William Struthers’ teaching on compartmentalization in men. At the 2014 Redeeming Sexuality and Intimacy conference in Dallas I heard him talk about the fact that men push this ability (to separate various parts of their lives) beyond what it was created to do. God made their brains capable of setting aside numerous issues so that the current problem can be focused on and solved. He did not make their brains capable of living a complete double life. I believe that when they try to do so, for a prolonged period of time, it damages their soul.
Welcome Back, Clark Kent
The more a man has invested in his “Super-Christian” image, the harder it’s going to be for him to step into the light and let his addiction and other weaknesses be known. However, it’s really the only antidote to hypocrisy. Moreover, it’s rarely as difficult and “earth shattering” as the addict is expecting. If it is (for example in the case of a pastor), it may be a sign that our addict succeeded in getting himself placed on a pedestal… and that it’s time the whole community discovers the dangers of that.
The good news is that the only One who deserves to be exalted is waiting with open arms to comfort the fallen and the disenchanted.
Next week we’ll look at cruelty and violence and their relation to sex addiction.
Following this series I'll be posting an article entitled, "Ask the Experts." Send in your toughest sex addiction and partner trauma-related questions now for Dr. Barb Steffens (APSATS) and Troy Snyder (C-SASI) to answer in that post. Questions will be listed anonymously unless you tell me you would like your name posted with them.