Last year we kicked off our "ask the experts" series with a question from a wife about her husband's porn addiction. Thanks to every woman who has sent in questions for these series in past years. If you have a question for one of our sex addiction or betrayal trauma specialists, send me your questions and we'll do another of these series next month.
Husband in denial
Community member: Unfortunately, my husband will not acknowledge he has any problem—despite me finding porn on the computer and other situations that point towards a serious problem and dysfunction in our relationship. My intuition screams that this is the problem and has been for our whole marriage, but he points the finger at me every time. It affects every part of our family life. How am I to proceed when I am working with intuition, coincidences, and one extensive session (six hours late at night into the morning) of computer history. He dismisses that as a "one time" issue and blames me for exaggerating it and throwing it back in his face. He is a model husband and father to the community and church and I am feeling very isolated and hopeless with my need for support. I could deal with his porn addiction if it were exposed for him to have to confront, but how do I deal with a problem that is—as he says—only in my head? He is very tech savvy and can certainly find ways to hide his activity. I am going crazy!
Answer from Troy Snyder
As a counselor specializing in sex addiction, I have seen this scenario many times. The first thing I like to communicate to the spouse is that “it is not your fault.” The spouse needs to be built up and assured they are not the cause: no matter what they are told.
I strongly encourage a wife in this situation to find or continue individual counseling for support and education. Education of the reality of sexual addiction is a painful, but freeing experience for the spouse. In the counseling sessions, the therapist should strike a balance between education and support. The support will come in the form of honoring the wife's feelings and experiences and affirming her normal, trauma responses. She needs much encouragement as she looks to broaden her support network and come up with the best strategy for caring for herself in this situation.
Moreover a woman in this position benefits from a PSA (partner of sex addict) support group. Some more practical steps she needs to take, as she gets support, are around the setting of clear and definitive boundaries. These are ideally said while well-grounded, so the tone can be firm, rather than angry or aggressive. PSAs need coaching on how to manage the big emotions that come up with the betrayal and deception. The support of a good group and counselor makes a huge difference.
I would also encourage the spouse to consider who the faithful men are that surround her husband. She should then work to discern if they would be willing to be involved in confronting him, and if so, invite them in. Again some support and good coaching—about how to communicate the facts as she knows them and her desire for change—would be beneficial here. There is, of course, a degree of risk because of the uncertainty about the actions of the husband, and his tendency to lie and minimize his behaviors. Thus, the outside support of an expert in this field would be helpful in both coaching the wife and giving her additional resources for, and credibility with, those who might be involved in the confrontation process.
Finally, I'd like to pass on a thought an old counselor once gave me about dealing with an addict: "When you speak to the addict tell him you love him, his behaviors are a problem, and you want him to get help."
If at first you do not find a counselor or other support people who affirm, care for, educate and give longterm support, keep looking. It can take a few tries, but such people are out there. Last but not least, this process should all be undergirded with prayer and spiritual support.
Also some men take exception to the term "porn addiction" and "sex addiction" see last week's post for more on this.
Troy Snyder, MS, NCC, LPC, CCSAS, CPCS is one of the founding members of IACSAS and C-SASI. He has served on the board since its inception and on the executive for four years, helping guide and direct the development of the organization as well as overseeing the clinical track trainees.
As a counselor, Troy has been in the sex addiction field for 14 years. At present he works for Restoration Counseling in Atlanta where he employs a holistic approach—involving the spouse, family members and friends in the SA recovery process.
Troy is a clinical counseling supervisor, and C-SASI supervisor for clinicians, coaches and pastoral/lay leaders. In addition to speaking to schools and churches, Troy teaches on the topic of sex addiction through Liberty University's online program.