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 Post subject: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:08 am 
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As I sit alone in this fast food restaurant and drink coffee, two different types of women walk in. One is perhaps 30, in shorts and a tank top, seemingly devoid of any excess body fat. Later, a woman in probably her 70s comes in, and she, too, is in shorts, and her legs show signs of older skin and years of sun exposure.

Had my husband been with me, the presence of the first woman would have caused me subtle, physical anxiety, but without him near, I simply see her as a random human going about her life in this world. The second woman gives me pause. I imagine myself at 70, still married, and I see me self-conscious of my legs and age, still refusing to wear shorts out of self consciousness. Then I picture myself as an older, single woman, and I cannot imagine giving two flying effs about the state of my legs, skin or age, beyond whether I am physically and mentally healthy.

No matter how much detachment and growth work I've done, there will always be scars from my husband's choices, and I question whether they will ever fully heal if we remain married. He's in recovery, and I see him working at it, but my god, there is at least 15 years of maturity to go.

The impact of my husband's sex addiction on my body is sometimes harrowing. I now have two auto immune conditions and endometriosis. The role of both trauma, and my own rejection of my body for years, plays a role in these conditions, and while it's unfair to place the blame entirely on my husband's behavior, it has a major role as a triggering mechanism for these health issues. The more I learn, the more I see I've constantly rejected and judged my own body, even in the face of knowledge that my husband would still have acted out regardless of how my body looked/looks.

Women rejecting their bodies not an uncommon cultural phenonmenon, but I believe if I had married a healthy partner, the psychological body issues I had coming out of my teens and 20s would have healed through my own work and my partner's support. Instead, they worsened to the point that on a subconscious level, I see my body as my enemy, and in the case of my auto immune conditions, my body is literally attacking itself (the irony is not lost on me).

I continue to work through an inner tension of wanting to be desired for my body, and that being in conflict with my other values. This exists in the presence of not having desire for my husband or any interest in other relationships (e.g. If my marriage were to end, I have zero interest in finding a new partner). I write this because I sense many of us struggle with conflicting feelings and values around our bodies, our relationships, sex, femininity, etc. Why I care about how my body looks, while in relationship with or in the presence of my husband, contrasted with my general lack of desire for him, is an example of the kind of internal conflict that I wrangle with.

I'm working on healing my relationship with my body both through diet, and with lifestyle changes such as meditation, walks, and baths, but the underlying beliefs run deep, and need a lot of gentle and compassionate self work.

I'd like to open this up to our partner community to invite you to share, if you feel safe, how your partner's addiction has impacted your health, body awareness, and body self esteem. This is a painful topic, but I've learned how much sharing can heal.

I'd also like to ask if anyone has done any specific body work (with the help of a therapist or on their own) to help improve body acceptance and love. If you have and are willing to share details of your work or resources, it could help others in this community, and I'd personally appreciate hearing about your healing methodologies.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:35 am 
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meepmeep - This is really tough. I could have written your post word for word. I feel I am permanently scarred and I am so sad about that. I am less reactive then I used to be, especially when I am not with my husband. With my husband....I'm still reactive but I have better coping skills.

We must love ourselves and accept our bodies. I know how hard that is to do in our culture, especially our pornified culture. And, we are human and we age. We are not airbrushed objects.

I as well have an autoimmune disorder. I can't tell you the number of partners of addicts who have immune illnesses. It's stunning and understandable. It's so tragic for us.

Here are some things that have helped me restore some self esteem.

I focus on self care. I take myself to the doctor and the dentist. I have taken care of some deferred medical appointments.

I try to use my body in a healthy way. I have started exercising again. I need to get back into yoga. If I feel and see my body for the healthy things I can do, does it matter that I'm not a porn object?

I work on smiling at women and girls and engaging them in an emotional connection no matter how brief. I need the love and support of women to feel better about myself as a woman and not as an object.

I buy clothes and perfume that make me feel feminine. That feel good.

I avoid fashion magazines, television ads, internet ads...whenever I can.

I am working really hard on accepting compliments on how I "look". This is hard. I'm not good at it. It makes me want to cry.

On desire.....this is so hard and painful. We must rediscover our sensuality and sexuality. We're human. These are human emotions and needs. I try to let myself dream of what I would like with a man. It's very hard to do. It fills me with grief and pain. The challenge here is to feel worthy enough to do this. I'm not talking about compulsive fantasy. I'm talking about actually remembering, imagining, dreaming about sensuality that is personal and fulfilling. Being in a relationship with an addict, even one in recovery who has so much work to do to become emotionally mature and relationally skilled, has been so damaging. The deprivation I experienced made me cope in ways I wasn't aware of, and some of that was giving up and denying my own needs.

I found that I had to start interacting with men in the world in a healthy way. I'm not talking about dating or flirting. I'm talking about interacting in day to day moments in a human way. If they are jerks or see me as an object, I avoid them. But often they are nice. For example, I hate grocery stores. Big acting out spot for my husband. I go alone and when I see the middle aged men my age who are working there, I engage them in a brief conversation...even just a "good morning." I don't care what they look like. I care how they smile, speak and act. And often I find they want a nice, quick conversation with a middle aged woman. It's small, it's innocent, and it's very healing.

As always, I find I must be very, very gentle with myself. I must reward myself for baby steps of success. The last thing we need is more pain, deprivation or criticism.

With deep compassion,
dnell


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:43 pm 
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meepmeep, what an interesting topic, and dnell, you have also offered some really good insights.

I feel these "body" issues very, very deeply, and it goes right back to when I first became aware of my husband's internet porn habit. Like you, I am also living with long term autoimmune conditions which I know are not caused by my husband's behaviour but I do believe there is a mind/body influence, especially as chronic stress can alter the body chemistry and depress the immune system, we don't sleep properly, etc etc.

What you say about how you feel around other women, I get that. Until my husband's porn addiction was dragged into the open, that was when I realised what a voyeur he really was, whether it was looking at young women from the car, or waitresses in coffee shops, or on TV and in movies, it was quite sickening. There were a couple of occasions that I would never have imagined. One was that he carried on walking past the door of a restaurant we were going to because he had been practically hypnotised by a group of young women wearing tight jeans and yoga pants and forgot where he was, and the other was the inordinate amount of interest he was showing in his nephew's girlfriend who is over 30 years younger than him. I only learned after d day that he had gone through a phase of going to strip bars. That too was a compulsive/repetitive behaviour.

After d day, it was like my entire experience of being out in the world was a threat. Whereas before I had an appreciation of female beauty and could look at a young woman with admiration and even a sense of nostalgia for my younger self, it completely evaporated after d day. Even my own niece, who I love very much, was not immune from his perving, and I didn't want him around when I saw her. She's an adult, so it's not like she's underage, but even so, I realised how he saw her and found it distressing.

My relationship with my own body became one of unease after I discovered his porn use. As a young woman I had complete confidence in my body. I was admired by my female friends as well as the more sexual kind of appreciation by lovers. I knew I had this remarkable physique. I never gave it a second thought whether he found my body desirable. I just assumed he did. By the time he was using internet porn I was in my late 30s and I didn't quite have "the body" I used to, I thought that was the reason. That he thought these porn women were better. It's laughable now to think I was past it in my 30s, because even now I'm still it pretty good shape, but I'm older, so it's all relative. But I can't compare to my younger self. Besides, I'm at the age when these things shouldn't matter. Shouldn't!! But this porn addiction crap is like being dragged back to some sort of insecure adolescent mindset against my will!

His porn addiction really did a number on my self esteem and body image. I can feel good about myself and I can look in the mirror and I know I'm looking at a handsome woman. I know that regardless of age I still have a good figure. But when I think of my husband, and the way he can fixate on other women in my presence whilst I have been rendered invisible, and how I now scan my environment for potential threats when we are together .... even picking a movie on TV or feeing uneasy about certain scenes or actresses, or avoiding potentially triggering movies (triggering my anxieties, that is) .... I just don't want my life to be blighted in this way.

"If I was single, what would I do?" was an exercise I used to do in my mind whenever I felt upset or hindered or unsure, or whatever. One of the most valuable and important lessons I learned early on was that I let go of wanting and needing my husband to complement me, which he did during the honeymoon period after d day but soon fizzled out. I looked in the mirror and asked myself if I like what I see. And the first day I did this, and felt it, I didn't care whether he noticed. I'd been out for the day on my own, and I felt great about myself. When he came in from work, he didn't say anything, whether or not he noticed, I don't know. He said nothing. It was the first time I'd deliberately detached from needing his approval. I felt I'd gained something that day. "If I was single ...." is a really interesting one.

Body image is a very complex issue for all women today, but if you're in a relationship with a porn addict — and porn is all about objectification, it's all about using women's bodies, or images of bodies, it's all about what women look like and grading their appearance specifically about fuckability. My husband wasn't interested in my body. He was interested in porn bodies, and the bodies of strippers, strangers, celebrities, coworkers, anyone else but not me. He had a porn fetish for large and very large breasts. I'm not large but I'm certainly not flat-chested. But when he was using porn, before our sexual relationship ended and porn took him over completely, he never touched my breasts. And before that time, if he ever did, it was maybe 1-2 seconds out of politeness or something. So I thought, maybe he's just not into breasts that much. But when I did discover his porn it was big tit porn, women licking their breasts and titty fucking. He actually had a tit fetish, and they had to be big. So what could I do? I was obviously an inadequate specimen of a woman. I am not that body type. I'm not especially small. I never gave the size of my breasts much thought. At this age, I want healthy breasts. I shouldn't care about his big or how small they are. But once more, dragged into the sorts of anxieties that are more normal for a teenager, not a middle aged woman.

I had to play through the "if I was single" routine over and over. And then one day I came across that stupid big tit video in some webpage he had made, I think he wanted his own online stash of videos on his own password protected website of something crazy like that, and stupidity I looked at that video again and it was like a punch in the gut. So much for my "getting over it". But eventually I did at least make it manageable. So... this IS my body. And how fucking dare he find me lacking or inadequate in any way. My body is my gift to him, if I choose to share it, and if he ever disrespects my body as he did in the past then he's not worthy of my gift. If he chooses porn trash, he's made his choice. He doesn't get both. He doesn't get to change his mind. I get that privilege. He doesn't.

I'm not saying I'm over it. I am definitely NOT over it. I feel just like both of you, meepmeep and dnell. But what I see now isn't this all powerful man, the guy with the "nice guy" charm who pretends to be polite when he's in the process objectifying some little waitress, or the man who believes he watches tasteful "erotica" because he's inherently better than all the other losers who jerk off to porn. No, I see a deluded creepy voyeur. I see a man who disrespected his wife, a man who lied and felt entitled to do so.

I also had to remember how it felt when I was a teenage girl and a young woman when I was creeped out by neighbors - middle aged married men with daughters of their own - watching me from their windows. Or the guy who was looking at me whilst jerking off as I waited for a bus. Or when I was followed. Or when I was indecently assaulted on a busy street. And I'm sure that on every occasion those men thought they could probably "nice guy" their way out of any reaction I might have given them.

I don't know if I've veered off topic but it's definitely something that affects us, how we actually feel about our bodies and how our relationship has affected not only how we relate to our own bodies but how we feel around other women.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:58 pm 
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Sexual recovery

I think the turning point for me, and this only happened 3 or 4 months ago, was the realisation that the recovery of my sexuality was an entirely separate issue from the recovery of the relationship. Until then I seemed to believe without question that it *should* take place within the recovery of our sexual relationship. The various online 'recovery' communities that focus on quitting porn emphasise abstinence and the recovery of erectile function, and that recovering porn addicts should remap their sexual responses by having sex with 'real women'. There's no acknowledgement of the partner's need for sexual recovery, especially as many of us were written off by our partners when they were caught up in their addiction.

What flipped the switch for me was the way that my husband would inexplicably lose his interest in sex. This was about 12-18 months past d day after our recovery was going well, although not without a few setbacks. I had strongly suspected that he had started masturbating again (without using porn) and was less interested in having sex with me as a consequence. He didn't seem to take my sexual needs into consideration either.

After maybe 6 months of his on/off sexual interest, I realised that the recovery of my own sexuality could no longer take place within the context of our sexual relationship. It was entirely by chance that I came across a copy of The Hite Report in the library and I only picked it up out of interest. I couldn't believe that not much had changed in the 40 years since it was published. Back then, many women were missing out on sexual pleasure for various reasons, but often due to the prevailing ignorance of the female orgasm and women's sexual responses. In my situation I was foregoing my own sexual pleasure, not because I was not orgasmic, but because my sexuality was being denied its existence. That was certainly the case when my husband was compulsively using porn. And of course, because he was self-pleasuring to porn, I was no longer a sexual being to him. The consequence was that my sex drive shut down completely. Any thoughts of sex were immediately followed by painful feelings of loss and that I was essential 'unfuckable' and sexually redundant. I believe my subconscious mind protected me by shutting down any sexual feelings and desires.

Soon after I discovered another book, again written maybe 30 years ago, called The Body Electric, based on the "pre orgasmic" workshops for women that took place in the 1970s/80s. I never thought I would ever need such a book because I was one of the apparent minority of women who were orgasmic during sexual intercourse. One of the most significant occurrences in the recovery of my sexual relationship was that as soon as I was able to reach orgasm during penetrative sex, my husban began to withhold sex. Coincidence? It's certainly an interesting one. It was also at this time I believe he began masturbating regularly. But 6 months on, it was this on/off interested/not interested pattern and I didn't like it. It definitely had a negative impact on my ability to enjoy sex, and it was he was the one with the power.

The book was based on a six week course that included bathing, self massage, mirror work, Kegel exercises and journaling, and introduced self pleasure and eventually masturbation to orgasm. To begin with, just accepting your body as it is. For me, I especially enjoyed the leisurely baths and self massage just for the self care aspect. I bought some essential oils and made a playlist of songs that matched the mood I wanted. It was enormously helpful to detach my sexual recovery from my relationship.

Some online partner communities will say that masturbation isn't necessary in a relationship, that there is no need for either partner to masturbate. In porn addiction recovery circles, male porn addicts are often advised to abstain from masturbation during their porn detox and that resuming masturbation can drive the need to seek out porn. That they should rewire to a 'real woman'. I too wanted my sexual recovery to happen within my relationship but what actually happened to me was that my sex drive would disappear if there was no sexual activity. My husband was effectively withholding sex and wasn't showing any concern for my sexual needs, and it felt very much like it was when he was actively using porn. So I worked through the "pre orgasmic" workshop exercises and it was certainly helpful.

Right now, I don't quite know what's going on with my husband. I haven't brought myself to orgasm since I finished the book. I'm back to 'saving myself' for our lovemaking but he's losing his erection and the last time he couldn't ejaculate, and I'm not reaching orgasm as easily for various reasons. One thing I do know is that my own sexual recovery is independent of my husband's behaviour. My sexuality belongs to me, not to him, and not even to the relationship. I intend to work through the book again. I've learned that I can either lose it or use it as far as sexuality is concerned, especially at this stage of life. I'm certainly can't rely on a recovering porn/sex addict who almost certainly never had a healthy sexuality to begin with.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:56 am 
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Blue, I resonated to your posts. One of the most helpful books I read was "Intimacy Anorexia" by Weiss. He calls the intimacy anorexia an addiction, and I'm not sure that's true, but he also says it is secondary to the sex addiction. They re-enforce each other, but that the intimacy addiction is the primary issue. In this case, in order to protect themselves and always stay safe/unhurt/and in control, they actively withhold love, praise, sex, warmth and connection. And they replace it with criticism, blame, and the search for the fantasy object. Eventually every woman they see would make them happier/sexier/more admired/more loved than their spouse.

That was my marriage. And while my husband is sober, he is still an active intimacy anorexic.

My husband preferred masturbation to porn and fantasy to real live sex with me. He doesn't want to acknowledge that to this day, but his behavior shows that to be the case. He still has trouble even talking about sensuality. Wouldn't it be sexy, fun and loving to talk about sensuality with a loving partner? What turns them on? What turns us on? Isn't it nice to talk about it together let alone do something about that. I don't have any of that with my husband. It's clearly not enjoyable to even talk about sex with me, let alone have it with me.

So, recovering my sensuality can't be with my husband. Is he afraid of real sex? Real emotion? Real connection? That's his problem to figure out, but the reality is my sober husband will not connect to me emotionally nor sexually.

This is a harsh and painful reality in my life. Could my husband do the hard personal work to address and heal these issues? I don't know. It would take a lot of time, courage, hard work and a skilled therapist. In the meantime, there is me and my life. My husband actively criticized my body AND my sensuality. He actively made our sex life unpleasant, unfulfilling and unsuccessful and openly blamed me for it. He shamed my body and my desire. I wasn't clear on that until after D-day. I also responded by losing desire and then denying my own sexuality as a way to cope with loss and shame. I am so terribly sad about all of this. I am filled with grief.

But, my sensuality, my peace and joy, my sense of self worth....all of this I have to find and return to myself. My husband has been helpful in his recovery in helping my understand what were lies and what were secrets. That has been healing. But celebrating and rewarding me, my body and my sensuality? He hasn't been helpful to me at all.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 3:16 am 
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These posts hit home with my experiences, I never think about other women,ir feel inadequate when alone, with my husband,though I sm much better, I still feel the need to check his eyes and where women are.. And the mere fact I know he scans brings back the feelings of having failed at finding true love...not so much about my body.
Dnells post echoes my experience too, my husband I fear will never connect, he never has, his sexual expressions are those of a young teenage boy, I journal everything,and it makes painful reading back,
I feel now its like he uses sex as control, there is a look in his eyes when he has led me on,and abruptly stopped etc..which is almost like a power trip. Never in our relationship has he seduced nevwith living words, the words he uses on paper etc to women he doesn't know. Even though naturally words like that came from me to him in the past, its as if he never equated me with being a woman, which hurt dreadfully when he seemed to envisage every other woman ad purely a sexual sensual being, and would be telling them this..while in real life, spurning and actively denying me that part of me by put downs or making me feel inadequate.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 12:16 pm 
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Healing our body image and our sexuality as individual seems to be a vital part of a partner's recovery and I think it goes very deep. Our bodies aren't consumer products that can be swapped out for another one when the novelty wears off. Without our bodies, we have no existence. So to reject our bodies is actually to reject our physical presence. That's why it hurts us so deeply and profoundly.

The turning point was the realisation that my own sexual recovery is distinct from the recovery of the relationship. I had to rediscover my own sexuality. The disappointment is the realisation that no matter how many times I allow my husband the opportunity to communicate about his own sexual needs and desires, he just will not engage in the conversation. Even the masturbation issue, he would rather outright deny it than say it's part of his sexual expression. Instead, he can't even get erect when we are naked together at the times we prioritise for lovemaking. Even raising the unlikely reason of his erectile dysfunction being a physical, health-related problem, he denies he ever gets erections at any other times. So, see a doctor! But I know it's nothing to with his general health and he knows it too. He lies and I have to play along with it and pretend it's not a problem really. But yes, it is a problem. It's a symptom of something going wrong in our relationship.

One book I've read was Erotic Intelligence, which is supposed to be for couples healing their relationship after sex addiction. Although I have reservations about some parts of this book, there are some good perspectives beginning with self-knowledge and being true to yourself. In other words, owning your sexuality as an individual in your own right before sharing it authentically with a partner. Where I run into difficulty in the context of this book is sharing and communicating with my partner. I can come up with various ideas to try such as sensate focusing or massage, or even some playful fun ideas, but he rejects them or at best agrees in a non committal way but isn't particularly interested when the opportunity arises. At the same time I've invited him to share his ideas or unmet desires but I get absolutely nothing from him. Nothing!

The recovery of my own sexuality isn't going to happen within the relationship. I know that now. It seems so obvious but the truth is he probably never developed a healthy sexuality, so how can my own sexuality recover if it's only ever expressed within the confines of a barely functioning sexual relationship? It can't.

The concept of 'intimacy anorexia' is an interesting one, although from the information online I'd say my husband is more a borderline case. I find it remarkable that as soon as I became orgasmic again during sexual intercourse, he went through several weeks of no interest in sex and has been prone to erectile difficulties since then. He doesn't admit to masturbation, although I believe he began to masturbate regularly from about this point onwards, and more frequently than we have sex – which is not a sign of a healthy sexual relationship. It is his way of avoiding sex.

Another observation. I went for years trying to hide my body, and a lot of that was down to me not wanting to experience his total indifference to my naked body. Because his lack of interest hurt. As I grew more confident after d day, I'd maybe get out of the shower and I'd walk from one room to another naked, and I'd be feeling OK. One day my husband told me he felt unsettled by my confidence, the fact that I was no longer hiding. I found that very odd. It was also around this time I'd bought myself a new shirt and the first time I wore it he said nothing, didn't seem to notice. The next time I wore it he began talking about how I'd "changed" and how I didn't need to "dress up" for him. But no, I wasn't dressing up, and certainly not for him. It was just a new shirt. It wasn't fancy or showy at all. Then it was my underwear and lingerie he decided was not plain and functional enough. I don't go overboard with the 'sexy' underwear and I stay with the confines of good taste. I don't pornify myself in that way. But the fact is, he has repeatedly undermined certain aspects of my recovery and the part of myself that I played down not only during his porn addiction but long before. So perhaps this is a symptom of 'intimacy anorexia'.

Thanks for introducing the concept of 'intimacy anorexia', dnell. You've brought a lot of these personal/sexual recovery problems to my attention. This bizarre idea of my partner being threatened by my ability to have sexual pleasure, by my improved body confidence, by what I wear, and even my willingness to open up discussions about sexuality and sensuality.
So for now, my recovery work is about me. I'm done with understanding porn addiction and the recovery of my sexual relationship has stalled. Each setback seems bigger than the last, and that's not right, but until he figures out what it is and how to communicate there's nothing more I can do. Right now I have to really work on the deep, personal recovery of my sexuality and sensuality, my relationship with my own body and recovering from the damage to my body image and self esteem.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 5:48 pm 
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Can we get any more evidence about the immaturity of our partners? My husband is squeamish talking about sex. It is like talking with a little boy. He has told me that in his mind, men NEVER talk to women (well, partners) about sex. I guess things would just sort of work out by magic. My husband admits now that this was unrealistic, destructive and immature. But he was stunted emotionally and sexually by his addiction, and now that shows in his inability to talk about his sexuality. Or mine. God forbid I'm actually a sensual being.

I think my husband has to work hard on understanding what IS his sexuality. And what is healthy and not shameful. I don't know, maybe his desire got so linked to shame and taboo that without he doesn't have desire. I don't know and he has yet to be recovered AND healthy enough to talk about that with me.

Being threatened by our sexuality doesn't surprise me at all since underneath all this objectification is some mix of fear, disgust, lack of self esteem.....

I think sexuality is the last and hardest work for our recovering partners. That's not a surprise, given their addiction histories.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:42 am 
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I had so many thoughts in response to the insightful and thoughtful response from both of you ladies, but your latest reply, dnell, has prompted me to speak up sooner than later.

Just yesterday in my daily writing I was musing about what I would like and need in a healthy sex life. And the highest priority above all else is

"for my partner to have open conversations with me about sex and be a mature adult about it"

What you wrote, dnell, about it being like talking with a little boy--yes. And what I saw is how much that puts me in a position where:
-I'm turned off by him
-I feel almost like I'm a predator, preying on someone much younger than me.
-I am reminded of the unhealthy relationship between him and his mother (and father) that he lacks any objective capacity to see for what it is (unhealthy, borderline abusive, and a part of where we are today)

The dynamic is icky, to say the least.

If I had a do over (and so many I wish I had) I would have walked the moment it became apparent early on that my husband could not speak about sex in a frank, open, and dare I say it, fun way.

What I see:
-my husband has spent the past 8 months working hard on learning how to deal with his compulsions, and I give him credit for this
-this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of learning what healthy sexuality is
-I do not see a way or methodology for him to have a healthy sexuality and one that celebrates my sexuality, too.

This is an area where I wish RN would help fill in the gaps. While i recognize RN's primary role is facilitating a values-driven life, understanding one's compulsions, and putting tools in place to address the compulsive behavior, education on healthy sex is sorely lacking for sex addicts.

It leaves us partners with men who, while no longer acting out compulsively (if they are in in active recovery) are stunted as humans in terms of their maturity around sex and intimacy.

There are so many things I'd enjoy discovering with another partner but aren't possible here because they likely propel my husband down a compulsive path (role playing, perhaps dressing up, sexy talk, etc).

And of course, it still circles back around to being about HIM. In other words "he feels bad about himself, and thus, cannot express himself sexually." Where do we fit into that perspective of theirs? It remains an utterly self-absorbed perspective, lacking in any insight on the extensive sexual void left in our lives.

Lately I have been mulling about an open marriage. I know my partner isn't healthy enough to handle this, but I am left bereft of any knowledge of what it's like to be in a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.

I believe good sex can heal. That respectful, connective, playful, intimate and mutually pleasurable sex is connected to our creativity, our femininity, our overall health.

Blue in paradise brought up some interesting ideas on growing one's sexuality apart from a partner. I think there's merit there. But I also know that a big part of why I got married--and what is lacking--is having a deep sexual connection with another being.

And I grieve the loss of that.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:10 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:22 am
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So true, I have no idea what it is like to be in a healthy relationship, where I am fulfilled, feel equal, and valued and not to feel this numbing pain that can stop me in my tracks at any moment where I am triggered, the sense of loss can be overwhelming, especially at night ..how can you feel so alone with someone is next to you. My husband is totally oblivious to how I may be feeling,of my needs, me as a person,everything is fine, and I am the one spoiling that when I try to voice anything about any problems...that actually includes any family,or house diy, etc, issues...worries,
I often think what it would be like to be with someone else, but that is fantasy again, the perfect man..i feel my trust in men as a whole has been shattered, charming men, I talk to..i wonder what they are like behind closed doors, I doubt I can be healthy enough again to have a normal relationship.
I am getting to the stage where I will have to try the discussion again about our lack of intimacy,connection ..its been a year since I tried, but know my husband will blank me, tell me not to keep on..?? i can see vividly him lieing there, silent, his eyes rapidly blinking..or the other reaction, where he says do I want him to go, coz if I keep on he will go..


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:33 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
Posts: 73
I believed that in the early years of my relationship, we did experience a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship. At least it was for me. As for my husband, I'd like to think he was capable of having a healthy sexuality - and maybe he did - but the early signs were there. After d day I began to remember seemingly insignificant events but now I see them as the early warnings of what was to come. There were visits to movie theatres to see movies with soft porn/nudity, for example. He also admitted to watching a stripper in a bar but gave me the impression that he found the experience rather tawdry and not his thing at all. He used feminism as a smokescreen to hide his obviously sexist and objectifying behaviours. Hyper-religiosity, as it has been described. Or "image management" perhaps. So I question whether we did have a mutually healthy sexual relationship even back then. So that also makes me question whether I actually DID know what healthy sexuality is if I've been in a relationship with someone with sexually driven 'secret' behaviours.

I would also agree that that my husband cannot talk about sex in an adult way. He's always so hesitant. He prefers to say things like "you know" and "we've talked about it before" and I have to say things like "no, I don't know. We've talked about lots of things before. You have to be a bit more specific". I feel lost is I'm playing a board game or working out a crossword puzzle when I'm trying to talk with him.

meepmeep I also feel I'll never be able to truly express myself sexually in my relationship. Like you, I would like the opportunity to experiment, dress up a bit, be more adventurous or whatever. I've suggested a few ideas but he has nixed them all. I've asked him if there's anything he wants to do, and … nothing. I don't want another man. I'd like to have the sexual experiences I want with my husband but chances are, we'll just limp on into old age if we make it that far. At the moment I'm not having the relationship I believed we could have after d day. He is incapable of honesty, he has withdrawn into masturbation and I feel that it is a matter of time before he begins to seek out imagery to masturbate to. He's not communicating properly, and if I raise the difficult issues, I just get defensiveness or blame-shifting. As Jenny describes, everything is "fine" and I'm spoiling things by drawing attention to the elephant in the room.

Although I am uncertain about whether I can ever have a truly sexually healthy relationship with my husband, I still believe that my own sexuality needs to be nurtured and explored, if only in the sense of making love to myself on occasion, in the way I'd like a lover to make love to me. I can't give myself to someone if I'm going to be a stand-in for an imaginary porn scene or a sexual fantasy about woman. I don't want to be used in that way. In fact, there have been times when the thought of him using my body to act out upon whilst pretending I'm not there has actually made me feel violated. I've wanted to scrub all traces of him off my body. Like I've been tricked into allowing myself to be fucked by a stranger. It's interesting how I feel this reaction (disgust, violation) in my body. When I've had those feelings my instinct was to get in the shower and scrub myself.

Recovery for a partner is so complex. It's more than just our body image that takes a hit. It goes so much deeper. There's a book called 'The Body Keeps the Score'. I haven't read it but the title alone says so much.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:00 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Posts: 577
Once the addiction is managed, then the real work begins. That is how I think of recovery. And remember, all the emotional growth that needed to take place over the years was stunted by addiction. It's a tough road and a long one, but...it's not impossible. Do our partners have enough time and enough inner resources to recover AND become healthy mature adults. I think it is possible. I think it's hard work and takes time.

Once I became aware of the reality of my experience, and that took time, my challenge was to heal. That also takes time and hard work. That is our painful reality.

I think RN was the fundamental reason my husband was able to get on the road to recovery. It was the foundation to begin recovery, and the values based model of living gave my husband a healthy approach to life management that he never had. That said, I do believe the underlying intimacy issues need to be addressed. My personal belief is that the high failure rate of recovery is due to NOT addressing the fear of intimacy that underlies this addiction. Our partners need to address their issues head on and have the maturity and grace to find the recovery and healing resources they need. That's a big demand on a person who has spent their life running away from uncomfortable emotions.

I do think it is possible for a couple to recover and create a new, healthy relationship. But, it is a relationship that is always in recovery. But here is my reality: I am scarred. I wish that wasn't the case, but no matter if I live alone, stay with my husband, or find a new relationship, on some level, I will continue to be healing. I wish that wasn't the case, but I think that is reality. It doesn't mean I can't be happy or fulfilled, but it does mean on some level I will carry my story and my grief. It is part of me now and I am coming to peace with it.

meepmeep, I have worked hard on what happened to my desire. And the reality, that my husband still doesn't want to admit, is that his preference for masturbation to porn and fantasy, made him sabotage our sexual relationship so that it looked like I was the frigid, withholding partner. I wasn't. But that's what he needed to believe. And, the verbal abuse was a turn off. And, definitely, the immaturity is a turn off. When I am in a maternal role, I don't want to have sex. I agree: when my husband plays the bad little boy or innocent victim, I have NO desire. Ugh. And the reality is, my husband had me in the caretaker/non-sexual role, and rest of the women/girls in the world in the romantic/sexual role. This to me is a clear signpost to issues in his childhood that need to be resolved. But how terribly sad for me that I accepted this. That is my work. I understand now what happened, what was me and what was my husband, and why I was unhealthy in the way I coped. I wish I could have learned these lessons less painfully, but that wasn't the case.

But to give everyone a break here, as my IC tells me, all couples have to learn to navigate the maturity needed to be a couple. Hopefully, you gain enough maturity together to do so. We're dealing with pretty extreme cases of immaturity in our relationships. And with hidden addiction, there is no possibility of growth.

I can see in my recovering husband signs that he is moving towards a more healthy sexuality. I can see him struggle with talking to me. I also see improvements. They take time. Lots of time. But I am also aware of the deep distrust in me. I'm not sure I always see or accept my husband's changes. Trust is a major issue. And that's why adult communication is so important. I can understand the fear my husband has of saying the wrong thing or hurting me again. But, he needs to work on authentic and honest communication.

In the meantime, I do believe we need to rediscover our sexuality and desire. And, we need to understand what that means given we are in relationships and given our age. We can not be dependent on our partners behavior in any of our healing. They can help us, no doubt about that, but we can't depend on them.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:06 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
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Oh, and Blue, I totally get feeling disgusted and violated by being used as a masturbation tool in the past. After D-day, I spent months taking three showers a day.
dnell


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:54 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:08 am
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Quote:
I do believe the underlying intimacy issues need to be addressed. My personal belief is that the high failure rate of recovery is due to NOT addressing the fear of intimacy that underlies this addiction


Yes. That's so true. It starts with being able and willing to communicate. It starts with the small things. If you can't get the small things right you definitely won't with the bigger issues. A lot of the time, I attempt to start a small talk-y conversation with my husband and I'll get one word answers. I know people are supposed to ask "open" questions, and I do, but typically he can find a way of closing the conversation, or preventing it really. "How was your day?" "Tiring". And then silence. If I carry on trying to get a conversation started by asking something else, he'll typically give a one word answer followed by "any more questions you want to ask?" As for talking about sexual matters, he will insist everything is fine. End of conversation. He never asks about my sexual needs or the difficult issues concerning intimacy. So that's another hope I'm seeing dashed – the belief that we COULD communicate openly and freely. It ain't gonna happen.

As for how I relate to my own body, I feel that once again I am retreating from my own sexuality as a consequence of his increasing lack of interest in sex, the absence of any compliments or positive feedback about my desirability to him, the increasing emotional distance he is creating by his poor communication and (of course) his secretive masturbation sessions There are a few red flags. I can see them. I can initiate conversations, but… nothing. The only thing that appears like recovery is that he longer watches internet pornography.

Quote:
I am scarred. I wish that wasn't the case, but no matter if I live alone, stay with my husband, or find a new relationship, on some level, I will continue to be healing. I


I know … (sigh) I also wish it didn't have to be this way. I remember the day I realised that the future of this relationship means that I'm in a relationship with either a porn/sex addict, or a recovering addict. There's no return ticket to a time of innocence.

I don't want to be in retreat from my own body and my sexuality. That's why my healing is so important. I'm still damaged by this experience and I know that my recovery is in my own hands. I desperately craved his validation after d day, and perhaps his validation helped me get through the acute phase of early recovery, but now I know that it has to come from within. Especially now that the compliments and the love notes, and all those little things that can lift your mood and make you feel wanted and cared for, have fizzled out. Yet now I can look in the mirror and think "yes! I DO look good" and "Wow! I'm in great shape!" It no longer matters whether or not my husband throws me a compliment. In the past, when his addiction was intensifying and he became absent from the relationship, his silence was deafening. I was desperate for a sign from him that would let me know he still felt desire for me, but there was nothing. This time, I've grown out that need for his approval. If I have a healthy respect for this body that allows me to exist in this world, that's far more important.

Only this past week we were grocery shopping and his scanning was so obvious to me. His eyes locked on to a young woman with large breasts. She wasn't especially pretty but he had a porn fetish for very large breasts. I might as well have been with Pavlov's dog. I've seen it all before, the semi stalking routine to keep her in sight. This time it wasn't fear or threat that I felt. It was a mix of pity and contempt. I saw him as undignified and delusional, and even a bit creepy. Whereas before I'd feel anxious and insecure, now I feel detached and more of an observant.

Was I going to come home and feel insecure about the size of my breasts and feel bad for not measuring up to his fantasy ideas? No! Because I can look in the mirror and I don't see anything "wrong" with me. His scanning and semi stalking are symptoms of his emotional dis-ease.

Going back to the original post, if I was alone none of this would be relevant. Yet if I share my future with someone who has been addicted to porn etc, this problem is going to follow me around everywhere I go.


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 Post subject: Re: Healing our bodies
PostPosted: Fri Aug 11, 2017 6:56 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
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Blue, gently, and I know you know this, it sounds like your husband is stalled in his recovery. I am so sorry. It is so painful.

Jon taught me so many valuable things, but one of the most important lessons was in telling us what to look for to see true recovery and health: and that is, our partners initiate spontaneous, meaningful conversation. On most days I long for an adult or even casual conversation with my husband even more than love or desire. And my husband acts like this is a completely unreasonable and/or confusing request. He just doesn't want to talk to me. And he wonders why we don't go out and have "fun." He sees relationships as "activity based." The perfect woman would be silent except for telling him how great he was. I realize that my husband sees communication as a means of control and manipulation. He's protecting himself. It's definitely not a way to connect or be authentic.

And I know this look my husband gets on his face when he is staring at a woman or girl who is an object. It's not a warm, sweet, loving or even inviting look. It's hard and predatory. It IS creepy. I don't think they have a clue about how they look to others.

But the good news was you know it wasn't about you. You felt okay about yourself. I know how hard that is to do. But, you don't need to be with him when he acts that way. That was the realization I have come to. I don't want to be with my husband if he behaves that way. So, I don't go to the grocery store with him. And, if he does this sort of thing, I leave. That has been immensely healing for me. It's so disrespectful what they do. It devalues us, the woman/girl they are staring at, and all women and girls. Why in the world should we tolerate that?

dnell


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