Partner's Workshop: Stage Six; Lesson One
Sexual Addiction: As Seen Through Your Eyes
For this particular lesson, you are the expert. Each of you has experienced your partner's compulsive sexual and/or romantic behavior in unique ways. You may have been completely baffled by the revelation that your partner struggled with such sexual issues. You may have had a gut-feeling that something was wrong — but never able to put your finger on exactly what it was. You may have suspected something was wrong, but struggled to gather proof; or, you may have known of these behaviors early in the relationship, but found them to be one of your partner's strengths. The purpose of this lesson is to allow you to explore behaviors that are often associated with sexual addiction, but not often identified in a relationship until after that addiction has become known. Behaviors that you may have felt uneasy about, but lacked any concrete reason for such uncertainty.
Many of the behaviors associated with sexual addiction can be very endearing. The TV show "Friends" aired an episode several years ago where one of the main characters — I think it was Monica — began dating an alcoholic who was initially portrayed as charming, enthusiastic, attentive, fun-loving, full of energy. But as the relationship progressed, the man stopped drinking and quickly became a morose, depressing, bland, bore. There are some truths to this phenomenon. As a sad fact, sexual addiction can produce some of the most attractive qualities in your partner. That is not to insinuate that they are not genuine qualities, or that they are not sincere in displaying them...only that such charm and courtship skills have often been honed over many years to help perpetuate their addiction. It is highly likely that many of you were courted through the very same behaviors that were related to that addiction.
Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing, once the blow to your esteem is resolved, as these same charming qualities can resurface even after the addiction has been resolved. And for those of you who look at your husband and think, "Charming? Him. No way." You'd be surprised at how adept they can be in developing a platform for obtaining what they desire — be it sex, companionship, attention, etc.
Your Goals for Today (and quite possibly, tomorrow)
Your goal for this lesson is to share with the community your own perception of your partner's behavior through different stages of the relationship (those stages will be identified below). This should have three main affects on your own healing process:
1) It should help you to organize the hundreds upon hundreds of doubts, uncertainties and frustrations that you may have running around inside your head regarding specific times in your relationship where you may wonder how genuine the moments really were. It should help you to identify unnecessary struggles and conflicts that you assumed blame for (or were assigned blame for). Conflicts that were actually a result of your partner's addiction. It should assist you in reviewing the entirety of your relationship as it was, rather than how it was perceived at the time.
2) It should help you to see that your own insecurities, trustworthiness, clouded judgments, willingness to give your partners the benefit of the doubt, and other such traits that may have skewed your reality are not weaknesses on your part. But rather, they are proof of your ability to commit yourself to another human being in a healthy way. That this commitment was taken advantage of is another matter, but it in no way should translate into you punishing yourself for not "seeing things clearly". As you proceed through the workshop, if you ever begin to doubt your abilities to commit to a relationship, take some time to return to the posts in Day Nine. You did things right. And now, as you progress, you will hopefully make the same type of commitment again — except this time, you will be much wiser and much more aware of your own needs and values.
3) While each of you have experienced your relationships uniquely, this exercise (and your reviewing of other's posts) should allow you to see how similar many of these "unique" experiences really are.
A. Brainstorm the areas of your relationship that you suspect MIGHT have been influenced by your partner's addiction. You have already documented the consequences of their addiction earlier in the workshop, so there is no need to duplicate your effort here. List only those subtle behaviors associated with sexual addiction that you suspect may have played a role in the following situations:
b. Your partner's sexual desire for you over the course of the relationship
c. The ten biggest decisions that were made in your relationship (e.g. marriage, childbirth, housing, career)
d. The seven biggest arguments/conflicts/difficulties that you have had
B. If you were granted five specific questions to ask your partner regarding his/her behavior that were guaranteed to be answered honestly, what five questions would you ask? And what do you think the answers are?
1) Did you have an affair with your "friend" several years ago?
2) Do you have any secret internet accounts (or e-mail accounts, or porn subscriptions) that I don't know about?
3) Why did you make the decision to marry me?
4) Do you have any intention of stopping this behavior?
5) In 1998, you told me that you went on a fishing trip with friends. Where were you really and who were you with?