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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:41 pm 
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We are at 16 months after d day. My partner had been using internet porn compulsively for the previous 16 years. Before then, he admits to buying magazines, DVDs and VHS tapes occasionally and making repeat trips to strip bars, but not since being able to access porn at home online which was the beginning of his porn addiction. We had not had any kind of sexual relationship for about 7 years before d day. He denies any infidelities, affairs or using sex workers. I am confident that he has successfully stayed away from porn since d day.

My problem is that I find it impossible to talk about any issues arising from his porn addiction because he is caught up in his guilt and shame. After d day we knew we had to work on our communication about the things we never talked about properly. Like sex, masturbation, his past use of pornography, all the problem areas we avoided in the past. My own recovery has been about rebuilding my self esteem and my identity. Part of it is also discovering (or rediscovering) my values. I am also at a different life stage than I was when his internet pornography addiction began. I have had a lot of "growing up" to do as a consequence.

The biggest difficulty has been talking to my husband about anything connected to his past behavior. Whatever emotional distress I am recovering from, it's like he takes on this burden of guilt, that he caused it, it was all his fault and he feels bad. If I express an opinion that criticises the porn industry he feels that I'm criticising him, even though I'm not. Despite him swearing he has quit masturbation, I have witnessed him very early in the morning in bed when he thinks I'm asleep. The problem is that when we last had sex later in the day I believe he was masturbating, he lost his erection — something that hasn't happened at all since d day, but used to happen when he was actively using porn which was what killed off our sex life. He insists he doesn't masturbate, but this morning once again he was masturbating when he thought I was asleep.

It's not masturbation that is the issue, it's the effect on our physical relationship caused by his low libido and loss of erection. It's the same as when he was using porn only this time it's without porn. The result is that I feel left out, alone and either have to put up his lack of interest or his loss of function. I also suspect this has been going on for some weeks. I know if I raised the issue he would deny it or get angry at me, probably even say I was the one stirring up bad feeling. So much for improving communication.

Whenever we do have one of our many communication breakdowns, it almost always follows the pattern of me raising the sensitive issue, if it's something that can be denied he will, he typically becomes defensive, gets angry at me. Then he will go on to berate himself, say things like "look at the mess I've made of everything" and then slumps into this state of guilt and shame, feels depressed, says life isn't worth living, he's ruined everything etc. So how on earth can we get past this? It's been over a year and he's still getting caught up in this cycle of shame, as I see it because it's so predictable. Any difficult matter ends up here and we don't resolve the original issue.

Just to fill in the picture, the only things he disclosed were the magazines and porn videos he bought before we were online. He only admitted going to the strip bars because I rumbled him, but insists he hasn't been to one since we were online. Everything he disclosed happened about 20 years before d day, and before his addiction to internet porn began 16 years before d day. Everything I learneed about his porn addiction was after d day and was the result of my own investigations — it was my only option because he told me nothing. It was the same pattern. I ask a question, he would deny it. When I found evidence to the contrary he would minimise it, tell partial truths, but it would be a difficult drawn out process. He would get angry at me for not believing him, even if he was lying. I would get angry at him for lying. He admitted nothing. Even when I printed out the evidence from his computer, he would deny any memory of it. The last piece of evidence I found he told me he had "no recollection whatsoever". He refused to admit it and never did. His anger was off the scale. A few days later he said "I know I was a fool" and there we were, back to shame again. It was at this point I realised he was not capable of honesty. This was about a year ago. It created a huge set back in my recovery and in the recovery of our relationship. I lost the ability to orgasm for some months. He saw it as his failure as a lover. He didn't understand why I was so upset. I was sick of the predictable round of denial/anger/refusal to admit then back to shame cycle. I can't discuss anything because sooner or later it ends in his shame.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:27 am 
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Blue - I could have written your post word for word. I've been post d-day for about 2.5 years and I still struggle with these issues with my husband. Things are improving. I can't remember if your husband is in active recovery AND health program. My husband started with RN (based on my early threat of divorce), moved on to IC, 12-step, a men's group, group therapy and MC. That's a lot. And he needs it all. I can see now how each part of his recovery program helps.

When I really understood that I was on my own healing path, it helped me to better "see" my husband. And to know what I had to do to heal. So, it's great that you are expressing your feelings and hurt. It's great that you are building self esteem. It's taking me hard work and time, and I'm still working on it. I think the longer we were in a relationship with an SA and our past issues of trauma, the harder and longer it takes to heal.

Here's what I know about my husband: he is immature (stunningly, actually); he is filled with shame. And the core shame about himself, which he really is just starting to get at since he spent a lifetime of addiction trying to escape it, is what I think causes so much of the destructive behavior. Believe me, I think my husband did shameful things during his acting out. But that core shame of not being a worthwhile human being; that's what causes so many problems. And we partners can do NOTHING about that. Our partners have to find the right recovery resources to address that issue.

Defensiveness. My husband honed this one over decades of marriage. He has a hair trigger defensive/anger reaction at anything. ("Honey, the water on the stove is boiling." KABOOM! It's nuts of course). It's also blame shifting. I needed to be very clear about boundaries around this issue. They have to stop abusing us with their defensivenes. They won't do it right away since they have to learn their way out of the mess. But we don't have to put up with it.

Lying and secrets. Hard for them to give up, isn't it? With all the compartmentalization and distorted thinking, they have to get out of their own BS and decide if they really do value integrity. It's just BS when they say they do and they don't really understand what it looks like let alone what it feels like. They have to practice honesty to really learn if it's a value and how to do it. As Jon says, the mechanics of honesty are quite simple. It's the doing it that's hard if you've spent your lifetime using dishonesty as a life management tool. And, this is really important, for us, dishonesty/secrecy is a huge red flag. Addiction thrives here. Intimacy, let alone respect, is impossible without emotional safety which is impossible without trust.

Compulsive masturbation. Yep. Know this one. Know about anorexia. Know about the secrets. Have also been rejected sexually and then heard my husband masturbating while he thought I was asleep. Know how much and how often he did it. Can this be anything but immature? My husband can't tolerate his emotions and gets tremendous self-soothing from jerking off. How immature is that? Add to it that the self-soothing/medicating became addicting and he started to crave that jolt of intensity, and here he goes down the rabbit hole.

Empathy. They don't have this. They need to learn it. It takes lots of time is my view. This is another red flag issue for us. We need them to be mature enough, calm enough, strong enough and compassionate enough to hear us. Really hear us. My husband has to develop the skill of listening; has to stop running the script in his head of how he looks, how he will "win" when it isn't even an argument.

Self absorption. Here we are. It is truly immature in how self absorbed my husband is. Still is. Another red flag issue.

What I now understand is that I have to keep rebuilding myself and my life regardless of my husband and his recovery. I have to know my bottom lines during his recovery, though, since he isn't going to stop being an addict and become a mature, healthy person overnight. It takes time. Perseverence. Hard work. Awareness. Addicts spend their whole lives escaping from these very important life lessons. I know my husband can't give me what I want in a marriage. Not now anyway. What I needed to figure out is do I want to wait for him to become a mature and healthy man. If so, what boundaries did I need to establish. What were my bottom lines. It's okay for us not to know. And it's okay for us to change our minds.

dnell


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 5:52 pm 
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dnell, hank you for your insights and for sharing the bigger picture. Sometimes I find it difficult to understand the situation because it's so complex. The core of the addiction is this deeply ingrained 'never good enough" belief and I can see this now as the source of shame. It's like the addict is forever working hard to cover up their feelings of inadequacy by showing the world how competent they are, always seeking approval in some way, wanting to be important or indispensable, or needing to be liked. Yet underneath it all seems to be this feeling of "at least I can fool enough people most of the time to believe in the illusion I have created".

The thing is, where does that leave me in the here and now? How do I repair our relationship when I'm inevitably going to collide with the front he presents to me. He is very much someone who is very different in private from his public face. It's only in private that he expresses how much he can't stand people, such as people he works with, and he interprets a less than favourable response from someone as evidence of how awful they are, how deficient their characters are, etc. Yet I say to him, "I'm sure they probably go home and complain about how annoying you can be" yet he would probably consider someone doing the same thing as an outrage. He is
different, of course. I think this is part of the "hyper religiosity" trait that Coach Mel mentioned in my healing thread.

We both know, intellectually, that we need to improve our communication as an important part of recovery as a couple yet my attempts to be open and vulnerable and to express my deepest feelings can actually create an almost instantaneous tension between us. I find myself in a situation where we don't communicate. I get the message from his reaction that certain things are off limits. I have made an effort to raise issues that we didn't communicate about – issues which probably contributed to the conditions for the addiction to develop and continue – and I end up feeling that I make communication more difficult. These issues that I attempt to raise are not resolved. He becomes uneasy, somewhat hostile, and as you say, "blame shifting". In trying to improve communication I end up making it more difficult.

Sometimes it ends up with him sinking into his shame, wanting to be left alone and retreating into a kind of depression. So then it becomes my role to reassure, to care, to be loving, tolerant and forgiving. But ultimately what happens to our communication? It still doesn't seem to evolve into the openness that I thought would be possible after our recommitment after d day.

He is certainly rebuilding his life and has made genuine efforts in many areas. He is not in therapy or attending group meetings. The online or group situation doesn't appeal to him as there seems to be an element of the membership talking a lot about their acting out and relapsing, and I agree with to some extent because the addict sections of online support forums tends to be so depressing in it's "true confessions" nature. He doesn't want to be exposed to even worse behavior than what he did. Face to face professional help isn't an option right now because of work and financial reasons. I'm certainly not ruling out professional couples therapy in the future. The reason why I have been reluctant so far is because we had been in the past for other reasons and he did not admit to going to strip bars which would have been recent or current behavior at that time. I had no idea at all but if I knew I definitely would have brought it up at the sessions. When I asked him why he never mentioned it he said "I didn't think it was relevant". I don't want to invest all that time, money and emotional energy putting my heart and soul into therapy, in good faith, if there is a fair possibility that he is withholding important facts. So, it's quite a difficult situation for me to know what to do for the best. I had individual therapy and a course of CBT for depression. I'm finding it difficult to rely on my inner resources.

The frustrating thing is I try my best to be open and transparent. I'm showing him I trust him enough to share my most personal thoughts. I am making myself vulnerable. But my attempts to reach out can be closed down by his non reaction and/or withdrawal into shame and depression. So how can I raise the topic of masturbation, for example? I can't. I may have witnessed his early morning masturbation sessions twice this past week and apart from the obvious lessening effects on his sexual response, I am struggling to find a way to talk about it. Not only that, I'm feeling quite upset about how this situation resembles how things were when he was using porn. I lose out and his behavior puts up a wall between us where he can indulge and pretend not to. Just what I don't want. I try to "role model" by attempting to be open but it invariably backfires. If I was to ask outright about his early morning "sessions"
I can guarantee I'd be back in the denial/anger/blame shifting/shame cycle. I feel well and truly stuck.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 5:12 am 
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these posts resonate with me.

the only way I am coping is by seeing my counsellor

there is no talking to my husband, he is deep in denial, he is full of resentment about the porn blocker I put on our PC, but now my eyes are open to his manipulation and blame shifting I am not reacting as I used to. But any hint that I may start talking about the sex addiction, or emotions etc, and he will resort to "not this again, or here we go again, or similar things that stop me in my track.
I find it so hard that he doesn't want to talk about anything apart from day to day superficial stuff.
..


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 8:15 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
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Quote:
How do I repair our relationship when I'm inevitably going to collide with the front he presents to me.


I'm about to get into my car to drive to MC to yet again talk about this issue. Gently, WE can't repair the relationships without a cooperative and adult partner. For some reasons, I bent myself into a pretzel trying to make my relationship work. It's not going to happen until my husband meets me halfway. And he is both unwilling and unable to do so right now. I have finally learned to stop trying so hard when my effort is to of no avail.

My husband view my pain as a personal attack and personal criticism that I relentlessly bring up over and over again since I'm such a horrible person. He's said he's sorry, right? He says he has complete empathy. So why do I keep hurting him. My husband is so self abosrbed and immature that he can't understand what we're talking about here. He's hurt. He's ashamed. I'm unloving if I don't shut up.

I can't fix this. Nor should I have to put up with it. My reality is that my husband is not a partner to me. He's not adult. He does not have the emotional management skills nor maturity to listen to me, let alone empathize with me, let alone offer me comfort or support. Once I painfully accepted this reality, my question is what do I do now. That is where I dwell. It's all about my healing and not about my husband, his addiction, his recovery, his immaturity. I need to set bottom lines about how he treats me RIGHT NOW. I need to have bottom lines about what would make me actually go. I didn't know them at first. And now I need to know when I have had enough with waiting.

I know how painful this reality is for me. But it is my reality. My husband tells me he has to have my love and forgiveness in order to forgive and love himself. That is an impossible and unreasonalbe thing to ask me. I know if he can't change the belief that someone else, anyone else, has to "fix" him, it will only lead to his disappionntment and ultimately more betrayal of me.

Focus on you. Be gentle. Give yourself time.

With much compassion,
dnell


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 12:58 pm 
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Thanks once again dnell, and thank you Jenny56.

dnell, I think you have homed in on where this problem lies, and since my last post I've seen this trait in action. Like a live experiment, almost. I shared how I felt, I wasn't angry, or blaming or aggressive. I just shar d with him what I had recently realised about myself and my own feelings and beliefs about myself during the later stages of his porn addiction. For me, understanding myself and how I ended up where I did has been so important to my healing. Bearing in mind that the addiction is hidden, and deliberately so, I was left wondering what was going on in my life and in my relationship, and why did I feel like I did? So I shared one very significant insight and that seemed to set of the familiar cycle, only this time the order was a bit different because I guess I only spoke of myself and there was nothing for him to deny. So, I guess he froze and tried to distract himself by having "things to do". Later on he retreated into a state of depression and wanted to be left alone. Later on he said I was always punishing him. I explained that all I wanted to do was to communicate and share what I believed was an insight that I saw was progress in my own healing. But of course it's "all his fault" – we're back to shame again. I tell him over and over, whatever he did is in the past, I've done all that any partner can possibly do to understand porn/sex addiction. I've gradually forgiven his behavior, bit by bit. But he won't make a similar effort for me. He has quit. He has made changes in his life. There are few aspects of his behavior that I am not convinced are healthy like not eating well and drinking too much. It turns out that he is struggling with perhaps late stage withdrawal symptoms or possibly in the earliest subconscious stages of creating relapse.

He IS communicating, though with difficulty. He is distressed by an addict brain that won't forget. He has admitted to having intrusive thoughts recently but he hasn't admitted to the masturbation. Knowing him as I do, I know if I raise the matter he will immediately react with denial/anger and once again our attempts at open communication would be derailed completely. I can't help thinking that his current difficulties are intensified by his masturbation.

You are right. I can only work on my own healing. Role modelling the values I feel are important in a relationship doesn't seem to make any difference. If I am open it doesn't follow that he will be open too. I need to accept that it's a non-starter. Just like when I realised about a year ago that he is incapable of telling the truth. It's a very lonely place. All I can control is my own behavior.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 2:01 pm 
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Yes, it is lonely. Keep reaching out here and in your life. Like jenny, my counselor has been a life savior for me.

I do believe that our partners CAN recover if they are sincere. And I do believe they can become healthy if they really work at it. But it takes time. It's hard work. I don't think they can do it alone. They have to get in control of the acting out to get to managing their emotions and to learn how to manage their emotions in a healthy way. Jon's whole point is that to actually live by values, who you really want to be, will give you longer term, deeper meaning and satisfaction than the short term jolt of acting out. But, they actually have to have intention and practice behavior...not just kind of wish for it. They have to learn by behavior to start to feel a connection to and a meaning for their values.

My MC session actually went really well in that my husband was able to start to see some of his issues. But I've been in marriage counseling for two years now. It takes time. It takes a lot of recovery resources.

If your partner is unwilling to do RN, or go to 12 step, or get counseling, that leaves you in the lonely but necessary position of focusing on your healing. As you heal, what you will do about all of this will become more clear. It's taken me 2.5 years to get to the point I am in my healing and I still have a ways to go. At the start, I could only take baby steps to focus on myself: have a bath, read a book, eat chocolate. There were some days I couldn't even do that. I had to build up baby step after baby step, gently, to start to return to myself. We can heal. It takes time and it's painful. But it is wonderful.

With compassion,
dnell


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 8:27 pm 
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I'm happy to read your MC is helpful. I have not ruled it out for my partner and I but I need to be as confident as I can be that he is not going to withhold important information from the sessions like he did years ago when he had been repeatedly going to strip bars. With hindsight this was a huge red flag about the risk of developing sexually compulsive behaviors. All he could say was "I didn't think it was relevant". If he could get away with saying nothing that's what he'll do. That's my fear with couples therapy.

We have made some progress in communication. He's told me how distressed he is about his intrusive thoughts and how distressing it is for him that his addict brain refuses to forget. Just being able to tell me is progress for him but at the same time it's extremely difficult for him and one wrong word from me, no matter how innocent, no matter how well-intentioned, has the potential to break this very delicate thread of communication. Walking on eggshells doesn't come close, but it's progress. I have to allow him the conditions he needs, so that it's safe to tell me what is troubling him. If I brought up the masturbation issue I know that I'd lose this very fragile connection.

I know what you mean about baby steps. I know I really have to back off from focusing on his addiction and get back to my recovery, and start doing things for me. Otherwise I'm sinking into the world of someone else's porn addiction, and on self help sites I can sink into other people's porn and sex addiction in the quest for understanding. Reading the stories of male sex/porn addicts can be so disheartening. I believe, naively of course, that my partner "doesn't have it that bad" and no, "he's not like that" and then I realise, this is a guy who has an advanced ability to reveal so little of himself, and to think of him as having this scanning, ogling, objectifying compulsion is quite distressing. When I read the confessions of men who have used massage parlors and paid for sex, or had webcam sex and hookups, married men whose wives have no idea, then I wonder if I'm one of these unsuspecting wives. There comes a point when I just have to draw a line and say, "enough".

Thanks for listening, dnell. I intend to keep up with the recovery program and make an effort to prize myself away from the addict swamp because I fear I might sink too deep.


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