'A real illness'

CanWest News Service
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Sarah stands by her man - for now - as he undergoes therapy for sex addiction

Eighteen months ago, Sarah went snooping on her husband's computer and opened a deleted file that made her feel as if she'd been whacked in the stomach with a baseball bat.

It contained an exchange of love notes with another woman.

"It is the most devastating thing you could ever imagine," she says. "You can't believe what you're reading, it can't be true, but of course, part of you thinks, 'Why did you look? This is finally making sense.'"

The Internet has made it easier for some people to begin affairs. - Photo by Chris Mikula/Ottawa Citizen

Edmonton -

Eighteen months ago, Sarah went snooping on her husband's computer and opened a deleted file that made her feel as if she'd been whacked in the stomach with a baseball bat.

It contained an exchange of love notes with another woman.

"It is the most devastating thing you could ever imagine," she says. "You can't believe what you're reading, it can't be true, but of course, part of you thinks, 'Why did you look? This is finally making sense.'"

It explained his fidgety, nervous behaviour; why he'd suddenly change screens or shut down his computer when she walked into the room and asked him what he was doing; why he often stayed up late on the computer after she'd gone to bed; and why she sometimes couldn't reach him during the day and had no idea where he was.

Relief

Sarah angrily confronted him and told him he had a problem. He seemed relieved to have been caught, she says. He told her the woman meant nothing to him, immediately cut off further communication with her and disconnected his Internet account.

Two and a half months later, he seemed twitchy again and Sarah confronted him a second time, found he was back at it, and told him to get out.

"I felt so betrayed. I was hurt. I wondered, what's wrong with me that he would do this?" she says. It was faulty thinking, and she would later realize it had nothing to do with her and she was not to blame.

Her husband is her best friend, but when she was most heartbroken, she couldn't go to him and cry in his arms because he's the guy who hurt her.

Sarah couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, lost weight, cried a lot, and still had to care for four little kids and work a full-time job.

Quiz

A friend asked if Sarah's husband might be a sex addict and directed her to a website with a questionnaire, which Sarah forwarded to her husband, who was staying at a hotel. She told him to check out the site and get back to her.

He called back five minutes later and said his responses to the questionnaire were off the charts. Two days later, he was in therapy for sex addiction.

Sarah knows what some of you are thinking: "There's no such thing as sex addiction; it's just an excuse for cheating," and "You must be a doormat, staying with a man who's been unfaithful. How can you ever trust him again?"

You've obviously never had an addiction and don't know anyone who has, she says.

"It's not just somebody going out and having dozens of affairs and saying, 'I'm a sex addict'; it's a real illness."

Textbook case

Her husband is a textbook case, she says.

He came from a home where there was no bond between him and his mother. His parents were very domineering, not nurturing, not loving, and they shamed him. Everything he did was never good enough.

Like many sex addicts, he learned to soothe himself in a sexual way, and when he became an adult, he was always looking for a short-term sexual relationship with someone to give him a high, Sarah says.

It has nothing to do with looks, which explains why sex addicts bed other people, even when they're married to beautiful people such as actors Halle Berry or Tea Leoni.

People think sex addicts are oversexed, but they really feel ashamed and can't understand why they do what they do, Sarah says. That's why most don't find out they're addicts until they're caught by a spouse or partner and are forced to confront who they really are.

Some people also think women who decide to stay with their partners after infidelity are weak and have no self-respect, but it's actually the reverse, she says.

Strength

"If Elin (Nordegren, wife of golfer Tiger Woods, who has been reported to have spent time at a sex-addiction treatment centre in Hattiesburg, Miss.) decides to stay, I think that makes her powerful, makes her a very strong person, because she still wants to salvage something she believes in," Sarah says.

"If I didn't like my husband and he wasn't my best friend, it would have been easier to walk away than stay. He's also a good dad, and the kids don't deserve having their dad taken away from them because of an addiction."

Her husband completed a 12-step rehabilitation program and carries around a chip, much like those carried by reformed alcoholics, that says how long he's been clean.

There's no cure for addictions, Sarah explains. "For the rest of your life, you're an addict in sobriety."

Sarah, too, is in therapy. She's learning that a sex addict's partner usually comes from a family where one of the parents was an enabler. "So we're fixer-uppers, usually in professions such as nursing, teaching or counselling. We think we can save the world and our love will make everything better."

She's also learning how to trust her husband again. He is showing her he can be trusted by blocking sites that stimulate his addiction, and by being totally transparent and allowing her to randomly check his computer, his e-mails and his phone. He isn't allowed to delete anything unless she knows about it. And she must be able to reach him whenever she tries, and know where he is at all times.

"He always says, 'I'm so sorry my past has caused this so that you feel this way. You're the last person I would ever want to hurt and I'm so sorry I've brought this turmoil into your life.'"

He's had about three slips since acknowledging his addiction, and he's admitted them, as required, to Sarah, his therapist or therapy group.

"He's an amazing husband, father and partner in so many ways," Sarah says. "Our marriage has got so much stronger, but I don't trust the addict in him with my life or my family's life."

If she ever finds out he's been lying to her and has been relapsing, "at that point, I would walk away, because it's not healthy for me or the kids or the family," she says.

"It's been hell sometimes, but I've learned a lot and I can depend on myself if anything goes wrong. It would be hard to lose my best friend, but I would have to look after me and my family and move forward."

Geographic location: Edmonton, Hattiesburg, Miss.

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Recent comments

  • Moose
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Eighteen months ago, Sarah went snooping on her husband's computer and opened a deleted file.

    I would have had her charged. Criminal Trespass. Just the those at Eastern Health for going into peoples files. This type of behaviour is getting out of control. More needs to be done to protect peoples rights to privacy rather then opening up everything for all to see and hear. Cameras on the streets, in homes. Whats next, your toilet bowl to count and record your stool movements? Give it time, if we do not stand up to these abuses we will have no rights left other then the right to hand over our money and property to governments.

  • Elaine
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Willy you just made my day! Thanks again!

  • Anon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Everyone's a sex addict. Im a sex addict.
    Might as well face it your addicted to love.

  • Mona
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I agree with Calvin from NL. I don't believe there's any such thing as sex addiction, they use that as a crutch when they get caught and play it to the hilt.

  • Jackie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I was in a relationship with a person who I believe may have been an addict. He constantly hid his phone, would close up his computer if I walked into the room, and eventually hooked up with other women behind my back. It's hard not to take it personally. I think women who vow to stand by their husbands during these times are strong and deserve a lot of respect. It's not easy to look someone in the eye and say you still love them, even after they've broken your trust.

  • WTF
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    If you like pina coladas then be careful, there's a lot of Lolas on the web.

  • Heather
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Hmm - its seems all sex additcts are married. Any excuse for infidelity.

  • Can I
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    The real illness is the fact that this is an invasion of personal privacy. She might as well intercept letter mail and read it as well. Knowing your limits saves you from things you are better off not knowing.

  • Willie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    If you have a nosey spouse and you're having an affair on the internet (who isn't) you're better off dumping your recycle bin and deleting your cookies regularly.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

  • Watcher
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    South Park did a great episode addressing this whole sex addiction thing recently. Everytime a man said he had an addiction, he'd give a sideways glance to see if anyone was falling for it.

    This is because there is no such thing as sex addiction... it's called being male.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Everything in the media lately is about Tiger Woods and sex addiction.It's only sex addiction if you are having so much sex, you don't have time to have sex. Rest assured,they'll have a new pill out to fight sex addiction soon.Something that will turn you into a depressed,fat,drooling mess who can't face the world.See,sometimes the cure is worse that the (imagined) disease.

  • Calvin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I think this is one of the biggest jokes of modern therapy. My wife doesnt want to have relations near as much as I do, but Never once have I considered going out and cheating on my wife and then saying, but honey, I am addicted to sex. She tells me I am addicted to sex all the time, but she wouldnt be stupid enough to stay with me if I cheated on her. Grow a backbone lady and tell your husband to stop using sex addiction as an excuse for infidelity. With the criteria outlined as being a sex addict, any person is a sex addict.

  • Donald Michael
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    This post is very problematic. Sarah and her husband have deep communication problems. He isn't communicating with her, manifesting with physiological responses or being fidgety. She either doesn't try to communicate with him to discover the problem or can't communicate with him and shows that she doesn't trust him by invading his privacy. Ignoring the issues of the breakdown of communication and trust, Chris Zdeb now uses Sarah--who seems to base her knowledge on looking at a test on a website--as an expert. She is not.

    Sarah (and, I assume the website that gives her expertise) claims that his coming ...from a home where there was no bond between him and his mother. His parents were very domineering, not nurturing, not loving, and they shamed him. Everything he did was never good enough. This, she claims, makes him a textbook case. She doesn't explain how tens of thousands of people with similar upbringing don't feel it is necessary to break vows of marriage fidelity.

    Whether or not sex addiction is a real illness has nothing to do with this couple. Their issues are trust, communication, honesty, and the development of effective coping mechanisms to deal with personal issues. His breaking of marital vows are only a manifestation of these issues. I would respectfully suggest that they both need counseling as individuals and as a couple.

  • Sounding
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Ladies! Listen! Red flags are working on a report or checking the lotto results at 1.30 am every night on the computer and those Blackberry's.. the sex addiction thing is a farce. The Roman's knew how to party

  • Anne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Women are nuts, I wonder would he have been as sympathic if the shoe was on the other foot. I'd take the kids and run.

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    It seems that 99% of so called 'sex addicts' are married. Hmmm.

  • Real
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Really? Someone got married at 18 and there's a problem? You don't say...

  • Jerome
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    To First Post: I'd rather know than be made a complete fool of, and even more so, total disrespect. How many would know, except me? Certainly it would hurt; it would be absolutely devastating; but I would rather know.
    As for privacy, if he is using the
    home computer, then he should know that the possibility of being found out exists. A home computer is for everyone in the household to use. The person should have more of a conscience than be carrying on like this on the computer when his wife/partner is close by.

  • Tim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    To whom is this man married? I believe it is the one who has the right to know what is happening without her (or the rest of her family's) knowledge. Go away with your politically correct illusions of reality.

  • Moose
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Eighteen months ago, Sarah went snooping on her husband's computer and opened a deleted file.

    I would have had her charged. Criminal Trespass. Just the those at Eastern Health for going into peoples files. This type of behaviour is getting out of control. More needs to be done to protect peoples rights to privacy rather then opening up everything for all to see and hear. Cameras on the streets, in homes. Whats next, your toilet bowl to count and record your stool movements? Give it time, if we do not stand up to these abuses we will have no rights left other then the right to hand over our money and property to governments.

  • Elaine
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Willy you just made my day! Thanks again!

  • Anon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Everyone's a sex addict. Im a sex addict.
    Might as well face it your addicted to love.

  • Mona
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I agree with Calvin from NL. I don't believe there's any such thing as sex addiction, they use that as a crutch when they get caught and play it to the hilt.

  • Jackie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I was in a relationship with a person who I believe may have been an addict. He constantly hid his phone, would close up his computer if I walked into the room, and eventually hooked up with other women behind my back. It's hard not to take it personally. I think women who vow to stand by their husbands during these times are strong and deserve a lot of respect. It's not easy to look someone in the eye and say you still love them, even after they've broken your trust.

  • WTF
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    If you like pina coladas then be careful, there's a lot of Lolas on the web.

  • Heather
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Hmm - its seems all sex additcts are married. Any excuse for infidelity.

  • Can I
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    The real illness is the fact that this is an invasion of personal privacy. She might as well intercept letter mail and read it as well. Knowing your limits saves you from things you are better off not knowing.

  • Willie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    If you have a nosey spouse and you're having an affair on the internet (who isn't) you're better off dumping your recycle bin and deleting your cookies regularly.

    Willie Hunt
    Pouch Cove NL

  • Watcher
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    South Park did a great episode addressing this whole sex addiction thing recently. Everytime a man said he had an addiction, he'd give a sideways glance to see if anyone was falling for it.

    This is because there is no such thing as sex addiction... it's called being male.

  • Whatever Bud
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Everything in the media lately is about Tiger Woods and sex addiction.It's only sex addiction if you are having so much sex, you don't have time to have sex. Rest assured,they'll have a new pill out to fight sex addiction soon.Something that will turn you into a depressed,fat,drooling mess who can't face the world.See,sometimes the cure is worse that the (imagined) disease.

  • Calvin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    I think this is one of the biggest jokes of modern therapy. My wife doesnt want to have relations near as much as I do, but Never once have I considered going out and cheating on my wife and then saying, but honey, I am addicted to sex. She tells me I am addicted to sex all the time, but she wouldnt be stupid enough to stay with me if I cheated on her. Grow a backbone lady and tell your husband to stop using sex addiction as an excuse for infidelity. With the criteria outlined as being a sex addict, any person is a sex addict.

  • Donald Michael
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    This post is very problematic. Sarah and her husband have deep communication problems. He isn't communicating with her, manifesting with physiological responses or being fidgety. She either doesn't try to communicate with him to discover the problem or can't communicate with him and shows that she doesn't trust him by invading his privacy. Ignoring the issues of the breakdown of communication and trust, Chris Zdeb now uses Sarah--who seems to base her knowledge on looking at a test on a website--as an expert. She is not.

    Sarah (and, I assume the website that gives her expertise) claims that his coming ...from a home where there was no bond between him and his mother. His parents were very domineering, not nurturing, not loving, and they shamed him. Everything he did was never good enough. This, she claims, makes him a textbook case. She doesn't explain how tens of thousands of people with similar upbringing don't feel it is necessary to break vows of marriage fidelity.

    Whether or not sex addiction is a real illness has nothing to do with this couple. Their issues are trust, communication, honesty, and the development of effective coping mechanisms to deal with personal issues. His breaking of marital vows are only a manifestation of these issues. I would respectfully suggest that they both need counseling as individuals and as a couple.

  • Sounding
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Ladies! Listen! Red flags are working on a report or checking the lotto results at 1.30 am every night on the computer and those Blackberry's.. the sex addiction thing is a farce. The Roman's knew how to party

  • Anne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Women are nuts, I wonder would he have been as sympathic if the shoe was on the other foot. I'd take the kids and run.

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    It seems that 99% of so called 'sex addicts' are married. Hmmm.

  • Real
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Really? Someone got married at 18 and there's a problem? You don't say...

  • Jerome
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    To First Post: I'd rather know than be made a complete fool of, and even more so, total disrespect. How many would know, except me? Certainly it would hurt; it would be absolutely devastating; but I would rather know.
    As for privacy, if he is using the
    home computer, then he should know that the possibility of being found out exists. A home computer is for everyone in the household to use. The person should have more of a conscience than be carrying on like this on the computer when his wife/partner is close by.

  • Tim
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    To whom is this man married? I believe it is the one who has the right to know what is happening without her (or the rest of her family's) knowledge. Go away with your politically correct illusions of reality.