If you have never heard of Ashley Madison before, you most likely have by now, as it is all over the news and social media. It is a self-proclaimed affair website for those who are married that claims, “Life is short. Have an affair”. No one and no marriage is immune from sexual immorality regardless of your race, religious background, or if you are rich or poor. After an unknown hack, 37 million names have been released globally.
Names of numerous men and women (business owners, federal, state, and private employees, famous and unknown) have now been made public. Josh Duggar has even come out, admitting he had an Ashley Madison account and struggled with pornography and infidelity. (Why are we are surprised by this?)
The world is sexually sick. This week’s news alone with Ashley Madison, local and global sex trafficking, Subway spokesmen Jared Fogle, Bill Cosby, and the transgender “woman of the year” Caitlyn Jenner exhibits this. All this is not a bad thing, as it is shining a light in the darkness which is a good thing!
If you are going to play with fire, you are going to get burned. Wood fireplaces are beautiful. They warm the home and bring ambience to their surrounding environment. Millions of Ashley Madison clients believed they could privately remove burning logs out of the safety of the fireplace, in which the fire (sex) was intended, into their bedrooms without smoke damage, the possibility of burning down their home or causing casualties.
This article is not about “I told you so.” It is about providing hope and help to millions of sex addicts and their partners. Generally, couples call our office for two reasons: pain and/or priority. Not only are a lot of Ashley Madison clients in a lot of pain but so are their spouses, children and loved ones, as private secrets have become public. There is hope!
If you are the spouse of a partner who has had an affair, here are some things to consider.
- If you suspect your spouse is having an affair, go ahead and ask them. How they respond will tell you a great deal of information. At Transformed Hearts, we teach believe behavior. If your spouse responds defensively and is not open, transparent or accountable with their time, money, schedule, social media, emails, texts, phone bills, electronic devices and internet usage history, you have a right to be concerned. Your spouse may be a sex addict and/or an intimacy anorexic.
- If your spouse has not had an affair but has been active on Ashley Madison, or any other site, it makes it no less painful due to their intent.
- There are many ways a sex addict can act out so be sure to ask about strip clubs, bookstores, novelty shops, Craig’s list ads, Back Page, dating sites or services, prostitutes, internet porn, videos, and magazines, etc.
- Affairs are not always physical. They can be emotional too. An emotional affair is when your spouse has confided or invested in the opposite sex emotionally with the amount of time and attention they have given. It can be a coworker, family friend, your best friend or even your own siblings.
- You may experience the stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, there is always hope by seeking recovery and restoration. You have been victimized, but it is not wise to stay the victim too long.
- It is important for you to also know you are not alone. There is help, specifically designed for you, as well as resources all around you that you may or may not be aware of. Find a safe person of the same gender to talk to. However, heed this warning: Be careful who you share this information with. Once spoken, it can no longer be unspoken. Spouses who choose to walk with their partner are courageous and amazing. Be aware that not all therapists are the same, and there are many who specialize in helping couples with this issue.
- You may have lots of questions. However, do not ask too many specific questions, such as, “Was sex better with her/him than with me? What sex acts did you perform?”, etc. You will NEVER forget this information. Instead, consider asking, “How many partners have you had? How often? When was the last time?” These are wise questions for your own physical health.
If you have had an affair that is now public, I want you to also know you are not alone. Being at the bottom is not a bad thing, as the only way to go is up now. Many have told me they feel such a relief once the secret is out. I call this the “dump truck effect”. Here are some things to consider.
- Start being honest with yourself and your spouse. Come forward with information, and don’t make your spouse pull everything out of you. Don’t play word games. Stop the overt and covert lies. Don’t lie by omission just because your spouse didn’t ask a specific question.
- At Transformed Hearts, we also believe full disclosure is the best policy. It is wise for you and your spouse do this with a trained professional, as this can be a minefield. For the sake of your spouse’s physical and emotional health, there is a balance between too much or too little information.
- Similar to your spouse, you will most likely experience the stages of grief.
- Healing for you and your spouse will take time. Be patient with yourself and your partner.
- There are a lot of options and ways to receive help. What will determine how much or how little help you get will depend on how much pain you are in or how much of a priority it is for you to turn your life around.
- Therapy and recovery are ALWAYS cheaper than divorce. Marriage is like an investment. Once cashed in, you will never regain in the time it will take to make that up. You, your spouse, and your marriage are worth fighting for. Things that are worthwhile are never easy.
- SHAME is the number one feeling you may be experiencing. Shame says, “You are a mistake. You are bad.” Yes, maybe you have done bad things. However, for you to begin to begin to get better, it’s not about knowing your badness (as you know that all too well). It is about beginning to understand and believe in your goodness. There is always hope – even in the most hopeless situations. Help is all around you, as there are people who have walked this road ahead of you.
Finally, if you have had a physical or emotional affair that is still private, I assure it is only a matter of time before it becomes public.
- Again, the world is sexually sick. If you want to get healthy, you are going to have to do the abnormal. If you want to get healthy, you are going to have to do the opposite of what you have been doing. Stop being the zero and become the hero.
- It can take a long time to build a savings account, trust, a home, or business. However, it only takes seconds to destroy these things.
- Take the first step. Find a safe person you trust of the same gender and share your secret.
- Freedom is not free. You are going to have to fight for it… you, your spouse, your family and your future are worth it!
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.