“I don’t like the color. It’s not what I wanted!” These were the words that belted out of my 4-year-old daughter’s mouth during her birthday party. Unbridled words that flew from the mouth of a child who was unaware and aloof of social norms but hurtful none the less. Every parent’s worst fear, as the words were in reference to a gift given by my own parents who loved their spoiled granddaughter greatly. As a parent embarrassed in the midst of a pile of gifts yet to be opened, my child was instructed to be grateful for any and all gifts. Later, we had a discussion about politeness, and she was directed to apologize to Grandpa and Grandma.
This is a very difficult concept for a young child to learn – how to betray themselves and tell a fib. Yes, they may even lie about their true feelings. Most clients who are parents may disagree with me (denial). However, I tell my clients all the time that at some point nearly every parent has taught their child how to lie. (Gasp!) I know, but it is the truth. We have all been there. We have all received gifts we do not really want and didn’t ask for.
I believe sex addiction is a gift. It is a gift that can either save you or destroy you. In fact, every addiction can be a gift. I believe sex addiction to be especially unique in that it will reveal the things in the heart of the non-addicted spouse unlike any other addiction. Sometimes, the things in a spouse’s heart can be very ugly and telling. Both spouses came into the relationship with cavities. The sex addiction just reveals those cavities of distrust, fear, abandonment, anger issues, etc. The sex addict and sex addiction did not cause these issues. It just exposed them. Sex addiction is a gift, because I believe God’s plan is not only to heal the sex addict, but the plan has always been to heal the sex addict AND their spouse.
Here are some of the ways I have seen spouses react to sex addiction recovery.
The Spouse who Stays
There are spouses who genuinely love their addict and sincerely want them to get better. However, they want no part in recovery. They see this as only the addict’s issue, and the addict is the problem. They are so detached themselves that they don’t see the value in walking this journey together.
The Spouse who Projects, Deflects and Blames
There are also spouses who are wounded from their own past and may become defensive and desire to project the pain they are feeling onto their partner in the present. The truth of the matter is they developed a wound of abandonment, rejection, or abuse, etc. in their lives long before marriage. They have a thick wall around their own heart. There are times that this type of spouse will go and get their emotional needs met outside the marriage by the opposite sex.
The Spouse who Embraces their Own Recovery
There are also spouses who accept their own flaws and enter their own recovery alongside their addicted spouse. They realize blame, projection and deflection only work for a short period of time. They are courageous men and women who risk being vulnerable by taking a hard look at themselves and their past regrets, mistakes and abuses.
The Spouse who Leaves
Finally, after full disclosure or verification with a polygraph examination, many spouses discover the addict is not only a sex addict who has been lying to them for most, if not all, of the marriage. They may discover the number of men or women involved. They may also learn intimacy anorexia is an issue. Many really love the addict, but the pain of staying is too great. They believe they must leave and separate from the agent of the pain and betrayal.
– Excerpt from Out of the Darkness, by Cory Schortzman
Now, if a spouse chooses to stay, I’ve listed a few reasons why I believe sex addiction can be considered a gift, especially if both partners are ready to be treated and brought into the light of recovery. It was a gift in my life as well as in the lives of many of my clients. You can have a better marriage than you ever imagined possible.
As we say in recovery, the addict stops growing emotionally when the addiction starts. Most addicts and their spouse are what I call emotionally constipated. So many addicts, even though they are physical adults, are emotionally children. Recovery will help the emotional age of both grow into their physical age.
Recovery will help not only the marital relationship but also immediate, extended, parental and work relationships. Recovery will teach you how to set boundaries, as it teaches you to say what you mean and mean what you say. It will help you begin to say “no” to the good, so you can say “yes” to the godly.
As you begin to get your emotional and relational life in order, you begin to stop medicating with overspending and become more responsible with your money. You begin to spend less than you make, pay off debt, become more productive at work, waste less time and tithe regularly. Your financial house begins to get in order.
Intimacy begins to improve dramatically outside the bedroom, which sets you up for successful intimacy and sex in the bedroom at a whole new level. Shame and secrets disappear due to newly discovered honesty.
Recovery will improve your physical health. As the stress of secrecy and lying will begin to disappear, your physical health will improve. As your self-care improves, you will no longer participate in stress eating and choose healthier foods. You may stay away from carbs, sugar and caffeine, which affects your emotions and your relationship with your spouse.
You begin to discover you are a spiritual being having a human experience, as your hard heart begins to soften to the God of the universe. Intuition, joy and peace begin to be part of your life again or maybe for the first time.
Enjoy the gift of sex addiction. There are not perfect people receiving that perfect gift. There are imperfect people receiving the perfect gift of recovery.
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.