On what we lose when we are married to a sex addict

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

You might think this blog post is all about the many things we lose when we are married to a sex addict.  There are so many, it would take me all day to list them:  our self-respect, our voice, our security, our safety, our significance, our trust for others, our trust for God, our health, our power, our dignity, our faith in the human race, our family, our house, our comfort…  The list goes on and on.  (Feel free to leave a comment and add what you’ve lost.)  Rather, what I want to do is focus on one of these things:  Our intuition.

I know for myself, I started to slowly close the door on that inner voice early on in my relationship with Jason.  Well before I married him.  I had no idea that I was even doing it.

Maybe it’s because I admired him.  Maybe it was because he covered the biggest of gaping holes in my heart and soul.  You know, the hole that said “Shelley is unchosen”.

Yes, it was Jason that finally chose me.  And it seems because of that, I allowed a lot to slide.  Including those feelings deep within that were telling me something wasn’t quite right.

And at some point, I shut the door, locked it, and threw away the key.



















When I started to pick up the pieces of the betrayal…  When I started to see that I wasn’t going crazy…  I realized I had completely lost my compass, my internal notion that helped me know which way was north.

And it seems that twelve years into this recovery, I am still working on opening the door wide.  Trusting my intuition.  Trusting my instincts.  And being obedient to what God might ask me to say or do.

I read recently that there is a connection between our enteric nervous system (the part of our nervous system that controls our GI tract) and the emotional center of our brain.  Here is what I read:  “Evolution has placed part of our emotion-generating circuits in the gut, an area where you have major mechanical influences such as contractions and a direct interface with the environment.”

Wow, isn’t that amazing?  And it totally makes sense.  So how, after all we have been through, do we learn to trust our gut?  To trust our intuition?  The Holy Spirit.

For myself, the first step to taking back my intuition was demanding to know the truth about my life.  I kept thinking there must be something I was missing.  And there was!  The more I swept the evidence under the rug, the crazier it made me feel.  It wasn’t until I knew the truth.  That my husband was committing adultery.  Which led me to recognize that I wasn’t going crazy, that I was able to find the key and unlock the door.

Even still, it would be months or years before I was able to trust my intuition.

Other ways I have worked to learn to trust myself again:

1)  Sharing with trusted friends about what I am thinking and processing.  Yep, it’s living in community.  Usually, my friends have words for me that I might feel but can’t say.  They help clarify, validate, and dissect my feelings.  I typically walk away with more clarity.

2)  Being more aware of my feelings.  I’ve spent many a years staying very busy.  My busyness became a buffer for me in that it prevented me from dealing with the feelings within.  Over the last three years, I’ve started to let go of the busyness and be more intentional with my time and commitments.  It’s been through this intentionality that I’ve begun to take the time to feel how I feel.

3)  Learning to take Risks.  When we start to trust our instincts again.  And trust the true voice in our heart and soul, we might find that we are faced with taking risks.  It’s through risking that we learn to trust ourselves and trust God even more.  In fact, Jennie Allen, in her book Anything, says that “the only exercise that works works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God, is risk.”

What about you – what has it looked like to reclaim your intuition?  That inner voice that God has given each of us through His Holy Spirit?  And what else might you add to the list?  What have you lost being married to a sex addict?  I’d love to hear from you.


19 thoughts on “On what we lose when we are married to a sex addict

  1. stacey

    May 21, 2015  |  08:28 pm

    I lost all those things you mentioned, and so many more. One that comes to mind is my confidence. It’s been 5 months since discovery, so not only do I not have ANY sense that I have ANY intuition, I don’t have confidence in my self or my FEELINGS. What I mean is, when something is not feeling right, I think “oh, you are just hyper sensitive right now because it’s been such a short time”, and another second later, I’m thinking “No! Listen to your gut, don’t push it under the rug!” So, now I just don’t know what to think.

    • rlforwomen

      May 26, 2015  |  08:40 pm

      Oh Stacey! The loss of confidence. That is so huge. Thanks for adding to the discussion. I’d say go with your gut. Absolutely you are hypersensitive and it HAS been such a short period of time hence the reason you have every right to be hypersensitive like never before.

  2. Caroline

    May 21, 2015  |  09:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post Shelly! It is a refreshing breeze of truth today.

    I also lost (or rather hid) my intuition very early on.

    With A LOT of help from christian marriage advice books, I began to redefine all the warning signs I felt as “discontentment”, “a critical spirit”, and being “harsh, judgmental & disrespectful”.


    My “imagination” wasn’t near as terrible as his reality. There were many things that came out of the disclosure that I hadn’t even fathomed. It turns out I was actually pretty optimistic, even in my darkest, most hidden, unspoken fears!

    I like your ideas for reconnecting with our intuitive self.

    Another thing I lost, fairly early on in the relationship as well, was my gender identity and sense of age and size. At 18 years old , after just two years as his girlfriend, I already felt non-female, HUGE and OLD. Not like a fat old man exactly, but rather some gender neutral, lumbering, animal-like creature. A little like Badger from the Wind in the Willows.

    I started dressing in mostly dark and baggy men’s clothing and on the rare occasion when I wore a dress or something at all feminine, I felt fraudulent and indecent. Even wearing light or bright colors made me feel like a cross-dresser…or a troll in a skirt. Kinda like “Who are you trying to kid?”

    Something that has REALLY helped in this area is realizing that many many women (maybe even most) feel a very similar way about themselves. No matter what kind of ravishing beauty I see on the outside, they may very well hear the same devilish voices on the inside that I hear!

    Since I tend to be much kinder to others than I am to myself, I have learned to tell my inner Troll what I would tell a friend if she were struggling with these weird thoughts.

    • rlforwomen

      May 26, 2015  |  08:44 pm

      Caroline!!!! When am I ever going to meet you in person?! Thank you for your courage and bravery in your response. I want to ask you more about losing your gender identity as well as your sense of age and size. Can you tell me (and I guess anyone else who might be reading, which last I checked, there were quite a few, just a very quiet bunch) more about why you lost your gender identity? I don’t want to jump to conclusions and I have no doubt you aren’t the only one. Who knows, maybe I did the same thing (as I have always dressed more gender neutral until the five or six years) and haven’t put words to it yet?! Thanks, as always, for your insight.

  3. Caroline

    May 27, 2015  |  04:59 am

    Thanks for probing Shelly. I admit I was kind of sorry after I posted it, thinking it would sound too crazy. Let me try to explain…

    My husband confessed his porn addiction very early on and we joined a church group for breaking the chains of “life controlling issues”, he for pornography use and me for bulimia and obsessive dieting. Our problems “disappeared” by going underground and we continued in a dating relationship that led to marriage 4 years later. He always claimed he still “struggled a bit with his thought life” but lied his head off about the continued porn use until a few years ago. We celebrated our 18th anniversary last week.

    Being bulimic before we met, I already had some severe body issues right from the start. Also, I had a history of sexual abuse as well (from porn addicts) , which always gives you a strange sense of yourself.

    But, I really believe what was most damaging was when I saw a bit of what he was drawn to and realized I could never be THAT, no matter how “thin” I might become through any eating disorder. I could never BE porn. No real person can. I pretty much gave up trying to compete for his attention as a woman right at that moment. I was 16 years old.

    Part of that “giving up” was to cover up my body with large neutral clothing so I couldn’t be compared, part of it was being the willing partner of any and all sexual interactions…often times being the initiator (to “meet his needs” and prove we were still okay… right?), and part of it was killing my hope for true love and romance.

    I began to despise my old desire to be loved and cherished and pursued by a man who could accept me as I was. I lost all my girlish innocence and mocked myself for ever believing he could really love only me. My personality became sullied with cynicism and a sarcastic humor. A grumpy old mannish sort of person.

    I saw being open and feminine as being weak, the place I could be hurt the most through rejection.

    Another element in my strange perception of myself was the kind of sexual relations that a lot of porn addicts are drawn to. ‘Tis not the face to face, connecting and affirming intimacy the bible holds up. The sex is very often selfish, impersonal, and increasingly degrading. I don’t want to trigger anyone here by getting too graphic, but many other wives have admitted to feeling terribly used and objectified, as if the “acts” could have been done to anyone: man, woman, or beast.

    One way to deal with this part is to simply dissociate, and become another person for a bit, but again, this only adds to that strange perception of self.

    Having all sons fit this persona quite well, I was a fun mom! But, six years ago I gave birth to the most beautiful, most delicate little flower of a girl-child imaginable. Her astonishing beauty and utter vulnerability threw me into a tailspin unmatched even by my husband’s full disclosure three years later. I had never allowed myself to feel special and worth protecting, but here she was in all her female glory…I was stunned by her and realized that under all my defenses… I was still a girl too.

    I was on a quest to recover my own lost identity. In so many ways God was gently leading me to a place of healing. A place where I could demand to know exactly what my life had been. I loved my husband, but for the first time I knew I could live without him.

    • rlforwomen

      May 27, 2015  |  06:17 pm

      Caroline. I don’t even know that I have words. Thank you for sharing more. You most certainly didn’t sound crazy with your first post, I knew there was more to understand and wanted to know. I’m going to have to let this marinade in my heart for a while, so I might be back with follow-up questions and the sort. I so much appreciate your courage in posting here. What I know is your words WILL impact others as they reflect on what they’ve experienced as they read what you have experienced. I think it’s incredible that you have been able to put words to all this. It’s deep. Thank you. xoxo

  4. Beth

    June 8, 2015  |  02:13 pm

    I lost so many “years”, 25 to be exact, of my marriage and memories. Finding out that he had been addicted to porn for at least 25 years and using prostitutes for 20 years, just about killed me. I am 7 months into the process. I have been so sad and grieved for the lost “years” because of the double life he lived and my years of being betrayed so horribly. I also feel that I’ve lost my memories and are triggered by pictures and videos of those years he was acting out. His sexual addiction pollutes all of my memories and that is a very tough consequence to deal with.
    I also feel like we lose our self image, even though as women it is usually pretty shaky to start with, the comparisons and inadequacies really fire up when you find out you were/are competing with prostitutes, most of whom are 20-30 years younger.
    I also feel that I have lost my emotional stability, at least for a time. It is so hard to “soldier on” and not have break downs. Some days are worse than others but it is unpredictable .
    I feel like I also lost my intelligence ( very similar to intuition in this context) because I didn’t figure things out when I knew things were wrong.
    You also lose financial security with this addiction. I figured that my husband had spent between $45,000 and $50,000 on his little “hobby”. I think he was even shocked to see what this cost financially through the years.
    After I said all of this , I am proud to say that we are still together, fighting for our marriage, and both of us are seeing the same therapist. He is doing great and has been so surprised at how well he has done- he was scared to death that he couldn’t get better, as was I. What a difficult journey this is!!

    • rlforwomen

      June 17, 2015  |  05:38 pm

      Wow, Beth. So many losses. I want to encourage you that you don’t have to “soldier on”. Allow yourself to feel however you feel. And to grieve as long as you need to. When those tears come, it simply means there is more grieving to do. Nobody can give us a time limit on our grief. We are all unique and this looks different for each of us. If we don’t let out the grief by processing, crying, getting angry, and processing some more – it will seep out in other ways. You are doing great work, Beth. xo-Shelley

  5. Stacy

    June 9, 2015  |  06:56 pm

    Another thing I lost from my husband being unfaithful was my “special-ness”. I had always felt so special. We married as virgins and I was the only girl he had ever even kissed (I had kissed a few guys that I had dated). I thought we had done it all the right way. I thought I was his special girl. : (

    • rlforwomen

      June 17, 2015  |  05:30 pm

      Hi Stacy,
      Yes, losing that “special-ness” hits home to me, too. I felt chosen by Jason. I never had a boyfriend before him. To realize that I wasn’t the only woman he chose was devastating. I get it.

  6. Elizabeth

    June 15, 2015  |  12:33 am

    I found out 4 weeks ago that my husband was unfaithful. In the last 4 weeks there have been more revelations and I find that my paradigm has been totally shattered. Here was a man who I looked to for support and love who engaged in so many behaviors that I find totally baffling. I met him when I was 18 and he was 27, we dated for 3 years, got married and had 3 kids. I knew he liked porn, but he convinced me it was normal and that all men watched it. I had no idea that he had cheated on me while we were dating. He cheated on me after our first child was born. He admitted he has been cheating steadily since 2012. The manipulation and controlling behavior, combined with my low self esteem created a fantasy world called my marriage. Even now he says that since he spent several years not cheating that I can’t discount his fidelity… he doesn’t understand.

    • rlforwomen

      June 17, 2015  |  05:26 pm

      Oh Elizabeth, I agree with you. He certainly does not understand. The fact that he says you can’t discount his fidelity…well, that tells me that he isn’t owning his choices. His choices that have hurt you so badly. I’m sure it was difficult for you to reach out to me. Thank you for being so brave. I just want to validate you that you have every right to feel like your paradigm has been shattered. Like a broken mirror in 1000 pieces on the floor. How did you find out about your husband’s affairs? Did he disclose them to you or did you make a discovery? Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. May God comfort you and meet you exactly where you are at, Shelley
      ps. I don’t know if you have time to read but there is a book I’d highly recommend. it’s called “What to do when your spouse says I don’t love you anymore” by Dr. David Clarke. I highly suggest reading it. It’s the book I read before confronting Jason.

  7. Annie

    June 25, 2015  |  01:42 am

    What else do we lose? The desire to be part of life.
    I am an actress. I used to be one professionally — now everyday is an act, when I teach, I play the role of happy wife and mom, when I volunteer, I am a happy wife and mom. I come home, I go to MY room ( I gutted the master suite to make it my place of peace and solace) I shut my door and read, study, grade papers, and cry myself to sleep. This is after 22 months.
    Yes, I see a counselor, yes he goes to 12 step at Doug Weiss’s in Colorado Springs and makes all sorts of promises to become more sensitive to my hurts and sense of loss, but apathy and laziness are his gods and its best to just leave me alone — to avoid conflict at all cost. He has taken over my library to sleep in and has a home office.
    Last New Year’s Eve, I was working on a survey for my blog site (which I have not yet brought to life) to understand why men begin down this path. I asked my H if he would give me his feedback on the questions. After viewing a few, he looked up and said “75% of the women on porn I sought out were younger, prettier,many skinnier than you. I am sorry, you want the truth…” and then he repeated it. I was near suicidal that night. I have lost my sense of being ever sense. I just want to go home to my heavenly Father’s arms.

    • rlforwomen

      July 1, 2015  |  06:41 pm

      Annie, My heart is aching for you. Those words your husband shared with you, they are so utterly painful. This doesn’t sound like a man in recovery. It sounds like a man that is continuing to justify his poor choices. A defensive, self-protecting, opposite-of-insightful kind of response. And I hate that you had to hear it. I hate it. It makes sense that you’ve lost desire to be a part of life. My prayer is that you would see you do have a life worth living. A redeemer that is chasing you and has a perfect plan for your life. May I ask, what kind of support do you have for yourself besides your counselor? Do your friends know what you are going through? with love, Shelley

  8. Dawn

    March 7, 2018  |  07:08 am

    My Dear Annie,

    I’m just now reading your post, some almost 3 years later, and my heart aches for you. If you see this, please follow up and let me know how you’re doing. Also know that I am praying for you. You are beautiful! I do hope you are okay.

  9. Aimee

    January 3, 2019  |  11:25 pm

    I’ve just discovered my husband’s sex addiction 2 months ago. I lost the respect and admiration that I had for my husband and our marriage. I was completely blindsided by this discovery. I spoke and thought so highly of my husband. He was always wise beyond his years (we met when I was 19 and he was 20). Very financially stable for his age. Very dedicated and focused on work and providing for us. Showed a lot of love and compassion for me and helped me through my anxieties I grew up with alcoholic parents and dysfunctional family. I’ve been hurt by people who I’ve been so close to and now I am betrayed by the person who I thought was my “knight in shining armor”.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 9, 2019  |  09:59 am

      Oh Aimee – I am so sad to hear that this nightmare of SA has affected you, too. Especially after all you have been through. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you become interested in a support group. xo – Shelley

  10. Victoria

    January 22, 2020  |  08:03 am

    I met my husband 6.5 years ago. I stood by him during his divorce, his rebuilding of his life, the challenges of following in his fathers footsteps, his brother’s suicide. For years, I would feel like he was cheating on me. I’d find cialis bottles hidden in glove compartments, or lipstick on a wine glass in our home that wasn’t mine. He’d sometimes ignore my calls for hours, or even days. He told me I was crazy. Told me I didn’t understand love because of my parents’ dreadful marriage. Told me I was just sensitive because I had been raped twice and molested in my childhood. He even yelled at me for claiming my uncle had abused me. Said it wasn’t fair to say “I think he abused me” if I couldn’t 100% back it up. He drank too much. He dumped me 3 times. He made a massive scene at my sister’s wedding. He is 15 years older than me, with 3 children, in a upper class white world. He gas lighted me at every turn. He finally dumped me in June of 2018. Shortly after he proposed in an elaborate setting, trying to win me back. I told him we needed 6 months apart for him to fix his life. I thought he showed me he had. He hadn’t. He was sleeping with prostitutes and using needles all along. I just didn’t know. We wed January 23 2019. Tomorrow is our anniversary. In October of 2019, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. By mid November, I was told I had contracted stds. This was not the first time. But my heart was broken in a million pieces. I confronted him and he told me, what he says, is everything. The most painful things I had thought, were all true. He’s in therapy and a group. I am in therapy. As I have been since I was 3 years old. I go every week. I’ve never been in more pain. His lies, his abuse. I feel trapped. I have this baby growing in me, and I don’t even know who my husband is. He tries to be kind. He tries to be considerate. But I can’t believe how much he hurt me. I want to accept his love. And often I do. But none of it is good enough. I feel massive guilt for feeling this way. I feel massive guilt for not bonding with my unborn son. I wept when I learned he was boy, for I couldn’t believe I’d bring another boy into the world like my husband. And yet, I thank god it’s not a girl, who will ever have to suffer this way. I rage constantly. I hate myself. I hate this life and I feel so lost. I am medicated, I do yoga 3 times a week, I meditate, I pray, I go to my therapy sessions. And yet, the world is darker than its ever been. I don’t know how so many women have been so strong for so many years. I am scared I can’t go on even one more day.

    • Shelley Martinkus

      January 23, 2020  |  10:02 pm

      Victoria – first – I want you to know I see you and I hear you. What you have been through is horrific. Your husband’s treatment of you is unacceptable. I am so incredibly grateful that he is getting help – yes. And more so – I am grateful that you are getting help. Truly – one day at a time – even one hour at a time is sometimes all we can manage. You’re doing it. Keep focusing on you and your baby. Praying that the God of comfort, rest and light hastily makes it your way. xo – Shelley

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