He’s Lied for Years about His Secret Life—And Here’s Why

he's lied for years about his secret lifeOne of the most common questions I get from partners of sex and porn addicts is this: How is it possible for their partner to have lied for years about his secret life? Is he a sociopath? How can a man possibly engage in compulsive behaviors (e.g., pornography, escorts, massage parlors, etc.) and then come home to tell his partner that he loves her?

 

If you’ve just discovered your partner’s betrayal with sex addiction or porn addiction, you’re no doubt reeling to make sense of the unimaginable. This behavior and the level of deception involved—it’s unlike anything you’ve ever known.

 

Early in recovery, knowledge can be empowering. Understanding how this deception was possible for your partner can help you know how to keep yourself safe in the short term and rebuild trust, if you choose to stay, in the long term.

The Secret about How People Change

how people changeEver wonder how people change?

 

Right now, at this very moment, millions of people are in therapy hoping to get help changing their lives. What’s always fascinated me, however, is how so few people really understand what they’re buying when they sign up to see a therapist. They don’t really understand how people change—and how they can transform their lives with a therapist’s help.

 

Of course, most people aren’t terribly interested in how products or services they buy actually work. They buy because they want the desired results at the end. For instance, very few people who buy a car care to know how the engine works. They just want a car that will reliably get them around.

 

I’ve long thought, though, that psychotherapy is especially shrouded in mystery when it comes to how it actually works. Therapists, for our part, don’t generally do a great job of explaining how we help people change, especially because clients don’t often ask directly.

 

But they do ask indirectly. “What’s the next step?” one client asks me. “How do I know I’ve gotten to the root of my addiction?” another wonders. “What do you do to help?” an inquiring caller asks. I think that if therapists can answer questions like these, at least in part and without graduate-school-like lecture, we can greatly reduce our clients’ anxiety and confusion.

 

I’ve already described the process of change elsewhere, especially as it relates to addiction and recovery. I’d like to describe below one way to think about the degree to which we experience change as we move through that process. Before we begin, I need to credit Marty Farash, LMFT, who as far as I know created this useful way of thinking about the levels of change.

What is a Trauma Bond? Getting Hamilton‘s Help in Understanding Toxic Relationships

Like so many others in recent weeks, I finally curled up on my couch to watch the riveting musical Hamilton, which recently became available to stream on Disney+. I’m not usually one for musicals, but I now understand what all the hubbub is about. If you haven’t caught it yet, it’s fantastic.

 

 

In watching the musical, my favorite character is easily King George III, who was brilliantly played by Jonathan Groff (the same guy in Mindhunter—crazy, right?). His three songs throughout the show, the last two of which are essentially continuations of his first song, are extremely catchy. I had them in my head for days afterward. I, like one YouTube commenter on the above video, have been singing his songs so often that my family may be ready to declare their independence from me.

 

As entertaining as his character is, if you’re in a toxic or abusive relationship, his words may be hauntingly familiar. King George III is so memorable because he embodies the characteristics of individuals who form exploitive, harmful relationships with others. These relationships are called trauma bonds.

 

Before explaining the traits of trauma bonds, we need to define what trauma bonds actually are more fully. So what is a trauma bond?

Recovering from Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction, Boundaries, and More from My Reddit AMA

porn-induced erectile dysfunctionOver the past week, the world has watched as the coronavirus has spread exponentially. Many are either quarantined, self-quarantined, or practicing social distancing, such that our society has ground to a halt.

 

With these practices in place, so many who are struggling with pornography are at home, isolated, bored, anxious, and often with access to the internet. I imagined that these circumstances made their struggles even more challenging, and based on the response that I’m getting in my latest Reddit AMA, I was right.

 

I’ve included some excerpts below of answers to questions that have been coming up more often for me in my practice.

 

Help Your Relationship Heal from Porn Addiction

relationship heal from porn addictionI’ve spent some time recently on Reddit answering some questions about porn addiction and porn addiction recovery. Someone asked me how to help her partner heal from his addiction and how they can begin healing their relationship together.

 

One thing I didn’t stress enough in this response was that it’s important, even empowering, for partners to have boundaries. Boundaries can sometimes be difficult for partners, but they’re simply ways of expressing needs. E.g., “I request that you tell me when you have a momentary slip or relapse with pornography or masturbation, because you’ve lied to me before about this.”

 

As I discuss below, boundaries can be a great way of taking care of yourself in the relationship. Boundaries can also help you feel safer when there’s been a betrayal of trust, which is a very common experience for partners.

 

So how can your relationship heal from porn addiction? Let’s dive in.

Here’s Why You’re Attracted to a Particular Genre of Porn

genre of pornSomeone recently asked me on Reddit why they like a certain genre of porn. It’s very complex question and a very common one, but I did my best to answer it in my off-the-cuff response.

 

I thought I’d share my thoughts here as well since it’s a question that also comes up in my work with clients.

 

Here’s my response. Let me know what you think.

Want to Quit Porn? Here are 4 Things You Must Do

quit pornI’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to help people who are wanting to quit pornography but aren’t able to kick it. Of course, I talk almost everyday with men mostly about changing unwanted sexual behavior. But I wanted to learn more about how people were struggling.

 

I’ve had conversations with people all around the world in recent weeks. Men who have told me that they cannot stop masturbating. Men who have shared that they relapse again and again without understanding why. Men who have asked me in desperation for tips, strategies, and tools to stop.

 

I’ve listened. Based on all of my experience, training, and these conversations, here are four things you need to do to quit porn for good.

Changing Substance Use: Drug, Set, and Setting

changing substance useWhile most of the folks I talk to want to start changing substance use for themselves or someone else, they’re not sure where to begin. Whether it’s abstinence that you’re after, reducing your use, preparing to quit, or wanting to use more safely, you know that wanting to change is only the first step. Learning how to change your substance use is key.

 

Managing your substance use can help you moderate your use successfully. And implementing the model I’m going to talk about in this post can help you learn to quit. As you’ll see, if you’re struggling with sexual behaviors that are out of control, this model can also help you be aware of what makes you vulnerable to acting out and to observe yourself.

 

And learning to observe yourself is the key to successful change. Most of the harm that results from substance use comes from how, when, where, and how much you use. You need to become interested in your habit, its impact on your life, and why you’re using. So try to be honest with yourself and be willing to try new things.

 

In this first post, I’ll talk about the model of drug, set, and setting. Then I’ll talk in my next post about how to use it to change your drug use. But first, a few words of caution: This way of looking at your substance use can help you change, but it’s not a guarantee. I’m also not a doctor, so please don’t take this as medical advice. Also, many drugs are illegal. I can’t protect you from legal consequences of using, so please don’t take this as legal advice either.

Here’s What I Wish I’d Said on My Recent Podcast Episode

alcohol treatment familiesIn early May, I was in Phoenix for the annual symposium for therapists who treat individuals struggling with problematic sexual behaviors and their partners. I was presenting on harm reduction at the conference on a panel discussing alternative paths of recovery that may not include 12-step recovery groups. I was thrilled to bring harm reduction to the field of sexual addiction and recovery.

 

While I was there, I spoke further with Jackie Pack, the facilitator of our panel. She invited me onto her podcast Thanks for Sharing to talk more about harm reduction. A couple of weeks ago, Jackie graciously hosted me and we talked about harm reduction, its benefits and rationale, and how it can help those struggling with addictive behavior and those who love them.

 

We covered a lot of ground, but there are some things we didn’t get to or that I wish I’d said more clearly. Here’s the rundown.

How We Grow: The Stages of Change

stages of changeThis month was the 25th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. I loved Nirvana as a teenager (sorry Mom) and still enjoy “Heart-Shaped Box” whenever I hear it over the airwaves. I remember his tragic end after a long bout with heroin use. It had been quite a while since I’d thought about his story.

 

Now, after all these years and working so closely with addictive behaviors and substance use, I felt sad as I read stories like this one about how loved ones tried to help him. They did their best, as we all do, in a difficult situation, and they were listening to the professionals guiding them.

 

Still, they can’t help but wonder today: What might they have done differently? How could they have reached him? How could they have helped? Could his story have ended in another way?

 

Of course, everyone affected by addiction—including those struggling with addictive behaviors and substance use themselves—asks similar questions not in retrospect but every day they live with their using or acting out.

 

Those struggling with substance use or problematic, compulsive sexual behaviors want to understand how they could possibly return to their addictive behavior of choice, sometimes even after a long period of abstinence. “Why do I keep doing this?” they ask. “And how can I change?”

 

Family and friends want to understand helpful ways to support their loved ones. They’re often desperate to help the loved one find healing and become hurt, angry, frustrated, and exhausted trying to understand his or her behavior.

 

A sound understanding of how people change can provide the foundation for answering both of these questions. If we understand the stages of change, we can give ourselves a bit of grace as we struggle with our addictive behavior. And family members can learn how to better support their loved ones and promote their healing.