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.


Coping with Abandonment

The most formative years in anyone’s life is from birth to age 5. During these years, children are particularly impressionable. During this time, a child’s foundational ways of thinking and experiencing the world are programmed into his mind. This “emotional programming” comes from a child’s experiences in his environment and relationships. How a child is programmed emotionally at this life stage will dictate the emotional “rules” he will live by.


At this age, children will conclude that any experience of abandonment is their fault. These abandonment experiences can include the following:

  • He wants to play with someone, but no one is interested in him
  • He is crying and no one comforts him
  • He is hungry and nobody feeds him
  • A parent angrily shames him
  • A parent leaves and takes too long to come back
  • A parent uses him to take care of their own emotional needs
  • He is lonely and no one pays attention to him


Again, children at this age who are repeatedly abandoned may internalize the belief that they are the cause of these painful experiences. They simply do not have the psychological savvy to believe differently.


Abandonment Experiences Lead to Toxic, Chronic Shame

These abandonment experiences create an internalized, unconscious belief that they are not acceptable as they are. These children conclude that there is something wrong with them that they have been so abandoned. 


When children come to believe that they are not loved or accepted for who they are, the result is toxic, chronic shame. Shame is the psychological state in which one believes not just that he did something bad, but that he or she is bad.


A child who has this belief will operate according to emotionally programmed “rules” that say, “I am not lovable as I am,” and “If anyone really knew me, I will be abandoned.” Yuck, huh?


Ensuring Emotional Survival

Toxic shame creates quite the pickle for children. They rely on their families, their parents for love, support, nourishment, and care. Their very survival emotionally hinges on getting the love they need. However, they’ve learned that they are unacceptable as they really are, and they dare not just be themselves lest they be rejected.


What’s the solution? Trying to be “good.” In other words, they present a false self to the world while hiding the darkest parts of themselves.


This is why a sex or porn addicts is so damn afraid that his partner will leave him when she discovers how he has lied for years about his secret life. His secret behaviors, and his shame, have become known, so surely his partner will abandon him.


Beginning Recovery

If you’re a partner of a sex or porn addict, what does all of this mean for you?


Should you decide to stick around and rebuild the relationship, your partner needs to “unlearn” his toxic shame and associated emotional programming. He does this by being brutally honest all the time, again and again. Consistent transparency from him is the only way you’re going to learn that you can come to trust that he’s not hiding anything, even though this process may take years.


This is why disclosure is so important. Months after discovery, sharing a complete account of the addict’s secret behaviors and deception in disclosure sets the emotional tone for the entire future of the relationship. It establishes a foundation of honesty, which makes trust possible.


If you or your partner need help after discovering intimate betrayal, you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help. Contact us today to get started—we’d love to connect with you.


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Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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