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.

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?

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.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

How to Get Over Your Past

Have you ever wondered why therapists seem to care so much about it was like for us as kids? That is, why are therapists so interested in our childhoods? While not all therapists focus on what's happened to us in the past, many therapists do pay...

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Why We Have Trouble Knowing Our Feelings: How to Recognize and Deal with Your Feelings (Part 2)

why you have trouble knowing your feelingsRemember the last time you felt something so strongly that your emotions got the better of you? Maybe you did something you regret. Maybe you spoke words that you wish you could take back. Or maybe you just gritted your teeth, trying your best to hang in there while it felt like the world was falling apart. Because in moments when strong emotions have ensnared us, it really does feel like the sky is falling.

 

Most of us, in moments like this, have at least some idea that we’re caught up in powerful feelings. What we don’t always know is what we’re feeling and why. As we’ll see, being aware of what you’re feeling is the first step to taking the reins back from your strong emotions.

How Much to Tell & When, Part 1: Spontaneous Disclosure

This post is the first in a series of posts called How Much to Tell and When: Disclosure in Early Recovery. This post discusses spontaneous disclosure and the benefits of delaying formal disclosure. Click here for part 2, here for part 3, and here for part 4.

 

“How much do I tell her?”

 

When spouse initially finds out about your sexually compulsive behaviors, there’s enormous pressure on you to disclose details about your acting out. It’s completely understandable to struggle with what to say in response.

 

Whether she confronted you after an initial discovery or you confessed to her some or all of your behaviors, you’re facing some tough questions. If she hasn’t already, she’s going to press you hard for details. The more she finds out, the more she’s likely to grill you.

 

So what do you do?