The Wife of a Recovering Sex Addict Tells Her Story
We Interviewed Mary P. Jones, a mother of two who also is married to a recovering sex addict. Mary shares her story of when she first learned of her husband’s addiction. To learn more, visit her website, A Room of Mama’s Own.
AllTreament: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Mary P. Jones: I go by the pseudonym Mary P Jones (or MPJ). My husband is a recovering sex addict, and I’m a recovering codependent (although, like many loved ones of addicts, I’m not always thrilled with that term). I’m in my 40’s and a married mom of two. I blog about my journey of recovery at ARoomOfMamasOwn.com.
AllTreatment: When did you first find out that your husband had a sex addiction? How did you initially react?
Mary P. Jones: I found out about my husband’s addiction seven years ago, when I was pregnant with our second child. I was cleaning up some old computer disks when I came across intimate messages between my husband and another woman. I confronted him about what I’d found on the disks as well as some other behavior that had made me uneasy. He admitted that he had been unfaithful to me throughout our relationship. Neither of us had ever heard about sex addiction before, but he said that his inability to stop felt compulsive, and that was the only thing that made sense to either of us.
Honestly, the very first thing I did was scream obscenities at him and slap him in the face. It was not one of my saner moments. I’ve never felt such intense pain and confusion in my life. I probably would have run out the door that first night and never come back if it hadn’t been for our children. I spent the days and weeks that followed in some combination of shock, fury and grief. I was completely blindsided by all that had been going on without my knowledge. I was livid that my husband would lie to me, that he would risk our marriage, our home, our children and his job, as well as the health of every member of our family through potential exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. And I was heartbroken to lose the marriage that I thought I had and learn that the person I considered my closest and most trusted friend would hide behavior that was so critical to my own health and well-being.
AllTreatment: Did you ever see signs that he had one beforehand? Did you feel he had an addictive personality beforehand?
Mary P. Jones: My husband always joked that he had an addictive personality, that he’d get a little too into playing video games or watching TV or eating sweets. And addiction was very prevalent in his family of origin. In fact, he had witnessed so many of the horrors of addiction growing up and was so afraid of becoming an addict himself that he never drank alcohol, did drugs or smoked. This was actually something I admired a lot about him when I met him. There is a lot of peer pressure in our society to drink, especially for someone who is college-aged (as he was when we met), yet he was always very firm in his resolution not to drink. I thought this showed an enormous amount of character and willpower, and ironically, this made us both feel very safe from addiction.
In retrospect, there were signs, but they generally weren’t the kind of signs you read about in those “Is Your Man Cheating?” questionnaires in women’s magazines. Because my husband was a sex addict long before we met and was acting out during all the time I knew him, even before we started dating, there were very few sudden changes in his behavior. He was always home on time from work. We had a consistently loving relationship and great sex life. The signs were more along the lines of a lack of appropriate boundaries, a strong interest in porn and a tendency to get into emotionally intimate conversations with new people very fast. At the time I thought he was simply a very friendly, flirtatious and sexual guy, and I generally viewed these as positive traits.
AllTreatment: What caused his sexual addiction? Did you find out what it was rooted in?
Mary P. Jones: Any compulsive behavior tends to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and my husband’s is no different. He grew up in a household filled with exposure to active addiction, and that played a strong role, although it’s hard to parse out what was due to environment and what to genetics.
AllTreatment:What was living with him like once you realized his addiction? Did you suffer?
Mary P. Jones: At first it was very hard. I spent a long time grieving for the loss of the person I thought my husband was and feeling resentful that we had to work all of this recovery and healing time into our relationship at all. Now I can honestly say that I’m grateful not to be living in a fantasy world anymore. I’m grateful for the insight I’ve gotten into myself and my own life. I’m grateful for the way this has strengthened my relationships and forced me to work on myself and become a better person. I’m grateful for a new spirituality in my life.
AllTreatment: How did you find proper recovery for him? Did you seek professional help?
Mary P. Jones: My husband was on the phone with therapists the morning after he told me what had been going on, looking for help for both of us. We had an appointment on day one, and he continued to see that therapist for years. And both of us reached out to friends. A friend of mine was familiar with sex addiction and 12 Step recovery and told us we might want to look into it. My husband and I started going to 12 Step meetings, which we both continue to attend. 12 Step isn’t for everyone, but both of us truly believe it saved us. My husband did not participate in in- or outpatient rehab, although we do know people who have found success and healing in these types of programs.
“I was heartbroken to lose the marriage that I thought I had and learn that the person I considered my closest and most trusted friend would hide behavior that was so critical to my own health and well-being.”
AllTreatment: How did you have to adjust your lifestyle? Did you decide to stay with him?
Mary P. Jones: I did decide to stay with my husband, and the key to that was my husband’s complete dedication to working on his recovery. We have had to make recovery work our first priority; we know that without it we will lose everything else in our lives.
AllTreatment: How did the relationship with those around him, such as your children, change?
Mary P. Jones: Because our son had just turned two at the time this came out and our daughter was not yet born, there wasn’t a drastic change in my husband’s relationship with the children, but we do believe that our recovery work has made us both better parents. We did not share information about the addiction with other family members, but those relationships have changed subtly, generally for the better, as we have grown.
AllTreatment: Has your husband relapsed into his addiction? If not, what steps are you making to prevent this?
Mary P. Jones: My husband has had a few slips, and we work through these as they come up. At this point he has 4 years of sexual sobriety. He continues to work on his recovery daily through his 12 Step program and through therapy as needed. I’m not directly involved in preventing any acting out. Part of working my own recovery is not making myself crazy by getting involved in micromanaging the details of my husband’s recovery, but knowing he is doing it because it is important to him and trusting his therapist, his sponsor and others to support and help him.
AllTreatment: How are you coping with this today? Where do you find your strength?
Mary P. Jones: My life today is very happy. It’s not always easy, but sex addiction is not the most serious of our day to day challenges at this point, and my husband and I have both learned new coping skills that help us remain generally happy and serene even when times are difficult. We find strength in our family, our friends, our recovery groups and (oddly enough for two people who went into all of this as atheists) God.
AllTreatment: What advice would you give to people who were in similar circumstances?
Mary P. Jones: If you discover you are married to a sex addict, know that it is not your fault, you are not alone and that there is help. Seek out that help and support!
I know I didn’t want to have to work on me or “my part”; I wanted my husband to fix what I felt he broke in our marriage. But the truth was, even though I was not responsible for his addiction or the behaviors he engaged in, I was still really hurting as a result of them. And while he could do his part to deal with his own problems, he couldn’t heal my hurt for me. I did need help. And the help I got healed more hurts than just what came as the result of his behavior. It’s been wonderful.
There is help available through therapy (including certified sex addiction therapists, through local counseling programs for addicts and their partners, through COSA or S-Anon 12-Step meetings for partners of sex addicts, or through religious or spiritual communities. One therapist even suggested a grief support group, since I was grieving the loss of the marriage and the husband I thought I had. I’m a big believer in trying a lot of different things and finding what works for you.