Sexual Addiction: A Short Course on Where to Begin
By: H. Van Smith
He was a highly regarded professional that I’d known for years, and in his words, “with a tiger by the tail,” moving through life with financial and personal success since college and graduate school.
In our suburban community, he had done the things necessary to ensure his family was stable and cared for. His children would have whatever they needed to ensure their success. And he was certain whatever life threw at him or his family—he could handle it.
And then, wham! Long story short, he discovered his wife was living a double life, in the grip of sexual addiction.
It hit him right between the eyes, without warning. At that moment all of his defenses, except for very close friends and his faith, were stripped of him. He sat there in a daze, uncertain of what to do next.
Questions of their relationship needed to be addressed, but perhaps most immediately were managing the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of his day-to-day existence. Who am I? What’s my purpose? Am I really a man?
There is a hidden world amongst us, but like atoms, it’s all around us—from prisons to boardrooms—though rarely discussed: sexual addiction.
We are well versed in most problems that afflict a marriage: alcoholism, abuse, financial waste, neglect, and absenteeism—but rarely is sexual addiction discussed.
And, in particular, women with sexual addictions, even less understood, but a growing phenomenon.
So let me share with you how this caring, professional father handled it, and now, is thriving personally.
The first three steps:
- Get a counselor. Contact a counseling resource that specializes in sexual addiction. If you are a Christian or a person of faith, extra credit goes to identifying a counselor that has this specialization and shares your faith.
- Go at least twice a month. The right frequency is obviously highly personal, but in the beginning, you need to emotionally triage yourself.
- Read books on recovery. You’re not alone; others have left trails for you to follow. Get these books, and it will open your eyes to the community of survivors amongst you.
- Extra Credit: Find someone who has been there, with your same values that can serve as an accountability partner. I’m fortunate, as I now know of others that can serve in this capacity.
These books were reported to help my friend, begin here with your journey (not a substitute for counseling, but a compliment to treatment):
1. BEST BOOK FOR FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT INFIDELITY: Not Just Friends, by Shirley Glass. Touches on SA only briefly, but a must-read on the topic of infidelity. Important to read during crisis mode after revelation, as it beautifully emphasizes one key issue: don’t make any rash decisions.
2. BEST BOOK FOR FOUNDATIONAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SEXUAL ADDICTION: Out of the Shadows. Obviously Carnes is the grandfather of this, for a betrayed spouse it is necessary to start with a baseline understanding of the field. There’s no sense starting anywhere else.
3. BEST BOOK SPECIFICALLY SUITED FOR THE BETRAYED PARTNER OF A SEX ADDICT: Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal, by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Essential reading that debunks the applicability of the codependency model of AA and NA, but in the world of sexual addiction. In short, some aspects of the AA and NA 12-step codependency structure do apply to betrayed spouses of sex addicts (perhaps some more than others). But recent research points to a more modern and healthier conclusion that the betrayed spouse needs help as a trauma victim far more than as a codependent. Very empowering for a betrayed partner in crisis mode. Also read, on this topic, Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder: The Six Stages of Healing, by Dennis Ortman.
4. BEST BOOK THAT EXPLORES SEX ADDICTION IN WOMEN: No Stones: Women Redeemed From Sexual Addiction, by Marnie Ferree. This book is great. It’s sort of the Out of the Shadows specifically for women, but a recovering Christian sex addict writes it. Marnie Ferree runs the Bethesda Workshops in Nashville, TN. This is a really helpful book for women sex addicts, especially since there are so few of them.
5. BEST BOOK THAT PERSONALIZES THE MIND OF THE FEMALE SEX ADDICT: Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction, by Sue William Silverman, which is an autobiographical account of a woman’s struggle with compulsive sexual behavior. Helps the reader empathize with the mind of the addict and better visualize what distorted core beliefs look like in real life. Also, it follows her 28-day stay in a treatment facility, which was interesting.
a. Easy, by Kerry Cohen. This is a short novel written for young readers, but paints a vivid picture of what teenage promiscuity looks like when it begins.
b. Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power by Charlotte Kasl. This is a dense and lengthy book written in a very scholarly fashion about sex addiction specifically in women. It is sort of a more formal version of No Stones, mentioned above.
Now, if you’re in the Richmond to Williamsburg, Virginia corridor, where my family law practice is located, you may need a counselor recommendation.
Locally, Holly Daly has been recommended to me, but again the choice of a counselor is highly personal and fact-and-personality-specific. (Feel free to call our office as we have worked with several dozen in the community with our clients.)
She practices at Resource Guidance (which also is known as Christian Counseling Associates), and it’s website: christiancounselors4va [dot] org.
Begin there. And if you decide your marriage cannot be saved after taking the above steps, give my law firm, Smith Strong, PLC a call for a marital and child custody assessment at 804.325.1245 (Richmond office) or 757.941.4298 (Williamsburg office), when scheduling your appointment, mention this article, as we will prepare for our first appointment with this background of information in mind. ALSO, while you're here, go ahead and download my free book on divorce and custody in Virginia, available here on this website at no cost or obligation.