I'm a wife dealing with her husband's addiction to pornography. I hope to be a resource for wives (and family members) dealing with similar struggles. Please join in the conversation and leave comments--even if you are here for curiosity's sake and are just learning about this kind of struggle! You can read my story here and the 4 things I think every addict's wife should know here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

let's talk about sex

Come on, ladies. Let's get it all out on the table. This topic is huge.

Number 1) Many of us grew up in environments in which sex was a hush-hush topic. Taboo. You don't talk about it. And the only time you did was in church lessons where you were told that sex should be saved for marriage. So the message was conveyed (perhaps inadvertently) that sex and anything related to sex was bad bad bad. Tell me--can you say vagina or clitoris or orgasm or penis or ejaculation out loud without cringing or laughing? No? Can your husband? We are grown adults who can't talk about sex, because it was just something you don't talk about. Not everyone grew up in this environment, but I think it's safe to say that the majority of us did.

Along these lines, lots of young men are exposed to pornography way too young. Some of them avoid it after that. Some of them are addicted right away. And then they have a totally skewed idea of what sex should be. This can lead them to be disappointed in their sex lives right from the start because it wasn't all sparks and fireworks on the wedding night. Porn is purely physical and teaches young men nothing about the emotional side of intimacy.

Both scenarios leave out some important aspects: Sex is a huge part of relationships. Good sex is something that is learned and developed over time. Sex is good. Sex is fun. Sex is not something you should be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about (or do!) with your spouse! You know how people cringe when someone makes a joke or mentions their parents having sex? Well you know what? I hope my parents still have sex and I hope they have fun doing it! Yep. I said it. I hope my parents are happy.

Answer this: Do you think you have a healthy sex life?

Number 2) I know. I know. It's hard to answer that question, because we feel that our problems with our sex lives are a direct result of the addictions our spouses face. How are we supposed to separate the sexual urges our husbands feel toward pornography and their desire to have sex with us? It's a downward spiral. They look at pornography. That makes us feel angry and repulsed and our gut reaction is to not let them touch us. Not let them see us naked. Protect ourselves. Why would we want to share something so sacred as our bodies with someone who looks at other naked women for sexual pleasure? So we are distant. And they try so hard to get close to us again--emotionally and physically. But the more they hug and caress us, the more we try to avoid their touch. And that becomes our excuse for not wanting to have sex. I know you've all gone through this cycle. It's terrible. I go through it all the time.

But let's dig a little deeper. Let's ignore the addiction for a minute. How is your sex life when times are good? Does the excuse not to have sex just change to something else? I'm tired. I'm pregnant. I'm not confident in my postpartum body. I'm bloated. I'm hungry. I ate too much. I haven't shaved. I haven't brushed my teeth. Our house is dirty so we should be cleaning up, not fooling around. I'm stressed about work. I'm grumpy. The list goes on and on and on.

Is the pornography excuse just one more excuse in our big long list of reasons why we don't want to have sex? Don't get me wrong--I think the addiction excuse is probably the most legitimate of all of these, but is there something deeper that we should be working on?

Answer this: If all were right on the addiction front, would you still not want to have sex?

When I'm having sex, I love it. No, really--I do. It's thrilling. The problem is getting past all those millions of excuses when I'm "not in the mood." I'd love to blame it on how the addiction affects me, but I'm smart enough to know that that only escalates an issue that I already have.

Answer this: Have you talked to a counselor about this? Have you had deep conversations with your spouse about this? What wise advice do you have about maintaining a healthy sex life? And what advice do you have for maintaining a healthy sex life with a sex addict?

That last question probably sounded very strange. BUT (barring an abusive relationship) intimacy is an important part of marriage and healthy relationships and should not be abandoned or overlooked in the face of our trials.

Let's hear what you think.

Note: I know that a range of people will read this. Newlyweds, long-term relationships, those struggling with addiction, those who are in or have escaped abusive relationships, or even those who are just here for curiosity's sake. I'd love to hear everyone's perspective. 

{Upcoming topics: nagging, confidence, designating roles, imperfections, and teaching our kids about sex}


  1. I am in an emotionally abusive relationship with a sex addict who blames me for his addiction, lies to me, thinks he is the victim of his addiction and of my feelings regarding it...and who is constantly angry. To protect myself, I have to draw the line at not having sex with him. He hasn't taken responsiblity for his addiction and anything I did wrong or right with sex with him -he would use later to abuse me. I think there are healthy boundaries that need to be set -with sex when a sex addict is involved-if sex with that addict is damaging to the wife emotionally. I think in a healthy relationship-even one with an addict who is willing to take his addiction and recover-is a great thing. But I refuse at this point to give of myself when my husband tells me that it's my fault that he does what he does and acts the way he does as an addict. Just today -after he lied to me and I asked him if he was telling the truth-he said I am so tired of always having to asnwer whether I am honest or not-you (wife) should just trust me so that we can move past all of this. He yelled. I expressed to him that I needed empathy-needed him to understand that I am trying to build trust with him and need him to answer me truthfully when I notice he's been dishonest. He replied "empathy only helps you and makes you feel better...it doesn't help me (husband)"...For my husband it's all about him...what he does or does not need. He never stops to realize that what he has done hurts-and that I need him to be honest to build a relationship. He wants to live in Zion with a summer house in Babylon.

  2. You wrote about this on your blog, too, so I am going to leave the bulk of my response there. I know you're hurting and your relationship is in a bad place right now.

    I think the conversation about having an intimate connection with your spouse is not easy to deal with when there are so many other underlying problems in the relationship. You're right that we should not be expected to share something so sacred in an abusive relationship. What we should be doing, however, is either doing everything in our power to fix the underlying problems or, in the event that there is no fixing them, getting out of the abusive relationship. (Like I said--I'll be writing about that in response to your blog post.)

  3. Just yesterday my husband finally admitted he's addicted. His "bad days" only happened once in a while, only two or three times since we got married... No. Those were the times he got caught. All the rest of the times I asked, he lied. He was being strong, everything was good. Yesterday I checked the k9 log on the computer and it was bad. I called him at work. He lied. I went to work. He came home before I did, and when I came home, he was crying and wouldn't look at me. He was so ashamed. He is, every time. He finally realized that I'm not dumb enough to miss the signs, though at his worst times, he hoped I was. Before I came home work, he had called and made an appointment with a therapist. We've talked about it before, but he was never comfortable with the idea. Finally though, he finally made an appointment. I know that he so desperately wants to change. He grew up with an very abusive step dad -- abusive in every way. He was exposed to horrific things as a kid. He joined the church when he turned 15, and put an end to the abuse. He's been battling the effects ever since. Before we got married, he lied to me about it. After we got married, when I found out about some bad stuff, he lied about it. He lied about it yesterday... and then he stopped.
    Today though, I didn't want him to touch me. I didn't want him to hold me, and most of all, the idea of sex at any time in the future was not appealing in any way. BUT, he's my husband, my everything. I need him to hold me and comfort me and tell me everything's okay. I need him now more than ever. I need his strength and he needs mine. And we need to be intimate--physically and emotionally. I needed this post tonight. What he's going through isn't the end of the world. It's finally the beginning of recovery. I have NO reason to lose hope... every reason to hold on. I'm not alone. Thank you for your blog. Thank you.

    1. I'm sorry I didn't respond to this, Anonymous! Not sure how it slipped through. I remember reading it, but now I'm seeing I never responded. I wish I had responded a month ago. :( Trust me--I know about all those times that I asked and he lied. That hurts. I know. How are things going?

  4. Great post! I'm new to your blog, but very excited to "meet" you and find a friend out there who has been down this road as well. I've been married seven years now (anniversary two days ago!) and just this week I had a conversation with my husband about how scared I was on our wedding night. I remember the butterflies began as soon as the car door shut and we took off to our hotel, just the two of us, alone. We'd had an amazing spiritual day together, a huge wedding bash, and now off to start our life together and yet, I was more than slightly terrified. Our expectations for sex were so different. I would have been happy to gradually push through boundaries we had worked so hard to maintain. He wanted it all as soon as possible. It's nice to be in a place now, seven years later, where we can share our hearts, our true feelings, and talk about sex without feeling so awkward.

    We are also couple who deals with sexual addiction. Most intensely for the past three and half years, but in some form since we were married. I'm working on making my private-for-my-own-eyes blog public, so I can join the conversation with you wonderful women. I don't have a support group to attend, but since I discovered this network of blogs, I am just riveted. I want to know everyone's stories even though I am struggling to keep everyone straight at the moment. I already feel a lot of strength, knowing so many are opening their lives and showing that a woman who trusts God can win this battle. I hope in time we can become real life friends too!

    1. I'm glad you're here, too, Marlee. Speaking of wedding nights, don't worry--I wanted it all as soon as possible right along with my husband and yet it was still an awkward night. :) Don't feel pressured to make your blog public. If you want to join in the conversation just through comments, that is totally fine. A lot can be said in comments. Just food for thought. I found this blogging support group before they started an actual women's support group in my area, and just having this online community has helped me so so so much. No more dealing with this alone. It's nice to connect. I'm glad you're here.

  5. hi, I read your 'story' in MM's compilation and could really relate to what your wrote so I pulled up your blog. I know this is an old post ;) and I know that the answer to your last question will vary GREATLY depending on where each of you are in recovery.

    But- I do see it essential to rebuild a healthy sex life with my addicted husband. Of course, other parts of our relationship needed to be addressed first and at times we have to step away from any kind of intimacy plan to do repair work before we can start working on it again. But, I think the biggest thing that BOTH of us have done is to determine the difference between lust and love. I grew up in a family who taught healthy sexuality but I've found that since I've been married to a sex addict for 16 years, some of the healthy ideals of my child hood have been forgotten. So, it's been very helpful to re-learn the true desire and purpose of healthy, loving intimacy. I wrote about it here: http://awiferedeemed.blogspot.com/2013/04/of-lust-and-love-and-being-sexy.html

    We've heard all kinds of different ideas, from scheduled sex to long periods of abstinence, but we really wanted to focus and learn GOOD, HEALTHY desire and connecting. So, one thing we have done is rotated months of being "in charge". (I still need to blog about the results- but we aren't 'done') For one month, my husband was in charge of starting sex. I always had veto rights IF I felt unsafe, but it wasn't about my 'needs' at all. The next month, I was in charge. If he was ever in an unhealthy state of mind, he HAD to let me know so I could stay safe (but, I could always tell before he told me... I felt it in my gut, I never felt that 'connection' when he was in the shame cycle or had unhealthy emotions). His 'needs' were not a concern at all and could never play a part in whether or not I initiated sex. It's been amazing to re-learn what we actual need and desire and watch the other person learn that as well.