"My Husband Is Addicted to Internet Porn"

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The Counselor's Turn

"Not all experts believe that sex addiction is real," said the counselor. "I do, and in Brad I saw the classic case. He could not control his sexual thoughts and impulses and felt compelled to act on them. His porn habit had taken over his life and he was lying about it.

"My first goal with this couple was to air the porn issue. Before coming to me they'd barely discussed it. Instead they fought about things like who left the coffeemaker on. Neither had a clue how to deal with the elephant in the room.

"In their first session Brad admitted to all that he'd been up to in the basement while Kathy read or watched TV upstairs. 'How could you?' she wanted to know. He also confessed to squandering nearly $25,000 on his habit in the past year, which he hid by snatching the credit card bill as soon as it arrived. Shocked and enraged at all this, Kathy sobbed for most of the hour.

"Even so, I could see the couple loved each other and wanted to save their marriage. I explained the concept of sex addiction and urged Kathy to see Brad as a human being with a problem, not a pervert. But her self-esteem had been battered and she needed to feel secure. At my suggestion they moved their computer into the family room and installed parental locks on adult sites.

"I also felt each of them would benefit from individual counseling. During my sessions with Brad, we explored how his compulsion stemmed from his childhood inability to please his father. After he married Kathy, similar anxieties surfaced: that he could never satisfy her, emotionally or sexually. Instead of trying to understand his feelings, he escaped to cyberspace, where he didn't have to deal with a real-world woman or please anyone but himself. As time went on he needed more and more intensity to get the same high.

"By always keeping in mind the devastating marital damage that would result if he gave in to temptation, Brad was able to control his impulses. He also joined Sex Addicts Anonymous [SAA], where he had a 'buddy' to call for support.

"With Kathy, I helped her understand how her unhappy childhood had cast a shadow on her adult life. She freely expressed both her bitterness about her past and her rage at Brad but realized she had to move past them. I encouraged her to pursue activities that made her happy, such as taking a writing course. Putting her feelings on paper boosted her confidence, enabling her to empathize with Brad and to finally grasp that his cybersex habit had nothing to do with who she was or how she looked. This breakthrough was key to repairing their marriage.

"After a year of individual therapy the couple resumed joint counseling. This time we focused on what was going right in their relationship. Kathy needed to see that Brad was committed to reforming himself, and his hard work reassured her: He never missed a therapy session or SAA meeting, and he not only pitched in more around the house but he also began wooing her with flowers and date nights.

"Slowly their romance blossomed again. Today Kathy and Brad are transformed. They enjoy each other's company, go on weekend trips and have a robust sex life. 'We have a new closeness, deeper than before,' Kathy said.

"Brad still gets the occasional urge for cybersex, but he knows better than to act on it. He's taken on a leadership role at SAA, where he works with newcomers. 'I counsel men who pull over to the side of the road to watch porn on their laptops,' he said. 'I feel so lucky I was saved -- and our marriage, too.'"

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2010.

 

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