Recently I found out my (now ex) partner of 3 years is a sex addict visiting brothels and making hundreds of calls to sex workers. He is in complete denial and blames me for prying into his affairs and catching him out. What drives a person to be this dishonest and behave in such a predatory manner?
You are having trouble coming to terms with his behaviour and, believe it or not, so is he. That is why he is in denial. He cannot fully face what he has done. He has been hiding it from you and hiding it from others. Deep inside, he feels ashamed and he is running away from this shame as hard as he can.
Addiction never seems to make sense when you look at it logically. The addict uses the behaviour, here compulsive sex, to avoid feelings of shame and distress. And yet the behaviour itself increases the feelings of shame and distress.
For the addict, it is always short-term gain over long-term pain. The feelings of pleasure, excitement and secret rebellion are enthralling and sought at all costs. The remorse and shame that follow are uncomfortable and soon avoided by seeking out the next thrill.
The addict becomes caught in a deepening progression of deceit until it is too hard to keep it all under control. This is when his exploits are likely to be discovered.
This man has not fully accepted what he is doing. He pretends he is like everyone else. He has tried to settle down. There is a part of him that wants to fit in. But his addiction is too strong. He is restless and anxious. This agitated part drives him to seek fulfilment, in his case with sex workers.
But addiction is never fulfilling. All addicts are chasing their first great high. Nothing ever feels quite as good as the original hit, be it gambling, heroin or sex. After time the addiction habituates. That means the addict needs more and more excitement to gain the same level of intensity.
Sex addicts often move on from using pornography to phone sex. Some go on to frequent brothels. They escalate their activities in an attempt to keep the thrills coming.
Once caught in this addictive cycle, there is only way out. The addict has to fully face the negative consequences of his behaviour. This means accepting his feelings of powerlessness, shame and responsibility.
Can you see what a huge task this would be for this man?
None of us is perfect and yet we continue to expect perfection. By nature, we resist accepting our faults. The addict, after facing his weaknesses, has to develop self-acceptance.
Were he to undertake the journey to recovery, your ex-partner would feel relieved, free and empowered once he had come to terms with his behaviour and had it under control. But still, it can be a daunting process for some.
He is not strong enough to do this, not at this time anyway. He is still running from himself and managing to believe his own delusions.
Let him be. He will work it out eventually. In the meantime, don’t take his actions personally. Addiction is an illness. His behaviour has nothing to do with you. You didn’t cause it and you cannot stop it.