I Cannot Fathom the Pain I Have Inflicted on My Wife Because of My Sex Addiction

Yesterday I spent some time reading blogs of LDS women whose husbands are either hooked on porn or hooked on sex with people other than their wives. If I had to distill into a single word the spirit of their writings, it would be: PAIN. They are suffering through a hurt so intense they can taste it. They wake up in the middle of the night feeling it. They dream and they feel the pain of their husbands’ betrayal while they sleep. They experience it when they sit in the therapist’s office trying to make sense of the chaos their lives have become. They even feel it when they take the sacrament on Sunday mornings.

Image courtesy of Mattox by way of stock.xchng.

Image courtesy of Mattox by way of stock.xchng.

I realized yesterday and I am sad to admit that I had somehow forgotten how little I really know about the depth of the pain I have inflicted over and over again on my wife because of the years of act out behavior associated with my sex addiction. Somewhere along the line, I had begun to assume from seeing the smile on her face that the pain was all gone–that she had “moved on.”

In 2008, my wife was diagnosed with a type of cancer from which most women do not survive. When the doctors make that diagnosis, they also suggest that you get your affairs in order. She underwent major surgery and, having survived that, was subjected to several months of chemotherapy. Her eyes looked tired. Her gorgeous brown hair fell out. (She saved it all in a zip-loc baggy in her cedar chest.) Through the misery, however, her radiant smile remained unchanged.


Image courtesy of Zephyre by way of Wikimedia Commons

One year later, she celebrated life by training and then doing a 100-mile bike ride in Southern California. In 2011, with many more century rides under her belt, she finished the Death Ride–130 miles, 15,000 feet of vertical climb over five mountain passes in the High Sierras. It involved suffering different from the cancer, but no less real. She smiled the whole time.

She has been through an enormous amount of pain in her life. She is actually something of a connoisseur of hurt and as such has the blessings of insight and perspective that many don’t have. Between me and the cancer and the cycling and all of her other life’s challenges, she can look compassionately into the eyes of just about any Mormon woman on the planet and say with absolute confidence, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Because I now have some distance from the wreckage of my past, I can actually bear to look at it and see it for what it was. I can stand to talk about it with my wife and discuss how it has impacted her. She tells me–and I believe her–that my addict behavior has hurt her more than the cancer, the surgery, the chemotherapy and the fear of dying. It has hurt her more than anything else she has experienced in her life.


By James Tissot (in the public domain)

Recovery from addiction brings with it the ability to hear and internalize hard things. I know what the solution to my sex addiction requires and I am experiencing Heavenly Father’s healing power made possible, we are told, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. So is my wife in her own experience of recovery.

I have been reminded that she is still hurting on some (perhaps many) levels because of what I’ve subjected her to. This isn’t what she signed up for. Nevertheless, she is healing and she is doing so on a timeline that she is working out with her Father in Heaven, not me.

My job is to stay in recovery, to share that recovery experience with as many other people as I can–and to remember with some humility that I cannot fathom the pain I have inflicted on my wife because of my sex addiction. For the rest of eternity, everything I say or do should reflect two guiding truths to her: “I’m sorry” and “You’re more important to me than breathing.”



I Cannot Fathom the Pain I Have Inflicted on My Wife Because of My Sex Addiction — 10 Comments

  1. I needed to hear this today. Thank you fpr sharing. I have had some serious health issues and troubles in my life. I have to say that my husband’s addiction outweighs all my problems. When I thought and believed I had support from him through the trials we have to face but now I feel I face it all alone.

  2. Thank you for the acknowledgment, Andrew. Would you be willing to talk more about how it has affected your marriage and your kids? This is another big compartment of denial for most addicts, as they feel they are only hurting themselves. Of course, as wives, we feel it acutely, and we see what it is doing to our kids’ security and self-esteem.

    Maybe you could share links to these blogs?

    Thanks again for addressing this.

  3. I had cancer 20 years ago and am a wife of a sex addict. I would agree with your wife. The pain of my husbands addictions is so much more painful. I think one of the reasons that’s the case is because the person I love the most (my husband) cant be there for me when I need him because he is the one that gave me the pain. When I had cancer, I told people the reason I was able to get through all the chemotherapy and radiation treatments was because I had a loving family who took care of me. I felt so supported. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I am the wife of a very ill addict. I have stood by his side for 19 years of battles. He has lost his job time and time again. We now are facing possible homelessness, We were blessed with 3 very special spirits. Leaving the comfort of a proper home to accommodate their needs and try to re establish elsewhere and calm their anxieties is a very tough road. Today begins day 1 of a new venture that I pray will bring us to some healing. Thank you for acknowledging the intense pain that women endure on this journey. I am reminded of the courage of Esther as we start yet again.

  5. Sometimes I feel crazy when I think about the pain that my husband has caused me because of his addiction. I worry that I’ve totally blown it out of proportion and I worry that I don’t have a right to feel the way I do. This post/blog makes me feel validated in every way. Every hope I had as a young bride, 12 years ago, has been shattered. His addiction and lies have turned something beautiful into something repulsive and ugly. Supporting him through his recovery will always top my list of the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is harder than watching my mom die from cancer and the longing I feel to talk to her and it is more difficult than any physical pain I have ever endured. I can picture your wife so clearly in my head…..a smile through it all. I feel inspired by her strength. If she can do it, I must do it too! Thank you!

  6. Pingback: what recovery looks like in my home | i would rather not be here

  7. Andrew, I’m 90 days sober today thanks to your book giving me a testimony of my need for SA. I love you and will be forever in your debt, Brother. I hurt for my wife, and worry about her more than she knows. Your closing paragraph here says what your (and my) job is, and the two guiding truths are well and good, but I’ve gotten the clear message that it is not what my wife needs (or even wants) to hear from me now. She wants and needs to hear from me that I understand the pain, anguish, turmoil, and chaos I have caused in her life. And as I expressed to my therapist the other day, I cannot possibly answer the question “do you understand what you’ve put me through?” in a satisfactory manner. If I answer honestly that I do not and cannot possibly fully comprehend what I’ve put her through, then I’m a cad for not understanding. If I answer that I do, I’m lying and she knows it. What can I do to show her that I want to understand (better, but never fully – only Christ fully understands) what she’s going through? I can say “I’m sorry” and I can promise her I’m working hard on my recovery (which sounds in her ears as “me me me me me”) and I can promise to do for her or give her whatever she needs to work on her own recovery, but I feel like none of that communicates to her that I get it; that I appreciate and own the devastation I’ve caused in her life – the words themselves are not enough. Even when accompanied by tears, at this point I suspect she suspects they are selfish tears, not truly empathetic, sorrowful tears of remorse for her. I feel like only self-immolation in her presence would convince her. What can I do? What can I say? Does your wife have some input on this?