- Craig interviews Alison, a partner who left her sex-addicted husband.
- Describes her experience of being gaslighted by her husband.
- Through research, Alison found help with The Mindful Habit.
- Ultimately, she made the decision to leave her husband and is now helping other partners of addicts.
Interview with a Partner Who Left Her Sex-Addicted Husband
My guest for the podcast was Allison. She had made profound changes in her life. Tell us your connection to sex addiction. How did you find your way to me, Allison?
Allison: It’s actually quite an interesting and kind of long story, so I’m going to shorten it. I was sitting on my couch one day, watching TV. My soon-to-be ex-husband walked in and told me that he thought he might move out.
I was totally shocked. I didn’t see that coming.
Over the next couple days, he started telling me things like he wasn’t attracted to me at all; that he was attracted to everyone but me.
“All I ever think about is sleeping with other women. That’s all I want to do.”
That was a major blow to my entire reality. I had no idea that anything like this was happening.
Craig: Looking back, though, was the relationship good or were you missing signs because what a lot of people say. How were things before that fateful day?
Allison: Before that day, he always seemed kind of depressed and withdrawn. I just always attributed that to his childhood. I always thought, maybe he’ll get some help some day. Maybe he’ll have a breakthrough of some sort.
We did have a sexless marriage. But 20% of marriages are nonsexual, so we weren’t too abnormal. I checked into some his medication and discovered that a side effect was low libido. I put those two together and I thought that’s why I had a sexless marriage. So, that didn’t raise a flag for me.
I didn’t know a thing. I was being gaslighted often.
Craig: Now, let’s talk about that term, Allison. Can you explain gaslighting in your context.
Allison: Gaslighting is when someone very subtly manipulates the truth around your reality to change your perception of reality.
Slowly over time he would tell me something that I had done or said and I don’t remember doing it. But, he had this way of making me believe that I must have forgotten that I’d said it or done it. Or, I thought I said something and he said I didn’t. I didn’t really trust my own judgement.
I thought it was me. I thought that I had a really bad memory, and that I had to rely on him to fill in the blanks for me.
He was also verbally abusive. He would name-call whenever he would get upset. He would call me bitch. He would allude to the fact that I was dumb. I would call him on that, but usually – I don’t want to upset him. There was a lot of self-blame for me because I always thought that I was at fault. I must have been stupid because I have a really bad memory. Obviously, he’s always right.
He made that a reality.
There were minor things that he would explode about. Like, if I happened to walk in on him and I startled him, he would have a complete meltdown. I was afraid. Over time, I retreated into a shell of myself.
By the time of discovery, I was not myself.
I didn’t know who I was.
I didn’t believe in myself.
I didn’t think I had any value.
Craig: How did that make you feel?
Allison: Like nothing.
But, I knew that something was off. I hear a lot of partners say that. Something was wrong but I always attributed it to his childhood.
I never listened to my instincts. I didn’t understand why they were there. I didn’t trust myself.
At the very beginning of my relationship with him I was outgoing, I was loud and boisterous and I was a fashion diva and I had an amazing wardrobe and I did crazy makeup everyday and I loved life. By the time of discovery, I was severely overweight, didn’t dress like I used to, and lost my passion for for my work as an interior designer. Everything faded.
Craig: Like your light dims.
Allison: It was nearly gone. It was down to like one little flicker of candlelight.
I didn’t talk to my friends.
I didn’t do anything with my family.
I wouldn’t return calls.
I would ignore texts.
I was depressed. I was actually diagnosed with PTSD in 2006, the year I got married. It was attributed to a severe car accident that I had been in 11 years. That never made sense to me. I believed the psychiatrists because – they’re the experts.
Craig: So, you missed signs, retreated back into this shell of yourself, lost yourself. Your light’s going dim. And then you find out what’s really going on. Tell me about that.
Allison: It was a slow process, but at the same time, it seemed really fast at times. Like when you’re in a trauma mode and things are really slow and really quick at the same time. He slowly told me more about how that’s all he ever thought about. That’s what he said, “It’s all I ever think about.” My whole world was shattered. He told me he had been living a double life.
I never got full disclosure. I actually still don’t know what really happened. I know some things but I’ll never know everything. I have some hunches but I’ll never know. I’m okay with that now.
One day, I was sitting there in this complete numb state. I was very just shocked. He walked into the room one day, out of the blue, and said, “I’m hypersexual,” and he walked out. I had never heard that word. I didn’t know what it meant. But that word stuck in my head.
About a week later I was having a smoke break at work. I was on my phone and something in the back of my head kept saying, “Is he a sex addict?” That word stood out to me and I searched for it.
That is the moment I found out that I was married to a sex addict.
Craig: What’s going through your head?
Allison: In some ways, there was nothing. It was like a deer in the headlights.
I didn’t know what’s going on.
I didn’t know who I’m married to.
I didn’t know my own past.
I didn’t know my own story.
I didn’t know my own future.
I felt like it was my fault; that I was a horrible wife. Thinking, “I can’t believe I made him do this.”
Every piece of the puzzle of what I thought was my reality kind of fell away and shattered in one second.
Craig: So, there was a period of time where you stayed stuck. And then there came a moment when something changed. There came a point in time where you said enough is enough. I’ve got to start taking care of me. Tell me about that.
Allison: That was a slow process. I needed to identify reality. So, I latched on to research. I was researched everything. What is sex addiction? What is porn addiction? Is there a difference? What are the symptoms? How do you know? What are the treatment models?
It’s all I did – all the time. That was my life.
Through that I started learning that this has nothing to do with me. That started shifting my views. But it was a slow process.
The biggest moment for me was when I thought I knew about all the different treatment methods. I went on to research the porn industry. I didn’t want to just say ‘I hate it’ without knowing what I’m talking about.
In the process, I found this Gail Dines lecture in which she talks about how the only people to find out the truth from are people who are no longer in the industry but were in it. So, I started watching interviews with ex-porn stars. Then I found this interview with some guy who gets it – like he gets it like I’ve never seen anyone get it before. So I searched for more information on this guy and it was you!
So, I dove right into all of the podcasts on The Mindful Habit, the blogs, Michelle’s partner book, everything. It was like I had been in this cocoon and I had been kind of trying to figure out how to break out. I couldn’t find a way because, in some models, I was an addict and/or codependent. But I wasn’t either of those.
About this the time, my ex decides that he’s not an addict and I just need to forgive him so we can move on.
All these things are happening at once, but when I listened to your podcast, Craig. You give some really powerful tools in your podcasts and for me the one that really changed everything was the really big starting point of a huge inner change for me, was Wrong Thought Right.
Every time I saw a woman – you have to understand my ex had told me he wanted every woman except me, so there’s no profile – So, every time I saw any attractive woman, my first thought was, “my husband would fuck her.”
That’s all I could think of.
He’d want her but not me.
He doesn’t want me but he would definitely…
I could not live like that.
I offered to sell my car. I don’t have a very expensive car, but I offered to sell my car for him to go through your program.
I would share podcasts.
But there came a point where I understood that not only could I not control his decision of where he wanted to go, but I also was worth having my needs met and listened to and my opinion matter, my feelings mattered.
I didn’t have to walk away and pretend that it didn’t happen like he wanted me to.
I didn’t have to do that because all of my feelings were valid and that mattered and it finally mattered to me.
And, so, there were two things that kind of happened, that just put it right over the edge.
First, we had a couple really good talks. I can’t pretend that never happened. A couple times he would open up, although I know I didn’t get the full truth, but for the most part if I brought it up, especially during the heart of discovery.
But then, he started telling me that I was being abusive towards him for making him think about this all the time.
And I believed him, so I shut up. The topic went off the table for the most part.
I had to start coming to terms with the fact I couldn’t control him. He’s not who I thought he was. He’s not the man that I thought I married. The man I thought I married does not exist.
Then the second thing, final straw was he knew how I felt. I told him that I would never watch a movie with porn or strippers or any content like with him. And he decided to turn on a movie about teen sex where these people meet on Facebook and this guy is going to drive somewhere and lose his virginity with this teen. Within 30 seconds there’s like shots of boobs and ass and their in like these tiny little clothes.
So, I got up and left the house.
The next day I ended my marriage.
And I’ve never turned back.
That’s the last day I ever shed a tear.
Craig: I want everyone to know, Allison is committed to helping other people. She became a coach. She just graduated The Mindful Habit certification program, which is a program designed to teach people how to deliver The Mindful Habit System in their own coaching practices. Allison was a star, an absolute shining star. I just want to tell you how awesome that you did in that program and I know people’s lives are going to be changed by you. What do you want to say to partners?
Allison: You matter.
You are valuable.
What you think and feel is real.
It is absolutely normal for you to feel that way. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I’m going to validate everything you think and feel about this right now because you’re not alone.
Your opinions matter.
Your feelings matter.
Your values matter.
Craig: How can people find you online, Allison?
Allison: I have a website called The Butterfly Habit that I just launched.
I’ve also got a radio show that I’m co-hosting. It’s going to be a call-in show for partners by partners with another member from our class, Sandy, and she’s from The Empowered Butterfly and we our show is called The Butterfly Nation. It’s going to start Sunday, August 6, at 2:00 pm Mountain Time and our website for that will be up soon.
I’d love to hear from partners, from addicts, from anyone who has any questions about any of this. I’d love to hear from you.
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