Can I Find Happiness With a Sex Addict?

Can I Find Happiness With a Sex Addict?

I just broke up with my boyfriend of almost three years. We had an amazing relationship. He was the first guy I fell in love with. He was my best friend and lover. We had talked about the future and had great relationships with each other’s families and friends.

Now, the problem. I recently found out that he had been responding to sex posts/ads online. When I confronted him about it, he immediately confessed and apologized profusely. He cried and said he’s so ashamed of himself. He explained that it’s a sexual issue/addiction that he’s had for years – even before he met me. He swore that he never actually met up and did anything physical with anybody; he had only exchanged messages. He said he’d go to counseling to get help. He asked me if I could find it in my heart to stay with him and give him a chance to fix himself and be a better man. He said he knows I deserve better.

I feel so betrayed, sad and angry. But a part of me also believes everything he told me, because it’s in line with his character. He had always been honest with me, even when we discussed difficult subjects.

I’m 25 years old and I’m attractive, intelligent, funny, etc., so I’m sure I can find another person in the future. The problem is, I don’t know if I want to. Is my ex-boyfriend “the one”? I’m not the type of person who magically “knows” or dreams about marriage, but being with him made me start thinking about the possibility of marriage. Does he have great character, make me happy and help me to be a better person? 100%. Did he hurt me? Yes. Do I think I can trust him again? I don’t know.

Like many people with addictions, he may be a good man with a pure heart, but if he can’t control his own actions, he fits the profile of a high-risk partner.

My rational side tells me that breaking up was the right thing to do and that I should never look back. My emotional side tells me that I should give him a second chance, but only once he’s made progress through counseling. What do I do? I don’t want to do anything stupid. I don’t want to fall into a bad case of clouded judgment due to loss of first love. Unfortunately I don’t have enough experience with love to know. I need your help. —Zoe

Dear Zoe,

A very thoughtful letter and a very tricky situation.

And, to echo your sentiments at the close of your email, unfortunately I don’t have enough experience with addiction (much less sex addiction) to be able to rightfully guide you.

A quick trip to Wikipedia is informative, however.

While sex addiction is not listed in the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is pretty much the bible for mental health diagnoses, it’s still prevalent enough to have been studied extensively.

One short description on the page sort of leaped out at me:

Whether it’s a choice or a disease doesn’t matter. He can’t control his urges.

“Jennifer P. Schneider, MD, PhD identified three indicators of sexual addiction: compulsivity, continuation despite consequences, and obsession.”

In layman’s terms, that sounds like some serious shit.

Like many people with addictions, he may be a good man with a pure heart, but if he can’t control his own actions, he certainly fits the profile of a high-risk partner.

In other words, would you be remotely surprised if you got back together and he told you in one year that he spent $5000 on online porn that year? Or maintained a Craigslist “Casual Encounter” ad?

It sure wouldn’t shock me. And even despite that, I wouldn’t doubt that he truly loves you. He’s just an addict. Whether it’s a choice or a disease doesn’t matter. He can’t control his urges. As such, you’re taking a highly calculated risk that he doesn’t backslide.

The one thing I can weigh in on with some measure of authority is this:

You WILL fall in love again.

You’re 25. You don’t seem to lack for attractive traits or self-esteem. You’ve been able to maintain a three-year relationship. You had the confidence to walk away from a boyfriend that you love whom you don’t trust. These are all signs of a highly healthy young woman.

Listen, I believe in second chances as much as the next guy. Hell, if my wife cheated on me, I’d absolutely give her a second chance to make it right — because I know it’s anomalous and not part of her character. Unfortunately, Zoe, your ex-boyfriend’s behavior is not anomalous; it’s chronic.

If anybody is going to give him a second chance, it’s going to have to be the next woman who finds out he’s a recovering sex addict.

As for you, I think you should get back out there, date a bunch of new guys, and see who surprises you. My guess is that he’ll be everything that your previous boyfriend was — without the addiction and trust issues. Keep us posted.

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  1. 21

    whether it,s real or not, he,s not figuring that out on my time. Sucks if you already married them though.   

  2. 22
    Karl R

    Evan said: (original post)
    “sex addiction is not listed in the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”
    I’ve heard it classified as a form of impulse control disorder (312.30 Impulse-Control Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) which was listed in the DSM-IV.
    helene said: (#5)
    “I do think there can be a bit of a cop-out in declaring yourself a ‘sex addict.'”
    I believe it’s often used as an excuse for bad behavior by people who get caught in some type of compromising situation.
    helene asked:  (#5)
    “(aren’t all addictions serious?) and possibly incurable…”
    I’m physically addicted to caffeine. If I don’t get at least 2 cups of coffee per day (or the equivalent), I go through physical withdrawal. If I don’t get my daily dose of caffeine, I’ll get a splitting headache for hours which can’t be managed by any form of over-the-counter painkiller (and the headache affects my mood, just like any other physical pain).
    I can either give up caffeine completely, or I can manage a constant daily intake of caffeine at a safe level. That’s about as benign as addictions get, since caffeine is legal, cheap, readily available, and has health benefits which balance out the side-effects when used in moderation. But it’s still not curable. Even if I stop drinking caffeine for months at a time, I’m not cured. All it takes is a cup of coffee and the physical addiction is back at full strength.
    Zoe said: (original post)
    “Do I think I can trust him again? I don’t know.”
    If you can’t trust him, you can’t have much of a relationship. Since you’re unsure about whether you can trust him, I think it would be a struggle, at best.

  3. 23

    Locutus #20, I would think twice before telling people that they have to stick it out till death if they’re married to an alcoholic or a drug addict, cuz the vows. I really hope people do not take anonymous comments on an Internet blog seriously, because the advice you’re giving here is pretty dangerous.

  4. 24

    I agree with Goldie It is terrible advice to say that people have to stick it out in a marriage with a drug addict or alcoholic. Being married to someone does not give them a licence to treat u like shit
    At the end of the day, if you stay with an alcoholic or drug addict who persists in their addiction, they will destroy you as well as themselves. It is even worse if you have had children with alcoholic or drug addict, and stay with   your addicted partner. You may have chosen to knowingly go into a relationship with an addict but the children did not. The children are exposed to parental neglect, verbal abuse , physical abuse, emotional abuse etc etc The children end up damaged and it is just not fair to do that to them. Very often they end up partnering with an addict as that behaviour seems “”normal”” to them and the cycle repeats again

  5. 25

    I never stated that at all and  it is not my adivce.   I just questioned Eleanor because she seemed to have a long list of conditional things about marriage.   If the spouse does not want to address the addiction or if it takes over everything then yes, but according to Eleanor I just read that she runs away  at the first sign of trouble.   If someone developed a porn addiction and admitted it and wanted to seek help for it and did, would you right away divorce them?   That’s what I read from Eleanor’s post.

  6. 26

    Locutus @25
    I agree with you that Goldie is waaaaay over reacting to your comment. I read Eleanor’s post the same way you did. Seems like Goldie and Eleanor both jump right to divorce court without even trying to fix the problem first. Not cool.

  7. 27

    @Marymary, at no point did I saw anything about the letter writer staying with the sex addict.
    I was just commenting on people who said it wasn’t a real thing.   It is a real thing and anyone thinking of staying in a   relationship with an addict is in for a world of hurt I’m sure. I recall reading a blog (linked to my alumni list serv) from a woman who was married to a sex addict.   She didn’t mention other women but there might as well have been b/c the whole story was a huge mess (she later took the blog down).   His compulsions kept him from keeping a job despite having stellar academic credentials (and actually, professional ones except that his problem kept resulting in him losing his prestigious jobs).   She married later in life and I think she stuck it out to avoid having to start over but yeah, I had never read anything like that blog in my LIFE.   
    I’ve never been in a relationship with an addict but being aware of the things people can be addicted to and not doubting reality are probably pretty important in avoiding it.   
    For the record, I don’t see how any addict who isn’t in recovery (since apparently people can’t ever say they are cured) would be a good partner for anyone.   No matter what their other positive traits are.

  8. 28

    @Locutus, you are reading something different from what was written b/c this letter came from a 25 year old who left her BF.   Not a married person.   And she isn’t breaking anything by leaving him and even if she was married, this is a pretty serious problem that anyone dating OR married would be hard pressed to tolerate.

  9. 29

    @Locutus and John
    Was what I wrote in 15 what you misinterpreted or was it something else?
    Try if you are already married, but remember no marriage is unconditional. As soon as an addiction develops, the marriage vow is broken. The spouse has fallen on the priorities list, displaced by addiction.
    You presume broken vow with the end of   marriage. I do not. I said “try if you are already married.” That is not throwing away. I said only the vow has been broken. The addict is not able to protect, and loves and cherishes his fixes over his spouse. The vow is broken. I did not say abandon the marriage because of that, only recognise that your partner has broken his (or her) vows, and take the situation that seriously.
    Should an addiction endanger me, I would have very firm conditions whether I stay.   If my children are endangered by being left alone while looking for the next fix or by being intoxicated while in charge, or their future   through depletion of savings spent on fixes, they must be protected immediately. Even in that case, I would be separate and still work on the marriage. . .for a while.

  10. 30

    Zoe! You in danger girl! DO NOT! I repeat, DO NOT marry that man. If you do, you will be setting yourself up for a world of hurt. I know that this is a painful time for you right now, but be thankful that you found out BEFORE you married him.

  11. 31

    Staying could put her at risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

  12. 32

    Nicole, Nicole, Nicole…..go back and reread.   I am aware of what the letter says.   My statement about married couples was in response to Eleanor’s hypothetical statement about married people.   You obviously didn’t read all the posts.

  13. 33

    I don’t know, Eleanor, when someone writes “the marriage vow is broken”” to me that means “All bets are off” and your free to do what you want, i.e. get a divorce, at anytime.   That’s how it looked to me.  

  14. 34

    @ John #26, seems that you know more about my personal life than I do. Good for you.
    I read Eleanor’s post as stating that, once a spouse has developed an addiction, there is a possibility that this marriage cannot be saved, depending on the nature and severity of the addiction. I read the response (“my vow said in sickness and in health”) as meaning that we have an obligation to stay married regardless of our spouse’s addiction, because addiction is a sickness and we promised to stay through that. Was there any other way to read it?

  15. 35

    Unfortunately, as unfair as it is, having any kind of serious mental health disorder is not compatible with being a partner in a long-term solid, happy, and healthy relationship. The affected partner has to get better and gain control of their disorder first, and casual dating might be a better option until improvement.
    If the disorder develops within a marriage, it will have to be dealt by the couple the best they can, maybe through a temporary separation to allow treatment and recovery. However it is foolish to choose to enter marriage willingly with someone having a serious mental health challenge that has not yet been treated and successfully kept under control for several years.
    Marriage is not simply a matter of being a good person, and it’s not simply a matter of love. It takes more than a good and loving person to make a good spouse. If your mind is not fully under your (wise and virtuous) control, it’s pointless to make life-long vows to someone else. And it’s foolish to accept those, no matter how much we love or how loud the clock is ticking.
    If she cares that much, Zoe can offer this man her loving support from a distance. That’s what friendship is for.

  16. 36

    Her comment didn’t elaborate on whether she would first try to get her partner help nor did she say that if the addiction could not be overcome or worsened or he refused to get help then it might end up in a divorce.   She simply stated that once an addiction forms then all bets are off.   You added words in your head trying to defend her.   She DID NOT say “Once an addiction forms then the marriage vow COULD BE BROKEN or IS IN JEOPARDY or MAY BE BROKEN or IS IN DANGER OF BEING BROKEN.   She said the marriage vow IS broken implying that if an addiction forms the contract is immediately nullified in her eyes which means she can walk away at any given time- whether it be immediately or at a later time!!!   You added your own words- “a possibility the marriage cannot be saved”.   She did NOT say “a possibility”.   When I read things I don’t add words to them or speculate unknowns.  

  17. 37

    @ Locutus, “As soon as an addiction develops, the marriage vow is broken” means it is broken by the addict spouse.As indicated by Eleanor’s next sentence: “The spouse has fallen on the priorities list, displaced by addiction.”
    Would take a lot of dedication for one person to stay true to their vows when the other person is not honoring theirs. Here you go. Words not added, unknowns not speculated.
    As an aside, this whole vows talk always rubs me the wrong way. If the only reason why two people are staying married is because they gave a vow many years ago, then there’s something seriously wrong with their marriage and maybe it’s better for everyone involved that they part ways. If they have other reasons to stay together besides the vow, then they have a healthy functional marriage that the vow has very little to do with.

  18. 38

    “As soon as an addiction develops, the marriage vow is broken.”   Those are her exact words Goldie.   Not sure how you interpret “As soon as”, but I interpret that as immediately after an addiction forms.   No kidding it is caused by the addicted spouse.   Not sure how you can twist that to mean any other thing without adding your own words or speculations.   It’s cut and dry.   Let me give you an example.   “As soon as the clock strikes midnight I am leaving”.   It does not mean 5 minutes after midnight or 20 minutes after or 1am   it means immediately after midnight.   An infinitessimal amount of time after the clock strikes 12.   Are you seriously still trying to contest her statement??

  19. 39

    Justbecause the vow is broken doesn’t mean the marriage is over.  It means that the promise one party made has not been kept.   That is the vow.  

  20. 40

    I’ve never posted on here before, but I’m gonna throw out a really off the wall suggestion…   If this guy is so amazing that he makes you so happy, if he has never actually DONE anything with these women except flirt and talk sexy, and if he has owned up to it and says it is a genuine problem, can you not find a way to just let him continue, or maybe even somehow join in with him?   On the basis that if he ever does go behind your back and get physical with any other woman, he is out and that is it?   It sounds harsh, but it also sounds as if you love him a lot and as if he’s been able to make your pretty happy up to now in spite of this.   So is it totally out of the question that you either turn a blind eye, or actually try to have some fun by helping him write the messages, or seeing if you have a bi side you could explore here?   
    Please don’t think I’m not sympathetic because I am and I can totally understand how hurt you must feel and how upsetting this has been for you.   And obviously what would be really great would be if you found someone just as good, or if you stayed together and he got help and didn’t need to do this anymore.   But if it really is an addiction type thing he has (and I have a partner with addictions, though admittedly not this kind) then maybe there are other shades you could explore besides black and white here if you don’t want to imagine life without him.   After all, pretty much all guys watch porn and maybe he just gets off on the reading and writing aspect rather than the watching (kind of like sexting?).   If he has been physically loyal to you and has no emotional connection with these girls, does it have to spell the end?   

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