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. 41

    I had a friend in the same boat whose bf claimed he only messaged and did nothing else.   She was smart enough to ask for cell phone records and credit card statements.   Yep there were calls and hotel bills.   Maybe this guy only messaged, but somehow I feel like that wouldn’t be enough…

  2. 42

    Katie #40
    “…can you not find a way to just let him continue, or maybe even somehow join in with him?”
    Addictions don’t really work that way. If Zoe turned a blind eye, and let him continue, what’s to stop her boyfriend from actually meeting these women? I also have to wonder if he hasn’t done more than he’s already admitted to, even though he has denied it. And if he is using the sex addiction as an excuse, then turning a blind eye wouldn’t help matters at all. Not only that, but he has betrayed her trust, and I doubt that this approach would remedy that. Watching porn on occasion, and feeling a compulsion to respond to sex posts and ads online are two different things.
    “…or seeing if you have a bi side you could explore here?”
    In that case, Zoe should avoid watching the video by Garfunkel & Oates on another thread.

  3. 43

    @JustMe That is how I believe.
    @Locutus You chose one sentence I said and what you believe it means as my belief. You believe “vow broken, marriage ends.” I never said that. Would your marriage certainly end if a vow were broken by your partner cheating on you once and confessing? If I were cheated on,   I might try to save the marriage. You and I are different.
    I said “Try if you are already married” contradicting what you believe a broken vow means. Why do you ignore those words? They provide context of what a broken marriage vow means to me. of what they mean to you that I did not say.
    Staying in a marriage or a relationship is a decision made every day. I believe being married is a commitment between two people that includes a promise to try work through bad times but it is never an unconditional promise to stay together forever no matter what the other person does or becomes.

  4. 44

    Katie @ 40
    It’s a slippery slope.   According to divorce-online (uk), facebook is mentioned in one third of divorce cases.   And that’s just facebook, not primarily designed for hookups.
    I had an ex, married, contact me on facebook.      This “progressed” to texts, including pornographic images.   He sent these to me while his wife and child were sleeping. I’m sure if she’d  caught him (I cut him off before then ), he’d be swearing that it didn’t matter as we were never phyiscal (true). it does matter.
    As for the girlfriend enabling this behaviour by joining in, that’s a step too far.   Women feel pressure to be “cool” and  not “oversensitive”.   I get it but don’t take it too far.   It doesn’t mean we have to put up with every cockamamie thing.   I don’t mind that my boyfriend gets free food from canteen ladies, I think it’s funy.   But I certainly wouldn’t help him  hit on other women.  
    It applies to women too.   We may not be porn addicted so much, but there are many who are indulging in online  fantasy relationships .   It’s “harmless” as they don’t meet such men, it’s all online.     Sometimes not even phone calls.   Well, that has brought down marriages. It certainly didn’t help mine.   I’m embarrassed by it now.     If soemone is ashamed of something, like the OP,s boyfriend, like I am, maybe we should be.
    Friend of mine married someone who turned out to have issues she could no longer endure.   They  divorced.   One of her children has still not forgiven her and they no longer speak.   She can’t tell the child why she divorced, because she doesn’t want to alienate him from the father.   Another friend married an alcoholic who drank herself to death, leaving their  teenage daughter motherless.   Once you let this stuff into your life, it can get to the stage where there is no right thing left to do.
    regarding   “the recovering” I  knew someone who  was  a recovering alcoholic  and had  quit drinking for decades.   Instead, of drinking he  married and divorced three times, ran off  with his  best friend’s wife when said best friend had a brain tumour, and started hitting on  his students.  One addiction replaced by another.
    I’m not saying no-one deserves a second chance. They deserve the same chance as anyone else. ie if they start mucking  it up, don’t just say “oh, he/she can’t help it. they’re an addict/recovering”.   That helps no-one, not even them. Where’s the motivation to change when a devoted partner is at their side?   If they change, it’s usually when everyone has left them and they feel the consequences.
    Zoe, you’re not married, you’re not even in a relationhips (broken up), let this one go.

  5. 45

    @ marymary, I have a facebook story too, luckily I nipped mine in the bud before anything at all happened. I belonged to the same church for 12 years (left it in 2009), and every summer, like everybody else, I’d help out during their annual festival — setup, cleanup, selling baked goods, etc. One year during setup, I met a guy I hadn’t seen in church before (there was usually a good crowd so I’d probably never noticed him), who was setting up the bar. Apparently he was there for every festival selling wine and beer. We seemed to have hit it off and friended each other on Facebook. Almost right away, he start popping up almost every day in my FB chat, being very friendly. About the same time, I start getting these silly game requests from him on Facebook. One was, “Bob wants you to suck on his lollipop”. I couldn’t think of a way to tell Bob off, when one evening in a chat, he mentioned that he had two daughters, same age as my sons. I quickly remembered the two girls that were in same Sunday school classes as my kids, with his last name, and messaged back: “Oh is ‘Karen’ your wife? I know her well. She is so nice, gorgeous looking too, you Bob are so lucky!” Funny thing, Bob ended the chat almost right away, and never messaged me again. This was a wealthy, religious, conservative guy, active in his church, whose Facebook page was mostly reposts of all and any religious right things he could find on the Internet. As irresistible as I am, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the first woman in church he’d approached, or the last for that matter! I feel so bad for “Karen”, who by the way is indeed very sweet and great-looking.
    To Katie’s question, first of all there’s no proof that the amazing guy hasn’t ever DONE anything. Secondly, if he hasn’t yet, he will. It is only so long you can message and flirt and dwell upon those thoughts before you suddenly find yourself checking into a motel room for an hour or two. Happened to someone I know, the man flirted with everyone around him for years, and then one day, shit got real, he got himself a mistress. IMO, it’s not the same as watching porn if you’re interacting with real people and getting responses.

  6. 46

    I really don’t know whether this guy is an actual addict, or using that as an excuse to cover his behavior. What I always find interesting about these conversations is that they never fail to bring up a lot of stories about the nature of “good” partnership, fidelity, healthy sexuality and a whole lot of related issues. The reality is that each couple has their own balance point. What’s “good” for one couple is a disaster for another. Trends and statistics can only be guides, as much as many of us would rather have black and white blueprints to follow.
    Seems to me that the OP has an opportunity to reflect upon what she really needs in terms of commitment, and then to decide whether or not the guy she’s with is compatible with that or not. I’m guessing the divide between what she needs and how he is currently is too much. For the right person, Katie’s suggestions could turn a hidden, shame-ridden behavior into something more relationship supportive. It’s never a partner’s job to do that. We are not each others’ therapists per se. However, it’s also the case that many folks have a lot of shame when it comes to sexuality and sexual expression in general, and that it’s only through finding acceptance and exploring with a partner (or many across a lifetime) that the shame is transformed.
    The thing is that this tends to happen only when the two people involved are at a similar enough place to make the risks. What I see in the OP is   someone who wouldn’t be able to make that big of leap with her boyfriend without forcing it. And that’s not worth it. She may never want to make such a leap anyway, and so it’s probably best to move on and find someone else.

  7. 47

    Wanted to add. There are people (I know a few) who prefer open relationships. As in, both partners support open relationships, both meet other people on their own and/or bring them in and the three of them have their fun together. Not my cup of tea, but they enjoy the lifestyle. Maybe the OP’s boyfriend should seek out that kind of people. They won’t mind the things he’s been doing and his behavior won’t disrupt the relationship.

  8. 48
    Karmic Equation

    There was an episode on Investigate Discover (ID) that showed nothing good can come of the open relationship. Admittedly it was an N of 1.
    But the couple had an open marriage. The husband was ok with until he got jealous that the wife liked a man too much. The man ended up dead. I think the wife too.
    Sometimes I’ve thought an open relationship sounds interesting, maybe something to try. But then I think, “Nah, I’d get jealous or he’d get jealous, and someone would end up dead.”
    “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

  9. 49
    Frank Lavario

    Sex addiction is not just about open relationships. Apart from that: what women (understandably) usually don’t understand is that a sex addiction of their partners have nothing to do with them. Usually it’s about traumatic experiences and unresolved problems from childhood or adolescence. Instead of a sex addiction, it could also have become a gambling addiction, alcohol addiction or other type of compulsive behavior.

  10. 50

    I’m with Helene (#5) 100% – too many people use the “i’m a sex addict” cop out when in reality they are immature, selfish, compulsive personalities with no self control. This day & age of instant gratification for men = using online porn to get off immediately.   They can’t wait a few hours until their S.O. gets home etc. It’s absolute insanity. What did our poor fathers & grand fathers do when they got horny? They either had to wait for their wife/g.f. or, use their imagination or maybe a girly magazine to jerk off – GASP! Nowadays men don’t even wait 1 min if they feel the urge they get online. To me it is the most selfish act, especially if they have a willing & ready partner that wants intimacy. If their partner is not interested in sex, than that is another story. If the writer is willing, able & ready to have sex with her partner & he is not attending to her needs, she needs to dump him. This isn’t about sex addiction, it’s about being selfish & not considering your partners wants/needs.   A great website about porn is … – maybe she & her b.f should start there.
    “Evolution has not prepared your brain for today’s Internet porn”

  11. 51

    Nowhere did the writer say her BF was not “attending to her needs”.   Not sure where you made that one up from?   The writer said she felt betrayed which I agree with.   Looking at online porn….no problem.   Interacting with real people via the internet in sexual ways now that is intolerable, which this guy did.   I agree with Evan for the OP to dump this guy, but I don’t agree with your little generalized rant about men watching porn and not being able to wait 1 minute.   You turned your response from talking about a guy who actually has a problem or is at least untrustworty to lambasting all men with your made up beliefs.   As a man I’m insulted to hear such utter made up nonsense.   I bet you are the first to go screaming if a guy made up such generalized nonsense about women….

  12. 52

    My response #51 was to Cat #50.   I incorrectly wrote Cat5.

  13. 53

    My comment wasn’t about ALL men, it was about those men that abuse/over use porn & use a cop out like “I’m a sex addict” – I believe Tiger Woods tried that too. I don’t think using porn once in a while is a bad thing, although the website I mentioned may contradict that.   My point was, there are men (& probably a few women), not ALL men, that use porn too much & it affects their relationships. I also said “IF, the OP was not getting her needs met, she should dump him”….no where did I say “the OP isn’t getting her needs met so she should dump him”.   I don’t understand why you are “so insulted”. Never did I say “ALL men do this or ALL men do that”. Lighten up, I have noticed in this blog you arguing with many women about what they posted. I think you’re the one that has the hang up with “ALL woman do this or ALL women do that”.

  14. 54

    Absolutely wrong.   I call things straight down the middle and get all riled up when people are biased to either side.   Reading your post again, to me I don’t get the specification where you were only talking about a specific group of men.   It did not and still doesn’t sound that way to me.   “This day & age of instant gratification for men = using online porn to get off immediately.”…sounds like you are talking and generalizing about all men.   What angered me is that yes I watch porn and watch it even a moderate amount of time.   Doesn’t make me a bad person and most women I know wouldn’t have an issue with it.   Your statement really sounded like you were chastizing men for watching porn.   Tough luck, I bet 80% do and there is nothing wrong with it most of the time.   There is no harm in it unless it takes over your life or relationship.   Most women I know jump right to instant gratification when they are horny and many are horny just as many times or more times than men.   Doesn’t bother me one bit.   And FYI when you just say the word “men” it implies ALL men!!!

  15. 55

    @Locutus – Well, I guess that was your mistake in misinterpreting my post or what I meant. I agree with you, and like I mentioned before, occasional use of porn is not a bad thing. We agree on that & no I am not anti-porn nor do I think you or any other man/woman is a “bad person” for using it, including my husband & myself. My whole post was how it can affect a relationship when it is misused/overused/used as replacement etc etc. What I meant by “in this day & age of instant gratification….for men – it means the use of online porn at the click of a button. ‘In this day & age of instant gratification…for women – it means getting cosmetic surgery at the drop of a hat, before even trying other options or working out etc”…”In this day & age of instant gratification” – applies to both sexes in a lot of different ways. I could give numerous examples for both men & women…We live in a world of instant gratification nowadays so hence my analogy to our fathers/grandfathers not having porn. Just like our mothers/grandmothers didn’t get breast implants or tummy tucks or botox like it’s going out of style like nowadays. Everyone wants instant gratification! My example had to do with porn or using the internet for sex because that is what the post was about, her b.f soliciting women online etc. In no way did I say “ALL men use porn too much & ALL men are bad for using porn, blah blah blah”….not even close. So you read my post in a way that you felt was directed toward you? – for what ever reason? – and got angry? Really? It sounds like you have a hang up about porn & using porn & thinking you’re a “bad person” for using porn. Hence, you’re interpretation of my post. I don’t care that you use porn, really.

  16. 56

    Well your post was not stated clearly.   Once again, when you make a statement and simply use the word ‘men’ it IMPLIES all men.   You need to say ‘a lot of men’ or ‘some men’ or ‘most men’.   Realize that.   It’s not misinterpretaion, it’s mistating what you mean.   If I made the statement “Women are insecure” that would cover ALL women.   I would need to specify if talking only about a certain group or type or individual.
    Finally, I don’t agree with your statement about men, albeit some men, having to instantly gratify themselves with porn and you make the statement about men watching porn instead of  waiting for their wives to get home.   I don’t have a problem with that.   If I am at work and my girlfriend is home let her masturbate all day if that pleases her.   All the power to her!   I totally don’t understand why that upsets you.   It baffles me.   If she is that horny of a woman, but loyal and honorable enough to never cheat then that is awesome.  
    And as for grandfathers/grandmothers…their grandparents probably thought the same thing of them.  

  17. 57

    Locutus @ 56 said:
    “If I am at work and my girlfriend is home let her masturbate all day if that pleases her. All the power to her! I totally don’t understand why that upsets you.”
    Perhaps if your girlfriend was mastubating to pornography of males, and you lived in  a historically matriarchal society  where  men  had been  treated as property (including legally in the not so distant past, as there are those of you who remember when a man could not even get his wife arrested for assaulting him or that there are still laws on the books in some states that make your rape a crime against your wife, but not a crime against you),  exploited sexually, and construed as the weaker sex, and  often still are regarded and treated  this way by some women, and you had  been treated in this fashion by women at times,  then you might have some understanding why this issues  upsets some people.
    Disclaimer:   Every scenario/option available to humankind has not been covered in this example.   It is an example for thoughtful and respectful discussion purposes only.   Hopefully, individuals  will  understand the spirit of the point  being made and not nit-pick every single idea, word, and sentence to death.    No representation or warranties for fitness for a particular purposes are made.  

  18. 58
    Karl R

    Cat5 said: (#57)
    “Perhaps if […] you lived in a historically matriarchal society where men had been treated as property”
    That’s a truly immature excuse.
    I could use similar reasoning to excuse almost anyone’s horrible behavior against anyone else.
    Do you think my brother is justified in being a bigot toward an entire race of people who just happen to be of the same race as the men who murdered our grandparents? In my opinion, he’s trying to justify his hatred of tens of millions of people who did nothing wrong.
    Would Evan be justified in treating me horribly? He’s Jewish. I’m primarily of German descent. We both have relatives who are old enough to remember the holocaust.
    If someone has treated you like property, take it up with them. For the rest of us who haven’t, we’re not interested in hearing childish excuses.
    Several of us have questioned whether Zoe’s boyfriend is just using “sex addiction” as an excuse for bad behavior. We’re not any more tolerant of using other excuses for bad behavior.

  19. 59

    Karl R @58
    Thanks for taking a portion of the sentence and using it.   I should have known that you would not be able to look at the overall idea of what I was saying  instead of just pulling out what you needed  to make your point.
    Also, thanks for proving Godwin’s Theory correct.   🙂
    Finally, prior to WWII would  have told a Jewish person who was a victim of anti-semitism to take it up with the individual treating them so badly.   I don’t think so because that was a systemic and societal issue.
    Well…here’s some news…so is women and children  being treated as property and sexually exploited around the globe, including the United States of America.   If you don’t think this problem exists today, come visit me and I’ll be happy to introduce you to some of the women and children I represent and they will tell you their story.   Then, if you still believe what you said above, you are free to tell them  right to their face to  take it up with the individual who treated them like property.

    1. 59.1


  20. 60

    Locutus56…I never stated that anything “upsets me”, about men using porn for instant gratification or delayed gratification or otherwise. My point was about when it affects a relationship badly. Where do you see that   I said   I “was upset”. I am stating an opinion, totally just MY opinion. And you are reading my posts & inferring things you think I feel which “baffle you”. I’m really not following you at all. I’m not a woman that is mad at the world about porn use, but it seems you want so badly for me to be that woman. By telling me how I feel & that I’m upset & I’m wrong & blah blah blah… Sorry. And as far as you stating “women are insecure” I would not infer that you meant ALL women, I would read that & think to myself, he’s right, some women are insecure & some are not. It’s not rocket science to know that all women are not the same nor are all men. You seem over sensitive.    And I certainly wouldn’t be “baffled” by your opinion about something. We all have opinions & certainly no need to get upset about any of them.

    You can come visit the women and children that I represent for free in my free time.

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