In a situation few spouses openly address, many are suffering in silence as their partner…
Addicted Husbands: 7 Ways Sex Addicts Lie to Their Spouses
By Tommy Williams, LADAC, ASAT-C, Primary Therapist, Men’s Sexual Addiction Program, The Ranch
So many spouses of addicts and alcoholics go through a torturous period of sensing something is off, or wrong, but not being able or willing to believe it. For the spouses of sex addicts, the feeling can be so difficult to bear that it becomes more comfortable to deny their suspicions.
When you love someone, you want so much to believe him. When he makes excuses, like pretending to work late, it’s difficult to believe he may be cheating and it may be even scarier to try to catch him in a lie.
But being able to identify the uncomfortable truth will bring you closer to healing.
Understanding Sex Addiction in Men
Men with sex addiction, and all addictions, are usually very adept at manufacturing stories and excuses for bad behavior, withdrawing emotionally and/or physically or disappearing into secret activities. They are often blinded from the truth of their addiction by denial.
So many men with addiction are raised in dysfunctional households where they experience trauma and learn very early on to do whatever it takes to keep the boat from rocking and to try to avert a crisis. It carries into married life. Although they may be loving, they never learned how to behave in healthy intimate relationships.
They have a compulsion that makes them believe the grass is greener outside marriage. They look for liaisons or excitement in the worlds of porn, sex workers or affairs. They can get lost there for long periods because it requires no work and no commitment. There’s no baggage attached to a stripper, hooker or porn star. They don’t have to be accountable.
When they come home, they can pretend nothing happened because they’ve learned to compartmentalize their lives. Husbands may genuinely care for their wives and children, but there always has to be this “other thing.” To cover their tracks, they will lie and deny.
Nothing Bad Is Going On Here
There are so many different ways the lies can manifest. We polled men in recovery from sex addiction and they shared these most common ways they lied and covered up.
1. Denying things outright.
Men in active sex addiction will constantly reassure their spouses that they are doing nothing wrong or weird. You might hear things like:
- “I swear. Nothing is happening.”
- “I would never cheat on you. I love you too much to do that.”
- “She is just a friend.”
- “I had no idea she was a hooker.”
- “It’s because I’m a man.”
2. Making up tall tales.
Sometimes they tell elaborate stories because they believe that the lie is more acceptable than the truth. One man went to the bank to make a cash deposit and came back hours later broke. He told his wife a story about having his pocket picked. In reality, he’d spent hundreds of dollars on a hooker. His wife couldn’t imagine he’d spend the money they needed for bills. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt — until she called the bank and found out there was no robbery.
3. Playing on your sympathies.
While addicted husbands may not have intimacy skills, they often know how to push your buttons and tell you what you want to hear. Sometimes it will come in the form of apologies and promises, and other times he will be charming or needy. You may know in your heart he is lying about the lipstick on the collar or the online porn charges on the credit card, but you feel guilty doubting him. An addict knows how to twist things to make you feel sorry for him.
4. Discounting your instincts.
Another strategy is to say things that make you feel like there is something wrong with you. He may discount your instincts and observations by altering the truth. One man regularly told his wife, “Your intuition and feelings are not correct.” He would refute her accusations by belittling them.
5. Playing the perfect husband.
Sex-addicted husbands will often create two separate worlds. They remain attentive fathers and loving husbands, and look after the family. They are so congruent in that behavior that it is hard for you to see they are living a double life. Your mate may be prowling for sex at the office by day, but when he comes home, is a devoted family man.
6. Picking a fight.
Some men try to make their wives mad at them so they can storm out. They pick at something small or rehash an old argument, bringing things to a boil, until you scream at them. Then they’ll say: “That’s it! I’m leaving!” And that was the plan, all along — to have a reason to leave the house to go find a liaison. You may be left thinking, “Oh, God, I ran him out of the house.” However, it’s more likely that you’ve been set up.
7. Using rage to change the subject.
Another strategy is to become enraged if you ask a question or get in the way of sexual pursuits. Even the slightest thing can set off this rage, which works to deflect attention when they’re caught in a lie. One man remembers telling his wife, “Shut up, I’m not full of rage! I’m not raging!” It gives an addict another excuse to disappear from the conversation.
Men with sex addiction have an uncanny ability to operate like covert agents. But when the deception is discovered, all parties must face reality. Part of that reality is that spouses are often in denial, too, so they go along with the lies. One man had over 100 sex partners during his marriage and his wife knew nothing.
Part of the healing for the spouses of addicted husbands is to pay attention to the signs and be willing to know the truth. You may provide your husband’s first step to recovery by calling him on his behavior and letting him know there will be consequences if he does not get help.
Healing for Both Partners
In our inpatient program at The Ranch, men first learn to get honest and vulnerable with their peers. Following the Patrick Carnes model, it is important for there to be a “full disclosure” by the addict to the spouse. It is highly recommended that both are in therapy for three to six months so both can be more grounded when this occurs. Ideally, the disclosure will happen with both of their therapists present. Although full disclosure is important, the need for too many details isn’t.
Spouses often want to know what the sex partners looked like, often so they can ruminate on, “what does she have that I don’t?” During one disclosure, a client confessed he would have a weekly liaison with someone at a particular hotel that was part of the skyline of their city. Every morning the spouse drove to work and was triggered by seeing that hotel. Full disclosure can lead to healing, but too many details can be damaging.
Many men in recovery say that telling the truth is freeing and that sharing it with their spouse means that they can finally leave behind the secrets and take off their masks.