Caroline Cranshaw: Kiwi woman asks what she should do about cheating husband's 'sex addiction'

A woman struggling with her partner's "sex addiction" reached out to Sarah, Sam and Toni’s resident relationship expert Caroline Cranshaw for help.

In her letter she wrote:

Dear Caroline,

My husband and I have been together for ten years and we've had our ups and downs. Two years ago, I caught him having an affair with a colleague. We went to counselling, worked through it and I thought everything was fine. That was until last week when a good friend of mine told me she overheard her husband and a friend talking about the fact that my husband had hooked up with some random at a bar. It turns out that it’s something he does all the time - taking off his wedding ring, making out with women he’s just met, or even going home with them.

I confronted him and after trying to deny it, he admitted he has cheated on me lots of times. The affair he had wasn't the first or the last. He told me he thinks he's a sex addict and needs help. That he can't help it because he has a sickness. I’m devastated and don't want to leave him. Our relationship is really good, except for the cheating (obviously …) My friends all say that he's just using the sex addiction as an excuse and to end things now. Is sex addiction real and is it something you can get over?

Regards,

About To Castrate My Husband …

Oh honey, I so know how you feel. This has happened to me more than once. They all had the same excuse, "I think I'm addicted to sex." And to be honest, they probably were. I even had a partner who after I confronted him about cheating, claimed he was a sex addict, and then proceeded to try convince me that I was a love addict since I had dated a lot of men when I was single. So I did what any self-respecting therapist would do, and I took myself to a meeting to find out if that was true. A love and sex addicts meeting.

It was like a scene out of a bad movie. I rocked up to some musty church and watched 12 middle-aged men’s eyes widen as I told them I was there for the meeting. I listened to the men all share about their struggles with being addicted to sex, porn and prostitutes. How hard it was for them in the summer, when girls are wearing shorts and miniskirts and low-cut tops. After all the men had taken a turn sharing their struggles, 12 sets eyes expectantly turn to me. More than ready to hear my story…

I told them how I was a therapist who specialised in addictions and relationships. That I had had partners cheat on me, and use the excuse of being a sex addict. How I was secretly angry at men and didn’t trust that they could be faithful. So I dated, a lot. And at the first red flag, I got rid of them, because I didn't want to have that type of relationship again. And that I was at this meeting because yet again, I had met another “sex addict” who told me that I was a love addict and that I was attracting this type of man into my life for a reason.

I proceeded to tell them that I didn't believe that the men in my life were powerless over their addiction. While I don't understand what it's like to be a man - at the mercy of testosterone, I did understand that life is about choices. We do have control over our behaviour. You choose every day how you are going to behave. You choose whether or not to do things that hurt other people that are close to you. Then I walked out of the meeting, after an awkward silence, the men not really knowing what to say.

I broke up with the man I was dating, the sex addict. I vowed to do everything in my power not to date a man with that issue again. And I haven't. I made every man I dated take psychological relationship tests so I could assess them before I’d even go out with them.

Is your husband a sex addict? Probably. Can he get over this addiction, never cheat on you again and regain your trust? Doubtful …

He probably could get over his addiction to cheating, but my question is, could you? Would you be able to go to sleep knowing he was out with his buddies at the bar, possibly trying to hook up with some random chick? Would you track his every move on Find My iPhone, obsessing about where he is? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me …

I have endless empathy for people with addictions and have struggled with them myself. I now work with lots of men with the sex addictions and understand it's not just behavioural but also chemical. Sex and infatuation generate one of the most potent drugs there is. There's no doubt people are addicted to the dopamine, among the other chemicals, that sex produces. But his addiction is not something you are responsible for, or can help him fix. If you stay with him there’s no real a motivating factor for him to want to change.

I don't believe in unconditional love for someone who hurts you repeatedly. You have to love yourself, first and foremost, and this man is not treating you with the love and respect you deserve. My advice is to tell him to find a good therapist, go to a sex addicts meeting, and to have a nice life.

- Caroline

Caroline Cranshaw is a hypnotherapist, founder and trainer at the New Zealand Integrative Hypnotherapy Training Institute and the author of The Smoking Cure. Find out more about her at nzhypnotherapy.co.nz. Listen to Caroline's new podcast WTF Stories & Advice.