Dear Christine, Patient in Petoskey

Dear Christine, 

She did it again! I emailed you a couple years back about my cheating wife.  It wasn’t easy but I forgave her. That was two years ago. I appreciated your advice to decide to follow my heart and do what I needed to at the time. 

I just found out she recently cheated again and now has confessed to me that she believes she’s a sex addict. Apparently, she has been meeting both men and women for sex. She swears she wants to get help and stop. I’ve seen stuff like this in movies and on TV shows. Is it really a thing or could she be making excuses? 

I just don’t know what to do or believe. For now, I’ve asked her to go stay at her sisters house. We have a 25 year marriage that’s been successful except for this. Your thoughts would be appreciated.  

Signed Patient in Petoskey

Dear Patient,

I am sorry to hear your latest marital troubles.  Upon your confrontation, your wife admits she has a problem.  What concerns me is her “swearing that she wants to get help and stop.”  Sex addiction is a real thing, using sex and orgasm as a way to soothe the mind, much the way an alcoholic uses drinking or a opium addict uses pills.  These are modes of avoiding feeling feelings and avoiding dealing with whatever is going on in her life.  It is in the movies and TV because these are dramatic problems that real people go through. 

First, after 25 years of marriage, remember that you don’t have to rush in to any decisions.  There is time.  Second, setting your own boundaries for your sanity is critical.  You probably have heard over the years how addictions can destroy people’s lives, careers and relationships.  It’s true.  An addict has to admit to the problem, which she has done.  An addict needs to get help:  therapy, detox, 12 Step groups, say 90 meetings in 90 days with a sponsor to turn to.  So far, it doesn’t sound like your wife has taken concrete steps to treat this addiction.

Addictions can happen at any point in life.  With wages being so stagnant and people in their 60s and up not having the savings to supplement Social Security, it has become more common for older women to become alcoholics, for example.  A woman is alone, can’t afford what she needs, worries, decides to have some wine, and then more wine… and pretty soon is drinking in the morning and slurring words by 3 pm and blacking out by 7 pm.  Life transitions, such as retirement, death of a spouse, getting fired from a job, bankruptcy, aging causing aches and pains and difficulty getting around can be triggers for all kinds of addictions. 
Addicts are often pretty needy of their fix and very willing to use others to get that fix, whether that is saying the right things to make up, or stealing, or manipulating.  I would recommend keeping that clear boundary while you observe whether or not she is serious about cleaning up and getting treatment.  Also, reflect on the history of the relationship.  Look for patterns.  Are there any patterns you need to change in you and/or in the relationship?  Journal your feelings and thoughts (preferably not blogging on line) and confide in close friends.  Go into therapy if you need further help in figuring out what you need to do for you with someone who has no strings attached to your choices.   Give yourself and her space and time to breathe, sleep on this a while, and communicate.  Again, I will tell you to follow your heart.  There are no right or wrong choices.  Whatever you do, you will learn from it and apply those lessons to the next choice and the one after that. 
Take care and write again.

Christine C Cantrell, PhD
Fully Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Click here to email Christine.

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