The Whole Family. His “Addiction.” We're Soaking In It.

Hello again! I’m glad to be back posting after two weeks absence due to other professional commitments. As my earlier post said, I also was dealing with technical bugs at the same time.

But there’s always lots stewing on my front burner, and it took some time to decide where to begin. One of the questions I’ve been thinking about is whether the almost singular focus on the relationship between the man called a sex addict and his wife or partner is actually how everyone avoids facing the damage to the family as a unit and treating it. In so many cases there are children in the story. The whole family is affected by the man’s behavior, not just the relationship with the woman. Little is said about this. What do children suffer? What does their father teach them about family when he uses it to protect another secret life he values more than them? Is salvaging something of the family wreckage yet another task that falls to the woman, so that he can continue to present as “normal” instead of the deeply damaged human being that he is? What if he involves them in his “operations” of deceit and risk-taking? I’ve heard more than one story of how he used the children as “chick-bait”, securing coffee dates, play dates and shared rides to events. I know from my own experience that these men will blame porn on the computer on sons and quickly offer to have “the talk” with them.

But it can be worse than this, even. Unfortunately, some of these men like sexual and sexualized activities with underage victims, and that can involve their own children. Exhibitionism and voyeurism are not victimless crimes in or outside the family. The emotional incest often present in the man’s history can be passed on to his own children. No matter how the story unfolds, it’s a family problem, not just a marriage problem. Women with similar instincts find it almost impossible to protect their children when they try to divorce. And instead of doing rigorous and extensive assessments and dealing with the fallout, the treatment industry seems to offer a containment strategy that rides entirely on the back of the wife or partner. It’s not good enough. And we need to pull back the curtain on this. 

Then I read a very difficult article about the North American participation in sex trafficking with a particular focus on children and how they are used, abused, tortured and brutalized by adult men to gratify their escalating desires to violate others in every way possible, inflicting such deep psychological torture that victim recovery is unlikely even if they escape. The link to that article is at the end of my blog. Trigger warning.

Finally, I exchanged messages with a brilliant doctor who survived the abuse of her man called a sex addict and is currently doing significant research about the impact on the whole family and how to approach it. I’ve known her for several years. A brave warrior for her and her children’s lives, she intends to publish her work when it is ready. I will keep you posted!

Yes, that’s a lot to be rolling around in my head—and not exactly happy clappy thoughts! But maybe it’s time to talk about the imaginary line between our stories and the horrific truths of what men are doing to women and children in their families and outside their families. Maybe It’s time for the sexual addiction treatment industry to stop ignoring that misogyny, human trafficking, substance addictions, racism, exhibitionism, pedophilia, physical violence, overt and covert abuse, rape culture, exhibitionism, bestiality, slavery, incest, sexual assault, voyeurism, criminal cartels (and probably more) are present, supported, or indicated in the continuum of behaviors with which we are dealing in men they call sex addicts.

I think we all used to imagine there was a line between what bad men did and what our husband or boyfriend was doing. After hearing the horrific stories I’ve heard for nearly ten years now, the line has disappeared under the ruined lives these men leave behind. There is no line that separates the “good” compulsive-abusive sexual relational disordered men from the “bad” ones. They all are exercising their misogynist entitlements to harm women and children, as well as their patriarchal privilege to absent themselves from parental moral leadership, modelling or the protection of those they say they love.

Still, these men and their treatment industry and practitioners expect us all to just absorb the harm and pick up the parenting void because when it comes to misogyny and patriarchal power (as Madge would say) society “is soaking in it.”[1]

Just a brief review of what goes on:

  • He creates a secret life and hides it from his family—wife, spouse, children, stepchildren. To these innocent others, family does not mean the hub from which members conduct destructive secret lives. But that’s exactly what it means for him. His act even convinces himself that he’s a good parent regardless of his deficient and harmful moral example.

  • He protects the secret life by lying to all of you, risking your health, blameshifting and gaslighting all of you, breaking your hearts and souls, damaging your minds, spending the family’s savings and piling up the debt. It’s called covert abuse. Deadly stuff.

  • He participates in criminal acts and risks his job because you and the children aren’t worth more than what he wants to do.

  • He uses sex trade workers and pretends that human trafficking has nothing to do with that industry.

  • He goes online to hook up for sex with those who are still children and is never concerned enough to ensure they aren’t and sometimes that’s what he wants, anyway.

  • He targets different ethnicities and races for his porn and sex acts to use, abuse and humiliate them because he’s actually a racist, but only in this one area so “it’s okay.”

  • He uses massage parlours where women are often slaves to their debtors, and can never pay off whatever money is owed to them.

  • He uses his position of trust in his work or volunteer positions to find targets with whom he can initiate inappropriate sexual and sexualized activities.

  • He chooses members of your family, neighbourhood, friends and co-workers with whom to pursue sexual and sexualized activities as a way that both of them can deceive and secretly humiliate you. You are “patsy” at the Thanksgiving table, the neighbourhood BBQ, the Christmas party, the children’s hockey games. It makes them feel good to do that to you and your children. They believe what they want to do is more important and carries higher moral weight than respecting their spouse or children. Any internal conflict adds drama and risk, not a core value corrective.

  • He tells lies about you to others, including his sexual and emotional affair partners, so that they will feel sorry for him and see you as frigid, cold, unsupportive, fat, or boring.

  • He uses your children as an excuse to get together with his affair partners for play dates, little league events, church groups, etc.

  • He watches porn and when he gets caught he pretends it has nothing to do with misogyny, addictions, human trafficking, the normalization of physical violence against women, rape culture, pedophilia, racism, and incest—and you want to believe it so you don’t look at a porn site and see what’s going on in just the free content alone. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it’s strongly modelled in the treatment industry and its practitioners. After ignoring your trauma symptoms, suddenly they don’t want you traumatized by the truth.

  • His moral compass only points to “survival and control” and he cannot be trusted to model any human decency to his children. He already threw them under his penis bus. “But he’s such a good father,” we often tell ourselves. Don’t pretend for one minute the betrayal is only yours. If there are children in your family it’s theirs, too. He knows what’s he’s doing and who is hurt by it. He just cares about his secret life more than that. That’s not a good father.

He has taken your love and trust, your children’s love and trust, your good character, and used it all to make himself look believable as a decent person when he’s not a decent person. Instead of honoring your gifts of love and trust as something to live into, up to, and return in full measure, he chooses to treat you all as if your love, trust and good character wasn’t worth anything beyond his use of it. I can easily accept many of these men have been deeply damaged as children, themselves, and deserve appropriate treatment and care. But stop asking the families they used and abused to risk more harm. And stop pretending the secret life he created isn’t filled with the stuff of hell. If you aren’t convinced about the value code of his activity world, try reading this, and note TRIGGER WARNING:

This is serious business. It’s not “just porn”, “just anonymous hook ups”, “just a massage”. It’s an activity world of misogyny, human trafficking, substance addictions, racism, pedophilia, physical violence, overt and covert abuse, rape culture, exhibitionism, bestiality, slavery, incest, voyeurism, sexual assault, criminal cartels (and probably more) that reveal selfish, destructive and dangerous core values. He protects his presence in that world more than he protects you and your children. If you want to give him a few years to turn his life around, fair enough. I can get my head around why women can’t just walk away. I took some time, myself. But stay out of range while he does that work because there’s no data to support claims of successful outcomes. You and your children have already taken direct hits. It’s time to stop imagining this is just about your relationship with him. It’s about what happens to everyone. In the tri-phasic model of trauma care, it’s about safety, first.

So, if you find yourself with one of these treatment practitioners, try asking them about how the whole family is going to be assessed and treated and on what research they base their response, no matter what they say.

With you,


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[1] I was 11 years old when this commercial came out.