Question for the SO of the PA

Discussion in 'Partner Support' started by DefendMyHeart, Jun 15, 2021.

  1. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    There seems to be a lot of conflicting information about whether or not the PA should disclose the addiction to the SO. Despite the conflict, everyone is fully aware of the trauma it can inflict on the SO to hear about their partners addiction.
    The SO's on here will say it is in the best interest of the relationship to disclose this information given how it is viewed as a form of cheating in the relationship. It allows the SO to then make an informed decision about whether to continue to stay, or to leave. This, in my opinion, is very true.

    So the question remains: how can the PA soften the blow of the disclosure so there is less trauma inflicted on the SO and on the relationship? Is there a way to do this?

    For me personally, I think having an understanding about the addiction prior to disclosure would have helped tremendously. When I was initially told, a big part of the pain came from feeling inadequate, not good enough, not attractive enough, etc. I think if I had understood the mechanism behind the "seeking", as in, it was the dopamine rush for the PA, not necessarily an attraction to another woman then it may not have hurt "as much" when this was disclosed to me. Also, having the understanding about escalation of the addiction and how more extreme genres are needed in order to maintain that same rush could have helped as well.

    I know there is no way to completely remove the hurt and shock that comes from disclosure. I'm wondering, however, if the PA would take the time to research the addiction and start a discussion with their SO about how it is closely related to drug addiction in the brain, and how it damages the brain in the process, allowing for the SO to have more of an understanding of the addiction prior to disclosing that they struggle with it would be beneficial in any way.

    On a side note, I also think it would be beneficial for the PA to research betrayal trauma prior to disclosure so they can gain an understanding of what their partners will experience and find ways to help them with that, through reassurance measures or other means, it could also help the relationship once the addiction is disclosed.

    Since my husbands disclosure, I researched the addiction to further understand it so I could see what he was going through more clearly. I have found that the further we get away from D-day, the more I am inclined to say "why are you doing this to yourself" rather than "why are you doing this to me" whenever something happens or he acts out, however, It does take me a few days to reevaluate my hurt because those pathways of him "doing this to me" are still there.

    Thoughts? What, if anything, could help ease the blow of the disclosure?
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  2. Anywherewithyou

    Anywherewithyou Fapstronaut

    I agree with this so much. The trauma of not understanding what's happening was the worst part, on top of having to find out on my own. The dopamine addiction or the escalation of behaviors makes a lot of sense but in the moment it didn't add up, without that knowledge presented to me.

    The caveat to this is that not all men who have a problem understand that it's an addiction, so they wouldn't even think to learn more about it upfront. But anyone who is contemplating telling their spouse on here, I think the above is solid advice.

    For me, the most important piece is to show remorse. Tell her how sorry you are and that you love her so much. Tell her that she is enough and that she's all you need. Tell her you want to be better for her because she deserves that. And then tell her again in a few days. We need reassurance. We need to see in your actions that you mean business. And definitely be as transparent as you can so that she feels safe when you're on the internet.
  3. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    This is very true. And since it is not included in the DSM, it isnt even seen for what it really is, which makes it more difficult for men and women who suffer from the addiction to find help for it.

    I have come across so many articles recently that do talk about how porn addiction is a thing and how it should be included, so the movement is there.
  4. used19

    used19 Fapstronaut

    I wish there was a way but I honestly have no clue. I'm almost 2 years out from the initial dday and I still, despite reading all the things on addiction, can't get my brain to separate the picking a woman and acting out from love/attraction to me. I'm trying and trying and trying. I imagine it also has an impact on how the relationship was before in terms of the PAs attitude towards women who weren't their wife. I imagine it has a different effect on women who knew their partner checked out other women or used porn occasionally and didn't have a problem with it, vs the women who were told, by their partners, that they were saints and only had eyes for their wife (and whose behavior appeared to be in line with it). I fall into the latter category and have a much easier time forgiving the lies than I do the infidelity on all levels.
    Meshuga likes this.
  5. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    I'm sorry to hear that. It was also difficult for me to separate what he did from our marriage because he allowed me to live in the illusion that he only had eyes for me. Even though I saw him look at other women, and part of me knew it wasn't entirely true, I still clung onto that false belief. When I found out the extent of what he did, that not only was it porn, it was also him hoping another woman would notice him, working up the courage to ask other women out, talking to other women in hopes that they would be interested in him, and acting single everytime he left the house (many times leaving his ring at home if he knew he was going to be around other women), it was extremely painful because that illusion was shattered into millions of pieces along with my heart.

    I couldn't understand how someone could claim they love you on one hand, but do all the above on the other. It was very hard to move past, especially because it continued to happen for several years after the initial D-day.

    It took a lot of me convincing myself that it was the dopamine, not a real attraction. I do still have thoughts and memories that come up from time to time, and i have to keep telling myself over and over again that he doesn't understand what real attraction is and has been living in an illusion most of his life.
    I also have learned to find peace with the fact that if he continues to go down the path of the past, that our marriage is over. That I can be without him and be okay.
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  6. used19

    used19 Fapstronaut

    Can you point me in the direction of some seriously thick, academic reading on the dopamine aspect? I don't think the articles geared at addicts or trauma are enough for me. I need like a psychology or neuroscience textbook kind of read. I was like this in labor with my kids. None of this envision a flower opening crap or oooh you're at a golf ball, come one we've got to get to bagel. I needed to understand on like a cellular level what my uterus was doing during a contraction. Then I could force myself to ride the contractions. Maybe if I can really, deeply understand what was going on chemically I could get my dumb brain to understand that there was a point where the control and choice was chemically impossible.
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  7. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    I will PM you some when I get to my computer later. How many would you like and how scientifically heavy?
  8. EyesWideOpen

    EyesWideOpen Fapstronaut

    The number one thing to keep in mind is the reason the disclosure is done. If the PA is doing it to relieve his guilt and get it off his chest, he often convinces himself his telling his SO will fix everything. She is sitting there shocked, in pain, questioning everything, this huge burden now on her shoulders, and he's there now his weight lifted and pissed that she isn't relieved like he is, patting him on the back for coming clean.

    However, if the PA is doing it because he genuinely wants to pursue recovery and wants to care for his SO and her feelings about it as well, the motive is different. It can be done thoughtfully and carefully, taking great care about her emotions and feelings and having no expectations of reaction, simply being there for her.

    There are levels in between, because let's face it, the first is the most common, and the second is very rare considering most PAs are not that emotionally aware when they first begin their sobriety journey. But those are some things to gauge disclosure possibilities.

    I also think it really depends on the SO. Many people recommend therapeutic disclosure, but I know for me, that would have been the absolute worst possible way. No matter how careful or thoughtful it was done, in that setting I would have felt ambushed, ganged up on, and pressured to react in a way the therapist and my PA find acceptable. Other SOs have expressed they would prefer a therapeutic setting, that they would find it very safe and open.

    Definitely a lot of things to keep in mind.
  9. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    I wouldn't have handled the therapeutic disclosure well either, and for the same reasons.

    The main reason I wanted to bring this subject up was because I felt as though the ones who would see it and need the advice are the men who stumbled across this site after experiencing PIED or some other performance issue. Or they suspected they had a problem and happened to find these forums. There is a small percentage of them that happen to be in a relationship where the SO is still unaware of the problem.

    I think we've both seen how men are encouraged not to tell their SO's about their addictions by other men on here because they are terrified that the woman will (rightfully so) react horribly to the confession. I feel like this reaction is mearly a mask of fear by other men because they say things like "be a man, fix yourself, dont tell your woman your weakness or she won't love you anymore" which we know will continue to feed the addiction because it adds more insecurity to the man, making him feel like he isn't "a good enough man" for having the problem to begin with (while being told this by men who have the same problem, but that contradiction is for another discussion).

    I know there is no full proof way that will allow the PA to confess to the SO without the SO being hit with a very painful blow, but I think what you said about being thoughtful and caring is going to be the best way. How they go about it is going to depend greatly on the SO herself. This is going to take some effort on their part because they may have to actually try and "feel out" the best way to approach the situation.
    For example: I'm not someone who likes all the romantic, mushy stuff, so if my husband had attempted a confession while trying to say sweet things and hug me, that would have made the confession worse for me. If he had looked into what this addiction does to the brain, then talked to me about that first, allowed me to read about it, then confessed to me.. it would have still hurt, yes. But I feel like it wouldn't have been such an enormous blow. I also think that if the PA looks into betrayal trauma and is able to explain that to their SO and also provide resources to the SO, it may also be helpful.

    This could all be wishful thinking from my end too, in all honesty. I put out so much time and effort to try and understand what my husband was going through that I made little effort to understand myself. When I did put that effort in and tried to explain it to him, he wanted nothing to do with wanting to know how I felt (until recently). When I mentioned to him at one point that I would just talk to other people about my pain instead of him, he was happy about it because that meant he didn't have to hear me complain about my grief and suffering. That is until I told him that if I'm not allowed to express myself to the one person who is supposed to be there for me through thick and thin, as I had been there for him, then there was no point in continuing the relationship with him. I brought up a scenario about the enormous grief he suffered after finding out his brother passed. I told him, "now imagine how you would feel if you came to me for comfort and I told you to go talk to someone else about it and I wasn't interested in hearing about your pain, and annoyed at the fact you were crying". It finally sunk in for him.
  10. I am not sure whether my reply is welcome since I am the first PA answering and since the title reads "Question to the SO" - on the other hand:
    So, I hope it is OK.

    Some thoughts triggered by this excellent initial post:
    In my opinion, the key here is general education.
    The PA can hardly educate the SO about the nature of porn addiction, without the SO noticing that something is in the bushes.
    Digital competence is increasingly taught in school, also substance abuse is a topic that is usually covered. There, prospective PAs need to be educated of the nature of porn addiction, its consequences and strengthened to develop a healthy relationship with their sexuality, instead of taking risks by consuming porn. Likewise, prospective SOs could be educated of the nature of porn addiction, its symptoms and strategies to cope in a healthy way.
    Including it in the DSM would definitely help towards this end.
    And of course, all that has been written is definitely true too: the PA should mind to be extremely thoughtful and caring and above all transparent and honest also to unpleasant questions.


    You probably know already, and indeed, I personally don't think that it is strong scientifically, however, this has helped me to gain a general understanding:

    Would you mind to share the most significant ones also here on the forum? I would definitely be interested.

    I do have another view on this (This definitely can not be said in general but rather on a case-by-case basis, but just to provide the perspective):
    The action of informing the SO is like the the PA saying: "Listen, I noticed that I have a problem. You are important to me, therefore I am letting you know. From now on, I don't want to leave you in the dark and I will take action to work on myself to solve the problem". The PA shows a very high amount of trust towards the SO by telling her about the porn-related problems. In many cases, the SO is the only person in the world, to which the PA is so deeply connected and feels so much trust, that he shares his awkward 'secret'. Initially, most PAs do not perceive their actions as cheating nor are they are initially aware that they are hurting the SO.
    Why the PA might not disclose their porn problem initially is likely that they don't realize that it is an addiction, so they believe they could just stop if they wanted. It takes a while to realize that breaking free without help does not work. I believe that PAs, when telling their SO have accepted that this might be the abrupt end of their relationship or marriage, but they don't want to keep a secret from the person they love (this was in my case - I think the possible end of the relationship is a reasonable consequence to assume in that situation).
    Therefore, if the PA has reason to believe that he may quickly get rid of porn on his own or with the help of someone else, not informing the SO might be the lesser harm for a relationship. Again, this depends on the case and it must not turn into a permanent secret-keeping. There must be a clear deadline set and by the PA for himself after which he accepts that he can not solve the problem himself. Latest at that point, the SO should be involved, with all consequences.
    Meshuga likes this.
  11. I would like to take this assertion back.
    Thinking about it, I realized that it is likely wrong.
    'hurt' is maybe not the notion in the PAs mind, but he will likely have the idea that consuming porn might not be OK with the SO. Otherwise, disclosing to the SO would not be such a big topic on here.

    Following the same thought, I realize that, while PAs might not perceive their action as 'cheating', most might be aware that they are doing something that is socially awkward and not accepted by the society (which includes the SO). I am aware that some men are totally open about their porn use and don't see a problem in it. However, for all others, especially, if the SO was not aware about the mindset of the PA before, it must be argued that the PA had kept a secret with he assumed would not be accepted by the SO.

    From this perspective, the PA should feel an obligation to stop his porn consumption soon (i.e. at the very beginning of a relationship), or inform the SO of the issue early on (regardless of with an intention to stop or not, but to give the SO an opportunity to take an informed decision).
    Every PA who created a profile on this forum should be well past the point when the SO should be informed.
    (I think I just reversed or relativized one of my points above - so, good that we talked about it :D )
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2021
  12. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    This can definitely be the case. Reflecting on it, if my husband suddenly started talking about P addiction, it could make me a bit suspicious as to why. However, if he were to talk about behavioral addictions in general (gambling, gaming, internet, social media, and pornography) then I would be less suspicious. I may wonder if he is effected by any of it, but then again, I may wonder if he thinks I am effected by any of it. So it would have brought about a conversation to try and understand all of it. Perhaps that would be a better way to approach it?

    Any reply is welcome providing that it is helpful and not to gaslight or hurt anyone. Since your comment is in the former category, it is welcomed.

    This absolutely should be taught in schools especially since the average exposure is age 10, and this addiction impacts both men and women. Understanding how it can progress into an addiction should be discussed and there should also be a discussion on how to prevent it, as well as resources provided on how to get out of it for those already experiencing problems with it. I have read in a few places that it is supposed to be included in the next DSM, but it may be listed as a compulsion rather than an addiction, similar to how it is already listed in the ICD-11, which has a higher standing than the DSM because it is through the WHO
    Very true. A lot of men end up on here while seeking answers about PIED or ED issues that their doctors have been unable to figure out. Other guys end up on here because they may hear of this website from somewhere and wonder what the issue is with P. Men come here for various reasons and with the exception of those who are on here after disclosure and after realizing their partners were hurt, they may not understand how much it impacts the entire relationship. They don't understand the extent of damage it does to their brains, or how little they know about themselves because their personality has been built around masking emotions, running from difficult situations, and maladaptive coping mechanisms. This isnt realized until the porn goes away for extended periods of time and they are confronted with themselves. They have to learn to face it in a healthy way, which isn't easy without help.

    A lot of journals I have articles from have restrictions on how things can be shared. I cant post them on the forums, but I can send them to individuals who are interested in reading them, and only a few at a time.

    I agree with this. It should be disclosed very early in the relationship so the SO has the chance to decide they want to work through it. Unfortunately, as you've stated, not many guys see it as a problem. They see it as "all guys do it, so it isnt a big deal". That was my husbands perspective and those first 2 years he abstained were brutal for him because he thought I was just overreacting in a way. These forums helped dispell that line of thinking and he realized he wasn't alone. Unfortunately it took a relapse to get us here.

    On the other hand, not a lot of SO's know about betrayal trauma. I had no idea until another SO on here told me about it. That is why I see a need for education on that aspect, even if it comes from the PA during disclosure. "You mean the world to me, but what I'm about to say may make you question that and may hurt you tremendously, so I want you to understand your feelings are valid and important and I've found some resources to help you through this because your mental health is also important" followed by "here is what I'm doing for myself to overcome this addiction". I think this may help the SO feel as though the PA does care despite his actions, and he could maybe even say "i didn't realize this was a problem, or the extent of the problem, or how it would impact you and our relationship, but now that I understand all of it, I dont want it to be part of me anymore".
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  13. Lilla_My

    Lilla_My Fapstronaut

    Let's just pinpoint one thing: Men knows. They know 100% that porn use hurt their spouse, that's the main reason they are hiding it from her. Shame? Sure, but many of them have no problem sharing the fact that they use porn with their male friends. I would hazard a guess (no, I'm not even guessing this, I'm fairly sure) that many men take pride in sharing filth with their friends but cry and scream about addiction when they are about to be thrown out of the house when caught by their wife.

    Whether it's cheating or not is a tiresome and partly worthless discussion. The PA is fully aware that he takes a big step out of what constitute a monogamous marriage when he goes in to the bathroom at work to open his private browser. He knows.

    Equally, every woman on the face of the planet would know that if she masturbated online with other men in secret, it would potentially hurt her spouse, regardless if it's considered cheating.

    Acknowledging the fact that he has destroyed her by his actions is the first thing every PA must admit. Continously debating if it constitutes cheating or not is just a rather immature way of deflecting the intense hurt he has caused.
  14. True, this might be a better approach.

    Wow, respect. If he did not see the problem himself but he still abstained for two years, I think that you mean a lot to him - he just disciplined himself for you.
  15. People are different and not all men are the same (likewise, not all PAs, SOs, or women are the same), so I can only speak for myself:

    I have been in situations where men speak about their use of porn or about a particular woman from that domain. So, it seems to be true that such 'talk' exists.
    At least for me, this is not the usual company I experience and after I got married, I can not recall that anybody has talked about porn, especially not about own porn usage and specifically not in a positive way - it is a taboo-topic. (I should say that my background is central europe)
    It has happened, I think twice, that people (males) in my environment have found out that I was consuming porn. These people never talked to me about the incident, but they do talk a lot about it among themselves. Having others know that you consume porn makes you an outsider in society in my experience. Maybe PAs might tell their SOs a different story to weaken the weight of the incident, however, I can not confirm this from my experience.

    I can speak only for myself that I did not see porn as cheating and I did not think that I hurt my partner - it was more that I thought something is wrong with me. I mean, when you are married and happy with your relationship, why do you consume porn? I thought it was very wrong doing this and that it is not normal behavior for an adult. A normal adult person should be able to simply stop. I did not draw the connection to my wife, but I had the notion that the behavior is not accepted in society in general - which includes my wife. From the discussions in this forum, I have learned that many SOs draw a direct connection between porn and themselves. I understand your point now. However, it does not change how I have seen porn usage at the time when I disclosed to my partner and I am just reporting on how I have seen it at that time.

    I also don't see any point in discussing whether porn is cheating and hurting or whether it is something else. I understand that this is how you see it and that it causes pain to you. If anybody disagrees from how they personally feel about it, that is simply their opinion (In their relationship, they have to align with their SOs, and maybe they do. No need to align with you) - it does not affect how you feel about it.
    Maybe we can agree that the SO does not consent that the PA consumes porn and the PA is aware of this and aware that it damages the relationship. Therefore, he should inform the SO and invest every effort to avoid porn use.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2021
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  16. DefendMyHeart

    DefendMyHeart Fapstronaut

    I dont think all men know. My husband didn't. When it came out and he realized at that time that it hurt me, he didn't understand why. It took me a long time to put it in a way that helped him to understand why it hurt me. He was raised with the whole notion that it was normal, just something men do, blah blah blah. Women know they do it, they just don't want to talk about it, and blah blah.

    When he finally reached the point of understanding, he wrote out a long letter and sent it to his family to try and help them understand it as well by explaining it from this new perspective. It was so compounded and just part of life that he didn't see how it effected him, much less a relationship.
    Going through articles for my paper and there are several that did surveys to see how women view porn in a relationship and it is pretty split between women who view porn negativity, positively, and hold neutral views toward it. I'm not sure what the difference is between all these women, but if I had to guess based on my own fb feed, it is the women who believe that porn is related to women's revolution towards sexual freedom that are the ones who hold positive views towards porn. This is sad because it just shows how little people know about the industry. When pornhub quit taking visa (I think it was visa) there were both men and women alike that I saw that were outraged about that because "this is a war against sex workers" and "it is because they are trying to oppress women".
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  17. Lilla_My

    Lilla_My Fapstronaut

    Very understandable. You also disclosed the issue to your wife eventually. Its brave, it's loving, and not only does it say a lot of how you view her, but also how you view yourself. Some men don't disclose, ever, unless they are caught. Is it to protect her from hurt? Probably not. It's mainly to protect the PA from her hurt.

    Us spouses constantly mistake our porn addicted partners for being empathic normal humans, that loves us and really wants our best (deep down). Truth is, many PA husbands show pathologically egocentrical traits and have more in common (mentally) with physical abusers than regular family men. I recommend every SO to read Lundy Bancrofts excellent book "Why Does He Do That?"; it's as shocking as it is insightful. The recovered PA (yes, I believe there is such a thing), and also the disclosing PA, has nothing in common with this cancerous man baby.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2021
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  18. This is also my impression. Paradoxically, disclosing to someone would help the PA to gain control over his behavior, but because he fears the response of the SO (or society), he keeps it as a secret and thus makes things even worse.

    Thanks. Made me curious - just ordered it (though I am not a SO :) ).

    I also have the impression that porn usage fosters non-mature behavior traits, such as overly seeking approval from others. I wonder if there is any research on this.
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  19. Lilla_My

    Lilla_My Fapstronaut

    I'm terribly sorry, I somehow referred to the wrong book. The book I meant was "why does he do that?" by Lundy Bancroft. Note that this is a book about abusive men, physically and mentally; thankfully not everything in it is relatable to the porn addicted spouse, but surprisingly much is. Especially the entitlement of the man to keep up with nasty and hurtful behaviour.

    I have seen a study on this once, where addiction and porn use where causing the men to revert into a teenage state. Citation needed though.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2021
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