By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate
Partners often feel confused and shocked when they find out about their husband’s pornography addiction (or other sexual behaviors). Your spouse may have gone to great lengths to cover his tracks and keep hidden. An old term for this behavior is called “gaslighting,” which essentially encompasses the manipulation of the addict that helps him to hide his behavior.
When gaslighting occurs over long periods of time, the partner begins to feel crazy. For example, Jane’s husband insisted that he wasn’t watching pornography. She caught him once over a year ago, and he told her many times that he hadn't done it again. In fact, when she asked a few months later about any slips, he had thrown it back in her face and told her she should stop acting so codependently. So Jane started feeling like her own insecurity was really the problem.
Late one night Jane couldn’t sleep and went to the kitchen. As she walked down the hall she saw a light in the office, and peeked into the room to see her husband watching pornography. She quietly went back to bed to finish a sleepless night of tears.
When Jane asked her husband the next morning how he’d been doing with pornography issues, he completely denied any slips. He escalated the scenario by claiming she was incapable of letting go of past mistakes. He was very convincing in his voice and tone. After listening to him for several minutes, she quietly responded that she had been up in the night and saw him watching pornography.
Jane’s spouse was gaslighting. He was working hard to cover up his behavior. He created an emotional energy of confusion, which caused Jane to feel crazy. She had begun feeling insecure about what was real. She said to herself, “How can I ever know what’s true anymore? How can I even trust my own gut feelings anymore?” On the one hand she felt validated by catching him, on the other hand she felt devastated about the manipulation and lying.
Getting through the confusion and grounding yourself can be difficult and takes some time. Your husband’s ability to get honest and become accountable will be important for the relationship, although you do not have control over that. Setting a boundary and getting the data will be important so you know with certainty what you’re dealing with. An experienced therapist can help with a full disclosure that is effective for you to gather information.
Learn to trust your instincts again. Gaslighting behavior (manipulation) will cause you to question yourself and feel self-doubt. So it will be a process of learning to trust yourself. Get support from family or friends who can give you objective feedback. Find a support group like POSA (Partners of Sex Addicts) to help get you grounded. Talk to a therapist and tell your story. Having external feedback from people you trust helps in restoring confidence in yourself. If you’re feeling crazy when your partner is addicted to pornography, please give us a call. We have a team of specialists for pornography addiction in Mesa Arizona: (480) 668-8301.