Birthed from the searing pain of repeated betrayals, this is the story behind how this website came into existence. Just goes to show when life hands you lemons, make margaritas.
Many years ago, I (Lili) discovered that the man I was sharing my life with for years had a secret life underneath the "normal" one we all knew him in: he was a pornography addict. Later, he conceded that his porn addiction helped pave the way for other, more "progressed" sexual improprieties that he had also kept hidden from me. I would lie awake for hours every night, unable to stop the searing pain long enough to sleep. I also kept this dark secret to myself for fear my family and friends wouldn't understand. If I didn't understand, why would they be able to?
Deeply traumatized by my discovery—and seeking to make sense of it—I immersed myself for a few years in studying this mysterious addiction, meeting with teachers, authors and therapists for help in understanding the malady that had robbed me of everything and left me utterly devastated.
Then years later, the media began breaking out more and more news stories about pornography and sex addiction, with many credible authorities suggesting it was rapidly becoming a problem of epidemic proportions in our country, albeit hidden, due to the shameful nature of it.
In my own work as a Spiritual Counselor, I began to see this issue percolate in increasing numbers of clients. Many poured out their concerns that sexual compulsion (either their own or their partner's) was present, devaluing and often decimating their relationships both with themselves and their loved ones.
I was very intrigued that this issue was resurfacing in my life, so I began to broaden this conversation beyond my clients, to include talking to everyday people such as salespeople, waitpersons, taxicab drivers, in doctor's office waiting rooms, literally anyone I felt guided to speak with. And invariably, I would find myself with people who opened up freely to me: they often shared their concern about their own porn use, or that of a relative, a friend or a lover's. Sometimes I met men who very, very vigorously defended their porn use. I heard concerns from men about the deleterious effects of their porn use on their interest levels in real women. I heard from men who were freaked out about the mysterious appearance of newly-arrived erectile dysfunction in their lives. They wondered if their frequent porn use might be involved. And…sometimes I heard all these things coming from the same man! I heard from lots of women about men's declining interest in them due to compulsive porn use and who felt both physically and behaviorally compared to the women in porn. I heard from spouses horrified after discovering their husband (or wife) was exchanging nude photos of themselves with others they'd met online. I heard about massage parlors and escort services being frequented casually during the workday but then the necessary 'disconnect' and cover-ups when having to return home to the girlfriend or wife. I heard about women who'd lost the will to fight anymore about the porn or the strip clubs the men were availing themselves of and just gave in.
The sheer depth and breadth of the painful stories being shared was staggering to me! It seemed there was almost no one whose life hadn't been affected directly or peripherally by the effects the ubiquitous porn culture had introduced into our sexuality, whether we liked it or not. Be it clothing that suggests we're content to look like hookers, "fashion" pushing the envelope with bondage-inspired styles in the stores- or sexual behavior, now-normalized, that lacks any intimacy. This kind of sexual behavior often seems to exist solely for the satiation of a porn-gripped psyche. "Pornutopia" seems to have infiltrated our homes, our family lives and our very culture.
I was stunned at the velocity and force with which this colossal issue was forcing me to look back at my own history around this. Actually that's a vast understatement! Maybe I was being called to write a book?
So I called a dear friend of mine who's a brilliant writer, Terre, whom I knew survived her own betrayals and trauma due to a past serious relationship derailed by her ex-boyfriend's sex addiction. Terre, too, had thrown herself into studying and seeking to understand the causes and implications of this addiction that had shattered her life. We dusted off our journals and began to share our resources with each other: our therapy notes, our book research, what we gleaned from 12-step meetings, what we'd learned in seminars, and absorbed from instructional DVD's. We revisited the many conversations we had with men and women, who, once they knew we'd survived a partner's sex addiction too, and were embarking on a project with it, began sharing with us their own stories. Terre had led many ongoing support groups for partners of sex addicts and so she brought with her the human voices carrying the great suffering caused by this addiction. We folded those stories into the clinical documentation we gathered (and continue to).
Slowly, we began to get a clear picture of what this thing called sex addiction was, how it operated for both the addict and the partner. What was largely missing from the extant literature and recovery community was how this addiction really affected the partner. We partners were instructed to work on on our own recoveries only. That's it. We were left wondering, where was the empathy for all that we had endured? Our felt experiences were not accurately described, the full scope was minimized and often disregarded as a mild aside to the addict's condition. We found this puzzling: frequently, the addicts were not showing a shred of discomfort while the partner was on the verge of total breakdown. Where was this imbalance being documented, we wondered? It seemed the addict had the addiction and we partners had the toxic side-effects!
Then it hit me—the answer to the prayer I would pray every single night those many years ago:
"Let my pain not be wasted. Let it not pass into nothingness for it would be a waste I could not bear to think of. Let it be useful to someone, somewhere, someday. Let this pain amount to something more than the pile of Kleenex on the floor."
That prayer was about to be answered. It hit me that this impressive stockpile of invaluable information and tools Terre and I had gathered between us was to be shared in a much bigger way with others who were being forced to walk this painful road. So we made a list of all the things that we wished we'd had and gathered it into this site. We created exactly what we so ardently wanted way back when.
While she edits my book, she and I simultaneously turned to the web to reach as many people as possible who need help. The irony isn't lost on me that we're using the very tool which brought pornography addiction into so many lives, only this time, towards a healing end.
So, to each and every partner of a sex addict who has ever spent a night in soul-destroying anguish, crying out in pain, hopelessness and despair, this website is our gift to you.
May we help restore your hope and your hearts on this incredible path of thorns.
With great love, respect and gratitude,
Lili and Terre