Tag Archives: OCD

Retroactive jealousy 

I found this post on a site called /r/OCD/, by a guy calling himself horned1x. I’m re-posting it here with my own additional commentary because it’s full of stuff that makes me think, much more than anything about sex addiction or generic OCD I’ve previously encountered. Forgive the length and my extensive use of quotations in this post.  By the way, the author acknowledges that many people with retroactive jealousy were, like me, exaggerating their partner’s premarital experiences and minimizing their own.  This irrational hypocrisy, often stemming from conservative views of gender roles, may be part of the problem.

“We’ve all been jealous of our partner’s sexual / relationship history at some point or another, but when ‘normal, relatively healthy’ jealousy extends to constant, unwanted, painful instrusive thoughts about your partner’s past, coupled with excessive questioning and reassurance-seeking, disturbing mental images and ‘videos’, anxiety, and seemingly irrational anger directed at your partner, we’re dealing with something else: Retroactive Jealousy. Also referred to as retrospective or retrograde jealousy, this condition is actually a rare form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and should be treated appropriately.

This is a widely-misunderstood phenomenon, with little useful, practical information regarding treatment available online. Even qualified psychologists / psychiatrists seemingly struggle to provide coherent treatment advice for this condition, let alone the frankly useless information available from online “relationship experts”.

I suffered terribly with RJ (Retroactive Jealousy) myself, it completely took over my life for many years. I know exactly how debilitating, confusing and, frankly, horrifying the unexplained, compulsive visualisation of your partner engaged in sexual / romantic activity with someone else can be.

It really can sap your energy, happiness and willpower, and on top of that the vast majority of people can’t understand what you’re going through. Very few people understand the true nature of RJ, which makes it an extremely isolating condition, as even your own partner can eventually become frustrated at not knowing what they can do to help you. There is an expectation from other people that you should be able to just “get over it” – don’t be angry at them, it’s not their fault, they just don’t understand what you’re up against. It’s not your fault either. Don’t feel ashamed, or in any way weak or incapable, for having RJ. It is not a choice, nor is it any indication of your personal strength or weakness. RJ, like all OCD, is a result of a faulty circuit in your brain. And, like all other OCD, it CAN be successfully and permanently treated given intelligent, targeted psychological treatment methods (see below), coupled with commitment, discipline, acceptance and courage.”

Okay, readers, I interrupt the foregoing quote from /r/OCD/ to seek your reactions. This blogger I am quoting does say a lot of things that sound hauntingly familiar to me. When I try to pinpoint my root psychological problem that preceded my adultery and deceit, I think it was this RJ. I say “preceded,” not “caused,” because there were other causes, including my habit of secrecy, my selfishness and self-centeredness, my lack of true love and compassion, my lack of empathy, and my tardy development of good life management skills. But, I’m making some progress on those issues. RJ, however, is one I still want to understand better. Here’s more from /r/OCD/.

“Some time ago, someone else did a pretty damn good job of summarising the concepts and advice relevant to beating this condition in a .pdf document available [HERE.][http://www.pdf-archive.com/2013/10/05/slaying-the-dragon-partner-s-past/slaying-the-dragon-partner-s-past.pdf]

What I will do in this post is outline practical tips to start curing yourself from this condition straight away, along with a few other things to think about.

RJ can affect both men and women, although it more commonly affects men. Due to the biological differences between men and women, RJ manifests differently for each gender. Men tend to find themselves obsessing about their partners past sexual encounters, particularly those of a casual or promiscuous nature. Whereas women suffering from RJ tend to conjure up mental scenarios in which their partner acted in a romantic and caring way towards an ex-partner.

This difference is fundamentally down to what was important to males and females during the hunter-gatherer stage of our evolution. Males needed to be sure that their offspring was in fact theirs – to ensure that they were passing on their own genes, rather than raising another males children. And females needed to ensure that their mate would be providing to their offspring, rather than that of another female.  This post will focus on how RJ affects the male brain, although the techniques, in principal, would also work to cure RJ as it manifests for women.

RJ is a form of OCD and needs to be treated as such. As outlined in my other post about [how to tackle OCD in general][https://www.reddit.com/r/OCD/comments/3oy4k5/beat_ocd_top_tips_and_resources_repost/], the most effective treatment for OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP).”

Another interruption from MindlessCraft here. Dear readers, what do you think about this ERP treatment, both in general and as applied specifically to RJ? I’ll return us now to the /r/OCD/ post.

“The Compulsions in Retroactive Jealousy do seem somewhat hard to grasp, meaning that applying ERP seems initially confusing. RJ is what experts would call “Pure-O” OCD. This stands for “Purely Obsessive”, implying that there are no Compulsions, but this is actually a misnomer. Essentially, Pure-O type OCD is just the same as normal OCD, it’s just that the Compulsions are all MENTAL.

Reassurance, and ‘thinking through’ thoughts or memories until they feel ‘complete’ etc. are all mental compulsions. I believe that the compulsion in RJ is ‘thinking through’ the sexual scene that your partner engaged in in the past, until you have a feeling of ‘completeness’ or reassurance. Why, indeed, would we spend so much time torturing ourselves with these disturbing images/videos, unless they were a compulsion? And why would we do it over and over again?

For example, I used to be sitting at my desk at work when, out of nowhere, I would get an Intrusive Thought – the memory that many years ago, my girlfriend had met a guy in a nightclub in Cuba, and run outside and had sex with him in an abandoned building nearby. Difficult to process at the best of times, as I’m sure you can imagine. When this Intrusive Thought appeared, I would feel a very strong need to rush off to the toilets (quiet space and alone) to ‘think through’ the scene which she described to me. I would think it through in a very detailed, OCD way… slowly and visualising every last detail, making sure I got it ‘right’. This in itself was painful and time-consuming. . . .

Now, it’s important to note here that Doubt is a huge element of OCD. Essentially, due to my childhood value system, and “core beliefs” about women, sexuality, and the type of girl I’d like to end up settling down with, the fact that my girlfriend at the time had had sex in an abandoned building made me DOUBT that she was the right person for me. If she hadn’t done it, or I had no desire to stay together with her, or I didn’t love her, there would have been no problem. But she had done it, I did want to stay with her, and I did love her – that was reality and I needed to accept that. It’s the doubt. . . . . The thoughts and visualisations that you engage in are Reassurance to quell these doubts. But as we know now, engaging in Reassurance only worsens the problem, as it strengthens this neural circuit in your brain.

So, I should get to the point – how do we apply ERP to RJ?

Standard OCD Cycle: 1. Intrusive Thought 2. Anxiety 3. Compulsion (to reduce Anxiety) 4. Temporary Relief 5. Intrusive Thought returns – back to step 1.

Retroactive Jealousy: 1. Intrusive Thought about partner’s past sexual experience(s). 2. Anxiety. 3. Mental compulsion, to achieve ‘Reassurance’. This could be picturing the sexual scene in your head, playing a mental video of it, ‘thinking it through’ or analysing it somehow. Or it could be ‘seeking Reassurance’ by asking your partner questions. 4. Temporary Relief. 5. Intrusive Thoughts return – back to Step 1.

Exposure and Response Prevention works by short-circuiting the above Cycle. You resist performing your Compulsion, and force your brain to develop a tolerance to the anxiety you are experiencing.

For RJ, ERP goes like this:

Firstly, write “Triggers” on post-it notes, and stick them all around your bedroom, kitchen, car, and anywhere else you’re likely to see them. A Trigger is anything that will trigger you to think about your partner’s past sexual activities. Like a phrase to do with something they have done in the past, or a picture of her with her ex.

Here’s an example ERP:

1.Trigger// Post-It note: “Her One-Night Stand with that guy” 2.Intrusive Thought// E.g. the thought of her in bed with an ex. 3.Response Prevention// DO NOT follow up the thought by imagining the scene, or analysing what happened, or reassuring yourself. Do not respond in any way… simply continue what you were going to do, e.g. going downstairs to make breakfast. 3a. (Optional) SPIKE – Say to myself mentally ‘This really does matter, and ignoring it is going to result in me ending up in a terrible situation’. Believe it for a second. 4.ANXIETY// Feel that anxiety coursing through your body. Fast heartbeat, short breaths, hands shaking, uncomfortable feeling of things being “not right”. 5.Ride it out! After about 15 mins the anxiety will subside.

So, if the [Response] is to think through the sexual scene, visualise it, and give yourself reassurance, then what is Response Prevention, in this case? It’s: don’t follow up the intrusive thought with visualisation or any further analysis whatsoever. When the Intrusive thoughts (examples below) pop in to your head, simply briefly recognise it, and continue on with what you’re doing. You’ll notice that this is extremely uncomfortable. Every fibre in your body will be urging for you to “reassure yourself” that it doesn’t matter that she did what she did, that she’s still the girl for you etc. Your mind will be screaming for you to visualise what happened… but you must not. You must just continue with what you were doing, and live through that “uncomfortable” feeling that this produces.

Example Intrusive Thoughts: – The time your girlfriend had that one night stand. – She must have given her ex a BJ at one point. – Am I sure she’s the right girl for me? – I wonder if she’s ever slept with a football player? – Did her ex give her a better time in bed than me?
When any of these thoughts pop in, simply feel the anxiety and keep on doing what you were doing without following the thought up.

OCD craves CERTAINTY. And to beat it you must become comfortable with UNCERTAINTY. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty is the stake in the heart of the OCD Vampire. That means being OK with not knowing: – How many guys she has slept with. – Whether she’s the right girl for you. – Whether she has ever done X or Y with Guy A or Guy B. – Whether her ex was better than you at X. . . .

This probably seems like a terrifying proposition at the moment. How on Earth could I be comfortable NOT knowing for sure whether she is the right girl for me, or how many guys she’s been with?

The thing is, this fear is an illusion produced by the malfunction in your brain. I’m not going to lie, doing ERP is truly terrifying to begin with. But the more you do it, the more the fear just… disappears! It must seem so strange at the moment, but you genuinely will gradually just be less and less bothered about being ‘sure’ about these questions. The more ERP you do, they will seem less important, and the Intrusive Thoughts will gradually just stop appearing.

Each instance of OCD, at it’s core, is about Fear. . . . Fear that your partner’s ex’s or past encounters were somehow “better” than you sexually, or “more masculine” than you. Fear of not being “enough” for your partner. . . .

These fears are very similar and seem to all be part of ‘the same thing’. I recommend that you discuss with a trained psychotherapist the possibility that you hold these fears, and that they are the ‘Source’ of your OCD. He/she should be able to use psychotherapeutic techniques to work on these fears and change your “core beliefs” about yourself, your partner, relationships, and life in general.

Once you have completed your ERP, there may still be some, albeit mild, remnants of your RJ left. My understanding at the moment is that dealing with these fears will extinguish these remnants of your RJ.

Finally, some additional resources on RJ:- – [Udemy Course][https://www.udemy.com/draft/147342/] – [Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy][http://www.retroactivejealousy.com/what-is-rj/ – [Book: A Guide to Getting Over Your Partner’s Past and Finding Peace][http://www.amazon.co.uk/Overcoming-Retroactive-Jealousy-Getting-Partners-ebook/dp/B00EZWPHFW] . . . [Retroactive Jealousy Crusher][http://www.retroactivejealousycrusher.com/]”

Okay, readers, MindlessCraft here again. Thanks for your patience reading these extensive quotes. What do you think of this RJ concept and the use of this ERP to address it? I’m not yet sure what to think of it, but it is intriguing.

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Image, culture, laziness, and habit

Did you read my November 25 post “I’m sorry, but it’s over?”  I talked about my bad habit of softening statements rather than speaking directly and confidently but politely.  Did you also read my November 22 post “Listening?”  Therein, I talked about a combination of arrogance, lack of trust, and obsessive-compulsive disorder that interferes with my listening skills.

Are the two writings contradictory?  If I was so deferential to people in daily speech, how could I also be not at all deferential to people when it comes to listening to them?  I think the two situations are as different as apples and oranges.  But, let’s analyze the question to be sure.  Is there perhaps a common thread that weaves the two problems together?

Perhaps the underlying thread is false pride, or an obsession with image.  This makes sense regarding poor listening skills.  I didn’t want to listen to others because being right all the time was part of my image, my self-esteem, and pride.  It also makes sense regarding deferential phrases in speech.  Softening statements with phrases like “I’m sorry,” “maybe later,” or “yeah, maybe” is an attempt to protect my image.

Think of someone saying, “No, I’ll get the check” after a restaurant meal, while they are simultaneously thinking, “Oh shit, this is going to be expensive, and I don’t like paying.”  This happens a lot among certain ethnic groups, including the group with which my parents identified.  They took this to sick extremes, eventually avoiding most social engagements because they could neither afford to pay for everyone nor would swallow their pride enough to split the bill with others.

This is the same kind of foolish pride that brought me to say “I’m sorry, but it’s over,” instead of “I’m ending this meaningless relationship.”  It is also the same foolish pride that led me to insist I knew there was no office supply store instead of listening to others.

It is clear I should stop speaking deferentially and start listening.  Why is it so difficult?  Laziness and habit.  It takes affirmative mental energy to turn my bad habits into good habits, to stop and remind myself to really listen, and to think very carefully before saying some mindless deferential thing.

Another brain worm

It seems as the holidays get closer the brain worms come out. I don’t even know why. Tomorrow I need to focus on being thankful, but for the last few days the brains worms have been feasting.

A wish, a desire, something, I’m not sure. All through our marriage, Mindless has been a creature of habit, routine, and to-do lists to an obsessive degree. I was the “free-spirit” between the two of us. I was the one to instigate any and all activity that was spontaneous. I thought the show “Darma and Greg” was a good representation of the differences between us. I accepted that Mindless was absolutely INCAPABLE of spontaneity; it was just not how he was wired. And, so, I took it upon myself to ensure that it existed in our life and in our marriage.

When we started living overseas, our second job was in a small, beautiful country with stunning coastlines. We had no children and a two-seater convertible. I told him to pack a small bag because that weekend we were going to drive in the beautiful weather with the top down, through the valley and to the coast and enjoy a beautiful drive. We would stay wherever we wanted, when we were ready to stop for the night, NO RESERVATIONS, spur of the moment. He resisted, but eventually agreed.

Our first night we stayed in this small village, in a very simple pension. There was a lovely old woman who made sure we were well fed. The next night we stopped on the coast and found a simple hotel on the water, a step-up from the night before, but nothing fancy. The final night we found our way to one of the most beautiful resorts either of us had ever before seen. We stayed the night, they upgraded us to a suite for some unknown reason. It was gorgeous, it was unexpected and it was ours for the night.

During our time in that country, he was not cheating on me. Thank G-d for small favors. I think of that weekend and I relish it still. I made it happen for us, but he did let go, he enjoyed it too.

Still, it breaks my heart when I think of all of those years that I thought he was not capable of creating spontaneous moments when, in fact, he was. It breaks my heart when I think of all of those years that I thought he had no desire for spontaneous moments, when in fact he did have such desires, just not with me. It breaks my heart when I think of all of those years that I thought he was unable to let go of his habits, his routines, his to-do lists, when in fact he was able and willing to do so, just not with me. It is one of those brain worms and I have a hard-time letting that worm die.

Perhaps with kids, it is just too hard to be spontaneous. I mean, how can he be spontaneous when watching of children must be pre-arranged? Still, it burns me up inside that he was able to initiate and create spontaneous moments with others, while I was taking care of our children. Still, it burns me up inside that he was able to initiate and create spontaneous moments with others, just never with me. Spontaneity – a wish, a desire, something, I’m not sure. All I know is I cannot help but ask, “when is it my turn?”

Listening 

Yesterday I learned, somewhat to my surprise, that I have a deeply-ingrained bad habit of not listening.  In fact, it’s more than that.  It’s really a combination of arrogance, unwillingness to trust others, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and under-developed listening skills.

Our child needed one more thing to run tests on a science project. TL checked for it on Amazon and found it only sold in bulk and was unable to ship quickly. Yesterday, when out shopping, TL suggested we go to the office supply store on our way home. I told TL, “No, there is no office supply store in this town, we will have to order it from Amazon.”  She disagreed, insisting that she knew there was a local store.  Without even thinking much about it, I mindlessly repeated my opinion that there was no such store nearby.  She disagreed again.  We repeated the exchange, talking past each other a third time, and perhaps a fourth.  Ultimately, she got angry and sad about my failure to believe that she knew what she was talking about, to listen. We drove to where she thought there was an office supply store, it turned out she was right, and I apologized for not listening.

I tried to deconstruct the event to figure out what I had done.  I tried to empathize.  I found an analogy.  It reminded me of all the times I felt my parents don’t listen to me.  I explain the same things to them again and again.  Each time they act as if they had never heard it before.  Just today I spoke with them on the phone.  To my frustration, I heard, “We were surprised you’re moving in a few months.”  I had told them many times over the course of the past two years when we would be moving. Then my father said, “so, you’re really retiring in a few years.” I had explained my career timing to them again and again over the past 17 years.

Today I realized that they hear these things each time, but they let them go in one ear and out the other.  I ask them to do things, like remember that we are Jewish.  They act as if I hadn’t said anything.  I answer their questions. They ask the same questions next time we talk, as though we had never discussed it before.  Perhaps they don’t believe what I say.  Perhaps they don’t want to believe what I say.

In my parents’ case and in my case, there may be similar themes that compound these poor listening skills.  I suspect arrogance has a role.  When I am so very certain of my knowledge, I feel no need to listen to new information from any source.  Of course, this is a terrible impediment to learning and growth.  I have to remind myself, daily, of how much I don’t know.  I also have to remind myself that it’s OK to not know everything.  Just now, as I write this, I realize I may have a bit of fear with regard to admitting ignorance.  I often use knowledge as a big ingredient in my self-esteem box.  So, I feel a threat to my self-esteem when I have to admit ignorance.  I need to regularly recall that the quest for knowledge is built on ignorance, not on omniscience.

There’s also perhaps an element of unwillingness to trust other people.  I’m not sure where I got that tendency.  I think I observed it in my mother.  I think of her as being extremely untrusting.  I think I became that way too.

Then there’s my obsessive-compulsive tendency, which B and others identified in me.  When I start a course of action or plan or begin with a particular opinion about something, it is extremely difficult for my to change gears. I am inflexible.  I know this about myself, and I have done a lot to become more flexible.  I often remind myself that I do not have to do everything every day.  It’s a struggle, but I do see progress.  But, today, I realize the same inflexibility that makes it difficult for me to break routines also makes it difficult to listen to ideas that counter a thought I am already pursuing.

In sum, improving my listening skills takes continued practice.  It also takes remembering that it’s OK to learn from others and remembering to be flexible.  Seeing how it makes me feel when my parents fail to listen will hopefully help me remember to not inflict that treatment on TL or others myself.

September 13th

Sunday, September 13, marks the 3rd year since I found out everything. It has been a hard week for me, maybe that is why. I don’t know? Really, that day marks the beginning of MC really getting his head out of his ass. But, it also marks the day that I found out that my blind faith trust in him was completely misplaced for many years. He has done a shit ton of work. I do see it and feel it.

Rosh Hashanah will begin on the evening of Sept. 13 this year. How appropriate, as it is a time of reflection. Reflecting on it all, it is clear that MC had an addiction to anger, resentment and self-pity stemming from his misogynistic view of gender roles and experiences that life just did not match. Before d-day, he spent his life on a “quest” to “right those wrongs,” while at the same time protecting his fragile ego from rejection and conflict at any costs.

Prior to d-day, he had absolutely no desire to change his ways. He didn’t regret his behavior, he didn’t think consequences would apply to him, and he thought he deserved experiences that he had been “denied” by the world around him. Unfortunately, it took d-day for MC to want to change, to want to become a man instead of a little boy who thought the world owed him something. And, I think it took the complete devastation of Sept. 13th, 2012 (ultimate d-day), to really start digging deep and rooting out the weeds, one-by-one, with professional help.

I do believe that whether we are discussing sex addiction, self-pity addiction, compulsive behaviors, OCD, ADD, SOB syndrome and/or something else, serial cheaters need serious outside professional help. I am a researcher by nature. I like numbers, facts, and results backed by peer-reviewed studies. Ultimately, as I reflect, I want reassurance, you know? And, yet there are no guarantees; that is the one fact I know in all of this and it drives me nuts. So, I look, I research, I look and research some more.

I found an interesting NIH study. Project Match studied 806 clients in five outpatient treatment centers, who were randomly assigned to three treatments: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and 12-step Facilitation (TSF). Researchers also interviewed and assessed clients to rate them on relevant attributes. The most interesting point of the study to me, is that it found that of the 21 client attributes, two were the most powerful predictors of long-term success: readiness-to-change and self-efficacy. And, these by far, were more predictive of long-term success than the actual treatment model used. Overall, TSF, MET and CBT have had similar success and failure rates.

I do see his readiness-to-change and self-efficacy in his belief in making those changes to his thoughts and behaviors. I also see those weeds being pulled-out by the roots one-by-one over the last three years. I can see his dedication and work to develop and practice empathy and do feel the difference in his relationship with our children and with me. I want to recognize how far we’ve come, how far he has come. I don’t want Sept. 13 to represent horror, I want it to represent reflection and rebirth. Still, the horror of that day is a part of my psyche and no amount of research takes that away. Sigh. . .

MC: “Vasectomy.”

Shortly after D-day, TL asked me to get a vasectomy.  TL was unable to get pregnant again due to a medical issue.  TL was worried that I would carelessly cheat again and end-up getting some woman pregnant. Mostly, TL worried that I would one day walk out the door to start over with someone new, without ever looking back at the destruction I left in my wake for her and our children. She wanted some kind of tangible insurance that our children would never have to share my emotional, physical and financial resources with any other children. I knew I did not want divorce, and I knew I would never cheat again.  But, TL did not know that for certain.  The polygraph and the post-nuptial showed her that her safety was my top priority. The vasectomy was a means to show her that our whole family was also a top priority. I agreed.

I did not, however, rush out and find a doctor the way I found a polygraph examiner, counselors, and lawyer. I kept letting that particular item fall further down my to-do list.  I guess I was afraid.  I was afraid of under going surgery in such a sensitive area. I was afraid of something going wrong. Late last year she questioned my intentions. Why would I agree to do it, then not see it through? It was a continuation of old behavior patterns in her eyes. She felt it was once again me telling her what she wanted to hear with no intention of following through.  I got the vasectomy in December.  It was disgusting and painful, but it was worth it.

That lead right into our next crisis.  TL was there in the room when the doctor was preparing to perform the vasectomy.  I was talking to the doctor, asking about post-operative care and when I could get back to normal activity levels.  He said to be off my feet for a couple days at least.  Falling back into my old ways of thinking, I said something like, “Oh, the dishes and laundry are going to pile up.”  This, of course, completely ignored the enormous contributions TL makes to dishes, laundry, and lots of responsibilities to support household and family.  This made TL feel like she did not exist, that I thought she was not capable of handling our home alone, even though she just spent an entire year alone doing exactly that.

It also showed my continued obsessive-compulsive attitude toward those activities.  I think in my worst moments before D-day I thought compulsively about sex and porn.  After D-day, I conquered that tendency.  But, I was left with continued obsessive attitudes toward tidying and organizing the house.

Even as those words were rolling out of my mouth, I knew they were wrong.  It was like watching a ceramic cup fall from a high shelf after you have carelessly bumped into the shelf.  You see it falling in slow motion, the whole time wishing you could turn back time and prevent it but knowing it is too late.  The cup hits the ground.  It shatters into various-sized pieces.  You hear the gasps and questions from everyone around.  You regret the loss of the cup, the fact that you caused it, and the fact that you could have prevented it if only you had been just a little more thoughtful, vigilant, and careful.  You brace yourself to ask forgiveness, clean it up, and try to replace the cup.

That’s what happened.  I said the hurtful words that focused on my obsessions, ignorant of TL’s feelings about the matter.  Worse, I said them to another person.  I had vowed to start recognizing TL’s virtues and contributions in public, in contrast to the way I failed to appreciate her before D-day.  Instead, I devalued her contributions there in front of that stupid doctor.

I spent weeks trying to apologize and make amends for that foolish error.

MC: “Compulsion versus addiction.”

In my last post, I talked about porn, cybersex, and masturbation.  I don’t know that everyone who engages in these activities is necessarily on a path toward infidelity.  But, they are big red flags.  I see them as entry-level drugs.  First, even though something like masturbation seems like a solo activity, it’s not.  It includes mental or pictorial images of someone who is not your spouse.  If you do masturbate to images of your spouse, maybe that’s different, as long as she knows about it.  Either way, unless there is full discussion and mutual agreement between you and your spouse about these activities, they are probably something you are hiding from your spouse.

If the first problem is looking outside your spouse for stimulation without mutual agreement, the second problem is keeping a secret from your spouse.  The third problem is that these activities, especially if hidden from your spouse, desensitize you to sex.  You start to need harder and more bizarre porn to be aroused.  You then start to lose your inhibitions about cybersex.  Finally, you lose your inhibitions about real-life cheating.  It is a slippery slope.  Very few people try a drug with the goal of becoming addicted.

I’m not convinced that addiction is the right term for my compulsive approach to porn, masturbation, cybersex, and then cheating.  But, it’s difficult to find another word in our language that captures the way I view those behaviors.  I suppose one difference between my sex compulsion and an actual addiction is that you often can’t quit something cold-turkey if it’s an addiction.  I did quit all these things cold-turkey.  I did not experience physical, mental, or emotional withdrawals when I quit.  On the contrary, I was very happy to have been liberated from the cycle of compulsion.

What liberated me?  One thing was the reality of consequences on D-day.  I was exposed.  My marriage almost ended.  TL and I talked about it every day since.  I could no longer hide.  And, I no longer wanted to hide.  I was forced to choose between fantasy and reality, and I chose reality.  I suspect an addict can’t just implement that kind of choice without clinical intervention.  I was able to implement my choice, by myself.  I do see a therapist to help me understand, learn new coping mechanisms, and address the root causes of my unhealthy choices. Before D-day, I had difficulty making healthy choices.  I was torn between my self-pity and fantasy, on one hand, and courage and reality, on the other hand.  D-day made it clear that the consequences of self-pity and fantasy were real and far outweighed the benefits.

To continue with my story, the compulsion led me to further shame.  There was another woman I met in a chat room.  Let’s call her CR2.  The story was similar.  She met me at our apartment one morning when my wife was at work and I was supposed to be studying.  CR2 and I quickly got into bed, the bed I share with TL.  I was nervous about getting caught, and therefore hurried. There was no foreplay.  CR2 was also unappealing.  This combination of factors resulted in erectile dysfunction again.  I quickly and politely kicked her out, upset with my inability to perform and equally upset with my compulsive desire to try.

It got worse.  The chat room environment desensitized me to a point of having cybersex with men too.  I invited one man to our apartment for a real-life liaison.  When he arrived, I was immediately turned off by the idea.  I apologized for wasting his time and got rid of him.  The compulsion was serious.  The definition of insanity, I’ve heard, is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.  I was, in that way, insane.  I invited another man to our apartment.  He tried oral sex on me.  I was really turned off, afraid, and ashamed.  I politely put a stop to it. Thankfully, soon after, I got a job and no longer had such periods of unaccountable time to play with chat rooms.  The porn and masturbation were reduced too, but they continued.

Then came my first affair with AP1.  She was a co-worker who was occasionally assigned to travel with me.  The relationship quickly relaxed from professional to friendly.  I knew in the back of my head that I would take it to sexual level if I had the opportunity.  Sex is all I wanted from that relationship.  But, I disguised it as actual friendship.  We went to lunch together, alone and way too often.  We worked out together.  All this was my superficial strategy of spending time with her to look for an opportunity for sex.

I had worked there a year by the time we converted the relationship into a physical affair.  The physical affair lasted two and a half months.  The so-called emotional affair that preceded it lasted three months. I use the term “so-called” because I did not really invest any emotional capital into the relationship.  It fact, I had rarely invested emotional capital in any relationship in my life.  This affair was a transactional relationship for me.  There were 6 or 7 physical liaisons.  I would go to her place for sex after work. On one occasion I stayed the night at her place when TL was out of town.  On another occasion AP1 took time off work to accompany me on a business trip when she hadn’t been assigned to join me.

MC: “No amount of sex would have been enough.”

With alcohol, I can see what went wrong.  My puritanical upbringing put big normative restrictions on alcohol.  It made it a forbidden fruit.  Whenever I did have access to it, in high school or college, I overdid it.  It took me at about a decade to put alcohol into proper perspective, to learn how to enjoy it without bringing about unenjoyable effects such as hangovers and making a fool of myself.  I mention that because it parallels one of several problems I had with sex and had some vague similarities to my struggles with tobacco.  One of the several problems with my approach to sex was this view of it as a forbidden fruit.  It was forbidden and elusive.  I therefore used little or no self-control whenever sex was available.  I did not develop an internal desire to control my sexual behavior.  I relied on what I believed were plentiful external checks on my sexual behavior.

Back then I had a few porn magazines hidden from TL.  I used to masturbate to porn occasionally, more often than I wanted.  I don’t know how frequently I did that.  Over the years there were some periods when it may have been daily.  There were other periods when it was less frequent.  I was ashamed of it.  It was the same kind of lack of self control that sometimes caused me trouble with food, tobacco, or obsessively pushing back my cuticles.  Gradually, I learned to find porn on the Internet.  There were periods of time when I stopped doing that.  But, those successes in quitting never lasted.  Sooner or later I went back to searching the Internet for porn, sometimes as often as every night when TL was asleep or every time I was alone in the house.  I was quite disappointed in myself for doing that.  I struggled to stop.

Just so you know, I stopped porn and masturbation just before D-day.  I have not done either, at all, for at least 34 months now.

Some time, maybe around our second year of marriage, I discovered Internet chat rooms.  By this time, TL and I had moved many miles away from friends and family for me to start graduate school. I treated these chat rooms as a porn supplement or porn substitute.  I engaged in cyber sex.  In four cases, I actually met up with people I had met in the chat rooms.  I’ll use abbreviations to elaborate.  One woman, who I’ll refer to as CR1, met me in person twice.  The first time she stayed in a hotel room near our apartment.  While TL was at work and while I was supposed to be home studying for my degree, I went over to meet CR1.  She was really unappealing.  I was not able to perform.  Weeks later we covertly met again.  She came over to our apartment.  She performed oral sex on me.

I told myself very sick, dishonest, and stupid things to justify my cheating.  I told myself I deserved to cheat because TL was not giving me enough sex.  I told myself I deserved to cheat because God had left me with limited sexual experience and resulting lack of self-esteem.  I told myself what TL did not know would not hurt her. These, of course, were all wrong.  Even if TL did not give me enough sex, I should have dealt with it through honest discussion with her and perhaps with help from a counselor.  But, in fact, she did give me plenty of sex, by most standards.

The problem, in that regard, was that no amount of sex would have been enough in my mind.  I was using sex in unhealthy ways.  First, whether through sex or masturbation, I was behaving compulsively with regard to seeking orgasms.  Second, I was also using sex as a proxy for self-esteem.  The hole in my self-esteem was bottomless. Sex would never fill it.  I think the only way I could have really addressed my self-esteem, perhaps with help from a counselor, would have been to completely reinvent my view of myself and the entire world around me.  In fact, that is exactly what I’ve been working to do as part of my post-D-day recovery and prevention.