I'm addicted to sexting

My wife has left me. I'm going into rehab. Is my life over?

Published May 11, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

This is a hard letter to write but I will try anyway. I am now married for a little more than a year to the kindest, gentlest, most understanding wife any man can ever dream of. She is an angel in every sense of the word and this is not influenced by any guilt that I am feeling.

She is a foreigner from another country and we both met studying Mandarin in China and subsequently fell in love. Three years of long-distance relationship later, I proposed to her and we decided to get married on the basis that we both felt our relationship was special and our expectations in life were very much in sync. A few months after proposing, she found out that I have been sexting an online stranger, the contents of which were very explicit. She was very angry, disappointed and sad, but I managed to convince her to carry on with the wedding, with the promise that I will not do it again and that I will be seeking professional help via a psychologist.

Fast forward to a year later, several weeks before our wedding, and she discovered my sextings with strangers are still going on despite my promises and was close to calling off the wedding. However, due to Asian societal values (the losing of face), as well as days of coaxing, I managed to once again convince her that I can and am willing to change and to carry on with the wedding. And here we are today, six months after the wedding and she has yet again discovered another of my attempts to contact an online stranger and I am afraid that this is the straw that will break the camel's back.

I know my actions have caused so much hurt and pain. I know I am an evil person for all the lies and deceit, and there have been many. I know that I do not deserve her at all. Yet, at the same time, I know I am not happy doing this, I do not seek out strangers in order to find a new partner, and that I love her very much and will never, ever leave her. Speaking to the psychologist, we have identified that I have issues stemming from my childhood and family that trigger my actions and I act on these triggers in order to quell these issues. In addition to that, I have anger and attitude issues stemming from childhood and family that have also affected our relationship significantly. I know this does not discount my actions and it is not an excuse. The second time she found out about my actions, the psychologist recommended me to enroll in a sex addiction rehab clinic but I felt the costs were too high and sort of talked my way out of it. She accepted it and life went on. Looking back, I know I didn't take it too seriously, thinking that these actions were really controllable. Maybe they were.

Today, she has moved out to a hotel, all alone in a foreign country with no one to really console her as she is too embarrassed to confide these things to her family members. She has lost all trust in me and I have ruined her life and possibly scarred her fragile heart permanently. She is adamant to continue on her life alone now by studying for her masters in the U.S. and getting on with life after that without me. She does not believe I can change, both in my sexual addiction, and more importantly she does not believe I can conquer my anger and attitude problem. I myself do not know if I can change but I truly want to change and I will try my best to do so. I believe I should've gone for more intensive counseling and to the sex addiction rehab clinic the moment the psychologist recommended it. I also know that I feel like this each time I get caught and once everything smoothens out and she comes back to me, I get overconfident and fall back into the vicious cycle.

I love her very much but she has said that it is now too late and that I will never change and she wants to leave, but at the same time she misses me and she loves me too. I am now so very confused in regards to what I should do. Do I set her free and end her torture, or do I fight for her love and do everything I possibly can and treat all issues I have with clinical and psychological help, which I should've done from Day 1, and start rebuilding a better future for the both of us?

I really hope I can receive your timely advice.

p.s. I have already decided to enroll in the sex rehab clinic and anger management courses regardless of her decision.

Sext Addict

Dear Sext Addict,

You are doing the right thing by signing up for the rehab regardless of what your wife does.

She may come back or she may not. In recovery, it's important to put your recovery first. Actually, putting your recovery first can be a revolutionary step. It can shift how you see life.

You are not an evil person. You are a person with a problem. There are many ways to describe the problem -- as a disease, as a compulsion, as a maladjustment -- but the important thing is that it is a behavior that can change; it does not have to rule your life and your life does not have to fall apart and you do not have to go through every day worrying when it will come back.

When you are addicted to something, you will keep doing it in spite of the consequences and this will make you feel like a terrible person. Until you face your addiction and make a fundamental change, the cycle continues. When you face your addiction for yourself, things start to change. You have noticed this already. You have begun to learn.

Your wife may come back. Or she may not. You probably hope that she comes back but you can prepare for life either way. The main thing is, you can get your life back. It may not be the life you thought it would be but it is a good life.

So throw yourself into the process of recovery! When your rehab ends, join an ongoing sex addiction recovery group. Continuing recovery after rehab is like eating well, working out and keeping the house clean. You don't just eat once. You eat every day. You don't just clean the house once. You clean it regularly. Recovery from an addiction is like that: It's a regular thing.

Is there a good free group available to you? Ask your advisor in the rehab. As you can see from this website, the group Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous does have meetings all over the world, as well as online and telephone meetings.

So that's my advice: Do the rehab, connect with others like yourself and stay close to the program. If your wife comes back, do not assume everything is fixed. Continue to put your recovery first, no matter what. You have a new life ahead of you.

By Cary Tennis

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