I am so sorry and so sad to hear of the betrayal and devastation experienced by Sandra Bullock. I think for many, she’s viewed as the “girl next door” and it’s easy for people to identify with the pain she must be feeling. And I’m sorry to see her pain plastered all over the tabloids (print and TV) but am also hopeful that her story will help increase our society’s awareness of and empathy for those who have been so horribly betrayed by an intimate partner. The betrayal is magnified when it occurs within the context of what we are calling “sex addiction.”
Just to be clear- sex addiction or hypersexuality is not an excuse for bad behavior, nor is it a “get out of jail free card”- the person with this addiction is fully responsible for his or her actions. The person with this condition is using sex to fill a need it was never meant to fill. It’s a high of the strongest kind that helps push away emotional pain, boredom, and anger. It’s a way some have learned to cope. It is not healthy coping. It robs the individual of their sense of identity and ability to truly connect with another person. They find themselves chasing after something they’ll never find. To the full-blown sex addict, their sex partners are no more than objects. And their wives or husbands who are betrayed are caught in the fallout or wake of the destructive consequences.
The most important thing we should be discussing is the damage this behavior (whatever we call it) causes and how to help those who are caught in the fallout of this level of betrayal. Rather than minimizing it or turning it into part of the late-night joke routine, its time our society sought to address the distortions and emptiness within someone who develops this “addiction” and comfort and treat those who have been victimized by it. There are many good sex addiction experts. My expertise is with the partner or spouse of the sex addict- the person betrayed.
The betrayed member of the relationship- people like Elin and Sandra- do nothing to deserve the betrayal they experience. They need and deserve empathy and support as they come to grips with the devastation another person has brought into their lives. Imagine the pain of finding out the person you love and have chosen to partner with has maintained a secret, separate life that involves infidelity and ongoing deception. This level of betrayal shatters a relationship, shatters trust, kills dreams and hopes, and costs much. For those who have experienced it, time is now marked differently. They mark time as before knowing, and after knowing. It’s a day when everything they thought was true shifted- and they know from that point on, everything has changed. The person they would naturally turn to for support in a difficult time has now become their worst enemy- has hurt them worse than any other foe.
Healing from this kind of betrayal is difficult, usually lonely, and takes a good deal of time. It is for many “traumatic” in that it shatters their reality and they feel unsafe emotionally and physically. They experience the symptoms others feel after being assaulted, or after the traumatic death of a loved one. Just as we’ve learned to attend to those caught in physically abusive relationships, we need to address and respond to the wounds resulting from the rupture of relationships through compulsive deceit and sexual infidelity.
If this describes you, I hope you have found the healthy support and help that you need. You are not alone- there are many others who have walked or are walking this journey. There is help and hope for you.