A friend sent me this commercial over the holidays.
As I watched, I was struck by the similarities of the couple in the commercial to the couple that struggles with sex addiction as part of their marriage. There is the hope and anticipation of the marital relationship. As the wife is presented the vacuum cleaner for her anniversary gift, shock, anger, and the need to do something with the offending spouse who “tarnishes the hope”, ensues. What wife, who feels the betrayals of sex addiction, can’t relate to the wish to physically place her husband somewhere for punishment? The commercial shows her marching him into the doghouse.
As the scene changes the man finds himself among other “offenders”. Men who have been sentenced to a shameful place, some with no hope of EVER getting out! Some have gone mad or given up in the process of hope for ever getting it right. Some leave or are released from the banal place of punishment, and relapse, only to find themselves relegated again. The cycle ensues… What sex addict in the initial throws of crisis doesn’t feel misunderstood or justified as highlighted in the commercial with the statement “Every man feels innocent”. Addicts often feel miffed by the power of their disease or justified in their resentments to support the acting out.
What man can’t relate to the man in the commercial “with a file for review” who feels judged or even tricked into leading answers? What man can't relate to the man in the commercial judged by a panel of female energy that sits ready to deny freedom and punish with continued sentencing? What woman can’t relate the state of anger and delirium: “Wow, I am married to you”! What “offended spouse” doesn’t wish for the strength of a panel to sit in judgment of their offending spouse, (man or woman) who has felt the sting of the betrayed feelings of sex addiction? What man who has struggled with sex addiction can’t relate to that feeling of being punished, relegated, or banished in shame for “the offenses”? What man who struggles with sex addiction feels like they will never get it right in terms of their relationship?
The man in the commercial states "I don't know what I was thinking, I was stupid”. Addiction is like a dark passenger that takes over actions and judgment. Actions in an addicted state make no sense to the rational mind. One man did get out. The icon of proof was sent back to the other men. The key to get out is elusive, shrouded in mystery, to those who are left to try to understand their offenses and the key for getting out of prison.
As a marriage and family therapist with sex addiction credentials I “fantasize” about the commercial of hope, strength, and recovery for couples affected by the disease of sex addiction. I wish for a commercial that would highlight the path and resources necessary for full recovery from the condition of sex addiction for addicts and their partners. Perhaps the video would open with a scene of both spouses looking at the replay of their marriage, working through the hard feelings of hurt and betrayal. There would be a scene highlighting the importance of recovery groups for the process of healing: Sexaholics Anonymous (SA.org) or Sex Addicts Anonymous (SexAA.org) for the addict’s recovery; S-Anon (sanon.org) or Al-Anon (al-anon.alateen.org)for spouses. A scene would play showing Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAAFWS.org) for appropriate consideration of either party in the marriage and there would definitely be a scene in the commercial offering the hope of Recovering Couples Anonymous (Recovering-couples.org) meetings. The video would include education about addiction processes and the part all family members play in the family struck by addiction. Yes, I know this is hard to hear for the long-suffering spouse feeling the initial sting of betrayal. Scenes might play from each partner’s families of origin to discover how they ended up in this marriage for clues of predisposition and healing (not blame). There would be flashes to play the episodes of individual therapy for each spouse, the flashes of scenes to marital therapy with appropriately-credentialed therapists and family therapy if children are in the marriage.
When one initially discovers sex addiction or comes to terms with their addiction, one need not feel like they can’t escape the hell. There is a way out. There is proof of those who have made it out individually and with their marriages intact. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. The key need not remain a mystery hidden to covet or wish for in secrecy. One need not go it alone in continued puzzled isolation or with feelings of hopelessness for ever getting it right. There are fellowships and specially-credentialed therapists (SASH.net) to help one reach and stay in the light of day!