Unraveling Sexual Addiction: A Man’s Perspective to Healing and Understanding Lust

I am honored to write a post for betrayed wives from a man’s perspective, and I hope my story can support you on your healing journey. My name is Gene, and I am a husband, father, and faith-based sexual recovery coach. I coach men to step into their courage and break free from the harmful impacts of pornography.

To start with, I want to start by sharing something that I hope is a bit of a relief: 

The pain that’s playing out in your marriage started long before your marriage. 

Witnessing Betrayal Trauma

I witnessed betrayal trauma playing out between a husband and wife. It felt like they were speaking two different foreign languages, like one was from Venus and the other was from Mars. The angry accusations and stifled silences were hard to watch. I saw this crazy cycle playing out. “It only happens with you! You are making me angry!” 

And then I invited the husband to inspect his bodily sensations and asked, “How old is this emotion?” He wasn’t quite sure, but a memory was popping up where he was 8 years old. We came to find that his anger towards his wife right now paralleled an 8-year-old’s anger towards his father—an anger of desperation from a young boy who felt helplessly unseen. 

Seeing these deeper roots helped to bring the couple from contempt to a place of compassion. As much as the anger felt like it was towards his wife, the deeper roots stretched decades back before he ever met his wife. When I take men into their old stories of wounding, usually from childhood or adolescence, the impact and connection to their present-day unwanted compulsive sexual behavior is often shocking.

The Inner Conflict

Part of me wants to keep my secret porn life. Another part of me is dying.

I’ve heard this over and over from men I work with: “I cannot live with myself and this secretive behavior, but I also don’t know if I’m ready to give it up.” 

The contradiction is often confusing: the man clearly wants help to break ties to their compulsion, but he also wants to keep his porn or affair. Navigating the contradiction is a slow discerning process, layer by layer, coming to a more true understanding of what is happening in his mind, heart, and soul. The unsolvable conundrum can be sorted through, but it takes a revised understanding of lust, desire, and wholeness.

Untangling Lust

Lust needs to be untangled

We all yearn for the peace, vitality, and purity that comes with wholeness. To get there, though, we must sail through tricky waters: lust. 

A cultural war around lust has made the topic feel rather foggy. You can confess your lustful sexual fantasy to one person, and they’ll become very concerned and uncomfortable, and whether they say it or not, you feel the accusation: “You are disgusting.” On the other hand, you can confess to another person, and they’ll try their best to relieve you of your shame by fully accepting your lust: “That’s fine! Maybe you can embrace that’s just what you like!” 

Creating Space for Curiosity

But where both of these people have failed is that there is no space for curiosity. If we simply reject our lust as evil or simply accept it as good, the premature conclusion does not allow us to dig deeper to why the lust may exist and what it could reveal to us if we ask.

Lust is often a reenactment of wounding

This is not well known. I have participated in many men’s recovery groups and programs, and I still find that the idea that lust is something to be curious about is incredibly rare. I have found lust to be my greatest teacher if I am willing to listen to it. Jay Stringer, a licensed mental health counselor, researcher, and author, is the pioneer for this idea that we can listen to our lust, and I have found his research on the nature of unwanted sexual behavior to be ground-breaking.

Reenacting Trauma

Lust is often a reenactment of our wounding. If this is true, this puts us in an odd position. I will be working with a man who is finding pleasure and excitement in reenacting his trauma and abuse. This may seem terribly confusing, but it is all too common. However, the man generally does not realize that he is reenacting his trauma. As is culturally normal, he just notices the pleasure and excitement, and its gravitational pull is strong.

In telling me his story, it is common for a man to have a gradual exposure to porn and then hit a video that becomes the jackpot. This video is more arousing than other porn videos, and he will come back to that video again and again. This is the part where he may identify his fetish. 

Understanding Fetishes

These fetishes are not random. The fetish is arousing sensations in the body for a reason, and very commonly, part of that is unresolved trauma or abuse.

Digging into my own fetish.

For me, men’s underwear has been my fetish. This was incredibly embarrassing to reveal to my wife. But when I finally had someone invite me to be curious about the allure of this very specific article of clothing, it brought me back to a moment of humiliation when I was 13, trying to fit in, and my pants got pulled down in front of my peers. And I was exposed for wearing white briefs, which my generation and country taunted as “tighty whities.” 

Connecting Fetish to Trauma

I was so ashamed and became paralyzed in my embarrassment. I felt weak and helpless; no one would want to be my friend now. I wanted to vanish from the world for a day or go back in time and make it not happen. I would later find myself not just interested in men’s underwear, but specifically white briefs, and even more specifically, confident men wearing them.  

My lust-driven fetish was sexualizing a moment of humiliation where I never shed a tear or found solace in another’s presence. The best thing I could think of as a 13-year-old was to simply try to pretend nothing had happened.  

It would be decades later before I had a wise guide who could see this young boy’s agony and allow me to mourn the harm of humiliation, powerlessness, and isolation.

Shame and Unwanted Sexual Behaviors

Shame drives men to unwanted sexual behaviors.

Jay Stringer, who wrote the book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, surveyed thousands of men. He found that men who had anonymous affairs were 4 times as likely to have higher shame scores, and men of affairs with someone they know were 2 times as likely to have higher shame scores. Shame is a bigger driver for unwanted sexual behavior than pleasure.  

These men often tell me, with a tone of helplessness and futility, that they want to stop, but they can’t. And uttering those last three words triggers great amounts of shame and self-contempt. Their worst fears of being weak and worthless feel convincingly true. And they look at all the evidence: 

  • I told myself this is the last time again and again and I keep sexually acting out.
  • My fantasies are perverted. Because I am a pervert.
  • My porn is degrading. Because I am evil.
  • My wife is suffering immensely, and I cannot soothe her. Instead, I make things worse.

Shame is like a shark that threatens to eat you, and when a man looks at the evidence above, he can get lost in a fog of futility and despair. One way to survive another day is to numb the pain. Porn and affairs are reliable methods to accomplish that. 

The Dangers of Purging Desire

Purging desire leads to emptiness.

Indulging in sexual behavior that demeans our values will strip sex of its beauty and will trigger more shame. Going the other direction, and I have seen this too often, is purging all of his desires because his desires are not to be trusted. Out of fear of having a relapse, I have seen men become hypervigilant ghosts, as the solution to their bad sexual habits is deprivation. These men sit in recovery circles and look painfully dried up. Like there is no life left in them.  

Lust and desire have been conflated and purged together, and it has led to emptiness. And if there is any ounce of a fighting spirit left there, what often comes next is the man knows that this much deprivation is unbearable, and this leads into an entitlement for binging on his unwanted sexual behavior, where he can at least feel a little semblance of happiness. 

 But the happiness isn’t real or earned, and we are back in the vicious binge-purge cycle.

Honoring Desire

The path forward: honoring the desire that underlines the lust.

Luckily, there is a third option, which sits between indulgence and purging. It comes from an understanding that a sexual fantasy has two parts: lust and desire. And discerning the two is incredibly important.  

To assume that it is all lust leaves us in a position to purge. To assume it is all desire leaves us in a position to accept and indulge.  

But to untwist lust from desire puts us in a position of true authority, where we can write the next chapters of our sexual journey. Lust latches onto deep longings of the heart, and those longings are why men don’t like the idea of giving up porn or their affair. It feels like they are also giving up their heart’s deepest longings.  

Desire is an incredibly beautiful and integral part to wholeness, and we must find ways to honor all of the desires that have been written onto our hearts.

Satiating Desire

I am still untangling my lust from my desire, but I would like to share a few moments of untwisting that have given me joy, freedom, and vitality. My unwanted sexual behaviors have never properly satiated the desires on my heart, but I have found other ways that have satiated those desires and produced great amounts of awe and beauty in my life.

  • One moment of arousal invited me to go on a camping trip with three good friends. Being one of the guys and sitting around the fire with these men was healing an old wound of feeling ostracized from the other boys growing up.
  • Another week’s fantasy had me realize that my relationship with my wife was lacking playfulness. I shared with her the fantasy and we both decided that we want more creativity and playfulness throughout our days together.
  • A different fantasy theme brought me to a men’s retreat where I could embrace my inner wild man. A daring and energetic force that felt contrary to my usual agreeable, amicable way of being.

 When I could learn from my fantasies, and they were not simply these evil, perverted visualizations in my mind, I found myself able to share vulnerably with my wife. 

Before then, the idea of sharing sexual fantasies running through my head just felt shameful and hurtful. I didn’t want to scare my wife with my crazy fantasies. I didn’t want to hurt her by revealing I have sexual thoughts of other people.  

Drawing connections between my fantasies and past harm or unfulfilled desires on my heart paves the way for moving towards my wife again, because I know I can honor my desires while honoring my commitment to cherish my wife’s heart.

Curiosity and Compassion

More curiosity, more compassion

I haven’t met a man yet who has not had to struggle with sexual lust. I hope that this introduction to understanding the interplay between lust and desire can open new doors to curiosity and compassion. 

I find there are always new levels to understanding my sexual fantasies, and staying curious pushes me to a more truthful, wholesome perspective on myself and my desires. I realize that I am not just some weak, pathetic little boy. My desires are good, beautiful, and worthy of pursuit. And seeing myself newly increases my capacity to hold compassion for myself and others.

If you would like to learn more about my work, you can see my website here:

Warmly,

Gene

You may also find these helpful:

He Cheated, Why Do I Feel Betrayal Shame? A Guide to Understanding Betrayal Shame
A Guide to Discussing Infidelity with Your Husband: Unlocking Healing Conversations
A Guide for Supporting a Betrayed Wife: Expressing Empathy After Infidelity
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the Author

I am a certified life coach and relationship facilitator with a passion for supporting women who have been impacted by infidelity. Drawing on my personal experiences and deep insights, I am dedicated to helping my clients heal from the trauma of betrayal and reclaim their lives.

Through one-on-one coaching, I am committed to providing a safe, supportive space for women to process their emotions and move forward after infidelity. You can find me in my vegetable garden or taking long walks in nature with my dog when I'm not working. Read more about  the betrayed wife's personal infidelity story...


>