She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I’ve been married for seven years with two little boys who are seven years and four years old.
My husband is an over the road truck driver.
I’m pretty sure he has a sex addiction because I keep catching him cheating on me.
He’s cheating with multiple women, and he’s paying them for it.
My kids deserve to have their Dad, so I’ve tried with all I can to save our marriage, but I don’t know if it will survive this.
He claims to love me, but he keeps on hurting me over and over with this.
I feel I’m at a crossroad in life and not sure what to do. Any help you can give would be great.
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Dear Fooled Again,
My heart goes out to you. I have been in a relationship with a chronic cheater, and it’s its own particular brand of emotional abuse.
This sort of cheating is just that — emotional abuse.
I can’t tell you if he has a sex addiction. Ultimately, he is the one who will have to confront that. However, it certainly sounds like that’s what is going on. According to The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, sex addiction is “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.”
His actions, regardless of sex addiction, are harming you and your family. Every time he has sex, even if he used a condom, he is putting your health at risk. Further, he is endangering your mental and emotional health, which in turn negatively affects your children.
It is NO WAY your fault that he is paying women to have sex with him.
I want to emphasize this because people in the throes of this behavior often look to deflect the responsibility on their partner. And that is not the truth. You are not responsible for his actions.
As I said, it’s not your job to discern whether or not he has a sex addiction. Your job now is to protect yourself and your kids. To do that, you need to set firm and clear boundaries with him. What do I mean by that? I mean he gets treatment — be it therapy, an inpatient program, 12-step meetings, or a combination of all three — or you leave. It’s that simple. If he were going to change this on his own, he would have done so by now.
I know that you want to keep the family together, but your children are far better off with one parent setting healthy boundaries, than with two parents participating in a wholly toxic situation.
I highly suggest that you seek some counseling yourself. In addition, why don’t you check out some Al-Anon and/or CoDA meetings; they are free and have helped so many people I know with establishing healthy boundaries. If you need any region-specific resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out again.
You can do this. Work on controlling what you can — your boundaries and not staying in an unhealthy situation. He will either get help so he can make a meaningful change or he won’t, and you can walk away. I know it feels scary, but either of those scenarios is leaps and bounds better than what you’re living in now.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m reading, Blue Sapphire, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo