Sex, Emotion, and Addiction

I’ve always considered myself to be an emotionally intelligent person. By that, I mean that I am able to identify and manage my emotional state, as well as, the ability to use emotional understanding in my day-to-day interaction with others. D-day was like throwing every emotion I ever felt and some I never imagined, into a blender and pressing “Shred.” I didn’t know what to feel anymore because what was happening in my life was not in my realm of probability. It was this feeling of emotional paralysis. I remember crying but I also remember just lying in bed blankly staring at nothing for hours with no energy or drive to do much else. This activity consumed me at times when I wasn’t running children around or pretending to be fine for an audience. For the first time in my life, my emotions were consuming me, dictating me, and hurting me. Hurt seems like such a wimpy word. I could say destroying but my emotions did not end me.

This is why hysterical bonding feels so good. With every orgasm it triggers the brain chemical dopamine to be released, creating a reward circuit in the brain: Dopamine = Pleasure = “Important” -> Do this again. Quickly, sex with our whealing after my husband's affairayward spouses becomes a way to diminish the emotional impact and damage from their affairs. Isn’t that a bit convoluted? We are having sex to feel better about them having sex with another person. While it makes sense that we are reprogramming our wayward spouses’ brains to be rewarded by having sex with us (not their  affair partners), we are also changing our brains to have sex when we feel emotionally exploited.

Personally, I do believe that hysterical bonding was a way of veiling my emotional pain. How else can I explain wanting – no needing – sex seven or more times a day? I was on an emotional rollercoaster and sex became my drug. I was vulnerable and sex was my remedy. After all, the brain can only feel or think one thing at a time. So I was replacing my emotional pain with physical pleasure, telling my brain: “this is what’s important. Do this again if you want to feel good.”

I was watching a documentary on drug addiction the other day with my family. The parallels to substance abuse and the actions of a cheating spouse are resolute. But what I didn’t expect to hear was that my actions, as a betrayed spouse, since D-day also strongly align with addiction too. Trying to find a definition for addiction online I found this:

Research on the brain indicates that addiction is about powerful memories, and recovery is a slow process in which the influence of those memories is diminished.

Just like a drug, I eventually became tolerant to the “high” from sex and needed more. When I look back at the past year I can see myself struggling to just feel normal again. Most of the time, normal meant feeling anything but the pain associated with my husband’s affair. I really thought I had accepted the affair as part of my story but I guess I hadn’t because I began searching for a new high. I needed someone or something to fill the void and mask my emotional pain. I started putting myself in situations that tested me just to get that high. During the past year I have been forced to deal with my emotions and accept the affair because I no longer felt that rush from sex.

healing-after-my-husband's-affairThere is a fear rooted deep within my story and healing. My husband’s infidelity broke me but I have been persistently rebuilding, reconstructing myself in hopes of being stronger, smarter, and to live more passionately without regret. All these words often just mask a greater fear within me. A fear that at the end of this journey, I will still be broken or discover those missing pieces were more important than I realized. Recovering and healing from the pain of this affair is not just mind-over-matter or a matter of will-power, it is about transforming my mind, body and life to create a new set of experiences for my brain to register as important and pleasurable. This journey is about patience and understanding that an emotional relapse (e.g. checking my husband’s email) is not to be taken personally. With the passage of time memories will begin to fade and the emotions will no longer trigger my fear.


27 thoughts on “Sex, Emotion, and Addiction

  1. I have decades of experience, and you are spot on in your thinking.

    I have yet to figure out why we feel so bad, when we think we understand it.

    It’s a journey, we are just on different roads.

  2. I fear I will never feel “normal” again. I don’t even know what that word means any more. I understand, hope even, that I’ll reach a new normal in time. Yet I stress over whether or not that new normal will be worth the pain, work and agony of staying with this man who destroyed me and put into question everything I’ve worked towards for the past 25 years. Yes, he’s changed. Yes, he’s doing everything I ask to make amends. Yes, we’ve come a long way in the past year. But will it be enough in the end? Will my new normal be a life I can not only tolerate but thrive living?

    Only time will tell.

  3. Been thinking, the broken thing. Could it be the romance of only one love being the right one; now proven untrue; yet that is actually the reality anyway. Only one perfect person out there is really only a matter of thought over reality. That’s why there is marriage. To say you will go with that thought.
    Now, older and wiser, can one face such a unromantic person hooked on romance fantasy affairs, back as ones one and only? Maybe that they are back proves they either are; or can never be ….because of their having hurt and ignored the one they loved…….um. Clear as mud.

  4. You always seem to put into words exactly what I have felt or am feeling. Very soon after I found about my husbands affair, I felt this sexual drive that I have never felt before. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling the need to be touched by a man who had just turned my life upside-down and shattered my heart into a million pieces. Why did I feel the need/want to pleasure him? He didn’t deserve it!! I am understanding this now that it wasn’t anything about him, but for me. I needed anything at the time to make me feel human and “normal” as possible.
    July 4th will be one year since I found out about my husbands betrayal. The actual affair happened 2 1/2 yrs prior to me finding out, while he was working in another state. But him and the “it” has continued to have an emotional affair over text (that’s how I found out). I’ve always been a very symbolic person, remembering dates and celebrating every little occasion that fell on those “special” days. As this “not so special” day is right around the corner, I find myself having very high anxiety. I don’t know what to do with my self on this day. Do I act as it is just another day? Do I surround myself with people to keep my mind occupied? Should me and my husband plan a trip by ourselves? Sorry for making this so long..I just really need some advise..

  5. I have experienced unexpected setbacks. There is a pattern. I have periods when I feel at peace to the point it seems im past irrational thinking and subjecting myself to reliving the pain and anger. Then something,like hearing her name mentioned in social circles will catch me off guard and I will recycle the whole process. I actually have to reprogram myself and tell myself I have already dealt with this before and I have to find my peace with it all over again. Then I’m good for a while. This last time I went through the process was almost as hard as the first time. The rage I felt toward her was as strong as ever. I wished her death and suffering all over again. Previously I has actually learned to pray for her. It almost seems to be better on me to not get too far ahead on healing. you know, not let it get too far from my mind

  6. I got a lot of identification out of reading this as I to did this with sex when I think about it now it was rewarding what hed done crazy behaviour. , when that didnt work with my husband I found someone else for sex , this stopped my head buzzing for a while , ive now been seperated from my husband for 4weeks and my head feels better more peaceful but im still confused I said I would go out with him , im still messed up by what he did to me and if id stayed I think it would have been much worse there was no peace for my head .I dont think I ever want to live with him again ,im happier and more peaceful with out seeing him every day x

    • Allyson. I commend you on being strong enough to make a decision to do anything. Meaning the decision of taking your next breath after finding out he cheated,to getting out of bed, to facing reality and moving forward in either direction. I don’t think the most important thing is about if you stay or if you go, it’s about getting yourself back up off the ground. 👏

      • I didn’t do the hysterical bonding with my husband which makes me question my process. I couldn’t stand his hands to even graze me lightly. I did start connecting with men who were actively pursuing me. Emotional and minor physical contact with these guys but they were my drug. I cried when I read this though I have the same fears I feel broken and am sick of that feeling.

  7. I have found your blog as many of your followers .., searching for how to heal after your heart has been broken. I thank you for writing as I can relate to all of your posts! I never thought I would be here after 17 years married. Every step forward I make is casted with question and doubt but I keep moving forward. I truly love my husband and I know he loves me and is doing everything he can to show me how sorry he is and what he wants is us and an even better us. I want to also feel normal again feel free again to be happy.., I want the weight of this lifted… The two steps forward one step back dance is exhausting and my brain never stopping feels like a prison at times. I so appreciate all of the beautiful women that are going through this and talking through their experiences… It makes me feel like I have an outlet.

  8. this is extremely helpful for me as I walk the similar journey of recovery. I feel most times that there will probably no real recovery for me, and I hold the exact same fear every single day.. That i’d be hit with infidel from him in other ways but I suppose I’m more afraid that id paralyze my emotions forever if I’m betrayed again.

  9. Such an insightful post. Thank you. Really resonates with me at the moment. Found myself swimming in anger and resentment last night – venomous bile coming out of my mouth. This is NOT who I want to be. Husband just looks at me – defeated! Tell me how you felt I scream. Tell me how you disregarded me? Tell me why you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants? Tell me why you never saved me from her shocking disclosure? I rant about them together. I imitate Pig Shit’s passivity and mock adoration of him, not to mention what she was doing with her bag of dildos! What garbage, the lot of it! Disgraceful! This morning he is desperate. Do you still love me he implores. Please don’t hate me PLEASE don’t hate me! I remind him whilst reminding myself at the same time – I don’t hate you and never will, but I HATE what you and she did! That hatred is buried deep in my psyche.

  10. This, as all of your posts, reached me. Every emotion seems to be the very bone of my existence. My heart seems so callous even though I am trying to push through our marriage and heal. Trying to keep the smiles for the children, and the resentment and untrust for my husband under wraps. I doused myself with sex in our marriage to try and outdo what he went searching for with someone else. All I had noticed I compared , I wonder more, was I good enough, was I better? I am still standing holding on barley, through this whole thing. Its such a deep sorrow, a mourning to have the one you put your all into. Betray that and misuse that. He is trying to mend our family and friends and hearts! However, I am trying to get rid of this pain.

    • I so relate to your post. I did the “hysterical bonding”. I feel it was to try to keep him, if I gave him what he desires then maybe he would not go back to “her”, maybe he would not think about “her” etc…. I am 10 months since d-day, I have moments of peace, I have moments of despair… We are approaching big trigger dates coming up and I feel myself spiraling…. He tries to understand, but he wants to never look back and just move forward, so I internalize a lot. Then when I am close to losing it, I will write him a letter to vent to him about what I have been struggling with. I get everything out on one swoop, I am able to be careful with my words, there is no fighting…. He usually responds with a sincere apologetic letter. It seems to be helping us both.

  11. Wow what a hard Father’s Day. Our three oldest know about the affair bc he told them. The younger two have no clue.
    Last year was so happy out at the east end of Long Island at the wineries together having an unforgettable picnic. Little did we all know his happiness was coming from a secret place that he shared with his whore. Sorry to be harsh. Having a horrible day!!!!!!!!!

    • Sorry your day was not great. Holidays are difficult. For some reason those are the days the memories of the affair and betrayal really hit home for me. Try to focus on the road ahead, healing, and how you can make the next year better than the last.

  12. I’ve been following your blog almost all the time since my D-day and can identify with so much you describe. A lot of the posts I could have written myself. It’s great to be able to see it’s not just me, having those feelings and thoughts. My husband is following you too and sometimes asks me: Is that how you’re feeling? We too are one of those couples who no one could predict would end up in this place. I read your post “The shit that bothers me” and regrettably I was also too trusting and naive to check on my husband in the past. We are rebuilding our marriage after his 15 months long affair with a work colleague, 15 years his junior. Thankfully we are in a good place now but it took many sleepless nights and an ocean of tears. We are both Christians and faith is helping us move on and change. I started writing a blog called to record the events that happened. Some of it seemed to be almost unreal to be true but a lot in my life is like that anyway. I can see God’s fingerprints around every corner of my life. Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings, I love your blog, you have a great talent.

    • I am glad that my writing can offer you conversation and help your husband understand what you are going through. I know for me it is huge to know that I am not alone. Thanks for the link to your blog and I believe your story will connect and help others heal.

  13. Yes, I am too trying to put my faith in God to take this pain away. Even though he is trying to be a devoted husband and father, I doubt if things can ever be like they used to be. Things are different now, the trust is gone, not sure if it’s the trust factor or if its the visions of those two together that I can’t blank out but I know it’s just different. I thought things would feel better and some days they do but I thought by now everything would feel fixed afer 2 1/2 years but they arn’t.
    I think to him, he feels like it’s all over but I hold in that its not. Some days when I see her, I can’t hold it in and I explode all over again just like it’s the d day. I just wish he would of thought about throwing me aside for cheap whore and he could of devoted his life to me only and not a stupid past ex for 18 yrs but he didn’t, and for this decision he made I will most likely always feel like a nothing even though he tells me he loves me more than ever. Why do I stay? Because I love him…………..

  14. Thank you so much for showing us your heart, it actually feels good to be among all of you. It seems that our significant others can not relate to this pain and the roller coaster ride they have put us on. There is comfort in all your post, to feel some kind of normality in sharing these emotions and uncertainty. If I only knew when this will end. It seems from all the comments that no one has got that answer. My wife had a 1 year affair.

  15. I recently found ur blog just moments after discovering my husband cheating. You are remarkably courageous and admire your sense of honesty. Thank you so much for your blog. Every word you have wrote down is bone chilling accurate. It has really helped more to move forward! You have no idea how many souls you are helping!!! Bravo u amazing soul!!

  16. the now ex wife of my wife’s affair partner contacted US 14 months after my discovery of my wife’s affair. After a few emails and calls, she recommended “Codependent No More” I read it in a day and quickly noted how I fed my wife’s sexual appetites, and she mine – we were codependent on so many fronts. when I pulled away from her due to a double whammy year with my mom passing suddenly and work out of the country, she dove in headlong into on-line relationships and a real-life affair with her PT. After a year of attempted recovery, she couldn’t turn the corner toward a future together and a week before our our 25th anniversary I filed for divorce… and I’m good with it… she’s gotta learn to overcome her own demons, and I need to protect myself from her and let her come to her senses with me as a crutch or outlet for her blame game.

  17. Long answer to Whyme -when will it end:
    (Scroll down to short one from web)
    I know getting the pain across took some major doing for me. He hadn’t a clue why I was upset! Thought I had gone off him.
    But then, would a bright, sensitive, emotionally intelligent person do this in the first place?

    Here’s my progress time line for you (and me, talking to myself, really)
    1. Shock
    2. Anger
    3. Jealousy (transferring some, not all, blame)
    I can’t imagine how much harder this would hit a man.

    searching for reasons to mitigate shock and temper the anger. Trying to believe the lack of integrity was stupidity and not just plain evil.

    This journey took me at lest a year and three quarters. Think I now know why he did it, even if he doesn’t.
    Cold realization how stupid and monumentally selfish they both are. And that’s the truth in all cases.

    That let go of jealousy, pouf went the romantic idea of their “passion” phooey!
    That calmed a little bit of anger.
    I really feel sorry for him. ( actually did on D day; what a tragic mistake he made)

    Then came depression. How did this happen….why me…..well, the same answer as illness…because I am human, life just is.
    If someone lies and hides themselves, especially when they are good at it, they are strangers. No win situation.

    This took me two and a half years total, it honestly went by in a flash. It was a nightmare.

    I can now look at them both coldly and nearly wish themselves on each other.

    I have faught and cried and read till I can actually not care if they were together. That was a recent good breakthrough, this month. Letting go.
    Ironically, He let go on D day. But then, he knew what was going on and had made his decision. I had been traumatized since then, for a good two and a half years.

    I feel independent now., without anger. I think that is important, to get untangled.
    Sometimes happy at the thought of never seeing him again.disengaged.
    Sometimes happy and able to look forward with or without him.
    Sometimes with him for sure.

    I miss who we were before, way before. Before life got hard and the spiral began.
    I grew, persevered, found strength. he was stunted.
    He always was. Even before we married. Maybe somewhere around twelve, at best. I’m serious. (!)
    But no excuse for hurting someone you claim to love.
    That’s the “once a cheater.” Unless something wakes them up. If this hasn’t, nothing can. Good riddance.

    Then searching for reasons to stay. A work in progress. But I’m OK.
    He isn’t the person I thought he was. End of story.
    To be fair, I had an inkling.

    Next part, what will I do about it?
    Can the remaining parts of his character that I like win the day? The love factor….
    I no longer do any of the work on that, and he has shown tremendous regret, but I’m not sure he knows how to function to make things ok. Rather like The Hedgehog Song. ( “know all the words and you sung all the notes, but you never quite learned the song”)
    I suspect he is better at manipulating than feeling.

    So that makes my journey so far, 2 years and 8 months, minus one week. Thanks for listening.

    I gather, if you do the homework and let the pain teach you things about yourself, and your spouse, this is a pretty predictable time frame.
    Hard, hard work, emotional rock breaking. I read everything, felt everything. Back and forth to zero.
    I would have loved to have had a therapist to guide and speed up the process but was too crazy and hurt to find one that suited me.! Maybe now.
    There were a few scary times I went through that I should have found one.
    And now I am very nearly myself again.
    Happy and trusting ( hell, why not !)
    Unfortunately, the rest of my family still have issues.

    Short answer from web:
    2-4 years and or half the length of a long term affair. Whichever applies.

    And that is with soul searching work by both of you, says I.
    May the force be with you. x

  18. I am 7 days post D day. I will read and re read this blog… Thank you for being brave, and for putting words to my feelings.

  19. I’m 49 days post d-day. Exhausted with tears and the strain of trying to be as ‘normal’ as possible while inside I feel like I am just crumbling away. Been signed off work and am now medicated to try and feel stable. We are trying to work on saving our marriage but my husband has no real idea of how to fix what he has done and everything he tries comes out wrong. Having been together for 19 years, married for 13 and bringing up our children together for 11 years, he went to work away (something he has never done) last September and got emotionally involved with a woman over social media. This turned into meeting, which turned into sex, which then turned into an obsessional love which he continued right up until the day I actually found out. I had trusted him like no other, having been the child of a marriage split by adultery. Even when my suspicions were raised 6 months ago and I asked him he was so believable in his denial that I thought I was going mad.

    Now, 7 weeks into ‘recovery’ we take one step forward and 10 steps back almost every other day. I understand totally about the hysterical bonding, though the very concept of wanting to be with someone who could do that to me makes me question who I am. But despite everything he has done, and even the way that he is still finding it so difficult to make any kind of amends (aside from saying sorry everyday), the idea of not being with the man I love is worse than the pain I feel now. He’s given up the job that took him away from our family, he’s told me that he hates this woman and never wants to see her again. He even wished her dead at one point. I made the mistake of asking too much and therefore knowing too much and I have had to try to focus on less on the idea that I can’t get over what he’s done and more on finding a way to help me to do so. I want my marriage to survive.

    But I am tired and everyday is a fight to survive and swim through the depression that has taken such a hold. Reading this blog has given me hope that I might just make it.

    • The depression – or those phases can seem endless at times. I hope your children have given you a reason to keep moving on those days were the water feels heavy and it’s tiresome to swim. I know my kids were (in many ways) my salvation. Their lives didn’t stop on D-day and soccer and football games carried me through some difficult times. I hope you were able to find peace during the holidays – a mo moment for you. Thank you for reading my story and sharing yours.

    • Vee,

      You are not alone. Unfortunately there are many of us who feel your pain.

      I recommend the Affair Recovery site. There’s a link on this blog. It’s full of helpful articles but most importantly classes you can take for recovery. If your husband is truly willing this will help. We took the Emergency Marriage Seminar Online. It’s a 12 week course and was extraordinarily helpful. Taught us a lot. It costs but worth every penny.

      You are taking baby steps. It’s amazing that I can say this but 18 months after discovery I’m in a much better place. Still working, still struggling, but at least not crying every day, or even every week.

      Good luck

  20. 109 days since D Fay for me. I struggle with sleep deprivation, sadness and depression. I can relate to the hysterical bonding which does help. My husband had an emotional affair and I am not entirely sure if the affair involved sex. He swears it did not. We are both in thetapy and working on our marriage. We have been married for 24 years and have 2 children. It has been a very exhausting, sad and uncertain journey. My husband has a hard time showing remorse/accountibilty and wants to forget about it so we can move on but I am struggling every day and am trying desperately to heal and search for peace. Your blog helps tremendously in this quest, thank you.

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