Cybersex, Part 2 of a 3-Part Series
In my previous article in this series, I introduced the phenomenon of sexual addiction, and outlined its effects on both men and women. This article builds on that discussion by providing a vignette of a first-time visit to a therapist by a couple who have been affected by sex addiction.
The following transcript is a compilation of what may typically occur in therapy. It describes a first-time appointment for a couple who are struggling with pornography use by one of the partners, in this case the husband as that is the most common scenario.
Sex Addiction in the Counseling Room
Therapist: Why are you both here?
Sally: We came because I am angry and can’t go on any more like we are. He spends hours on the computer looking at who knows what. He never initiates sex. And he’s distant to the kids.
T (to husband): Why are you here? Now I know why she is here.
Phil: It’s really not that bad. She’s exaggerating. Yeah, I spend some time online, but I’m doing okay.
Sally: Do you really think that…?
T: Let me interrupt for just a moment. Phil, it’s obvious she is extremely frustrated. I’d like to ask you some questions about your behavior. Would that be okay?
Phil: Yeah, okay.
T: Cybersex can have a surprisingly addictive quality. Often, a person can get snagged when they were initially just curious. Would you say that you could just walk away right now from any sexual interaction online?
Phil: I don’t see the harm really.
T: But could you just walk away if you chose to?
Phil: Probably not.
T: How many hours a week would you say you spend engaged in Cybersex?
Phil: Perhaps 10, I don’t know.
T: How many hours a week do you think you spend with Sally? With the kids?
Phil: We’re home together when I’m not working.
T: When you are home, do you engage with your family and they with you?
Phil: I’m tired when I get home. Probably an hour.
T: So, an hour every day? So, seven hours a week?
Phil: No, probably more than that.
Sally: He’s checked out. He’s there, but he’s totally into his own thing.
T: Is that true?
Phil: Yeah, probably.
T: Here are some common effects of excessive time spent in Cybersex. Sally, you feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. Phil, you are probably experiencing some shame, guilt, and isolation, and perhaps even some loss of self-esteem. Those things are hard to admit. You’re here, Phil, so that tells me you are not ready to lose your wife and kids. Are you ready to see if we can find some options for your marriage, and for your sexual fulfillment?
T: Sally, I’d like to speak with Phil alone for a bit. Then I’d like to speak with you alone. Would that be okay? (Sally exits to the waiting room.)
T: Phil, I’m going to ask you some hard questions about your involvement online and its effects on you. Are you involved with children online? Have you been physically involved with children or with others from the Internet? Have you participated in any other sexual activity that you have kept secret from Sally? Have you had thoughts of suicide, or of harming another person?
Phil: No to all of them.
T: Phil, are you ready to make a change? There are never guarantees, but many couples have faced this same situation and can announce the number of days of “sobriety” with pride. They would say they have found the emotional fulfillment they wanted, and that their sex life is the best it has ever been. They would encourage you to take the steps necessary to get your life and your wife back. Are you willing?
Phil: Yeah, I guess I have to be, don’t I? Lose it all for Cybersex. In my head I know that’s crazy, but… Yeah, I’m ready.
T: Sally, what finally precipitated this visit?
Sally: I just can’t live like this anymore. It’s like I don’t exist. Even if we do manage to have sex, he’s not there. I don’t have orgasms, he can’t always get an erection. I’m afraid the kids will catch him looking online. I’m scared.
T: Anything else?
With Phil and Sally Together.
T: Phil and Sally, I sense that you both do want to make your marriage work. Here are some initial steps we’re going to take together.
Christian Counseling for Cybersex Addiction
Sexual addiction can have serious consequences for couples who are affected by it. As a Christian counselor, I have seen how the rise of the Cybersex has caught people in a cycle of addiction and shame. However, hope is possible and Christian counseling can provide a safe space in which to acknowledge and overcome your addiction. It can also provide a supportive space for the partners of Cybersex addicts as they seek to make sense of their situation.
“The Panda and the Bear-5,” by Andrew Baldacchino, Flickr CreativeCommon (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Wood bridge walk way,” courtesy of jimmyfortune, absfreepic.com (CC0 Public Domain)