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Abusive, Sex-Addicted Husband

From: Amy
Sent: Thursday, July 01, 1999 10:46 PM
Subject: E-mail advice

Dear Dr. Irene,
I have recently ended my marriage of 5 years because of verbal abuse.  I had become afraid that the rages would escalate to physical violence.  Not an unrealistic fear. I am struggling with the idea that I did not give it my all and I am still trying to understand what happened. Have you yet understood that your ex-husband's rages had absolutely nothing to do with you? Please try to realize that in an abusive marriage it is "damned if you do, damned if you don't." No matter what you do, you can't win. You will always be wrong. I need to understand in order to move on.  Your site has been extremely helpful to me in this regard.  However there is one subject that does not seem to be discussed:

One of the ways that my husband controlled me (I think) was to demand sex at least twice a day.  He told me that he told his friends that one of the reasons he got married was so that he could have sex any time he wanted.  If he wanted to have sex anytime he wants, he should have made sure he was born to a Sultan years ago. Today, he could hire somebody to service him. Different individual's have different sex-drive levels. His is high. Even if your ex- married a woman whose sexual appetite matched his, if for any reason she did not want sex, there is no sex - out of consideration to her. Rule of thumb in marriage: If both people want to do something, great. If one does and one does not, the couple does not engage. While I have always enjoyed sex, I could not keep up the pace. Any time that I declined sex  (whether I was tired, didn't feel well, had a broken leg(!), or was just burned out), he stomped, pouted, sighed, etc.  Ohhhh boy... This is a man who would eventually turn any woman off. A good sex life cannot be demanded. Demands and inconsiderate behavior undermine the trust required for sexual intimacy. Every instance where I declined resulted in a lengthy discussion which usually ended with him shouting, concerned that I didn't love him, would rather be with other men, missed my old boyfriends, etc. "Seek and ye shall find," goes the old saying. It looks to me as though your husband drove you out of his arms! He allowed his insecurities to rule him, and/or his lack of consideration and integrity allowed him to resort to any manipulative ploy that would get him what he wanted. How unfortunate for him (and for you). One of the main reasons I repeat and re-repeat that it makes no sense to defend yourself or try to get your angry partner to see the world from your eyes - is that you won't win. Promise. None of this was the case. Of course not.

When sex 3 times per week wasn't enough for him, he started complaining
that I was a control freak, and that we only had sex when I wanted it. You can only have sex when you want it. If you and he want sex at the same time, great. Otherwise, it is a no go. The sex problems that you were experiencing in your marriage were indicative of the underlying emotional problems between you. Problems, which by the way, your husband had no interest in solving from what you tell me. By the way, it is common for angry people to accuse loved ones of acts they themselves commit! This is called "projective identification" in psychobabble and is often accompanied by paranoia, as it was with your ex.  I had to explain to him that this wasn't true, since he had put so much pressure on me to have sex all the time, that I didn't even want it any more!  Of course not. What a turn-off! I was only doing it because I didn't want to have the arguments. When a man who knows how to love hears that his partner is conceding to sex to avoid arguments, he is more than likely turned off to sex! (Sometimes he would wake me from a sound sleep at 2am to fight about our "crummy" sex life). I'm sure it never occurred to your husband that all he had to do to make you want to have sex with him would be to take your feelings seriously...at the expense of (gasp) his own. I finally got to the point where I didn't want to have sex and he quit asking.  It took one month without a sex life for the temper rages to escalate to the point that I had to get out. Sounds like he gave you few other options.

My question (s) is this - Was this demand for sex a form of abuse? Yes. Here is how it works: You are expected to perfectly take care of all of the angry person's needs and wants at all times. You are dealing with a very selfish individual who cares about meeting his own needs, and not caring about yours. For your husband, taking care of included a good deal of sex. Your feelings don't count and he gets angry when you cannot or will not meet his needs, no matter what your reason. This outrages him and he gets angry. 

Your case is a little more complicated because your husband sounds like a sex addict, or individual who engages in compulsive sex as a means of dealing with his life and particularly his anger. This individual's idea of sex has nothing to do with intimacy and everything to do with anger, power and control. I find a significant association between anger addiction and sex addiction (as well as other addictions) in my practice. In my opinion, all these compulsive behaviors are rooted in rage. He said that my withholding was a form of abuse and control.  No. You did not engage in sex because sex was not being used as an intimate means of communication, where both partner's feelings count. You were being treated as a sex-on-demand object. Can this kind of need for sex be a result of sexual abuse as a child? Possibly.  Is verbal abuse in general in any way linked to child abuse? We believe that an individual with a propensity to abuse/violence inherits a particular biological predisposition that requires some form of childhood abuse or neglect to lead to adult abusive behavior. Other research suggests that an abusive early childhood can actually alter the child's physiology to predispose to particular problems in adulthood.

Thanks for helping people like me - in many ways. Thank you!  -Dr. Irene

 


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