All sex addicts have secret lives that include their acting-out behaviors, be it pornography, one-night stands, hook-ups, affairs, encounters with prostitutes or just watching others in public places for the purpose of sexual objectification and fantasy building. The sex addict, when in this acting out mode has an alternate persona. Some addicts describe this as “a totally different/other personality.” They often describe their personality as “two people: the good self who is honest, dependable, hardworking, family oriented and the dark self who is dangerous, risk oriented and highly sexual in unconventional, dangerous ways.” The dark self inhabits the secret life, while the good self inhabits the world of work, family, friends and integrity. The dark self lives in a secret world of fantasy and acting out in ways that don’t integrate with the values of the good/ideal self.
These two disparate parts of the addict become harder and harder to integrate into a cohesive personality. Over time these people develop a very marginally integrated personality and experience instability of self-concept. As the pull of addiction becomes stronger, they will do almost anything to protect their separate lives. Anger, aggression, manipulation and lying are weapons used to maintain the separation of the two lives they lead.
The secret life with it’s acting-out behaviors, is a coping mechanism to combat stress. It also gives the addict a sense of autonomy and independence that may feel lost in partnership, marriage, work, family and friends. The secret life can be a powerful way to punish partners with whom you are angry. Getting away with something or fooling someone is a way to feel powerful. Self-esteem is temporarily improved by fantasy and acting-out. Pain, anxiety, depression and anger are numbed and an alternate sense of identity is created.
Having a secret life necessitates lying to yourself and others. Lying is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent or hide information. Lying by omission is an intentional failure to right other’s misconceptions that work to the addict’s benefit. The wife/partner, friend or employer assumes the addict is playing tennis because it is Wednesday evening and the addict plays tennis every Wednesday. The addict fails to correct this assumption when he or she was actually with a prostitute, affair or hook-up on Wednesday. Lying becomes a way of life. It permeates everything the addict does or thinks. One lie is used to cover up another. For every lie that is told another must be told to secure the deceit. Time is spent thinking about the lie and possible ways the addict could get caught. There is further time spent to create evidence that validates the trail of lies. There is little time left to enjoy the present moment with family or friends. The deeper the addict goes into addiction the deeper his or her sense of a false identity becomes. It is hard to feel good about yourself when you lie about most of your actions, thoughts and behaviors.
There is hope for change. Seek the help of a therapist who is trained and certified in sexual addiction therapy. Attend 12 Step meetings (SA, SAA or SLAA) and read as much as you can about sexual addiction in Portland and the problem. Refer to sexual addiction resources on this website and be sure to check out our sexual addiction groups, sexual addiction counseling options, and the many resources available on the internet.