Aren’t I Pretty Enough? 3 Things to Remember When You Love a Lust Addict

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My forty-sixth birthday had just passed. I looked in the mirror on my husband’s side of the room. He was in the bathroom, and his was the only mirror available. I pressed my fingertips to the sides of my cheeks. There was no denying it: my laugh lines, the parentheses God and joy had placed around my mouth, were shifting. 

I wasn’t even sure I could call them “laugh lines” anymore. I looked at the cheeks starting to sag on both sides of those widening furrows. What had once been sharp, delicate lines etched from decades of smiles and laughter had become a pair of wider, deeper troughs that took up more of my face than my laugh lines ever had. 

The two most recent decades of my life were writing their story on my face: a story of jaw clenching, sobbing, and emptiness. 

The effects of being married to a lust addict were starting to show. 

I felt stabbed in the heart yet again. I already knew I could never compete with the objects of my husband’s once-secret internet life. Was the pain caused by his behavior making me even uglier than he already seemed to think I was? 

Would I ever look in the mirror and see beauty again?

I received the answer to that question when, the following year, I discovered 12-step recovery for the betrayal I’d received at the hand of my husband’s sex addiction. Here are three things that spouses of other sex addicts have taught me since then about my beauty, worth, and lovability.

1. I didn’t cause his addiction.

My husband was experiencing this addiction long before we even met. How could my looks, personality, or flaws have “driven him” towards lust years before he became aware of my existence? After three years in recovery, I have yet to meet anyone whose lust-addicted spouse or partner developed that addiction after the couple met. Even if such a situation exists, this addiction is never about anyone or anything but the addict’s lack of functional coping skills.

Just like any addiction, this is not our fault.  

2. I can’t control his addiction.

I knew something was wrong decades before I first discovered my husband’s secret life. I did everything I could to try to get him interested in me: dressed as attractively as I could, did my makeup and hair, spoke to him flirtatiously. 

Because of recovery, I now see I was trying to control his addiction before even knowing he was an addict. His turning away from me wasn’t because of my looks, makeup, or fashion sense. No change I made worked because he was the one who needed to change for our relationship to grow. I am powerless to stop a grown adult from doing what he wants to do, even if that is something harmful to his soul and our relationship.

This addiction was never about looking for someone prettier. This addiction is about a disconnection from reality. Intimacy cannot be lived when one partner is always chasing a fantasy. 

3. I can’t cure his addiction.

Before and after I learned about his behaviors, I did everything I could to make his life at home comfortable: did as many chores as I could, disagreed as little as possible so as not to push him away. I read every book about growing intimacy in marriage, communicated my needs and desires clearly, searched for every podcast, program, and therapist that would help us. 

No matter what I dragged him to, there was always something half-hearted about his participation. 

So I tried harder. I thought if I threw my whole heart and soul into fixing our marriage, that would be enough. I thought my love would be enough to draw him back to me. If I just tried harder, I was convinced he’d become the man I knew he could be. 

My sisters and brothers in the rooms of recovery pointed out to me that, if I had the power to change his mind, I would have by now. 

Alas, recovery is not for those who need it but for those who want it, regardless of how much we love them. His choice to disengage from our relationship was not about how many dishes I washed or how many relationship podcasts I listened to. It was about him protecting his disease over our relationship, and that was a choice I could never make for him. 

So what was I to do in a painful situation I did not cause, could not control, and would never be able to cure? My “anon” fellows shared with me how I could detach with love. They taught me by example how to stop obsessing about what my husband was thinking, doing, and watching, and how to start living my own life, clearing my own thoughts, finding my own joy, and relishing the love God would never stop giving me.

It has been a difficult road out of my obsession with my husband’s disease. I learned to give my obsessive thoughts over to God, and that made way for success, satisfaction, and joy, regardless of my husband’s choices in and out of our marriage.

Today, when I look in my own mirror, I see the laugh lines are migrating back to where they had been. Yes, my face is changing with age, as it should, but my jaw is loosening, and my shoulders are dropping their constant tension. 

Thanks to recovery, my smile is back. 

Catholic in Recovery has a meeting for the family and friends of lust addicts. Join us every Tuesday at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific for experience, strength, and hope.


Catherine A. Quinn is grateful to be recovering from the effects of lust addiction in loved ones. She writes about both the pain and the healing and hope that are available to those harmed by all aspects of this addiction.