Sexually oriented businesses are intensely triggering to betrayed partners.
Seeing a massage parlor, adult bookstore, strip club, or so-called modeling studio can bring on a panic attack. Partners often intentionally avoid driving or walking by one of these business establishments to manage their anxiety.
While it’s completely understandable and natural to be triggered when being reminded of where your spouse once acted our or was unfaithful, betrayed partners often have beliefs about sexually oriented business that make their triggers worse.
The good news is that most of these beliefs are lies. Here are four common lies most partners believe about sexually oriented businesses:
My spouse thinks of sexually oriented businesses as light-hearted, fun adult entertainment
One of the hallmarks of sexually oriented businesses is that customers don’t park in plain view, or walk in the front door for the whole world to see. These businesses often have parking lots that are either obscured by a fence, or behind the building. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of people who go to sexually oriented business go there in secret. No one knows they are there, and they don’t want anyone to know. They’re not proud of their behavior.
If sexually oriented businesses are fun adult entertainment, why would someone need to keep it a secret or hide? By definition, an adult is someone who is fully grown and developed. An adult can also be thought of as someone with maturity. Mature adults do not—as a habit—sneak around behaving in ways that produce shame, are violations of their commitments, and are outside their value system.
My spouse feels shame-free excitement when he thinks of going to a sexually oriented business
Your spouse may feel excitement as he is making secret plans to go to a sexually oriented business, but he also feels fear and shame. People who are chronically—and deceptively—unfaithful or sexually compulsive, have distinct mental compartments that protect them from fully feeling their fear and shame. Although they may not consciously feel their negative feelings, they are always present just underneath the surface if their extra-marital behaviors are outside their value system.
If they felt pure excitement and believed their activities were simply fun, wholesome, and within their value system, they would own their right to go to a sexually oriented business and freely share with their partner what they were doing.
The reason my unfaithful spouse goes to sexually oriented businesses is because the sex workers there are more desirable than I am
You may think the reason your unfaithful spouse goes to massage parlors, strip clubs, or other sexually oriented business is because the women there are more desirable than you. But this is distorted thinking.
First, your spouse’s behavior is 100% about him and is in no way a reflection on you, your value, or your desirability. His behavior is also not a reflection on how attractive he finds another person. No one has the power to cause another person to either be unfaithful or to not be unfaithful by what they do or don’t do, or because of the way they look.
If you take the view that infidelity happens because the unfaithful person’s partner wasn’t attractive enough, you’re placing the “blame” of infidelity on the betrayed partner, and overlooking the fact that 1) attractiveness has little to do with infidelity; and 2) a person’s relative attractiveness is not only in the eye of the beholder, the perception is also highly unreliable. For example, have you ever thought someone was attractive and then—with no visible alterations or changes on their part—you didn’t? That’s because your thoughts about them changed. They were still the same person you found attractive before.
The reality is that many people who struggle with out of control sexual behavior or who have been unfaithful to their partner can’t understand why they felt compelled to act out with people they found less desirable than their life partners.
My spouse feels satisfied and guilt-free when he leaves a sexually oriented business
A person who routinely hides and lies about going to sexually oriented businesses does not feel satisfied or guilt-free. In fact, if you ask someone who used to go to adult bookstores or massage parlors how they felt when they left, they’re likely to say they felt like “scum” or thought of themselves as a loser for being there.
Believe it or not, many betrayed partners actually forget about the sexually oriented business that used to cause them panic attacks. One day they notice that they drove by an adult bookstore or other sexually oriented business earlier in the day and they weren’t aware of it at all. And some partners—years after discovery and disclosure—feel pain and even compassion about these dark places and the people inside who are hiding and hurting.
And before you go, if you’d like some hope that change truly does happen, read my article from June 2016 about the adult bookstore across the street from my office that turned into a BBQ restaurant (The Pit Room). You can read the whole article here. I’m pleased to report that The Pit Room has become a very popular Texas BBQ destination.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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