When Sophie Jaffe, 31, first met her husband Adi, 38, they had an immediate connection. Years later, their relationship almost fell apart when she discovered a web of lies that concealed the truth: Adi was a sex addict, and he needed help. Here, Sophie explains how she came to terms with the issue that threatened to end their relationship—and how it made them a stronger couple in the end.
The Beginning of Our Love Story
My husband and I met at UCLA in 2005. He was in his first year as a Ph.D. student, and I was in my third year of undergrad school. We took the same neuroscience course, began studying together, and both started crushing on each other. I made sure to get in his study group, he would always walk me to my next class, and we were constantly texting. Things moved pretty quickly; we were instantly infatuated with each other and didn't want to be apart once we met. Before we'd even officially started dating, he told me he used to be addicted to meth. He'd gone to jail and rehab, and it seemed to be an issue he had truly dealt with and overcome.To me, that was inspiring and hopeful.
Then, two years into our relationship, Adi cheated on me.
He'd met someone at the gym and hung out with her several times, then slept with her once. He was honest with me about it, and I broke up with him on the spot. I traveled to Guatemala, Cambodia, and Thailand, volunteered as a yoga and English teacher for children, and did a ton of soul-searching. Almost a year after we'd broken up, when I was traveling in Thailand, he wrote me a letter that read, "I saw this quote: 'What would you do if you knew you could not fail?' Even though it's cheesy, I would do everything in my power to get you back and prove to you I'm the one for you. I love you. Tell me if I should go away forever or if I have a chance."
Receiving this unexpected letter confirmed my suspicion that even though I was enjoying my freedom and adventures, I really missed Adi. We talked and came to the understanding that if we got back together, we'd go to therapy; after all, we didn't want to get back together after a year of being apart, then have him cheat again. We needed serious help from a third party who was trained for these situations. We stuck to our agreement and started seeing a therapist soon after we were engaged.
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Discovering Adi's Sex Addiction
When we were engaged, I still didn't fully trust Adi, so I would look at his phone sometimes. (I know—not the healthiest habit, but it's true.) One day, we were on our way to temple, and I found inappropriate text messages between him and other women. He was saying things like how he wanted to hook up with them and exactly what he wanted to do to them. When I found the text messages, he fell apart. He didn't want to lose me, and that was the first time he told me, "I think I'm a sex addict." Apparently, every time we'd gotten into an argument, while I was off crying or being upset, he would go off and text other women to feel validated.
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Adi started going to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings five days a week, and we started seeing therapists on our own in addition to the one we'd been seeing together. The New Year's Day after we got married, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Then, around Valentine's Day, I found Adi's whole secret world.
Adi had an account on Ashley Madison, a website for married people who want to cheat on their spouses. He was using a secret name and e-mail account to exchange sexy letters and nude photos with people. He was almost relieved when I found it because all his secrets were finally out, but I was like, "How much can I handle? How can I believe anything he says when it keeps getting worse?" He swore he wasn’t actually meeting up with women for sex, but why would I believe him? We were only four months into our marriage, and I took my ring off.
Adi decided to go to an outpatient rehab program for sex addiction. He would have done inpatient, but to be honest, we just couldn't afford it since he was a Ph.D. student and I was just starting my wellness business, Philosophie. He did that outpatient program for multiple hours three to four days a week and was still seeing a private therapist. Something about seeing him do so much to work on himself made feel like perhaps we still had a chance. We found a support group, which turned out to be incredibly healing thing for me. Every Sunday night, we would get together with other couples dealing with sex addiction, have dinner, then a meeting. It was a very wholesome, kind, loving environment that clicked for both of us. There were all these couples with amazing relationships, and I realized I wasn't alone and that we could hopefully get through it.
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Mending Our Relationship
That first year of our marriage was the most transformational for us. I was pregnant, we weren't having sex, and he was doing so much work on himself. I was working on myself, too. When I first found out about all the sexting back when we were engaged, I looked at it as Adi having a problem he needed to fix on his own. I didn't think of it as my issue, too. Once you get married, you take on the other person's problems—all of them. The minute I started looking at Adi's addiction as my problem as much as it was his, that's when everything transformed. We really had to go back to basics. He couldn't be friends with girls, go out with his friends and drink, or basically meet up with anyone except me. We did work in so many different ways, like yoga, mindfulness, couples therapy, and talk therapy. All of these practices helped us figure out what our problems really were, what was missing from his life, and what characteristic made him want to fill that space with sexual attention. At its core, his sex addiction was an escape from intimacy.
Adi's parents had never really said they loved him while he was growing up. We say it 10 times a day to each other and our kids, but his mom and dad didn't do that. So when he felt uncomfortable in intimate situations—not just with me, but in life—he would turn to an escape. For a long time, when he was a dealer and an addict, it was drugs. Then, he went to jail and rehab and had become sober, and he started turning to women instead. It was less about actually hooking up with any of them and more about the intrigue, the process of the chase, and the validation of a woman wanting him.
Now that we've done all this work of setting boundaries, going to therapy, and him going to rehab, we're more intimate than ever. I have not a single grain of fear for the future of our relationship. Every day, I trust him more. I never look at his phone, and we no longer need those really strict boundaries of him not having female friends or going out with coworkers. I do think he's recovered, but it's not like it never happened.It's still something we talk about. I'm not hiding, and neither is he.
We're also very honest with our family and friends about it. At first, most of my family turned him into the enemy when they found out, but when I explained that we had a plan and that I believed in him, they slowly but surely came around. Most of my friends have been endlessly supportive, and I've separated myself from the ones who thought he was just a weak cheater. You have to create your tribe, and this experience helped me realize who was really on my side.
Our Life Together Now
Sex addiction is different from other addictions because you can't just take sex away forever and be sober. We're in a dynamic, intimate, loving relationship, and our sex life is very balanced and healthy. Sometimes we have sex three or four times a week; other times just once. (During his addiction period, we only had sex once or twice a month.) We love each other, we're so into each other, we've been through all this stuff, and it's better than it's ever been because of that trust. Before, if Adi would have ever suggested trying anything different, my mind would immediately have gone into this horrible downward spiral of insecurity and wondering why he wanted to do it. Now, that's not where my mind goes first.Instead, I just think that my husband wants to try something new with me.
Adi was seeking validation in risqué ways with women outside of our relationship. After all the work he did with therapy, group sessions, and understanding that intimacy issues were at the root of his sex addiction, he doesn't need validation as much in the first place. It's definitely improved, and what he still needs, he gets from me and our relationship—beyond sex, I express my appreciation for him and what he does for our family as a way of providing that.
We've been married for almost six years, and a lot of people ask why I didn't just leave. I could have and probably would have, but I saw a willingness to change in Adi. It wasn't just the talk, it was the walk that followed it. One of the most inspiring things about this man is that he was a drug addict and dealer who went to jail, got out, and turned his life around. He went to one of the best Ph.D. programs for psychology and is now helping the world as an addiction specialist. I couldn't want anything more from my partner and the father of my children than him bowing down to that humble, vulnerable side of having made a mistake but knowing he needed to change and grow. It took two years of honest, hard, exhausting, grueling work, but we came out on the other side.
Sophie Jaffe is a Los Angeles-based health and wellness expert who is certified as a raw food chef and yoga teacher. She founded her company and wellness brand, Philosophie, with the goal of making it easier, more inspiring, and more delicious for everyone—from kids to adults—to attain optimal health and radiant wellness.
This article originally appeared on WomensHealthMag.com.