Partners of Sex Addicts

Partners of Sex Addicts

The Partner a Sex Addict is often in need of support and therapy as much as the Sex Addict. Even if you may no longer be with the Sex Addict, the probability of a Partner ending up with another addict somewhere along the way is high. It is important to get support and gain understanding about your experiences and subsequent feelings to try and avoid future trauma.

A Partner will often feel like a “crazy person”. They usually begin to have some idea that their Partner is acting out sexually and will confront their Partner about it. The addict, due to narcissistic tendencies and denial, will say anything they can to make the Partner feel wrong and as if they are crazy for thinking anything may be going on. And so begins the pattern of “insanity”.

In these situations it is common for a Partner to begin his/her own pattern of unhealthy behaviors. You may engage in activities you never thought you would do. Partner’s become wonderful private investigators. They begin searching wallets, checking emails, and phone records– covertly following the Addict, paying close attention to details in stories, and looking for contradictions……the list goes on and on. If the Addict is really good at minimizing and rationalizing their behavior, it can cause feelings of insecurity, suspicion, confusion, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness in the Partner. Ultimately, the partner can lose herself/himself in the Addict’s world. They may begin to lose freedom of comfort in their home as well as lose their sense of safety and connection. All this while, the Partner is thinking– “I used to be so normal and happy, what happened?”

Frequently, the Partner suffers a loss of sexuality. He/she may become sexually anorexic (i.e. sleeping with clothes on, eating too much in order to be “too full for sex”- leading to weight gain, experiencing headaches, stay up late working to avoid going to bed at the same time, etc.). At other times, the Partner will increase their sexual activity with the Sex Addict in order to try and “fix” the situation.

Recovery for a Partner begins by dealing with the grief and loss of the life they thought they knew. It is extremely helpful if their Addict admits to the problem and gets treatment. Part of treatment for the couple may often involve a disclosure. [A disclosure is a formal process, that is planned and organized well in advance for the Sex Addict to disclose his or her behaviors to the Partner in a safe and structured atmosphere].

When a Partner receives a disclosure it is often extremely validating and provides a sense of relief that she/he is “not crazy” after all. The Partner also needs to process and heal from the trauma of broken trust, intense feelings of anger, and the need to “make sense of it all”. The disclosure process should be done by a qualified therapist, specifically trained to deal with the many factors involved and have an ability to process the multitude of feelings that will arise within the therapy session.

Recovery is not an overnight cure. It will take a long time for her/him to learn how to again feel safe in a relationship and how to find her/his healthy sexuality. Although an Addict can begin recovery, stop their behaviors, and begin building sobriety in a matter of months, a Partner needs significantly longer time to heal. It is important that the Addict give their Partner as much time as she/he needs. Couples therapy is highly effective for this process if the couple remains together. S-Anon and COSA are 12-step groups for Partners of Sex Addicts and these can be extremely helpful in the recovery process. Al-Anon and CODA may be helpful as well. The most important action the Partner must take is getting herself/himself into therapy. This is where the trauma, pain, anxiety, anger, and despair can begin to be heal. It is important to know you don’t have to do this alone.