You have discovered that your partner is a sex addict. You may be experiencing a variety of feelings including profound shock, depression, fear, shame, hopelessness, and deep ambivalence about continuing the relationship.
You may feel like you are on a ship whose course changes daily.
It is crucial at this time that you seek out support for what you are going through and understand how to set boundaries with the sex addicted person in your life.
Individual therapy, group therapy, and 12-step meetings such as COSA or S-ANON that specifically deal with the trauma of sexual betrayal are going to be very helpful on your path toward healing at this time.
One of the first and most important things you are going to hear is that this is not your fault. Another important thing you might hear is not to make any major life decisions about staying in, or leaving the relationship during the first year that your partner and you are in recovery.
This is because it takes time to go through the initial stages of recovery. By allowing the recovery process to take place before moving forward with an action plan, you allow yourself to make an informed decision. That said, if you find that staying with your partner places you or your loved ones in danger, then you will need to act accordingly to protect yourself and those you care about.
Regardless of how you proceed, setting boundaries is going to be an important step to take on the path to healing. But what are boundaries?
A boundary is defined as something that limits and bounds. How we grew up influences how we perceive boundaries. We rely on cultural and social rules of engagement, as well as the sometimes invisible rules of our family system.
Boundaries are important for providing structure in relationships. When you discover that your partner is a sex addict, you will need to set some new boundaries in the relationship to keep yourself safe.
Setting good boundaries will involve you acknowledging your rights: You have a right not to be lied to. You have a right not to accept sexual acting-out behaviors. You have a right to expect your partner to take action by attending 12-step meetings such as SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous). Boundaries are so important because they provide a structure in your relationship.
One important distinction to make between setting boundaries and trying to control a sex addict’s behavior is that boundary setting is about self-care and self-protection. Boundaries are about letting your partner know what you will and won’t tolerate, and not about trying to change the addict’s behavior. That is up to the addict.
Boundaries are not about retaliation, they are about self-preservation.
You may have some questions about how to set appropriate and supportive boundaries in early recovery. It can be very useful to discuss boundary setting with trusted people in your life, as well as consulting a therapist who has knowledge about sex addiction.
Boundary work is going to be a cornerstone of your recovery from this trauma. You didn’t choose to be with a sex addict, but you can make a choice to heal and minimize the damage from sex addiction.