When you find out that your partner has been unfaithful, it is normal to have very intense feelings of betrayal, anger, and profound sadness. Questions arise about anything and everything that the offending party has ever said or done.
Positive memories together and special moments lose their magic. Feelings of inadequacy can arise; worries that you somehow caused your partner to seek sexual experiences elsewhere due to your not being “enough” can cut to the very core of your being.
Well-meaning friends and relatives advise you to leave the relationship. Sometimes even your therapist tells you to leave the relationship.
But what if you find out that this is a pervasive pattern for your partner? What if you discover that your partner might be a sex addict?
Sex addiction is believed to be somewhat similar to a drug or alcohol addiction. When a person has a pathological relationship with a mood-altering substance that trumps key relationships, we call this an addiction. So it is with sex addiction.
Referred to as a process or behavioral addiction, the neurological processes that a sex addict experiences parallels those of an addict who introduces substances into their system. All addicts lead a double life — the persona that they show the world, and the secret of their addiction. Paired with distorted thought patterns and impaired thinking, addicts often rationalize and deny that there is a problem. They minimize behaviors and blame others.
As a partner of an addict, it is very important to gain support from a therapist who is familiar with sex addiction and the addictive cycle. It is also key to attend a 12-step meeting for co-addicts such as COSA, or a partner’s therapy group, in order to gather insight and wisdom about your situation by connecting to peers who are in the same situation. You will need a great deal of support from people in the know regarding sex addiction to help you weather this crisis in your life, and make decisions about whether leaving the relationship or staying in it is the right choice for you.
With therapeutic treatment and by working hard at a 12-step program such as SAA, sex addicts do have the ability to heal the underlying issues that form the basis for their addictive behaviors. As a partner of a sex addict, you will need to get support for what you are going through.
So now that you know what sex addiction is, and that as a partner, getting resources for yourself to help you through this difficult time is crucial, what next?
After containing the crisis, and when you are on stable ground, looking at your family of origin issues, as well as addressing unhealthy dynamics that are in place in the relationship can be very helpful in moving forward with your life. This is a difficult subject, because partners of addicts sometimes face incredible stigma from society, as well as their own feelings of doubt about themselves.
A term like “co-addict” can bring up some very strong feelings for partners, and many partners want nothing to do with the addict’s recovery because they understandably feel like this is not their problem. Yet, statistics and experience prove that the couples who work through the recovery process together are the couples who are most likely to stay together.