Dealing with Your Partner’s Sexual Addiction

Posted under Sex Addiction on December 22, 2009
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Maybe the discovery that your spouse or partner has a sexual addiction comes as a shock, or perhaps you knew or suspected it for some time. Either way, the knowledge rocks your relationship in a profound and devastating manner. You may try to ignore it, hoping it will go away, that somehow it’s not true, and that nothing will change between the two of you. All are natural first inclinations – and all are just delaying the inevitable. You have to find some way to deal with your partner’s sexual addiction. The question is: how?

Emotions You’ll Feel – And What To Do About Them

A wave of emotions will engulf you as you try to work your mind around what’s happened to you as a couple. When we are emotionally upset, we can’t think properly, we make bad decisions in a hasty manner, and problems seem to escalate as we’re all tangled up in our thoughts. Here are some of the common emotions individuals feel when they’re confronted with their partner’s sexual addiction.

• Anger – When you first learn of your partner’s sexual addiction, one of the most immediate emotions is anger. How could he (or she) do this to you and to the family? How can you ever trust him again? You want to lash out, to hurt him as much as he’s hurt you – maybe even cause him physical pain. Certainly you’ve felt physically ill as a result of his or her actions. Even when (and if) your partner admits the problem and seeks help for it, that doesn’t mitigate the anger you naturally feel. You both want to move on, but you feel stuck. You can’t seem to let go of the anger. This is a normal reaction to such a disruption of your relationship. Look on the anger as the kinetic energy it is – anger can help galvanize you, producing a momentum for you to move beyond it into something constructive. Expending physical energy through exercise, hiking, biking – anything strenuous – is one way to dissipate anger. The release of endorphins during physical exercise make our bodies feel good. While it may be temporary relief, it does work to help clear your mind so you can begin to work out your issues with your partner. Another technique is to do something creative: write, paint, cook, garden, or build something. Using the creative side of our brains is stimulating and positive. There’s no room for anger when you’re in the process of creation. Some relationship therapists and life coaches recommend yet another unique exercise. Use a foam bat and beat the living daylights out of a pillow to which you’ve taped the word “anger” (or “betrayal” or “sadness” or whatever). As you do this repeatedly, you’ll begin to feel the release of the emotion as you let it go. Talking with a therapist or counselor, participating in experiential therapy or attending 12-step support groups such as COSA.

• Denial – This couldn’t happen to you. In fact, there must be some mistake. Sexual addiction? It can’t possibly be true of your spouse or partner, you tell yourself. This is a totally understandable and very common initial reaction upon learning of a partner’s sexual compulsivity or addiction. Denial is something the addict goes through as well before ultimately coming to terms with his or her addiction and being ready to seek treatment to overcome it. Does this mean you need treatment as well? Family therapy is very often what’s needed to help the codependent (the person who lives with the sexual addict) learn more about the sexual addiction and behaviors as well as coping mechanisms. Listening to others talk about their circumstances in group therapy (or 12-step support meetings for codependents) will help you realize that you are not alone, and that there are others who are ready to help you through this.

• Heartache – Your heart feels like it’s broken in two. In fact, it probably feels like you can’t breathe, like you’re having a heart attack. All you want to do is wake up and have all this pain go away, to forget any of this ever happened. Of course, that’s not going to happen. Just like a physical break-up of a relationship, there’s a process you’ll have to go through to mend your heartache over your partner’s sexual addiction. This does not reflect on you. You didn’t cause the bad behavior. But you are suffering because of it. Part of this is that you just find it hard to get over the “why” of it all. Console yourself with the knowledge that the why will be discovered by your partner during treatment for his or her sexual addiction. For you, the ability to cope and heal the heartache will come over time. The best recourse is to take it one day at a time, get counseling or go through therapy – individual and/or group, and attend appropriate 12-step support meetings. Some of what you learn about sexual addiction and codependency and any behaviors that may or may not contribute to the problem will help you come to terms with the past and be able to move on to the future. With or without your partner, you will be able to overcome the heartache. But you will need to give it time.

• Loss – It feels like a death – the death of your relationship with your partner as you knew it. This loss is profound, and certainly not something that you can readily dismiss. You wonder if there’s anything left to build upon, or perhaps you are so devastated that all you want to do is get out of the relationship. These are natural feelings – but they aren’t constructive. Acknowledge that you feel the loss and take action to move past it. How do you do that? It helps to talk to someone (or others) who understands the situation. This could be a therapist or counselor, individual or group therapy, minister, family or close friend, or those in 12-step support groups for individuals living with a sexual addict. Working through your feelings, learning about sexual addiction and behavior and finding new ways of coping will help you overcome the loss and move forward with your life – hopefully, with your partner. But even if your partner can’t or won’t change, it’s vital that you take the steps to heal.

• Lack of Trust – One of the foundations of a successful partnership or marriage is trust. When one partner betrays that trust through a pattern of sexual compulsivity or sexual addiction, the other partner is left with the feeling that there can never again be trust in the relationship. Can there be, you ask yourself? The answer to that lies in the willingness of both partners to work through their issues, present and underlying, and to commit to regaining trust and strengthening the bond of the relationship. None of this comes easy and none of it will happen overnight. It is important that you get help to address your feelings, with or without your partner’s going into treatment for sexual addiction. Of course, the idea situation is where both you and your partner get counseling. For the sexual addict, this could be a residential program for sexual addiction, or outpatient counseling, individual and/or group counseling with certified sexual addiction therapist, and/or attendance at 12-step support meetings. For you, family therapy, individual and/or group counseling or therapy, and COSA group meetings will help.

• Fear – Will you get a sexually-transmitted disease as a result of your partner’s sexual addiction? Will you have to deal with a possible arrest for crimes or activities your partner has engaged in during sexually addictive behavior? Will your neighbors, friends and family find out? These and many more fears may have either kept you up at night or are a very real possibility. It only takes one indiscretion to ruin the lives of several people. Whether the partner engages in one-night stands or a series of extramarital affairs, sexual compulsivity and addiction put the individual – and his or her partner – at increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, AIDS and hepatitis B and C. The first thing to do is to get checked out thoroughly by your doctor. Don’t hold back. Let the physician know of your partner’s sexual addiction. And don’t jump to conclusions. Just because you’ve discovered (or been told) that your partner has a sexual addiction does not automatically mean you have a sexually-transmitted disease. But, even if you don’t currently have one, you could in the future – if your partner doesn’t stop the sexually addictive behavior and get treatment to overcome the obsession. If you find out you do have a disease, then the only recourse is treatment for it. That’s a first step. The second step takes longer than the first. You need to get counseling to get past the fear.

Whether you ultimately decide to remain with your partner or leave, you need to deal with the insecurities and fears that naturally ensue from the knowledge that you’ve been betrayed in the worst possible way. Counseling, in one form or another, is the only way that you can acknowledge your fears and get past them. Don’t shy away from it, and don’t think that it is weak to seek help. It isn’t. Not only for you, but also for your partner – counseling and therapy can help you regain your footing with each other or help you both with the courage to start anew separately.

Steps to Take Now

If your partner has admitted his or her sexual addiction, feels remorse and vows to do whatever it takes to overcome it, encourage immediate help through treatment. If your partner has an alcohol and/or drug addiction as well as sexual addiction, look for a treatment center or facility that treats multiple addictions. But be sure that they specialize in treating sexual addiction in addition to other addictions. This may be a residential treatment facility, inpatient hospital or outpatient therapy center.
Thoroughly check out the center, visit, and get all your questions answered. Find out what is included in the cost of the treatment, how long it takes, whether or not your insurance plan covers any of it, what additional services are available and at what cost, and any other questions you may have. Especially find out if family treatment or therapy is available. Be as supportive as you can during your partner’s treatment program, and participate every chance you get in counseling and therapy that’s available through that program.

In addition, or, in the event that your partner refuses to go into treatment, get counseling and/or therapy for yourself. Read everything you can about codependency for sexual addiction, behaviors that contribute to the problem, coping mechanisms and how to deal with situations from websites such as COSA. Another site that’s worth a look is A Woman’s Healing Journey.
Above all, remember that you are a person who exists above and beyond your partner. You can – and will – have the opportunity to regain what’s right and beautiful in your life. You can – and will – again be able to look upon each day as one filled with promise and bright expectations. Going through this ordeal of your partner’s sexual addiction will not bring you to your knees or crush you or take away your spirit. Allow yourself to grieve, feel your emotions in all their intensity, talk with counselors and others who are or have been in your situation, and then move forward with your life. You can do it. Others will help you through it. Believe it. Take action today.