When Your Partner is a Sex Addict
Discovering that your partner is a sex addict is like discovering that your home has burned down. Everything you had … and loved … is gone, smoldering in the ash of betrayal. Anxiety runs rampant as you start the long process of sifting through the ashes. You have to decide whether to rebuild, or salvage what you can and move on.
Whether you decide to rebuild or move on, you’ll confront emotional obstacles. Many partners of sex addicts report that they have difficulty finding understanding from others. They often find that people are unable to relate to their experiences. They hear things like, “well, at least he wasn’t addicted to heroin.” While these statements are meant to help, they often fail to convey any sense of empathy.
Studies have shown that the addictions of others affect people in predictable, traumatic ways. Feelings of isolation, betrayal, and rage can turn to depression and numbness. Even if you’re no longer in the relationship, you still need healing. Many partners of sex addicts have reported that even years after the relationship ended they still had difficulty trusting another partner.
At the Center for Healthy Sexuality Dr. Levinson’s believes that partners suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that the healing they need from the trauma of the betrayal is essential to recovery. Most programs talk about partners being Codependents, however we believe that the partner had little to do with the Addict’s acting out, although they suffer the consequences. If the couple wants to stay together we also believe in restoring the integrity of the relationship through open honest communication, dependability, accountability and consistency. It will take time and effort to restore trust in the relationship but it can be done. If the partner wants to move on then restoring faith and hope in themselves is essential to the recovery. Through the formal process of Disclosure, the couple can learn to trust again.
Taking Care of Yourself
You cannot control the actions of an addict. To avoid enabling your partner, or other problematic patterns, you need to focus on your own recovery and care. While activities like yoga and exercise are healthy and help us, nothing replaces the effectiveness of talking to others about your experiences. At the Center we have groups for Partners that specifically target the trauma and you will be in an atmosphere where you can share your stories with others. Individual treatment, couple and group therapy area options you can choose to develop your individualized treatment.
Learning to set, and maintain, healthy boundaries is essential to personal healing. Boundaries are not rules that others follow. Rather, they’re lines that you draw for yourself. A good support team will help you identify, establish, and maintain your personal boundaries again. Requiring that others honor them is part of taking care of yourself.
Trust, What Trust?
You’re angry and hurt. Beginning the healing process means talking about these feelings. Words, however, are hollow and meaningless after the lies. You may feel like you don’t know who your partner is. How will you ever be able to trust again?
Trust isn’t just about your partner; it’s about learning to trust yourself again. Sex addiction is little different from any other addiction to chemicals such as alcohol or drugs. Sex addicts receive the same ‘rush’ of chemicals when they act out that drug users experience when they get high. This is not an excuse or justification; it’s that rush they’re addicted to.
So, just as a lifestyle change is required for an alcoholic to achieve sobriety, dealing with the rush of sexual addiction requires a lifestyle change, too.
Partners and ex-partners of sex addicts are often particularly resistant about getting treatment for themselves. Many are reluctant to begin new meetings or to reach out to others and stay connected to their own recovery process.
More partners and ex-partners of sex addicts drop out of treatment than any other 12-step program, and here’s why:
- Understanding forgiveness. The act of forgiveness has little to do with the addict and more to do with the partner. The goal is not to forget what happened, but to be able to remember it without reliving the pain. Serenity cannot exist alongside resentment.
- Misunderstanding the ways that their partner’s sexual addiction has impacted them. An intimate relationship with an addict causes change in a person, just as all relationships affect us in some way. You may not even be aware of the long term effects of your partners actions and may try and manage their behaviors. This causes more pain and anguish and usually fails. You may even become obsessed in trying to figure out what happened and become a detective to try and find all the answers. This is very destructive and causes many sleepless nights and tortured days.
The change caused by the sickness of an addict can create some amount of sickness in the partner, be it wounds, co-dependence tendencies, broken trust, etc. These areas need to be addressed for healing. As treatment is becoming more available, many committed survivors are sticking with it and finding more peace. Recovery is possible through use of a series of principles and actions that change the way you respond to your feelings surrounding the addiction.
Your thinking and your self-esteem will grow until you learn to know and trust yourself in a completely new way. There are others that know how you feel; you don’t have to weather all this alone.
Contact us and we’ll get you started on the road back to strength and trust.
We also have specialized groups for partners who are healing from trauma as a result of finding out that their partner:
- Has come out as gay
- Has sexual behaviors with the same sex
- Has sexually offended
- Has been viewing child pornography
These behaviors are devastating when reveled and the specialized treatment at the center can help you heal from this trauma.