If you are the partner of someone with a sexual addiction, you may be experiencing some very strong feelings and impulses. You are not alone.
Most partners of people with addictions experience feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, and denial. Some partners feel responsible for the addicted person’s sexual compulsivity or believe they did something to push their loved one into the addiction.
Your partner’s sexual behavior isn’t your fault. You are not to blame.
When a partner discovers a loved one’s involvement in compulsive sexual behavior, they may experience a flood of intense feelings, including shock, anger, disgust, confusion, and emotional or physical pain. The partner may experience obsessive thoughts about the behavior, or may feel a compulsive need to find out everything their loved one has done. Or they may feel impulses to lash out at their partner.
This can be a very frightening and disorienting experience, leaving the partner feeling isolated, abandoned, and severely distressed. Partners may have difficulty functioning or concentrating and deep feelings of helplessness or powerlessness can set in. These are common signs of trauma. Often, the addicted person, and even some therapists, may make the partner feel like she or he is wrong or crazy for having these reactions.
You’re not crazy—you’re overwhelmed and struggling to cope. That’s why there is also help for partners.
We strongly encourage you to participate to address the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors you are having as a result of your partner’s behavior. In our experience, couples that participate together in the healing process go through far less difficulty and arrive at a better outcome.
But even if your addicted loved one is unwilling to recognize their addiction or get help, we still recommend that you contact us in order to facilitate your own healing and growth.
Partners of people with addictions need a safe place to process the feelings they’ve experienced as a result of their partner’s behavior. Due to the impact of addiction on the mind, the addicted loved one is usually unable to emotionally support their partner and can’t provide the safety and support the partner needs in order to heal. And to make matters worse, partners of those with sexual addiction are often hesitant to share their situation with friends and family members, leaving them totally alone. You need a support system!
What You Need To Know
- Your partner’s addiction is not your fault.
- You have been traumatized and betrayed and need support, healing and recovery.
- There is hope for getting through this.
- Many couples have recovered from even the worst of circumstances caused by sexual addiction.
- Your feelings and emotions are very real and must not be suppressed. Authenticity with your emotions is essential for you to heal.
- The addiction to sex that your loved one is experiencing can be as severe as an addiction to chemicals like alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or LSD.
- With proper help, you and your loved one can recover.
- Fears about the possibility of separation or divorce can be very frightening and real.
- This could be the most difficult trial you will ever face. Remember that you are strong and capable. You can get through this.
- Connections Counseling Services provides a safe refuge for you to begin your journey towards recovery. You need a strong support system to heal.
- Your participation in group therapy will help others heal too.
Does My Partner Have A Sexual Addiction?
Many people who are addicted to pornography and other sexual behaviors hide their addiction well. You may sense that something is wrong but can’t prove it. The relationship may feel different somehow. Your mate may be acting strangely. Or you may intuitively sense there is a problem.
The list below provides some signs and symptoms that that might indicate your loved one may have a sexual addiction. Keep in mind that these symptoms are not an absolute indication of sexual addiction but are possible red flags or warning signs.
- Noticeable change in frequency of sexual relations with you, ranging from total loss of interest to insatiable appetite for sex.
- Noticeable change in the nature of sexual relations with you. They may have become rigid, dispassionate, quick, or detached. Or they may have started requesting unusual sexual practices.
- Neglecting your sexual, physical, and emotional needs.
- Increased isolation or withdrawal from family.
- Unexplained absences from home or work.
- Neglecting responsibilities involving family, finances, and job.
- Unexplained or secretive financial matters, unexplained charges on credit cards.
- Becoming easily irritated, argumentative, or defensive.
- The presence of pornographic material on electronic devices; having a good explanation or no explanation for why it’s there.
- Loss of interest or involvement in friendships, hobbies, and other activities.
- Loss of spirituality or changes in relationship with God.
- When confronted, reacting with defensiveness, pouting, withdrawal, manipulation, shifting the blame, acting like a victim, getting angry, or playing dumb.
- Feeling unsafe in your relationship.
Addictions thrive on secrets
Most people with an addiction live life like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, trying to manage two distinct and incompatible personalities. One personality may be an ideal spouse, parent, child, or employee. He or she may be an active and devout church member and citizen in the community. But the other personality is an addict who engages in sexual behavior that violates their values. Keeping these two lives from crossing is a great challenge and keeping the secret life concealed may be a never-ending battle.
The families of people with addictions are typically expected to help keep the secret. So they get pulled into the Jekyll and Hyde life with their loved one, pretending that life is going just fine and that things in the family are functioning perfectly.
But secrets are a fuel for addiction. Secrets are caused by shame and secrets intensify shame. Most professionals who work with addicted people recognize shame as being a core cause of addiction. Overcoming addiction requires healing shame, which in turn necessitates becoming free from the secrets.
Partners and family members of people with addictions often face a harsh reality of betrayal and violation. Feelings of emotional safety and security are lost. Needs for closeness and comfort go unmet. And life may seem chaotic and unsafe. The relationship may feel like a lie and you may question whether it ever was real. If the addicted loved one has been a source of comfort and stability in the past, you may be left feeling alone and confused and may naturally ask, “Is there anyone I can trust?”
The kind of betrayal experienced by partners of those with sexual addiction can be extremely deep and shattering. All aspects of your life may be affected. Your ability to function and handle daily tasks may be compromised. Your security, stability, and plans for the future may be undermined. Your relationships with friends, family of origin, and your own children may be impacted. Your identity and sense of self may be shaken. Even your spiritual life and relationship with God can be injured.
For most partners, this upheaval is highly traumatic. Professionals who work with partners of sexually addicted people have noticed certain common trauma responses. These responses differ from person to person, but may include the following:
- Sadness and depression
- Outbursts of anger or rage
- Difficulty trusting and feelings of betrayal
- Fear and anxiety
- Excessive alertness or watchfulness
- Intrusive thoughts about his behavior
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Feeling “crazy” or not yourself
- Panic or feeling out of control
- Increased need to control everyday life; compulsive behavior
- Blaming yourself or feeling responsible for his choices
- Worrying or ruminating
- Emotional flooding or emotional numbness
- Helplessness and despair
- Minimizing the experience as if it doesn’t matter
- Not wanting to burden others with your problems
- Shock and disbelief
- Under- or overeating; weight loss or weight gain
- Diminished interest in everyday activities
- Withdrawal and detachment from others; isolation
- Preoccupation with body image
We strongly recommend that you do not make any major decisions regarding your relationship with your partner during the first year of recovery. You need stability in your life before any big decisions are made.