When one partner in a marriage or relationship is a sexual addict, both partners suffer as a result. Both partners have been part of the problem and both need to be willing to participate in the recovery process, individually and together, for recovery to be successful. Without treatment, the sexual addict will only get worse. So, too, will the relationship.
The sexual addict certainly needs treatment, and the partner who is not addicted most likely needs help as well. Experts in treating sexual addiction counsel that the partner of the sexual addict often internalizes a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, anger, fear, and other very intense feelings. Without some counseling to understand the causes of their partner’s sexual addiction and how to cope with it, these feelings put the relationship – already under severe strain – in further jeopardy.
Sexual addiction often comes to light when one partner discovers, or is told about, the other partner’s sexually inappropriate behavior, such as inadvertently stumbling on a collection of pornography, tell-tale signs of extramarital affairs, unexplained hotel bills or large gift purchases on credit card statements.
The sexually addicted partner may spend increasing amounts of time away from home and family, or may neglect family relationships, work, bills, social engagements and other responsibilities. The couple’s relationship deteriorates very quickly. Unless something is done to address the underlying issues, both partners are subject to a future of unhappiness, denial, anger, frustration, loss of trust and intimacy, and a potential breakdown in the family unit. When children are involved, the situation is much worse, since young and impressionable lives may be forever impacted by the disruption in the parents’ relationship.
When couples enter therapy for sexually addictive behavior on the part of one of them, both need to address multiple issues. One of the most prominent issues is whether to stay together. When there are children involved, there are other concerns that need to be addressed, including the children’s security, how, what and when to disclose what’s going on, how to manage home life during the crisis, etc.
Just as the underlying causes of one partner’s sexual addiction take time to be fully understood, treatment also takes time. The partner of the sexual addict needs assistance, guidance and structured support to be a participant in the recovery process. There will be ups and downs as both partners seek to learn new ways of relating to each other, to rebuild trust and intimacy that has been shattered by sexual addiction, and to solidify the foundation of their marriage or partnership. Couples who are willing to identify and work through individual issues and seek better skills to cultivate intimacy can do well in recovery.
The first three to six months of couple’s recovery are usually the most stressful. Both partners will experience a wide range of powerful feelings. There are often difficulties in the areas of communication, intimacy levels, sexuality, spirituality, parenting, past trauma, and finances. Identification of the sexual addiction/co-addiction systems, although painful at first, holds hope for eventual relief of the far greater pain of the addiction.
Therapists trained in sexual addiction are an invaluable recovery tool for the individuals and for the relationship. Addicts and partners benefit from outpatient treatment, intensive treatment programs that may last a weekend, several days, or up to 2 weeks, and 12-step support systems. There is help and hope for couples facing the discovery, treatment, and recovery from sexual addiction.
Elements Behavioral Health – elementsbehavioralhealth.com
Sexual Recovery Institute – sexualrecovery.com