1. My partner is obsessed with porn or affairs. What do I do?
The discovery that your partner may be a sex addict can be very upsetting. It’s important to reach out and get help. Studies show that the majority of partners of sex addicts deal with betrayal trauma through isolation. We recommend that partners of sex addicts seek out professional treatment with a qualified sex addiction therapist who specializes in treating partners. For some, it can be very helpful to attend recovery support groups such as PoSA, COSA, CoDA or Al-Anon in order to hear similar stories and find support in a community setting.
2. How could my partner do this to me?
It’s important for you to realize that your partner’s sex addiction is not your fault. The destruction of sex addiction would hurt anyone in a relationship with your partner. At its root, sex addiction is an intimacy disorder. This is the result of poor childhood attachment with one’s family. Also, trauma at any age can result in a sexual addiction that is used as a form of escape from problems. Sex addicts are powerless over their compulsive behaviors due to deeply ingrained addictive thought patterns.
3. I’m so disgusted by my partner, will I ever get over my feelings of betrayal?
Healing your heart is possible. Healing takes time and dedicated effort. Getting support for you is the most important step. Trying to repair the relationship too early is not recommended. Each partner needs to do his or her own recovery work in the beginning. In time, if both partners commit to restoring integrity in the relationship, then trust can be restored.
4. How do I protect my family from this?
We understand the pain as you cope with your concerns for your family, your children and the crisis you are facing. If you have children, it’s important to find out if any minors were exposed to the sex addict’s behavior. One of the most immediate steps we recommend for sex addicts and/or partners is to install a porn filter on all computers. A qualified professional can guide you in what to tell your family and when.
5. What can I expect if my partner enters treatment for sex addiction?
You can expect that the sex addict will attend weekly therapy and 12-Step meetings. If a higher level of care is needed, the therapist will make recommendations. There may be boundaries established to help the sex addict with their recovery. The treatment plan may include total abstinence from all sex (typically 30-90 days). Extensive reading and homework may be assigned. We strongly recommend that partners of sex addicts attend individual and group therapy. Often sex addicts will see a staff therapist trained in sex addiction, while partners will see a therapist with expertise in treating partners, and both clinicians will meet together with the couple at times.
6. What is disclosure? When should I expect a full disclosure?
Disclosure is a therapeutic process where a sex addict discloses their entire sexual history to their partner. The purpose is to restore integrity and intimacy. The act of disclosure typically requires a lot of preparation (including in-depth writing) by both the sex addict and the partner. There are additional key measures taken to ensure the emotional security and well-being of both participants. There are certain circumstances where the physical health and psychological needs of the partner requires an early disclosure. Early disclosure is usually not recommended to avoid possible trauma for either partner.
7. What should I do if the sex addict denies he or she has a problem?
Denial is very common with sex addicts. Proof of sex addiction (emails, texts, etc.) sometimes isn’t enough for a sex addict to admit that the situation is beyond their control. There is a saying that “If an addict’s not ready for recovery, there’s nothing you can say that will help them; and when they are ready, there’s nothing you can say that won’t help them.” Ignoring or avoiding the reality of sex addiction will not make it better. It’s important to protect your own emotional integrity, and sometimes this may result in the end of a relationship. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your sex-addicted partner is to reach out for help.
8. Can partners get help even if the sex addict doesn’t?
Yes, partners can get individual help, which will help the relationship. Even if the relationship ends, it is important for partners of sex addicts to get help in order to break their own cycle of trauma, shame and betrayal.
9. Why should I get help when I’m not the one with the problem?
You have a right to experience healthy relationships. You have the opportunity to transform a deeply upsetting experience into a period of time marked by profound individual growth and deep interpersonal connection. Good psychotherapy lays a strong foundation for enjoying truly honest, fulfilling intimate relationships.