Even suspecting that the person you love is unfaithful to you can take a terrible toll on your mental health. Maybe you stay up at night worried about whether it’s worth your pain to stay in this relationship. You know you spend too much time and energy investigating and trying to prove that your suspicions are true, but you can’t stop yourself. You even have concerns that you might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. If you talk to your partner about your anxieties and despair, he or she makes you feel as if you are crazy. On some level, you realize that all your energy is being put into your partner’s needs, while your own needs are being overlooked.
If this scenario of pain resembles your life, you are not alone. Thousands of people in committed relationships have the same problem. While some seek relief in individual counseling, others join a recovery program called COSA, which stands for “Codependents of Sexual Addicts.” Formed in 1997, this organization provides a 12-step recovery program similar to other self-help support groups.
COSA members often discover that they are caught up in relationships that drain them because they are overly focused on their partner’s needs to the detriment of their own. Typically, they feel happy only when their partners are happy. If that person is struggling, they focus on helping the partner. They spend too much time focused on their partner’s recovery from sexual addiction instead of putting energy into solving their own problems of codependency, and they are often too embarrassed to seek help from mental health professionals.
Some COSA members suffer from food addictions and substance abuse, partly because their own mental health needs are never addressed in their primary relationships. They stay in these painful situations for many reasons. Many simply love their partners no matter what. They cannot stop believing and hoping that their partner will become the person they want them to be, no matter what happened in the past. Others feel that if they abandoned their partners, the partner will become worse or even suicidal. Some are reluctant to give up on their relationships because they have put so much into them. On some level, they know if they walk out of the relationship, they will have to face their own situation alone.
People do not give their last names at COSA meetings, and there are no dues or fees for membership. The meetings are places where people with similar problems can reach out to one another and share experiences while working through a 12-step program together. You are not required to talk at a meeting, and the only criteria for joining is that someone’s sexual behavior is causing you pain. As you work through the program, you and you alone can decide whether you leave or stay in the relationship. Just being in COSA sometimes makes things better. While most members are female, men can and do join COSA. In fact, there are male-only chapters.
Just knowing that an organization like COSA exists may help you. You are not alone. You are not crazy. And things can and will get better if you start focusing on yourself.