Let’s be honest. When you love an addict, life can be pretty hard. When you love a sex addict, life may be exponentially hard. Your best friend and mom may tell you to break up with him, and nobody seems to understand. You’ve been lied to, your heart is broken, and you worry that you’ll never be able to trust again. You feel a little like Karen in “Californication.” You love this man, and he loves you; the problem is that he doesn’t know-how.
In a relationship with a sex addict, both people suffer. With the presence of sex addiction, there is a strong chance that other compulsive behaviors exist as well—problems like drug or alcohol dependence, compulsive shopping, restrictive or overeating, or OCD. These issues create a tense dynamic for the relationship, which is then amplified with the presence of children.
Sex addiction and its attendant difficulties directly impact a couple’s ability to connect. This is because sex addiction is, in truth, an intimacy disorder. Researchers and clinicians see many sex addicts who experienced trauma or histories of abuse or neglect in early life, which may have created attachment disorders or other attachment styles that prevent an individual from sustaining intimate bonds. Sex addicts tend to have a very low tolerance for feelings of vulnerability, and while their behavior may suggest that they don’t care, they are often terrified of being rejected or abandoned.
Strategies For Coping In A Sex Addicted Partnership
The following advice and strategies can help anyone who’s in a relationship with a sex addict. Remember, you are not alone.
Understand, First And Foremost, That His Sex Addiction Is Not About You
You don’t lack anything. You didn’t do anything wrong. You did not make him become an addict. If your partner has ever indicated that his compulsive sexual straying or his pornography addiction occurs because of something he believes you lack, do not believe him. When engaging his addiction, an addict looks for any and all means of shirking accountability. Creating just a little bit of blame and doubt in you allows his addiction to continue on, unabated.
If you have these feelings on your own, understand that you’re not alone. It’s natural for the partners of addicts to blame themselves or to worry they may have pushed their partners toward their compulsions, but this is never the case. An addict uses it for many reasons, all of which need to be explored in treatment, and none of which are a result of something a spouse or partner may “lack.”
Recognize That You Are Neither Responsible For His Behavior, Nor For His Treatment Outcomes
It can be tempting for partners to take on the job of trying to make the addict better—to do all the research on the addiction, to insist on therapy, and to be the one who struggles over whether progress is being made. Resist this temptation. Your responsibility in this partnership is on seeing to your own health and wellness and on learning what you can about addiction, co-addiction, and codependence and how these dynamics may be arising in your relationship.
Be Willing To Seek Your Own Treatment
Addiction is not merely a personal problem; it is a relationship problem, as well as a family problem. Spouses and partners of addicts tend to internalize feelings of guilt and shame and deal with feelings of anger, fear, confusion, and depression. Counseling provides partners important coping strategies in dealing with painful emotions and may help facilitate therapeutic insights about your relationship and about you. Organizations like COSA (Codependent Partners of Sex Addicts) offer the support of the community, a group of like-minded men and women.
Discovering that your partner struggles with sexual addiction are incredibly painful. You may decide that this experience is not something your relationship can survive, or you may, like many couples, come through it with an even deeper connection and a resolve toward greater connection and intimacy. This takes hard work, of course, and can only happen if both you and your partner commit to recovery. It is possible, however, and that’s important to recognize. No matter your decision, focus on your own healing.