What if I am a partner of a sex addict?

July 2, 2013

One of the things partners of sex addicts experience is called “gaslighting.”  This is when a sex addict turns all the impact of out of control behavior back on the partner.  When that happens, it is the partner who often feels crazy.   Sex addicts will do most anything to be able to continue acting out and won’t want to disclose their activities unless they are about to lose that which they value the most.

Recovery for both the addict and partner takes time and courage.  As far as the addict goes, he/she must ask for help, enter individual and group therapy, attend 12-step recovery meetings for sex addicts, and, if married, enter marital therapy.  For the partner, if they want to recover from this insidious disease, they, too, must enter therapy and attend a 12-step group for partners. Research has shown that this process takes 2-5 years.  Why does it take so long?  Mainly because sex addiction is not a behavioral disorder, but an attachment disorder that has causes a disruption in the brain.  Sex addiction is a profound boundary failure; it is the loss of control of behavior that has causes great pain, and the addict continues to act out despite the negative consequences.

One of the common things that sex addicts, and often partners, have in common is past trauma.   When a person is traumatized, they tend to “freeze” emotionally.  If they were, say, 10 years old when they experienced a life-changing trauma, their body continues to mature, but they remain 10 years old emotionally until they enter a recovery process.  It is then that they have the opportunity to “thaw” and grow again emotionally.

Partners struggle with trying to understand this disease and attempt to cope with the out-of-control behavior they have been living with.  They have to focus on their own self-care so they can survive the craziness and be there for themselves, their children, and other family members.  They have to challenge their partner (and themselves) to enter a process of disclosure so trust and intimacy can be restored.  It is clear that isolation is the enemy of healing.  Recovery is rooted in the courage to ask for help and follow a courageous path to return from the darkness of addiction.

I encourage you to call me or another CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) or CSAT candidate.  Together, with professionals who know the way, you can find help to heal and recover.

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