What to do when you discover that your partner is a sex addict.
First of all and most importantly, know that this issue is not about you. I know this sounds absurd but the facts are this:
Their addiction began long before you even met, most likely in childhood with trauma at its core.
Although this is the most personal of addictions, the responsibility for it rests with them. It is very difficult to understand that it has nothing to do with you when it affects you so deeply, however that is the truth as I see it.
You are most likely in shock and reeling from the discovery that the person you thought you knew is not the person standing before you. You may be terrified, you may be grief-stricken, you may be enraged, you may be disgusted. You may feel compassion for someone who has become so lost. You may find that there is an increased desire for physical intimacy with your partner. Or you may be utterly revulsed by them. There is no right or wrong way to feel nor to react as this is such a deeply personal issue.
Tips for survival:
- Know that you are likely traumatized by the discovery and seek therapeutic help as quickly as possible, preferably by someone with both sex addiction and trauma training.
- Make no major decisions in the first year after discovery (selling the family home, etc).
- Surround yourself with those you love.
- Be very, very kind to yourself. Watch out for any self-abuse in which you might be tempted to engage.
- If you can avoid it, do not tell the children (most especially if they’re young) as there is no need for them to know about what is really going on. There’s nothing wrong with a suitable cover story in order to spare them this trauma.
- Similarly be cautious about who you tell. Our culture has very unhealthy attitudes about sex, not to mention both men and women having sexual trauma, combined with a tendency to judge quickly and without having all of the facts. You also don’t know whether you’ll leave them or whether you’ll stay, so spare yourself everyone else’s judgement about your situation.
- Also avoid causing any harm, it can be natural to feel vengeful when so deeply betrayed but try to avoid taking any action to harm them (like telling their family or boss about their addiction) and ultimately harm you. If you are really struggling with this, get help immediately before you make a decision that will heap even greater harm upon you and your family.
- Know that you might not be feeling like yourself, you might feel like the ground underneath you isn’t reliable, you might be reviewing and questioning everything you’ve believed in about your relationship. That is completely natural.
One model of sex addiction takes the co-addict approach, where the unsuspecting partner is somehow responsible for the addiction. While this model works well for the addicts’ recovery, it does not work well for the partner. To hold the unsuspecting partner responsible in any way for the addict’s addiction is simply cruel and utterly untrue. As Dr. Omar Minwalla writes: ….”the sex addiction field remains dominated by the “co-sex addiction model” and is yet to even term a specific name for sex addiction-induced trauma, or even recognize or legitimize it’s existence”.