What to Do If Your Partner Has a Sexual Addiction: Part I

Sexual addiction is a heavy topic. Unfortunately, it is a prevalent and painful reality for many people, and it is a struggle with sin that keeps on giving (not in a good way).

For this article, I am specifically speaking to the partner of the addicted person. This is such a vast topic, that I need to break it into several parts, so please forgive me for not giving you all of the information at once, but it requires a lot of time and information.

Let’s begin here:

If you suspect that your partner is struggling with sexual addiction, I have covered sexual addiction itself and signs of sex addiction within a previous blog post. Please refer to that here.

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is, at its core, an intimacy disorder rooted in shame. A distinction should be made between a Classic Sex Addict and a Contemporary Porn Addict, though, both are harmful and come with negative consequences.

To summarize, here are the things you’re looking for in a sexually addicted person. Please note that sexual addiction may vary concerning specific behaviors, but generally speaking, we are looking for a few of the following, as noted by Medical News Today:

Activities associated with sexual addiction may include any of the following:

  • compulsive masturbation
  • multiple affairs, sexual partners, and one-night stands
  • persistent use of pornography
  • practicing unsafe sex
  • cybersex
  • visiting prostitutes or practicing prostitution
  • exhibitionism
  • voyeurism

Behaviors and attitudes to watch for include the following:

  • an inability to contain sexual urges and respect the boundaries of others involved in the sexual act
  • detachment, in which the sexual activity does not emotionally satisfy the individual
  • obsession with attracting others, being in love, and starting new romances, often leading to a string of relationships
  • feelings of guilt and shame
  • an awareness that the urges are uncontrollable, in spite of financial, medical, or social consequences
  • a pattern of recurrent failure to resist impulses to engage in extreme acts of lewd sex
  • engagement in sexual behaviors for longer than intended, and to a greater extent
  • several attempts to stop, reduce, or control behavior
  • excessive time and energy spent obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from a sexual experience
  • giving up social, work-related, or recreational activities because of a sexual addiction
  • sexual rage disorder, where an individual becomes distressed, anxious, restless, and possibly violent if unable to engage in the addiction

Sexual addiction will come with risk-taking behaviors that may involve either health risks such as sexually transmitted diseases because of unsafe sex, emotional risks concerning relationships, financial risks, and so on.

If you suspect your partner is a sex addict, I would recommend confronting them with your suspicions and the evidence for your suspicions. Be advised that due to the shame associated with sexual addiction, most people who struggle with sexual addiction will automatically lie about or minimize their struggle, unless they are confronted with firm boundaries.

Treatment for Sexual Addiction

Do not underestimate how effective for the relationship (and your own sanity) a therapeutic separation can be. A therapeutic separation should be a process walked through with a therapist. During such a separation, you and your spouse live in separate households and meet together for couple’s therapy to work on repairing the relationship.

Also during this time, the addict should be seeking individual treatment with a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT), as well as attending accountability groups for recovery.

Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment options out there for sexual addiction, so help is not far away, and with a lot of hard work and dedication, a person struggling with sexual addiction can live a sober lifestyle in recovery, much like you would think of a person in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction. Please remember that as long as Jesus lives there is hope.

Partners of Sex Addicts

However, this article is about you, the partner of someone who is struggling with sexual addiction. It is as important for you, the partner, to receive treatment as it is for the addict themselves. The reason for this is that as the partner of someone who is struggling with this type of addiction, you have now been traumatized.

Sexual addiction is a different level of betrayal because of the intimacy component and how that affects trust, self-esteem, perceived value, and more.

I can almost guarantee that if you are in a relationship with a sex addict, you are experiencing the following:

  • Anger
  • Immense pain
  • Broken trust/betrayal
  • Questioning if YOU are crazy, paranoid, too needy, too insecure, too distrusting, etc.
  • Feeling as though you are not enough to satisfy your partner
  • Questioning what is real in life and this relationship
  • Wondering if you will ever be able to trust your partner OR anyone else again
  • Feeling a sense of despair and hopelessness about the future
  • Shame/desire to isolate

Please hear me loud and clear when I say that your partner’s addiction is NOT your fault. There may be roots in your partner’s life that connect to a history of trauma (likely originating in childhood) that have made them more susceptible to addiction; specifically sexual addiction; but God has granted every human being the freedom to choose what sort of life they want to live. Again, you are not the cause of your partner’s sexual addiction. You are not that powerful.

The word trauma originates from a Greek word that means “to wound or to pierce.” Trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk says this in relation to trauma: “After exposure to a trauma, most people become preoccupied by the event; having involuntary intrusive memories is a normal way of responding to dreadful experiences.” I am sure you are now realizing that you have, indeed, been traumatized by your partner’s sexual addiction.

One of the most painful components of being a partner to a sexually addicted person is what we call staggered disclosure. This is when you become suspicious of your partner’s behaviors; you confront them; they disclose a small portion of the truth while withholding the majority of the truth.

Then, later on down the road since you are now more suspicious of what else has been going on, you begin to pry, snoop, and investigate further to see to what extent your partner is misleading you, which only leads to them disclosing a bit more truth.

It feels like you cannot recover from the first stab before you are dealt another. You are basically being traumatized over and over and over again. This process may ironically bring some relief to your addicted partner because the secrets have been a heavy burden to bear.

However, this is extremely painful for the non-addicted partner. This may cause you, the partner, to question your own instincts, have a difficult time knowing what is real or what is imagined, and this will most assuredly have an effect on your self-esteem and confidence. Often, we will see the addicted partner subject the non-addicted partner to gaslighting in an attempt to manage their own shame.

It is important to validate your own feelings through this process and obtain help from trusted resources who can help you look at this situation objectively and validate your concerns. In an attempt to avoid emotional pain, you may be inclined to blame yourself, society as a whole, the other people involved in your partner’s betrayal, or even God.

Blaming is a way in which we attempt to expel pain, and we do it very naturally. There is always a cause and effect at work, but often we will blame the wrong cause and even misjudge the effect. You only have the power to change or control yourself you are not responsible for what someone else has chosen to do, but it is now important that you get yourself the help you need and deserve, to walk through this trying and painful time with support.

The extent to which you are affected by this trauma will depend on your level of acceptance or denial, the trauma you’ve experienced previously in your life, how internally resilient you are, and also how strong of a support system you have.

What the Bible Says about Sexual Sin

In case you are inclined to minimize the seriousness of what your partner is struggling with, please read on to see that God takes sexual sin very seriously, and the Bible has a lot to say about it

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside of the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against their own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. – Hebrews 13:4

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, He will also provide the way to escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:2

He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. – Proverbs 6:32

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exile to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

Of course, there is hope for those who are trusting in the Lord for strength:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Hope and Help for Partners of Sexual Addiction

If you are the partner of someone who is struggling with sexual addiction, please know that there is an abundance of help for you. Reach out to a Seattle Christian Counselor today, so that we can walk through the healing process with you.

You will need a safe place to process the trauma, establish boundaries with regard to your partner, validate your emotions and process them, make a plan for how to proceed in the future concerning full disclosure, and more.

I am passionate about helping partners of the sexually addicted move through this process and find their strength while leaning on the Lord for His power. God is for you and He is with you in this process you are not alone, even though you may feel exactly like you are right now. God’s faithfulness is not based upon what we feel, but on what He says in His word.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:30

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

Please reach out to us today so that we can begin this healing journey together.

Photos:
“Guilty”, Courtesy of Christopher Lemercier, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Girl in a dimly lit hallway”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Staggered”, Courtesy of Logan Fisher, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Golden Mist”, Courtesy of Val Vesa, Unsplash.com, CC0 License;