What to Know if My Spouse is a Sex Addict
First, you should know that sexual addiction is a very complex and layered condition. Some of the underlying conditions contributing to a person’s sexual addiction are:
- Neurotransmitters in the brain which compel compulsive behavior.
- Unhealthy attachment styles that complicate intimacy and relational connection
- The shame that induces self-condemnation and worthlessness.
- Isolation and becoming overly self-sufficient because of painful childhood experiences such as molestation and incest.
If you are the spouse of a person struggling with sexual addiction, you experience your own trauma when you discover that you have been betrayed. Of course, you knew that every marriage has hurdles to overcome, but you didn’t expect that betrayal, infidelity, and deception would be among them.
Your partner’s sexual addiction began before you. Patterns of sexual obsession in their life may have been kept secret for years or even decades. Many persons with sexual addiction engage only in solitary activities like viewing pornography and compulsive masturbation. For others, however, their obsession progresses to physical interaction such as an affair or hookup. Unfortunately, some may even progress to illegal behavior, unable to control their behavior even under the threat of arrest and imprisonment.
You love your partner, but you are devastated by the discovery of their sexual behaviors. If you want to fight for your marriage and the recovery of your mate, here are helpful things that you should know about sex addiction:
You are not crazy.
Your suspicions are more than likely accurate. Don’t minimize the disconnection that you are feeling in your marriage. Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder. If there are signs of obsessive or deviant sexual behavior, almost always, there is a problem. It is unfortunate, but those who are trapped in sexual addiction will almost always have to be caught in the act before they will get help.
You are not to blame
Your spouse’s addiction is not your fault. At some point, before you entered the scene, your spouse chose to engage in this behavior. This addiction is not about you. It is not about your physical appearance or sexual competency. Instead, it concerns your spouse’s inability to connect and cultivate intimacy with you. There may be issues in your marriage that you play a part in and need to be addressed, but your spouse has chosen to find pleasure, nurture, and comfort outside your relationship.
You are impacted by the sexual choices that your mate has made. One of the first casualties is your self–esteem. Add to that stress depression, anxiety, and inability to trust. And your intimate life with them? It is almost impossible to enjoy sex and romance. Fear of what new disclosures or discoveries may be uncovered can drive your thinking and behavior.
Do not take the blame for this situation and your spouse’s choices. That is the worst thing that you can do for them or yourself. Taking personal responsibility for their own behavior is the beginning of healing and recovery for your spouse.
It’s not your job to fix it.
Try as you will for as long and as hard as you will, but you can’t fix your spouse. The only one who can change a person is that person and the grace of God. It may take therapy, and it may take time, but it is ultimately up to them. What led to their behavior may not be their fault, but their life from this point on is their responsibility.
Any accountability tactics that you might try will never work. The person addicted to sex can find ways around blocking devices, GPS locators, or accountability partners if they want. You are mistaken if you believe you can control your spouse’s behavior through spying. Neither does complaining work. These tactics only cause you more anxiety and lower your self-esteem and peace of mind.
Take care of yourself.
It’s the best -and the only- thing you can do until your spouse decides they want to get help. Be kind to yourself and do what you must to find healing for yourself. Please don’t put all the focus on your spouse and their recovery. Remember, you can’t fix them anyway.
Ignoring the problem is not an option.
Pretending that the problem doesn’t exist or will disappear is just as unhealthy as trying to fix your spouse. Demand that your spouse be proactive about their healing and recovery. You work on yourself and let them work on them, and then, when the time is right, seek counseling together to repair your marriage.
Pay attention to your feelings.
Don’t stuff or suppress your feelings. The saying goes, “You can only heal what you allow yourself to feel.” Process your feelings with a coach, therapist, or support group. Surround yourself with supportive people who allow you to be yourself and feel your feelings. Avoid being around those people who are uncomfortable with the expression of genuine thoughts and feelings. These are the people that you feel that you have to be fake with. You simply don’t have the energy for them.
Forgiveness is for you.
You do not have to forget how your spouse has hurt you to forgive them. In fact, there is no way that you could forget! Neither do you have to trust them to forgive them. You can forgive them and set healthy and appropriate boundaries until they earn your trust again. Whether you give them a chance to re-earn trust is up to you. However, you must forgive them for all that they have done to hurt you so that you can be free of anger, resentment, and bitterness. Forgiveness sets you free to love and to breathe your own air.
You’ve got the power, and you’re worth it.
Yes, you have been hurt deeply. You didn’t have a choice about what happened, but you do have options now. You can stay, or you can leave. You can set boundaries, forgive, take care of yourself, and find support for your own journey of healing and recovery. Conversely, you can wallow in self-pity and complain about the unfairness of it all. It is your choice.
You are a person of value and worth who deserves love and respect, especially from your spouse. Their choices do not define you or your value. Please do not believe the lie that it is somehow your fault. That kind of shame never leads to healing and restoration.
There is hope.
This is too much to process on your own, so please don’t attempt to do so. Instead, seek out those trained and with experience in sexual addiction. With proper guidance and support, the journey to wholeness for each of you can be successful. There is hope for you, your spouse, and your family.
If you want to discuss how we can help you and your relationship, please contact me at Cliff@LoveRecon.org or call 866-218-1716. You may also visit our website, www.LoveRecon.org, for testimonials and information.