Sexual addiction is a compulsive sexual behaviour that dominates an addict’s life, taking priority over work, friends, and even family. When a wife discovers her husband is hooked on sex, she’s instantly tossed into a journey by a sense of betrayal.
Sex addiction hurts partners in a way that no other addiction can, says Paula Hall, author of Sex Addiction: The Partner’s Perspective. Paula believes,that the betrayal evokes all the most destructive ingredients of personal pain and shame. “Sex addiction feels extremely personal when you’re the partner because it affects the most intimate part of your relationship in a way that, say, alcohol or drugs just don’t,” she explains.
The problem with any addictive behaviour is that it does not provide the desired relief or reward. The addiction creates an internal war. Life does not work. Ultimately you can never get enough of what won’t satisfy you.
If something seems amiss, it’s possible that your spouse might be addicted to sex. There are warning signs you might see if your partner is having a problem with sexually compulsive behavior:
- Working long hours could be a cover for compulsive behaviour. When you notice your partner is on the computer, he may turn it off or flip to another page. He may set up secret or hidden email accounts. He also may hide his cell phone to avoid your detection of his phone calls or text messages.
- You may notice that he’s acting differently. He may become more secretive, private, unreliable, critical or irritable. He might not be as social as he used to be and there may be unexplained absences.
- You may experience a lack of connection and intimacy. Your partner may not seem available to you and you may feel he’s avoiding you.
- Your sexual interactions with your partner may change. He may require more and more stimulation or he may become unresponsive sexually and cease initiating sex. He may develop a preference for masturbation.
- His relationship to his body may change. He may become overly concerned with his penis — with caring for, touching, adjusting his pants, or exposing his anatomy.
- Money might become an issue. If he is spending money on prostitutes, or other illicit sexual activities there may be a lack of funds or unexplained expenses.
Unfortunately, there is no magically revealing or definitive list that will let you know without question that your partner has an issue with sex addiction. You may see all of these signs, other signs, or none of them. These behaviors could point to other addictions or other issues or they could point to an affair.
Couples can get through the crisis of sex addiction and recover. Sex addiction has roots that go way back into childhood attachment issues and involve patterns of coping behavior that existed well before the marriage, say experts. These are some of the things couples need to know and do in order to have the best chance of having a good relationship in the future.
- Do the work. Most sex addicts find it impossible to quit on their own. Partners must also be in therapy. Partners are not the cause of the problem but they need a great deal of help and support if the couple is going to make it.
- Experts suggest a short term separation. Many couples make the mistake of trying to confront sex addiction as a couple. Sex addiction is not that kind of problem. Couples may have many problems as a couple in terms of openness, communication, and so on, but they can only deal with those afterthe sex addiction has been treated for a while.
- Counselling is imperative. Couples should get a therapist of their own and work through their relationship. In some ways each partner will not be the same person they were before. It remains to be seen whether these two “new” people want to be together or not.
- Be honest. A healthy intimate relationship demands a level of honesty, commitment and a willingness to share all parts of yourself with your partner. It also involves letting go of competitiveness and truly being there for your spouse or partner, not only in terms of what they ask of you but in your ability to respond to and support who they are.
- Do not become complacent and go back to old habits. Some couples go to couple retreats periodically or go to couple intensive workshops to give themselves a booster shot.
Experts’ share that sex addiction recovery takes a long time – at least three to five years for substantial recovery to be achieved. Couples who decide to stick it out together need to be patient and committed to the process.
Text: Bauer/ Good Health/ Additional Reporting: Shenielle Aloysis