A Partner Recovery Coach
The partner of the Sex Addict is affected greatly by the actions of their partner and can be as sick or sicker than the addict. The crushing betrayal of discovery, the hopelessness of continued relapses and the inability to meet the unrealistic emotional and physical demands of the addict can lead the partner into depression and the delusion that they are not good enough. This, in turn, can lead to extremely low levels of self-esteem. The common misconception that the Sex Addict is the “sick one” often leads the partner to refuse or even consider recovery of their own.
One of the most prevalent symptoms of a man addicted to Sex, Porn, or the pursuit of one relationship after another, is the sickness that exists within relationships. Men that are Sex Addicts often feel the need for an excessive level of nurturing. This need could have developed in childhood from the lack of healthy attention and unconditional love of a parent, typically from the mother. In these cases there can be what I call a mom shaped hole that exists in the addict’s emotional fulfillment, thereby creating unrealistic, unmet expectations of nurturing from a partner. This high level of emotional need is compounded by the addition of the shame and guilt felt by the addict due to acting out behaviors. These unhealthy behaviors create a double bind for most addicts in that their need for nurturing is off the charts. However, the need to lie and create a false persona meant to insulate the addict from discovery makes it impossible for any amount of nurturing to reach the addict.
The Sex Addict blames the partner for not fulfilling their elevated need for attention, gratification, and feelings of power and control in the relationship. The addict may develop delusional thinking, mistaking sexual activity as the only source of nurturing. When sexual activity does not meet the addict’s expectations, there is a high probability that resentments will develop towards the partner. These resentments combined with a distorted view of how to obtain proper nurturing leads the addict to find self-gratification through masturbation, massage parlors, escorts and one-night stands. As the shame and guilt from these behaviors grow so does the need for excessive levels of nurturing.
The common misconception that the Sex Addict is the “sick one” often leads the partner to refuse or even consider recovery of their own.
Any or all of these symptoms can lead the partner of the Sex Addict to feel they lack the ability to fulfill the addict’s needs. Partners may take on the responsibility of shoring up the addict emotionally, blaming themselves for lacking the ability to meet emotional demands resulting in low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Partners that suspect the addict of unhealthy behaviors are made to feel crazy by the addict’s reaction to being falsely accused. Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are common symptoms of the partner of a Sex Addict.
In the cases where the discovery of compulsive masturbation happens, the partner may feel confused as to why the addict did not seek them out for sexual gratification. The partner may think “why am I not good enough” as it seems that the addict would not seek pornography and masturbation to meet their needs.
In cases where infidelity is through escorts, massage parlors or extra-marital relationships form, the partner will feel betrayal and heartbreak. The partner’s pain and anguish can be quite severe and encompass a wide spectrum including emotional, psychological, psychical and spiritual areas. Some partners report intense feelings that cycle from intense emotional pain to anger, hopelessness, worthlessness and in some cases thoughts of self-harm and suicidal ideation occur. If there are children, the partner may feel an intense protective reaction and demand the addict leave the home. In virtually all cases partners faced with this horrible turn of events feel isolated, afraid and ashamed that their self-image of the marriage is now shattered. Often they are unable or unwilling to seek help for themselves and are left alone to find ways to personally cope and manage through the unbelievable crisis the person they love has brought to the relationship.
The severity of the effects of the addict’s behavior once discovered and disclosed, have been described as pain at the level of the soul. In some cases, the damage is too severe to recover from, and the relationship ends. This is the worst possible outcome if it leaves the partner with unresolved pain and anger that prohibits safe intimacy in future relationships. If proper healing is to occur in the partner, there is a need to process through and recover from the deep emotional trauma they have experienced.
If you are a partner of a Sex Addict, you owe it to yourself to seek your own recovery. You have been emotionally abused, and many times sexually abused, and there are well-documented recovery tools available to you. You deserve safe intimacy, unconditional love, and peace of mind. This can happen while in a relationship with a recovering Sex Addict, but it takes guidance, proper use of recovery tools, a support system, and patience. You can forge a new relationship built upon intimacy, self-respect, and trust out of the wreckage from this horrible addiction.
Take the first step and reach out for your own recovery.
You deserve it.
Murray Carlson NCLC, SRC, CFRC
“When I discovered my husband’s Sex Addiction I was so devastated I thought our marriage was over. The betrayal cut to my heart. My husband learned about Murray from someone in an SA meeting. After a couple of months, my husband seemed to get better, so I took Murray’s advice and started to talk to him once a week myself. Sometimes his wife, Betsy and I talk as well. She has been in my shoes, and that helped me feel like there was hope. They supported me with phone sessions and introduced me to S-Anon. I didn’t know there was a program for partners of a sex addict. I am taking better care of myself today.”