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Partners of Sex Addicts

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If you have clicked on this icon then chances are you are in great pain and suffering. Being betrayed by a partner is considered a trauma. It is quite typical to experience PTSD if your partner is a sex addict. According to Claudia Black, an expert researcher in this field, here are some common symptoms associated with PTSD that partners of sex addicts report:

  • Betrayal of trust: Fear of trusting the addict and self.
  • Psychic and physical pain and anguish: Range of emotions that at times feel out of control. Increased headaches, back, and neck aches, stomach problems.
  • Hypervigilance: Fear that the other shoe is going to drop.
  • Preoccupation: Obsessing about the addiction and worrying about whether to stay or leave the relationship.
  • Loss of safety and security: Sexual, financial, and emotional fears grow and/or increase.

If you have recently uncovered your husband or boyfriend’s sexual addiction you are most likely experiencing shock or surprise or perhaps your suspicions are finally realized. Whatever the betrayal: pornography, craigslist hook ups, massage parlors, prostitutes, on-line affairs, infidelities with friends or past lovers or strangers, the pain you are in right now is real and you need support. I work with many partners of sex addicts, both in individual therapy and couples therapy. I also work in tandem with several therapists in the community who specialize in this field. Together we create a treatment team. For instance, let’s say I am working with a couple who has decided to stay together, with a Release of Information I can contact and consult with each client’s individual therapist so that I may facilitate treatment more effectively. This works well because often partners of the addict have significant struggles with trust (of course) and if they can meet with their partner’s therapist and I consult with that therapist regularly, then they start to understand that we are experts in this field and we are working in tandem to help them and the relationship.

Often partners struggle with co-dependency, unhealthy eating habits, gambling excessively or using alcohol or drugs. When people are under inordinate stress, feeling depressed and anxious, they turn to these activities to numb their feelings. Treatment for partners is about self-care and understanding how you got here. Partners often report to me that they are resentful that they now need to be in treatment because they are healthy and their partner has acted out. Understood. It is unfair. However, acceptance of the situation is important if you choose to stay in the relationship. Acceptance does not mean the behavior was okay and forgiven, but it does mean you are living in reality.

Do you have love and relationship addiction? Co-dependence? What is your relationship with anger?

This addiction is characterized by a fear of abandonment and rejection stemming from a childhood where emotional needs were inconsistently met or not met at all, There is an underlying belief that your worth and value is measures through your relationship to your partner, regardless of how he treats you. Do you try to fulfill the needs of others instead of focusing on your own needs? Where did you learn to ignore your self-care and to take care of those around you instead? Are you feeling rage? Are you irritable? Angry? Who was a good role model in your life for how to “do anger”? Perhaps you are co-dependent.

julie-berman-therapy-and-counseling-in-portland-or-call-pictureWe will take a look at many areas of your life and begin to understand better how you got here. Emotional, spiritual, sexual, Physical, Intellectual, Relationships…what do these parts of your life look like?

Should I stay or should I go?

Only you can make that decision. Partners tell me that they endure judgments from friends and family if they decide to stay with addict partners. Some people choose not to tell anyone because of this ramification. I won’t judge you for staying or leaving, only you are the expert on your life and only you can make this important decision. I will reflect what I hear you saying and I will share my knowledge and observations. As your therapist, my goal is your goal, and I want to help you achieve it. There isn’t one correct decision. It takes a lot of strength to stay and it takes equal strength to leave. There are factors to consider such as small children, finances, and stages of life.

The healing process varies from person to person. The question of forgiveness is a tough one. Forgiveness is a process and begins with acknowledging that you have been wronged and owning the feelings associated with having been harmed by another’s actions. It entails engaging in the stages of grief, establishing boundaries and becoming more certain of what is and is not tolerable for you about the relationship. In the book, Intimate Treason, Claudia Black and Cara Tripodi describe forgiveness:

Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened. Forgiving the people who hurt you does not mean you condone or absolve them of their behavior. Forgiveness does not erase what your partner has done.
Forgiveness does not mean that you are never angry again about what occurred. What happened to you was not right; it was not fair. Your anger may get reactivated on certain dates like anniversaries.
Forgiveness does not happen overnight with one decision. It takes a process. It takes time.
Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Sometimes people link the two together, however forgiveness does not mean you have to stay in the relationship.
Forgiveness is a process of letting go of resentments, preoccupation and controlling behavior. These actions no longer have a hold over you and you can experience emotional freedom in your life.

Maybe forgiveness means self-forgiveness? Just for today, I will forgive myself. Often partners tell me they feel angry at themselves: for staying, for knowing but not leaving, for choosing a certain partner, for ignoring a situation. Could you forgive yourself for today? For a few minutes?

If you are a partner of a sex addict I suggest you reach out for support and call me: a therapist in Portland, Oregon specializing in partners of sexual addiction, 917-370-2358. Processing your pain and losses in a healthy way include: having a strong support system (with a therapist who is an expert in this field) close friendships, joining a 12 step program (like Alanon) or other support groups, practicing grounding statements, learning distraction techniques, creating firm boundaries and bottom lines, and deciding who is safe to tell. Healing is possible.