Sex Addiction’s Overlooked Victim
The partner of a sex addict is often lost in the shuffle during treatment, causing new problems.
Compared to other addictions such as chemical dependency or eating disorders, sex addiction is still somewhat of a mystery. There’s less talk about the topic, less understanding and less support, often because the topic makes us uncomfortable. Even more forgotten is the partner of a sex addict.
When someone discovers a spouse or partner is battling a sex addiction, the first question they often ask is should they stay or should they leave? (Counselors often advise waiting six months before making any permanent decisions to see if the partner’s sex addiction can be treated.) The level of betrayal is often so deep that those around the betrayed partner just want to help sooth the pain. What they really need at that point, though, is help figuring out what it means and where to go next.
In the past, there hasn’t been much help at all for partners of sex addicts. The help they did get was often directed at examining their role in choosing this type of partner, therefore putting blame on the victim. Partners are further victimized when they attend counseling as a couple and find themselves blamed for the partner’s disorder (“she’s overweight, she’s a nag, can you blame me for seeking out others?”).
It’s no wonder so many people at support groups for family and loved ones of those dealing with addiction will often say, “I don’t like the person I’ve become as a result of a loved one’s addiction.” Some act out by developing addictions of their own. They become compulsive shoppers as a way of retribution against the offending partner or they have affairs of their own.
We’re making progress, but we need to do a lot more to address the unique issues that sex addiction brings up for the partner in those relationships in order to ensure lasting recovery and healing for all.