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For The Spouse
How does a spouse heal from a partner's involvement in pornography or sexual addiction? Where do I start? Where is help found?

If you are the partner of an addict, there are some very common tendencies and behaviors that you may be experiencing. We want you to know that you are not alone, and that most partners of addicts experience denial, hurt, anger, and guilt. Some even feel responsible for their partner's sexual compulsivity.

It is important for you to know that your partner's sexual acting out IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You are not to blame. These two important concepts are covered in your treatment. Yes we recommend you come for treatment also. Even if your partner has not admitted to having a problem, or is not willing to enter into a recovery program we recommend that you come for help and healing. Now is a good time for you to reflect on your own life, and determine what changes you can make that will help you live a life full of peace and passion, and the happiness that you deserve.

When a spouse learns that her husband or loved one is involved in pornography and related compulsive sexual behaviors, she is flooded with distressing emotions. These include feelings of shock, anger, disgust, deep hurt and confusion. Women also experience intrusive and obsessing thoughts. These overwhelming emotions and obessive thoughts occur naturally as a result of the betrayal, trauma, and being blind sided by the disturbing information surrounding their spouses sexual secrets. The end result is often impaired daily functioning and profound powerlessness.

The most common request that women seek through therapy is a safe place to sort through this traumatic experience. Because most addicts are disconnected emotionally and tend to deny or minimize their problem, it is not very likely that the partner can consistently provide the safety and support necessary for healing.

LifeSTAR therapists are experienced in the healing process for both the addict AND the partner. LifeSTAR is in unique in that they offer a special track of treatment including workbooks and therapy tasks focused on common treatment needs for partners of a sex addict.

At lifeSTAR we recommend that you do not make any major decisions regarding your relationship during the first year of recovery. The world of the spouse needs to have some stability before major decisions are made. So to go or stay will become clearer after the first year or treatment.

The spouse will being doing some empowering recovery work that will build confidence. And They will know what to look for in the addicts recovery to see if they want to stay or not.

LifeSTAR is for healing both the addict AND the partner.

WHAT IS SEX ADDICITON?

Sex addiction can be defined as a compulsive physiological or psychological need for a sexual experience that has become habit forming. It is the condition of being habitually or compulsively preoccupied with the pathological (sick or unhealthy) need for a sexual event or experience. Sex becomes central to the addict's life—more important than family, friends, and work. Sexual addicts frequently deny that they have a problem, even to themselves, and frequently use compulsive sexual behavior as a means of dealing with pain. This often leads them into living a double (or secret) life, creating more shame, pain, and isolation.

DOES MY PARTNER HAVE A SEXUAL ADDICTION PROPLEM?

Has your partner admitted to you that he/she has a problem with sexual acting our? You may have know something didn't seem right in your relationship for a long time, or the they confessed and the confession may have caught you off-guard. Often the partners of addicts know, at least on a subconscious level, that something is wrong. Some signs are very obvious, like finding a pornographic video or unexplained charges on your credit card statement. Other signs may be so subtle, or so well covered up, that it takes years before a partner suspects.

The following list of symptoms may indicate your partner is suffering from sexual addiction. These are not absolute indications of addiction—just possible red flags or warning signs (some of the items on this list were adapted from the National Coalition Against Pornography).

  • Noticeable change in frequency of sexual relations with you—from total lakc of interest to insatiable appetite for sex
  • Noticeable change in actual sexual relations with you—rigid, dispassionate, quick, detached
  • Requests unusual sexual practices that make you feel uncomfortable
  • Neglects your sexual, physical, and emotional needs
  • Neglects responsibilities involving family, finances, and job
  • Increased isolation or withdrawal from family; unexplained absences
  • Easily irritated, argumentative, defensive
  • Unexplained or secretive financial matters
  • Has stopped participating in hobbies
  • When confronted reactions may include some of the following; defensiveness, pouts, turns things around to make it look like it is your fault, withdraws, plays the victim role, gets angry, or plays dumb
  • There is an unsafe feeling for your emotions

SECRETS ARE THE LIFEBLOOD OF ADDICTION

If you've ever felt like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you already know the impact of unmanageability. For the addict, one life may be spent as the ideal father, mother, son or daughter, upstanding citizen, and devout church member; while the other , secret life is that of a sexual addict. The task of keeping their secret life from affection their public life is an unending struggle. As the partner, you may find yourself in this same double life—acting as if everything is okay, while trying to separately to keep others (family members, friends, boss, etc.) from finding out.

Remember, secrets are the lifeblood of addiction. Managing two lives takes its toll. When this task becomes too unmanageable for the addict, most make promises to themselves that they will not give into their sexual cravings again; but their blurred vision, impaired thinking, and the euphoric recall of previous sexual experiences lead them to succumb "one last time," and soon they actually begin lying about their lies.

Your partner's addiction affects every area of his/her life, which will also impact your life. Relationship with family and friends suffer; hobbies are neglected; finances, church status, employment, and other responsibilities are compromised by this dual lifestyle.

Your partner's recovery—and your own healing—will also affect every aspect of your life. This fact is actually a dual-edged sword—both frightening and comforting. While we cannot guarantee what changes will take place in you life, we can guarantee that things will not be the same.

SUPPORT

If your partner or family member has a sexual addiction, we strongly suggest that you contact a lifeSTAR therapist in your area. We will guide you in your journey of healing and recovery so you will be able to have a life full of peace and passion. Experience has shown that developing a network of support and finding out that you are not alone is very beneficial in the healing process. We can help you with that.

CONGRATULATIONS

This is tough work and very difficult to face. Admitting that your partner has struggled with sexual compulsion is the first step. In fact, M. Scott Peck, the well-respected author of The Road Less Traveled, says naming something gives you power over it. Naming the struggle going on inside of you begins the journey of understanding and eventually gaining power over it.

As the partner of an addict, the road to healing presents some difficult and unique challenges. You are dealing with the hard truth that you have been betrayed and deceived. Partners often fell betrayed sexually and also deceived by being lied to. It is a complicated recovery process for the partner, and it is important for you to work on your own healing and deal with all the issues as they relate to you rather than obsessing on your partner's addiction.

For more information you are encouraged to read a couple short articles written by Geoff Steuer one of the LifeSTAR therapists. What's A Woman To Do? (PDF) and Advice for a Partner of an Addict (PDF)


To Stay or Not

Those on the receiving end of addiction are dealing with the harsh reality of an attachment being violated. The security and safety of the emotional needs are lost or gone. Much of the relationship feels false, like a fraud. If the addict, has been a safe place for the partner in the past, after learning of the addictive behaviors she is left feeling vulnerable and disoriented. She will naturally ask, "Who can I trust? Who will be there for me now?"

The betrayed spouse does not know where to turn and will often struggle alone. The spouse’s identity, security and stability are destroyed. This type of trauma shatters the internal world of the spouse of an addict. All aspects of her life are affected. Her ability to function with employment, household duties, and parenting is disrupted. Her sense of herself is altered. Often her spirituality is impacted. The experience is very traumatic. And her responses to this type of wound typically fall in the category of a "trauma response." A trauma response can be defined as an emotional response to a perceived threat."

Responses to trauma in this sense can vary widely, and may include any of the following

  • Fear and/or anxiety
  • Outbursts of anger or rage
  • Sadness and/or depression
  • Hypervigilence (excessive alertness or watchfulness)
  • Irritability
  • Worrying or ruminating
  • Intrusive thoughts of the trauma
  • Tendency to isolate oneself
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Feelings of panic or feeling out of control
  • Increased need to control everyday experiences (parenting, cleaning, dieting)
  • Difficulty trusting or feelings of betrayal
  • Feelings of self-blame or responsibility
  • Flooding of feelings and/or emotional numbness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Minimizing the experience
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Concern over burdening others with problems
  • Under- or overeating (weight loss or weight gain)
  • Shame
  • Shock and disbelief
  • Diminished interest in everyday activities
  • Withdrawl
  • Preoccupation with body image

At lifeSTAR we recommend that you do not make any major decisions regarding your relationship during the first year of recovery. The world of the spouse needs to have some stability before major decisions are made. So to go or stay will become clearer after the first year or treatment.

The spouse will being doing some empowering recovery work that will build confidence. And They will know what to look for in the addicts recovery to see if they want to stay or not.

© Copyright 2012 LifeSTAR Southern Colorado, LLC. ph: 719-238-7609