Partners of sex addicts experience extensive emotional and relational pain. Often, partners feel intense difficult emotions, including anger, abandonment, rejection, loneliness, sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, worry, shame, and/or guilt. They often feel “less than” and concerned about their body image, personality, and sex. Partners often feel like their hearts are shattered when they learn of their significant other’s sex addiction, and feel betrayal trauma. Partners of sex addicts often consider themselves “victims of interpersonal relational trauma” (Corley, Schneider, & Hook, 2012).
Undoubtedly, a sex addict needs treatment. No partner of a sex addict would argue with this! But, often, partners of sex addicts are “the unrecognized persons in the spectrum of sex addiction recovery” (Tripodi, 2006). Partners need healing too, and can benefit from therapy. Therapy support is useful for partners in overcoming betrayal trauma (Pollard, Hook, Corley, & Schneider).
Counseling with a partner of a sex addict includes a safe environment where a partner can talk openly about her/his emotions and thoughts and have support. The ultimate goal of counseling with partners of addicts is for the counselor to be a support to the partner in a difficult time and for the partner to eventually get to a spot where the partner is emotionally healthy, not dependent on whether the addict has become emotionally healthy or unhealthy.
Partners of sex addicts need to go through three phases in counseling. The first phase is “Shock, Crisis, and Information Gathering” and focuses on processing emotions, developing healthy coping strategies, and learning about addiction and sex addiction in general. The second phase is “Normalization of the Reality: Focus Shifts from the Addict to the Self,” and focuses on the self, working through trauma. The third phase is “Advanced Recovery Issues Addressed,” where partners go deeper and explore their ways of thinking.
If you are a partner of a sex addict, you do not need to suffer alone. Set up an appointment immediately! We are here to help you. If you know someone who is a partner of a sex addict, send them the link to this article.