Partners, Spouses & Families of Sex Addicts

What do partners and families of sex addicts experience?

Partners, spouses and family members of sex addicts are deeply affected by the behaviors of the sex addict internet porn, cybersex addict. Like the families of an alcoholic or other addict, the family members of a sex addict feel powerless and are powerless to control the disease and the addict.

Partners go through a range of responses to the lies and behaviors of the sex addict. They feel anger even rage, compassion, love, desperation, anxiety and depression. Partners – Spouses of sex addicts may experience some or all of the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Spouses of sex addicts become detectives at first just wanting to find out what is going on but can become obsessed themselves with uncovering information and monitoring the activities of the sex addict in hopes of understanding and changing the destructive behavior.  They may become so focused on the sex addict that they neglect their own self-care and that of their children.

Partners of sex addicts are in crisis. They feel embarrassment and humiliation at what the sex addict has done and continues to do. They feel scared and isolated. They feel alone in dealing with these issues that they don’t feel able to talk about for fear of reaction and judgement from others. They fear what will happen to them and their children if the sex addict loses his or her job or is arrested for their actions. They worry that their dreams of a happy future with their partner and family are shattered.

Partners of sex addicts are angry and feel blaming about what their sex addict spouse has done and is doing. They are loving and try to be understanding and compassionate. They blame themselves for the sex addicts’ behavior and in an attempt to make things different they join the addict in sexual activities that are outside of their value system or desires. They hope that if the addict gets more and varied sexual activity with the partner then the addict will stop their acting out.

In reality the sex addict’s behavior is not correlated with the amount or kind of sexual activity they are having with their partner even if there are problems including sexual problems in their relationship. The sex addicts’ actions are connected to their own destructive pattern of impaired beliefs, avoidance of intimacy, preoccupation with fantasy, acting out sexually, despair and then repeating the pattern over and over with increased consequence.

Partners of sex addicts doubt themselves and their reality. They wonder if they are “blowing things out of proportion”. This is often reinforced by the sex addicts who are not being accountable for their problematic behaviors and deflect the truth through lies and manipulation of both their own reality and that of their partners.

Partners of sex addicts are not responsible for or to blame for the sex addicts’ compulsive behavior.

Only the sex addict is responsible for his or her behavior just as only the partner is responsible for her or his behavior.

Out of fear, partners may cover up for the addict lying to the boss or extended families about the sexual behaviors and their effect on job performance.

Partners of sex addicts may not realize that they have sexually transmitted diseases from the addict. They fear for their children’s safety with the addict. They feel humiliated. They feel isolated – fearful of what will happen if friends, family, bosses, and their community finds out. They feel helpless and at times hopeless.

The sexuality of a partner of a sex addict may be affected by the sex addiction. The Partner Sexuality Survey (PSS) has been developed by Dr. Stefanie Carnes to learn how sexual addiction impacts the sexuality of the partner of the sex addict.

Screening Tests for Sex AddictionInternet Sex AddictionDepressionAnxiety and presence of a Betrayal Bond can help to clarify the serious of the situation partners of sex addicts face.

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In what ways are children affected by their parents’ sexual addiction?

Children of sex addicts may sense the tension and see the fighting in their homes due to parental conflict about the sex addiction. They may be aware of the physical and/or emotional absence of the sex addict parent, i.e. not coming home when expected or disappearing into the computer room with door closed for long hours.  They live in a world of secrets. Since many sex addicts are cross addicted (i.e. alcohol, other drugs, other behavioral or process addictions, etc) children have to deal with the stress of a chaotic unstable home. They may experience neglect or abandonment by the addict parent who is preoccupied by sex or the partner parent who can be preoccupied by the addict.

Children sometimes accidentally find the sex addicts’ pornography or online sexual sites. Children may be upset but also curious about the sexually explicit material and may begin to use it for arousal. Unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases or violence that happen to parents as a result of the sexual addiction are crises children face. Job loss of a sex addict parent can put the family into financial ruin. Imprisonment of a parent due to illegal sexual behavior can cause financial as well as emotional and social hardships as children deal with the absence of a parent in prison.

Parents who are sex addicts may cross emotional, physical and sexual boundaries with their children. Studies on sex addiction show a majority of sex addicts having come from homes in which there were addictions as well as emotional, physical, sexual abuse and abandonment.

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What kind of help is available for partners of sex addicts?

The first step in therapy is giving compassion and support for partners of sex addicts. They need to have acknowledgement for what they have been experiencing.  Partners sometimes have felt they were going crazy with the lies and secrets the sex addict has told them. They have felt scared of telling anyone for fear of blame and humiliation. Validation for all of their feelings is very important.

Partners are encouraged to participate in individual and group psychotherapy. Participating in a therapy group for partners of sex addicts and /or a 12 step support group like Co-Sex Addicts Anonymous (COSA) help to get support and feel less isolated.

Included among the goals for partners are to:

  • Understand sex addiction and its effects on the addict and themselves.
  • Understand codependence
  • Understand their own reactions and behaviors.
  • Learn how to identify and communicate their needs and to be assertive about these needs – be able to identify and set healthy boundaries with the addict
  • Learn how to set safe healthy guidelines with the addict regarding themselves and their children
  • Look at their own history including addictions and understand their own reactions and behaviors
  • Be able to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies  

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What counseling services do you provide for partners of sex addicts, internet porn addicts, cybersex addicts?

I provide a safe place for you to talk about these difficult issues, sort out your situation and your goals and start to take make healthy choices to take care of yourself and your children.

I provide the following services for partners of sex addicts and cybersex addicts:

  • Support
  • Evaluation and treatment planning
  • Education about sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, hypersexual disorder, internet porn addiction and cybersex addiction
  • Individual psychotherapy for the partner and/or addict
  • Couples counseling sessions for the partner and addict as indicated
  • Family counseling sessions as indicated
  • Partners of sex addicts therapy group suggestions
  • Community support sessions
  • Information and referral to co-sex addiction and sex addiction treatment groups-both 12 step and psychotherapy groups
  • Coordination of services with other treatment providers for the partner, family and addict.
  • Information and resources
  • Referral and assistance with arrangements for more intensive treatment if necessary including inpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment
  • Referral as needed

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I am not currently leading any groups for Partners and Spouses of Sex Addicts.

Groups can be very helpful. If you are interested, you can contact me to schedule an intake appointment and in our session we can discuss resources for groups.

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What services do you provide for children of sex addicts?

I am not a child therapist. I assess needs and refer children to psychotherapists who have experience working with children of sex addicts.

I work together with other treatment providers to provide coordinated services for family members.

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What therapy services do you provide for my partner who is a sex addict, internet porn addict, cybersex addict?

Explore this information to learn about counseling services I provide for someone dealing with Sexual Addiction, Sexual Compulsivity, Hypersexual Disorder and Internet Porn Addiction, Cybersex Addiction.

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What if my partner who is a sex addict will not come to therapy?

I encourage you to come to talk whether or not your partner is ready to start their recovery at this time. It is important for you to get support and clarity for yourself.  You can learn about sexual addiction and how it effects you and your family, you can decrease the isolation you feel and learn that you do not have to be ashamed because of the actions of your partner or even your own actions. In a safe non-judgemental environment you can step back and sort out your situation and your options.

I can help to connect you to resources that will help you as you make decisions for yourself and your family.

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Where can I find out more about sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, hypersexual disorder, internet porn addiction, cybersex addiction, and partners of sex addicts?

Explore these references for more information:

  • Shari’s Blog for articles, news and selected informational videos on these subjects and related topics including:

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How can I contact you for further information?

Here is my Contact Information and Office Information.

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