7 Things Every Spouse Of A Sex Addict Should Know
Sexual addiction is very complex. A few of the underlying issues contributing to sexual addiction involves the brain’s neurotransmitters compelling compulsive behavior, dysfunctional attachment styles that hinder relational connection and intimacy, shame that continually challenges self-worth and wellbeing, PTSD from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) creating ongoing emotional pain, and relational difficulties that drive us towards isolation and self-sufficiency.
Along with the complex issues contributing to compulsive behavior, there are unique issues that a spouse faces when sexual addiction is suspected and/or revealed.
As a spouse of a sex addict, it is imperative that you understand your role in the recovery process.
Here are 7 helpful things every spouse should know about sex addiction.
1. Your Suspicions Are Most Likely Real
It is normal to minimize the disconnection you are feeling in your marriage. Obviously, there are relational attachment styles that promote unfounded and unrealistic jealousy patterns, but when there are apparent signs of deviant sexual behavior, it usually indicates a problem.
See our blog on the 5 Telling Signs That My Husband Is A Sex Addict to get more understanding on confirming your suspicions.
Unfortunately, few sex addicts admit to a problem when confronted with the circumstantial evidence. It usually takes getting caught before the addict will admit to the problem and become willing to get help.
2. It’s Not Your Fault
Everyone has the freedom to make their own choices about their sexual behavior. Most of the time, choices towards deviant sexual behavior started well before you were married.
Your husband’s sexual addiction is not about you.
This is not about your weight, age, shape, or sexual competency. This is about your husband’s inability to cultivate connection and intimacy. Certainly, there are most likely marriage issues that need to be addressed, but your husband has made choices to find comfort, nurture, and pleasure outside of your marriage.
While your husband’s sexual choices are not your fault, they do impact you.
Loss of self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression, inability to trust, reduced ability to enjoy sex and romance, and fear of the future are just some of the negative fallout when you discover your husband has engaged in deviant sexual behavior.
The worse thing you can do is to take the blame for someone else’s choices.
Recovery can only begin when your husband takes personal responsibility for his behavior and begins to address the underlying emotional and relational issues that led to his sexual choices.
3. You Can’t Fix Him
No matter how much you try, you cannot change your husband. We can only change our selves. Accountability tactics will never work for the addict because they will always find a way around the blocking device, GPS locator, or accountability partner.
Thinking that you can control your husband’s behavior through vigilant spying and complaining will only increase your anxiety, and erode your self-worth, boundaries, and sense of wellbeing.
Until the sex addict genuinely wants help for himself, there is nothing you can do, but take care of yourself.
While you cannot fix your husband’s problem, you can, however, demand that he seeks help.
Ignoring the problem is just as unhealthy as trying to fix the problem. The best results in restoring the marriage is when both husband and wife work on their own individual issues of recovery before they attempt to solve the marriage issues.
4. Your Feelings Matter
Anger, sadness, confusion, fear, and uncertainty are just a few of the emotions that a spouse typically experiences in the initial stages of learning of the extent of their husband’s sexual improprieties.
It’s not uncommon to have an array of feelings and emotions at any given moment. It is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of betrayal, the fear of uncertainty, and the sense of inadequacy.
Remember, you can only heal what you allow yourself to feel.
More importantly, it is imperative to find supportive people who can help you process the feelings you will experience during the recovery journey. It is not a good idea to make life decisions based upon the intense emotions you can experience at any given moment.
Getting good feedback and strategy from a coach or therapist who is specifically trained in sexual recovery and wellness strategies will help you successfully navigate through your healing journey.
5. Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting
One of the greatest hurdles in restoring a broken marriage from sexual addiction is the spouse’s ability to forgive.
Bitterness will kill any hope of restoration.
Making your husband “pay” for his “sins” only increases shame and the fear of punishment, which drives the addict into further levels of secrecy.
A healthy relationship consists of healthy boundaries, as well as strategies for restoration.
Forgiveness does not mean that you forgo all of your pain and grieving. Rather, you relinquish your right to punish him to avenge the betrayal.
Forgiveness releases you from the power of bitterness and frees you to be healed from the pain of offense.
6. You Are Powerful
You have the ability to choose to stay or leave, fight or flight, set boundaries, forgive, and find support for your own recovery journey.
Having options empowers us to become intentional about how we will do life and relationship.
While you did experience a betrayal of love and trust, you do not have to continue to live as a victim in the process of recovery. You can learn how to take control of your life, and the choices you make towards wholeness and wellbeing.
Certainly, you are going to need a lot of support, tools, and encouragement along the way, but as you make healthy choices to get the help you need in your healing process, you will find strength for your self, as well as providing strength to your family.
When we believe and feel that we are OK; that we are valuable and powerful, we are able to set boundaries, forgive, and fight for restoration in healthy ways that lead to healing and wholeness.
7. You Are Worth It
You deserve to be loved and respected in your marriage. Sure, you most likely have issues that contribute to marital discord, but your husband’s sexual choices do not define your value.
Shame would like to convince you that you are not enough; that his sexual problem is somehow your fault.
Shame never leads us into healing, wholeness, and healthy connection.
When you discover that you are valuable and worthy of love and respect, you will be able to separate your husband’s choices from your self-view, enabling you to pursue healthy self-care that promotes the possibility for healthy restoration of your marriage and family.
There Is Hope With The Proper Approach
These 7 insights can help you avoid the pitfalls many spouses experience as they attempt to navigate through the myriad of obstacles surrounding sexual addiction.
Please do not try to journey through this painful process on your own.
Seek out certified sexual addiction specialists who can successfully guide you through the treacherous terrain of this arduous journey.
This journey can be successful with proper guidance and support.
As you get the tools and insights that foster progress, you will find hope for you, your husband, and your family.
You deserve to live free and to live well.