advertisement

Sex-Sexuality Community

Bookmark and Share

What the Partner Experiences

For the relationship partner of a sexual addict, it can be a painful process experiencing the powerlessness of the addict's out-of-control behavior. Whether the partner is male or female or the relationship is heterosexual, gay or lesbian, the dynamics are the same. That is, the partner may not know what the addict is involved in, but she does know something is amiss. (For simplicity, "he" will be used in referring to the sexual addict and "she" when referring to the partner.) If the partner tries to discuss her feelings of uncertainty and confusion with the addict, he will probably steadfastly deny that anything is happening. Often the addict will tell his partner that she's imagining things, that everything's all right. The primary dynamic here is a denial of her feelings.


continue story below

If, on the other hand, she has through one means or another found out that the addict is acting out sexually and confronts him, the addict may attack his partner, telling her that if she was not so (demanding, withholding, out of touch with the times, etc.) there would be no problem. The primary dynamic here is that she's somehow to blame for his behavior. Either way, nothing changes. Most partners describe these processes as "making me feel crazy."

Some Characteristics of a Sex Addict's Partner

Click to buy - Back From Betrayal: Recovery for Women Involved With Sex Addicted MenA phrase that is used to describe a woman or a man in relationship with a sexual addict is a codependent of a sex addict, or co-addict for short. In her book, Back From Betrayal: Recovery for Women Involved With Sex Addicted Men, Jennifer Schneider presents a cohesive description of a co-addict. Schneider points out that the co-addict's self esteem comes from her success as a people-pleaser. Her main goal in life is to try to figure out what her partner wants, and then give it to him. To assure success at pleasing, she may become extremely sensitive to the momentary mood of her partner. She may constantly worry about what he thinks about her and try extremely hard not to make a mistake.

Because of these self-defeating characteristics, the co-addict usually is much more in tune with what someone else wants than with her own wants and needs. The underlying reason for such a belief is the co-addict's conviction that no one could love her for herself, just as she is, that she must earn love and devotion. The energy expended on such an endeavor can take a heavy toll on the co-addict as she tries repeatedly and unsuccessfully to " keep her man happy." She may engage in a variety of behaviors that range from the smallest violation of her value system to the truly dangerous and destructive. The co-addict, in an effort to please the addict, may do the following things. She may change her hair color, lose/gain weight, quit her job/go to work, or wear sexy underwear. Or she may perform sex acts that are unpleasant or repulsive to her, or attend events that shock and confuse her, swing with others, or expose herself to sexually transmitted diseases. Or, most importantly for a co-addict with children, she may use them and/or ignore them in her efforts to focus on the addict-partner.

Click to buy - Partners Recovery Guide : 100 Empowering Exercises for Partners of Sex Addicts To "please and keep her man" the co-addict will often attempt to become indispensable to the addict. Not surprisingly, with the need to be indispensable, the co-addict's most constant emotional state is one of fear. In their book, Women Who Love Sex Addicts: Help For Healing from the Effects of a Relationship With A Sex Addict, Douglas Weiss and Dianne DeBusk list some of the common fears a co-addict may experience. The list includes such beliefs as I was afraid I wasn't woman enough for him; I was afraid I could never please him sexually; I was afraid there was something wrong with me; I was afraid I was a pervert; I was afraid that I wouldn't protect my kids if they were being hurt by him; I was afraid of his anger; I was afraid he would give me a disease. Living with such fears inevitably leads the co-addict to attempt to control the addict's behavior. Her (unconscious) rationale for this is that if she can keep him within certain parameters of behavior, she won't have to experience her fears of inadequacy and of being abandoned, In reality, such attempts are about as effective as trying to keep the dam from bursting by running around and sticking a finger in the many holes that keep appearing. Nevertheless, the co-addict repeatedly attempts to control the addict with such behaviors as calling or beeping him several times a day in order to find out where he is; checking his wallet for tell-tale evidence; going through credit card bills; checking his shirts for lipstick smudges or his dirty underwear for signs of semen; throwing away pornographic material. She may also attempt to manipulate his behavior with a variety of behaviors of her own, including acting overly understanding and/or becoming a screamer-yeller. Neither works; nor does anything else she tries.

What Usually Happens Without Help

Since the disease of sexual addiction is, like any addiction, progressive, that is, it gets more time-consuming and costly as time goes by, eventually the secret life of the sexual addict is discovered or uncovered and the couple experiences a tremendous crisis. Often, the sexual addict will then enter a period of extreme remorse, beg for forgiveness, and promise never to act out again. His promises at the time are probably sincere and most co-addicts want to believe the words. A honeymoon period may follow, including intense sexual activity between the two people. Since, for the co-addict, sex is often a sign of love, she may be lulled into believing everything is really all right, offer forgiveness and bind up her wounded spirit and go on. She is later shattered to discover the unaccounted for time and secrecy has returned.