How Sex Addiction Impacts a Marriage
When you consider how sex addiction might impact a marriage, some might believe that the effects would be more positive than negative. However, after being married for a couple of years now and actively fighting through sex and pornography addiction, I can tell you that is not always the case.
Sex addiction does not imply a perfectly-fulfilled sex life. Instead, just like any other addictive, life-altering behavior or substance, sex addiction can take over your life and result in unhealthy, compulsive behaviors and thoughts. I wish that my sex addiction resulted in a perfect sex life and complete contentment in my sexual relationship, but that isn't my story at all. There have been a lot of twists and turns along the way that impacted my marriage in addiction recovery.
Married to a Sex Addict
Let me clear the air by stating that I have never been unfaithful to my husband at all. Neither in our dating relationship, throughout our engagement, nor in our marriage have I even had the desire to cheat or seek sexual contact with anyone else.
This might come as a surprise to you, but sex addicts are not always sexually-aroused monsters with little to no self-control. In fact, I would say that recovering sex addicts probably have more self-control than anyone you know. Our minds are almost always racing with unhealthy thoughts, and it takes a lot of discipline and intentionality to fight through the cravings and urges that are constantly seeking to destroy us.
I also want to be transparent in saying that my marriage is great. I love my husband with every part of my being. He is a safe place for me, and with his love and support, I have found a way to be vulnerable and seek help for myself in ways that I never thought possible. I am satisfied with him mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. I do not have a desire to look elsewhere to meet any of my needs. He's got it covered.
However, that does not mean our marriage is without flaws. We have endured some really tragic and traumatic events together, and some of them have involved our sex life. We have both had to fight our demons and with the help of a few incredible therapists and a lot of introspective growth, we are better and more capable human beings because of what we have endured.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge of our marriage (pertaining to sex addiction) is the shame that always haunts me and the feeling that I will never be fully healed and recovered. Even though my husband has never intentionally shamed me, my own mind always seems to find ways to put me down and remind me of my past.
Sadly, even though this is an internal battle, it can definitely impact my sex drive and my desire to seek sexual connection. In my experience, nothing kills the mood faster than shame. I also feel bombarded, sometimes, with events, memories, or images from my past. There are things that I wish I could burn out of my brain, but I guess neuroscience doesn't work like that.
Maintaining a Marriage in Recovery
Learning to love myself through the shame and self-inflicted hate of my past addictions has been such a massive challenge for me. Every time I think I'm over it or I'm past the worst of my addiction, another trigger will pop up, and, suddenly, it's like I am transported to a different place and time, and there's no way out.
I am beyond thankful to have such a supportive husband who loves me unconditionally and repeatedly reminds me that my life in recovery is worth living, even though there are so many demons still to be conquered.
I believe the key to maintaining a successful, healthy, romantic relationship in recovery from any addiction is to find a partner who understands pain, shame, and the importance of mental health. Even if your partner's story doesn't perfectly mirror yours, it's incredibly important that you find someone willing to address the painful parts of his or her past as well. You need someone who isn't afraid of hard conversations, vulnerability, or emotionally-charged triggers because all of these things will come up at some point, and it's important that you both are ready when they do.
Additionally, I believe it is imperative that you and your partner both get into therapy. For some, couples therapy might do the trick. However, in our marriage, we have participated in couples therapy, and we each see individual therapists as well. This might sound excessive (and expensive), but we feel it is worth every penny.
My husband and I have benefitted tremendously from having a shared therapeutic environment, but also having a safe space where we can address our own personal needs as well. We both discuss a lot more than just addiction in our sessions. There are so many impactful and important memories and challenges we have been able to process through during our time in therapy. Financially investing in your mental health might sound like a burden, but I promise, the results are so worth it.
Final Thoughts on Relationships After Addiction
Ultimately, every relationship is different, right? So I suppose only you will know what you need in your post-addiction relationship or marriage. However, it is so important that you prepare yourself for the emotional and mental challenges that addiction can bring to your interpersonal relationships. Finding someone who is ready and willing to walk through these trying times with you is a task in itself, but once you find that person, you will be so encouraged to see how beautiful and life-changing love can be. My husband is not necessarily the reason I'm in recovery. Honestly, I did that for me. However, he has had a pivotal role in making my recovery what it is today, and I'm so thankful for that.
Relationships are hard enough as it is, so make sure you are honest with any potential romantic partners about your addiction and what your recovery entails. Once you find someone willing to walk through this battlefield with you, you will realize that special person was certainly worth the wait.
Richardson, A. (2020, August 6). How Sex Addiction Impacts a Marriage, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2020/8/how-sex-addiction-impacts-a-marriage