Partners & Wives of Sex Addicts:
Are you feeling hurt, betrayed, alone, confused, and/or angry about your partner’s unfaithfulness? You are not alone in those feelings. They are common emotions for those involved with sex addicts. You may wonder, why did you get a sex addict as a partner?. This may not be your first relationship with a sex addict either. Why do you keep attracting partners like this?
Patrick Carnes describes the “co-addict,” or loved one or friend, as one who “becomes so involved in the life of the addict that he or she truly starts to participate in the same impaired mental processes of the addict.” As the relationship has struggles for the addict, the grief cycle for the loved one also becomes distorted.The addict replaces healthy, human relationships with sexual compulsiveness. As those who love them feel the loss, they feel anger, despair, and sometimes hopelessness. However, all the loved one’s efforts to restore the relationship are not only ineffective, they can intensify and deepen the addictive system for the addict. Compounding the tragedy, co-addicts will take actions which are self-destructive, degrading, or do profound violations of their own values. Family members, as co-addicts, become part of the problem.
Marriage does not cure sexual compulsiveness. Spouses learn to sacrifice their own identity–giving up a part of their self in order to stay in the relationship. This may include: disregarding one’s intentions, overlooking behavior that hurt deeply, covering up despised behavior, appearing cheerful when hurt, avoiding conflict to keep up appearances, being disrespected repeatedly, allowing one’s standards to be compromised, faulting themselves for the family’s problems, and believing there are no other options. They are caught in a process beyond their control–a process in which reactions made the situation worse.
The co-addictive system parallels the process of the addictive system. Co-addiction starts with a fundamental core belief about one’s self, relationships, needs, and sexuality. These beliefs generate impaired thinking that distorts reality and fosters co-addictive behavior. The co-addict attempts to change the addict, but in reality, contributes to the addiction. Co-addictive behavior adds to the unmanageability of the family members’ lives.
The belief system is the key. Cultural and family messages affect what a child holds to be true. In order to survive and have some needs met, the future co-addict felt they had to pretend that everything in the relationship was acceptable when it was not. The same sense of abandonment that addicts experience in their lives exists for co-addicts.
Some of the behaviors of a partner include: denial, grandiosity and inadequacy, blame and judgment, preoccupation with the addict’s sexual behavior, enabling, participation in secrecy, isolation, increasing distance between family members. Often the co-addict uses the sexual relationship between them as one of the chief methods to control the addict. Controlling sex comes from the co-addict’s preoccupation with the sexual behavior of the addict.
At The Intimacy Center we understand the pain of the partner. We encourage letting others into the pain. Support can be found from groups, friends, and family. To have a safe place to share the pain and grow, we have a group for female partners of sex addicts where affirmation and growth occurs among the women. Couples therapy helps the couple address the crisis in the relationship and begin to rebuild trust. Individual therapy helps the partner develop her/his recovery plan and embark on personal growth. We explore the ways in which you came into a relationship with a sex addict, how you have lost yourself within the relationship, and the steps to wholeness and becoming a healthy partner.