Partners of Sex Addicts: Crisis 101
Written by: Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC-Intern, National Certified Counselor, McKinney, TX.
Supervised by: Debra Dian Larsen, MS, LPC-S
If you have recently discovered that you are a partner of a sex addict, then you have just stepped onto an emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs will be fluctuating wildly in the early stages of finding out that your spouse has been acting out sexually behind your back. At this time, the turn to a smoother ride is nowhere in sight. This is not a sprint type of recovery. There is no magic pill or potion that will provide a quick fix- healing from your partner’s addiction is a marathon. It will take time to get off the emotional roller coaster. As a partner of a sex addict, you will have your own healing to do. You have been deceived and manipulated for a long time. You are probably experiencing a lot of anger, fear and pain at this time.
So now that you know, what do you do? First of all, know and chant the 3 C’s until it registers in your mind. The 3 C’s stand for: Cause, Control and Cure. The 3 C’s refer to these facts: You did not cause this addiction, you cannot control the addiction and you cannot cure it. There is nothing you can do to “make” your spouse do anything. Recovery is an inside job. You can tiptoe, walk on eggshells and try to make everything stress free in an attempt to prevent him from acting out; you will fail. You can disregard your own emotional needs, focus all on his needs and give him lots of love and attention; you will fail. It does not matter what you attempt. You will fail unless HE chooses to make a change for himself.
Also know that this addiction most likely entered his life long before he met you. You will probably find out that the addiction started during the adolescent years. So, you are not the cause of his addiction. You can’t control it, no matter how hard you try. Trying to control this addiction will only put you on the insanity roller coaster where you will end up exhausted and empty. You can’t cure anyone of their addiction. No matter if you sneak recovery books onto his nightstand, find a therapist for him and closely monitor him. IF he doesn’t want to overcome this addiction, he will not. Focus on healing yourself instead-regardless of what he will or will not do.
At this early time of just finding out, many partners report feeling out of control. They have the urgency to find ALL the answers and wanting to find out everything that her spouse has been doing. Once again, be patient and as gentle as you can be on yourself. Stop, wait and take the time to process what you are experiencing. You deserve to give yourself some time to think. Some partners have to know every single detail relating to the acting out behaviors. Some partners do not want to know anything else.
What is right for you? What are the benefits for you in finding out every detail? What are the negatives? I strongly caution clients in asking for too much information because this can lead to additional pain and future triggers for you. I don’t advocate for keeping you in the dark. You have been in the dark for a long time. I only suggest that you process and think about how much information you need, what are you going to with that information and are you ready to hear the answers to the questions that you ask?
The best thing you can do during these tumultuous times is to take care of yourself. Seek out support, journal, rest, try different recovery tools and you may want to seek professional help in starting your own healing journey.
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Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist