There is a divide on where sex addiction comes from among psychologists. Some believe it stems from a trauma endured during infancy or early childhood. This trauma creates an intimacy disorder. The disorder surfaces later in life in the form of an obsession with porn or taking part in infidelity and other high-risk behaviors. Another camp of psychologists believes sex addiction isn’t a compulsion at all but a coping mechanism. Just like with drugs or alcohol, it is taken part in to relieve pressure, pain or an emptiness felt deep inside. Drug addicts need a fix and, in this view, so do sex addicts. The fix here however is sex. No matter where it stems from, a spouse with a sex addiction takes a heavy toll on a marriage. The person should seek individual therapy with a counselor experienced in such matters. What’s more, they should also attend a support group in your area as part of their treatment plan. When they enter recovery, they will hopefully cease their destructive behaviors, and work through whatever trauma they’ve endured with the therapist. The marriage will also need significant work to get it back on track.
A remediation strategy is needed to address the pain, hurt and trauma the spouse of a sex addict has endured. The couple should then meet together with the therapist during periodic strategy meetings in order for the partner to assist in therapy. The spouse can be a valuable resource, helping the therapist to evaluate the addict’s recovery, provide other information on the spouse and help the spouse work through their problem. Trust at this point has been obliterated. It has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Still, the healing process has to be conducted in such a way whereas it heals both parties, rather than causing more harm. Usually, the recovering addict either wants to clam up, recoiling at the very thought of revealing details about their previous activities, or to show their sincere desire to change, blurting out their betrayals regardless of setting or present company. Neither one is helpful when trying to repair a marriage stretched to its limit. There are a few addicts who practice a strategy of “staggered disclosure.” This is letting out just enough information to dismay their partner, without getting to the heart of the questions the partner most wants answers to.
None of these patterns ensure a healthful recovery. Still, all therapists agree a certain amount of disclosure is required for the healing process to take place. One survey found that 93% of partners wanted full disclosure for intimacy to be rebuilt. Disclosure however must only be done in a very tightly controlled way. Usually, three to six months is the period where psychologists believe full disclosure can finally take place. One method often used is when the addict writes down all the lies and infidelities in a timeline. Then the spouse is asked to write down their “deal breakers” that would discontinue the marriage. The person in therapy is given this to work into their completed disclosure essay. When a sex addict is in the full throes of their addiction, they will do anything to cover up their trail. They may lie about where they were. They may erase texts, calls, emails. They will lie about the relationships they are involved in and the hookups they’ve had. But in the recovery period a spouse has a chance to talk about how they feel and elicit empathy and regret from the addict. If done correctly, this can be a powerful moment, lifting a tremendous weight off of each person’s shoulders. It is a good place to start from, in terms of rebuilding intimacy. If you are in a marriage with a sex addict, get them to seek treatment. For more on this topic pick up a copy of, Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately after Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction by Margaret Stone.