One of the most frightening things for sex addicts who enter recovery and for their partners is hearing that disclosure is widely regarded as a foundational step in recovery and in relationship rebuilding. Disclosure is not dumping details about acting out on the partner. It is not a play-by-play account of sexual behaviors.
Rather, disclosure is a clinical process that is carefully prepared with the help of a sex addiction therapist. There is an exacting process that is followed in the preparation of disclosure. And when this document has been carefully prepared and properly edited, the actual disclosure session with the partner is facilitated by a therapist who has advanced skills in treating sex addiction.
Secrets have shame attached to them. As long as a sex addict has any secrets and the accompanying shame, they will act like a magnet to draw the addict back into those same old behaviors.
Putting an end to secrets is foundational for rebuilding a relationship that has been badly damaged by sex addiction. For more information about disclosures and how they are prepared and facilitated, read Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners.
I have often said that a person cannot be a successful sex addict without being a world-class liar. This is not a character attack but simply an observation based on many years of working with sex addicts and partners.
Why do sex addicts lie? Lying often begins as a way of escaping an abusive parent, a demanding coach, or an exacting teacher. But carried into adulthood, lying may take on a life of its own.
Sex addicts lie to cover their acting out behavior. It is also true that sex addicts may lie about things that do not have anything to do with their addiction. They may lie about things that truly do not matter. Lying has become so ingrained that their default position is to lie in order to present themselves in a better light.
Recovery from any addiction includes having a renewed commitment to live in the truth, tell the truth, and accept nothing short of complete honesty from themselves. A colleague whose partner is an addict recently told me that to her, rigorous honesty is the Holy Grail of recovery.
I hope that if you are in recovery that telling and living in the truth has become a new way of living.
Actually I am not thinking about the dollars and cents cost of sex addiction. However, it is staggering to see what some people have spent pursing their addiction.
Sex addicts often pay a high price for their addiction. Some have lost jobs and even careers because of their acting out. I have some clients who have lost several jobs due to their addiction. Other sex addicts have lost relationships because of their sexual acting out. In studying the history of sex addicts, it is common for me to find that a person has lost two, three, or more relationships directly attributable to sex addiction.
The loss of health is the price that some have paid for their sex addiction. They have contracted one or more STDs and often pass these along to their partners. If you are the partner of a sex addict, chances are you have acquired an STD as the result of this person’s acting out.
The ultimate price that some pay for sex addiction is their life. Depression and despondency are so great for some sex addicts that they do not see any way out other than to take their lives.
What I know is that there is hope for sex addicts. It is possible for them to get completely free from their acting out behaviors and never return to them. It is also possible for relationships that have been rocked by sex addiction to be restored.
Sex addiction demands a high price. It costs more than most people want to pay. If someone you love is a sex addict, you would benefit from reading Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners. And when you finish reading, you might leave the book out where the one you love can find it.
“I want you to tell my husband that he is a narcissist.” This statement is repeated in my office several times each year by partners of sex addicts. At the root of the comment is the fact that these partners have witnessed many selfish behaviors by the sex addict. They believe that must mean that the sex addict has narcissistic personality disorder.
Many sex addicts are very selfish. In fact, we could safely say that their behaviors are narcissistic. However, narcissistic personality disorder is a rare disorder that is present in less than 1% of the population. Thankfully, most sex addicts are not dually diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder.
But the fact remains that sex addicts can be very selfish. If you are a sex addict, try keeping a daily journal where you record instances of selfishness each day. Be sure to include any instances where your partner or someone else pointed out that you tend to think of yourself first.
Are you a narcissist? Maybe. Maybe not. What matters today is that you refocus your life so that you are not the center of your universe. Today is a day for selflessness instead of selfishness.
Masturbation is common in both men and women. A significant percentage of women have engaged in masturbation and some studies show that well over 90% of men have at least one time in their lives engaged in masturbation.
A sex addict’s battle is not the battle between the legs but rather the battle between the ears. Masturbation is usually facilitated by indulging in fantasies, reliving previous sexual behaviors, watching pornography, or recalling previous pornography they have watched.
The bottom line is that it is not the physical act of masturbation that is problematic for a sex addict but rather the fantasy that takes place during masturbation. Add to this the fact that masturbation reinforces the disconnect between sex and emotion and many sex addicts determine that masturbation is something that they would like to eliminate from their lives.
“I just found out that my husband has been sexual with other men. Is my husband gay?” The answer to that question may be “yes,” but the touchstone of whether a person is gay is not that they act out with the same sex. Some men who act out with men are heterosexual.
I have had some male clients who act out with men tell me that they would engage in sexual acts with men while watching heterosexual pornography. Some male sex addicts act out with men because they perceive that the supply of willing partners is more plentiful. Others act out with men because they believe they are not “really” being unfaithful to their female partner. Still others act out with men because they believe this activity is more forbidden and will give them a higher high.
Sex addiction has been said to be the most difficult addiction to address. Because of this, people have been searching for cures to their problem behaviors but many of these cures are ineffective.
Sex addicts often make promises to stop their acting out behavior. They may even make vows to God that they will never do the behaviors again. They are sincere but find that the promises do not result in arresting the behavior.
Some turn to religion and have profound religious experiences where they commit to being involved in various religious rites and rituals hoping to eradicate the addiction. Others believe the problem lies in where they live. They believe the solution to their addiction is the “geographical cure” so they move hoping their addiction will not follow them.
Single sex addicts may believe they will find relief from addiction if they will just get into a relationship or get married. Married sex addicts often think the problem is they are in the wrong relationship and that they would be able to stop their acting out if they got a divorce.
There are those sex addicts that believe the solution to their addiction is in taking a pill. Others believe they will find relief when they are much older hoping they will outgrow the addiction.
In truth, all of these “cures” are ineffective. What works with sex addiction is the same thing that works with other addictions. Sex addicts must give themselves to a solid program of recovery that includes attending meetings, working with a sponsor, working the Steps of recovery, and a willingness to do a lot of personal soul-searching.
More than 100 partners or former partners of sex addicts have contributed their wisdom in Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners. Sex addiction recovery must include those whose lives have been touched by sex addiction. This is especially true in the case of partners of sex addicts.
The partners who participated in the survey included in this book speak candidly about what has helped and what has hindered their quest toward healing. They also spoke about the things that have worked and have not worked in restoring trust with their sexually addicted partner.
This honest appraisal of multiple factors helps partners who are just beginning to navigate this frightening odyssey. Their helpful comments and suggestions prove not only beneficial to partners but also to sex addicts who are concerned about their partner’s healing. Three chapters of this book are devoted to the wisdom that comes from these partners.
With alcohol and chemical dependency, addicts must make a permanent break from their drug of choice. They decide at the beginning of recovery that they will not use any more.
For most sex addicts, it is not as acceptable to give up sex for life. Rather, sex addicts must learn to have a healthy relationship with sex. In this way, sex addiction has more in common with eating disorders than it does with drug addiction or alcoholism.
The path to developing a healthy relationship with sex is outlined in the new book Stop Sex Addiction: Real Hope, True Freedom for Sex Addicts and Partners. Both sex addicts and partners find help and hope in this book.
Twelve-Step meetings are filled with people whose relationships have ended due to addiction. This is especially true for sexual addiction.
However, relationships do not have to end just because of the discovery of sex addiction. I have even seen restoration take place in relationships where the partner finds out that the sex addict has been sexually involved with many other people and has participated in behaviors that are incomprehensible.
Certainly the road to relationship restoration is a difficult one when sex addiction is a factor. I often hear partners saying, “Why couldn’t I be in relationship with an alcoholic or a drug addict? Anything but sex addiction would be easier to understand.”
Through the years I have had the privilege of seeing many relationships restored that appeared to be headed for divorce or dissolution. With hard work, not only can relationships survive sex addiction but they may even thrive.