The partner of a sex addict usually experiences tremendous pain and suffering, beginning with discovery of the addict’s behavior. Discovery may consist of finding evidence in the form of text, email, computer history, photos, evidence in financial records, etc., confirming that the addict is acting out. Or, it could be finding a secret phone, receipts from dinners or hotels, or worse, a phone call or visit from an acting out partner or THEIR partner/spouse.
It is not unusual for a partner to have had moments of doubt and an intuitive sense that “something is off, something is wrong” long before the actual moment or experience of discovery. It is common for a partner to have had many such instances, along with denial or outright lies by the addict to deflect suspicion. It is also understandable that a partner sets aside those suspicions because s/he doesn’t really want to believe that it is possible. Another familiar experience, called “gaslighting” or “crazymaking”, consists of the addict convincing the partner that s/he cannot trust his/her own perceptions and even expressing hurt and anger that the partner could even imagine such a thing.
Many partners describe that moment of “knowing” as one of the most excruciatingly painful moments, where their entire world collapses. The best friend, lover, and life partner on whom you have trusted with your body and soul has turned out to be a stranger. This experience is a rupture in your primary attachment relationship, a particular form of trauma that has identifiable characteristic symptoms. Starting with a cascade of feelings including, shock, dread, fear/panic, humiliation, disgust, hopelessness, self-devaluation, rejection, disbelief, anger/rage, despair, depression; symptoms also include experiencing many of the following: flashbacks/re-experiencing/intrusive memories, sleep disturbances/nightmares, isolation, obsessive thoughts/ruminating about the offenses/betrayals, hyper-arousal/hyper-vigilance, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances such as depression and/or panic attacks, mistrust of others, avoidance/numbing, loss of sexuality.
Although the diagnosis of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder requires the experience of threat of death or bodily harm, which is not usually part of the partner’s experience, the partner’s symptoms described are very similar to those who have PTSD. A diagnosis, Sex Addiction Induced Trauma (SAIT) has been proposed to differentiate the partner’s experience from true PTSD. Regardless of what we call it, the experience of relational betrayal is excruciatingly real, and most partners benefit from skilled therapeutic help.
At Spectrum Recovery Solutions, we have trained clinicians who provide a safe and supportive healing environment designed to support and nurture partners who are going through this uniquely painful experience. Therapy for partners usually involves a combination of individual and group work designed to provide information about addiction and the healing process, a supportive community of peers and staff, and strategies for self nurturing, gaining clarity, decision making, and moving forward from an empowered perspective.
For partners who are in relationships where the addict is committed to recovery and change, we also support the emerging relationship with Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy led by one of our trained EFT therapists who understand the unique experience of recovering from sexual addiction and sexual addiction induced trauma.
We now have a group for Partners of Sex Addicts!