Is My Spouse a Sex Addict?
The following test was adapted from the work of Dr. Doug Weiss to help you answer this question.
- Does your spouse have unaccountable time or money?
- Does your spouse have unexplainable moods?
- Does your spouse's mood depend on whether he or she gets sex or not?
- Does your spouse have a lack of sexual activity with you?
- Does your spouse have a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or neglect?
- Does your spouse have a supply of pornography (especially the kind you get at adult bookstores or download from the internet)?
- Are there many arguments over sex?
- Is your spouse unable to be emotionally intimate?
- Is your spouse dissatisfied with sex (wants more right away or never seems to be enough)?
- Is there a lot of anger or erratic behavior when you say "no" to your spouse sexually?
- Do you feel alone during your sexual encounters or in your relationship?
- Do you feel used, dirty, or abandoned after sexual encounters?
- Is there a sense that your spouse got his or her "fix" and is now better?
- Has your spouse made promises to quit a behavior and failed?
- Does your spouse have what looks like a double life?
If you answered ‘yes' to these questions, the possibility of a pornography or sex addiction exists. Although your spouse's behavior cannot be diagnosed by this questionnaire, your ‘yes' answers indicate that you have been hurt in this relationship.
Can Our Marriage/Relationship Survive?
A marriage can survive pornography and sex addiction and, if both parties receive treatment and live an active recovery lifestyle, can develop into a deeper, more fulfilling relationship. The most successful relationships are those in which both the addict and partner participate in individual and couples related therapy activities. Group therapy and Twelve-Step programs can be an important source of support for both you and your addicted spouse.
It will be important to work with a therapist with specific training in treating the impact of sexual addiction on your relationship. You can obtain a list of therapists who are Certified Sex Addiction Therapists, Sexual Recovery Therapists or Certified Clinical Partner Specialist.
However, remember that not all therapists who are trained in treating sex addiction have specific training in understanding the trauma infidelity survivors and partners of sex addicts experience or in marriage/couples counseling or family therapy. To obtain this information you will have to ask about the educational background of the therapist you work with to help rebuild your relationship.
What is a Co-Sex Addict/Partner of a Sex Addict?
Historically, individuals who are or who have been in a relationship with someone who is addicted to porn or sex are often referred to as Co-Addicts or Co-Sex Addicts. I prefer to use the term Partner of a Sex Addict. Although living with someone with any type of addiction is painful, loving someone with a sexual addiction cuts to the heart in a way that no other addiction can. If you have been struggling with this, then you are in deep pain – and you deserve to heal.
Am I a Partner of a Sex Addict?
The following checklist is adapted from S-Anon, a Twelve-Step group for partners of pornography and sex addicts.
- Have you felt hurt or embarrassed by your spouse's sexual conduct?
- Have you secretly searched for clues about your spouse's sexual behavior?
- Have you lied about or covered up your spouse's sexual conduct?
- Have you had money problems because of your spouse's sexual behavior?
- Have you felt betrayed or abandoned by someone you loved and trusted?
- Are you afraid to upset your spouse for fear that he or she will leave you?
- Have you tried to control your spouse's sexual thoughts or behavior by doing things like throwing away pornography, dressing suggestively, or being sexual with him or her in order to keep him or her from being sexual with others?
- Have you given into sex to try to keep peace in a relationship?
- Have you tried to convince yourself that your spouse's sexual thoughts and behavior shouldn't bother you?
- Have you doubted your attractiveness, your emotions, and your sanity?
- Have you felt angry and/or stupid for not knowing about your spouse's acting out behavior?
- Have you engaged in uncomfortable, unwanted, or physically dangerous sexual behavior?
- Has your preoccupation with your spouse's sexual thoughts and behavior affected your relationships with your children, your co-workers, and/or other friends or family members?
- Have you neglected your physical and/or emotional health while in a relationship?
- Have you blamed other people, such as friends or sexual partners, society in general, his or her job, religion, or birth family for your spouse's sexual behavior?
- Have you felt confused about what is true when talking with your spouse about his or her sexual thoughts or behavior?
- Have you avoided painful emotions by using drugs, alcohol, or food or by being too busy?
- Do you find dealing with your spouse's sexual behavior or mood swings crazy making?
- Have you become a private investigator in your own home?
- Do you spend more time thinking about your spouse than you do yourself?
- Do you go through cycles of loving and then hating your spouse?
- Have you felt alonein your relationship or too ashamed to ask for help?
If you answer yes to a number of these questions, then your spirit has been negatively affected by pornography and sex addiction and you will likely benefit from a recovery program. For additional information on the ways your sexuality has been affected by being in a relationship with a sex addict, you can take the free, online Partner Sexuality Survey at www.recoveryzone.com.
How Have My Behaviors, Thoughts, Feelings Been Affected by Pornography or Sex Addiction?
As a partner of a sex addict you may feel devastated by your spouse's behavior, particularly if the reality of the addiction is recently discovered. Shock, disbelief, numbness, anger, sadness and fear are common. You may be tormented by images of what you discovered, or even what you imagine your spouse did. Many partners report difficulty with sleep and concentration. Self-esteem almost always takes a direct hit. Your sense of security has been shattered. Your ability to trust your spouse, and your own judgment and intuition, is damaged. You may become a detective in your own home, preoccupied with finding evidence of your spouse's betrayal or monitoring his or her recovery efforts. Ongoing struggles with anxiety and depression are par for the course. Perhaps what is most painful is that just when you begin to hope that maybe you can let yourself trust again, a new lie is discovered, a new betrayal disclosed. And each time you go through it the scab is ripped off the wound in your heart and you die inside all over again.
Is there Hope? Can I Recover from This?
Absolutely! Both your marriage and the pain in your own heart can heal. Your recovery starts with accepting the reality of what has happened to you and beginning to grieve the loss of the life you thought you had, the one you planned to live, and the person you used to be. Although many counselors may treat pornography or sex addiction and work with partners, those trained by the field's leading expert on pornography and sex addiction, Dr. Patrick Carnes, are Certified as Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs). You can obtain a list of professionals with this credential from the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals. Certified Clinical Partner Specialists (CCPSs) are credentialed by the Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists and trained to treat the sex addiction induced trauma partners of sex addicts often experience, as well as help your relationship heal. If you are experiencing intimacy deprivation from your sexually addicted spouse due to a pattern of withholding emotional, spiritual or sexual intimacy, known as intimacy anorexia,you may want to seek a Sexual Recovery Therapist(SRTs). Sexual Recovery Therapists are certified by the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy.
Why a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Specializing in Partners of Sex Addicts?
Maybe you have already talked with a therapist who does not specialize in treating sexual addiction about the heartache this betrayal has caused you. And because the pain was so great, the therapist was likely helpful – up to a point. But the roots of sexual addiction run deep and the lifestyle it generates for you and your family are complicated. Moving beyond the immediate pain and making deep and lasting changes in your life takes the assistance of a therapist trained in treating sexual addiction and in helping partner's heal.
Perhaps you have even worked with a therapist who specializes in sexual addiction. I hope that this was a positive experience for you. But I know that for many of you it was not. I hear from many partner's who felt they were treated as an adjunct to their spouse's treatment, with little or no encouragement for seeking treatment for their own pain. Or worse yet, made to feel as if they were the problem and isolated from information about his recovery. And while I wholeheartedly support participation in Twelve Step support groups like COSA, S-Anon and SLAA, these groups are based on a codependency model of treatment rather than a model that recognizes what you are going through for what it really is – trauma.
Changing codependent behaviors is often a necessary step toward a healthier, happier life. However, if you are or have been in a relationship with a sex addict, you are in a world of pain. Pain is traumatic. Trauma is not initially best treated by a codependency model of therapy; trauma is best treated by a trauma model of therapy.
Working with a therapist who expects you to deal with codependency first is like being in a violent car wreck with blood gushing from your arteries. But instead of focusing on the blood, the emergency worker focuses on the traffic violation. Luckily emergency workers don't do this. They don't do this because they know that there is a natural and logical priority – take care of the blood first, traffic reports later. Your emotional emergency has a natural and logical priority as well – trauma first, codependency later.
So what is the answer for therapy? Start with first things first. Remember, trauma first. And find a trained therapist who understands that. Also, keep in mind that although many therapists who work with pornography and sex addiction are willing to work with partners, many of those therapists have significantly more training and experience in working with the addict and comparatively little in working with your needs.
If you are reading this, you are a seeker of information. I bet you sought out a lot of information about treating your spouse's porn and sex addiction. But your pain is important too. Ask questions about the therapist's approach to dealing with partners, the relationship, and the family. Ask questions about how your therapist plans to coordinate your care with your spouse's or how and when the work on the relationship work will begin. During your spouse's active addiction you may have been treated like a second class citizen in your own relationship; don't allow yourself to be treated like a second class citizen in your own therapy.
What is the Betrayal Trauma Model of Partners of Sex Addicts?
If you would like to learn more about my approach to working with partners, please feel free to contact me or check out the Partner's of Sex Addicts recovery blog.