They’re sleeping with other people behind your back, they spend days looking at pornography, they’re using an incredible amount of money on prostitutes and trying to hide it from you. No matter what your personal experience is with your partner’s harmful sexual behaviour the term sex addiction may have been used by your partner, by a professional, by a friend, or even by yourself.
Sex addiction is a very misunderstood and stigmatized label. This is chance to clarify what sex addiction is and isn’t and the benefits and disadvantages of such a label.
Sex addiction IS
The use of sexual behaviour to augment pleasure or reduce pain is a common understanding of what sex addiction is. Often people categorize addictive behaviours when:
When someone engages in the behaviours despite having big negative consequences (for example: loss of their job because they were late due to sexual acting out or watching porn while at work)
When someone tries to stop the use of sex or porn but can’t
When someone builds a tolerance to the use of the behaviour meaning they need more and different types to feel the same effect (for example: needing to use different types of porn and more of it to get the same results)
Sex addiction ISN’T
Sex addiction isn’t an excuse for painful behaviours!
Sex addiction isn’t caused or controlled by you. You didn’t cause the harmful sexual behaviours, and you can’t stop or fix it
Sex addiction isn’t really all about sex. Sex addiction is often seen as an intimacy disorder where sex is used to medicate pain. Sex addiction is about managing shame and pain and prohibits the person with the addiction from forming healthy connections
Pros to using the label
Knowledge of what is happening with your spouse
Clarity and understanding that the situation is not your fault
Guidance on how to proceed with your personal recovery of having a partner with a sex addiction
Cons to using the label
Using the term sex addict or partner of a sex addict, can cause people to feel like their story isn’t fully understood, or that others will interpret their experience incorrectly
The important point is to make sure that the behaviours themselves are seen as hurtful and unacceptable. This can be done by calling the behaviours what they are, an out of control addiction!
In order to begin the journey of recovery and build a healthy relationship with your spouse you need to be willing to look at what is happening honestly. Having the label of addiction can help with that.
If you live in the GTA or Toronto area and would like to talk about the impacts of your spouse’s sex addiction or want help in healing from betrayal trauma please contact me for a free 20 minute consultation.