For Spouses and Partners
I get quite bit of email from individuals asking what to do after discovering that their spouse or partner is sexually compulsive. It has become impossible to respond to these personally, so I have put together a list of recommendations. In the emails I receive the "addict" is often referred to as a "him", and I have done the same in the following paragraphs. However, the addict can certainly be either male or female.
Recognizing the "disease" of sex addiction
First of all, sex addiction, like other addictions, is a disease. One is going to need to do some reading about it to understand this. To begin with there is some excellent material on this site, particularly the article "Strung Out On Sex." There are also several good books available, but I suggest one of the following three, particularly the first one:
Get professional help
Typically, by the time spouses or partners write me they have already tried to talk with their partners about this without real success. If this is the case for you, then you may need to talk to your partner with a third person present, either a therapist or pastor. It helps to find someone who is knowledgeable about sex addiction.
The concept of sexual addiction is gradually achieving universal acceptance, and it is getting easier to get help for it. The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health has a list of its professional members on the web at the SASH web site. Look there for the name of a therapist who is near you. If there isn't anyone, then call the nearest name from the list and see if they know someone who is near you. If you still don't have success, then go to any therapist who works with addiction. Unfortunately I am not a good referral source for cities other than Washington, DC.
Watch out for your own trauma from this experience
All of this is very traumatic for a spouse or partner, of course. When your partner has been involved in infidelity it can easily result in post-traumatic stress in your own life. In trauma, the traumatic memory often seems like it stays "yesterday" in your experience, and the ability to heal and regain trust in your partner may require professional help. This often means that you will need therapy yourself for the effects of trauma in order for your marriage to recover.
In addition, infidelity can trigger past traumatic experiences and keep them alive in your emotional life. Beware of loading recent experiences with the emotional baggage from the past. It may sink what may otherwise be a potentially positive marriage.
You will need some support for yourself. Look for meetings for the partners of sex addicts or attend AlAnon meetings. AlAnon meetings are for the family members of alcoholics ("AA" is for the actual alcoholic...the names are confusing.) These meetings would be appropriate for you, and a wide variety of people attend these meetings...not just family members of alcoholics. Links to all of these meetings are listed here.
Your partner is also going to need to attend 12-step meetings for sex addiction if he is an addict, in addition to psychotherapy.
You will also want to make sure you are taking care of yourself in this situation. Here are several suggestions:
When things don't go well, and you can't bring yourself to leave
If you are in a relationship that is clearly destructive for you and cannot bring yourself to leave it, they by all means get the following and read it:
Best wishes with this. Be strong