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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 this to understand it. To begin with there is some excellent material on this site, particularly the article "Strung Out On Sex." There are also many books available--simply search for "sex addiction" at The first book listed below is specifically for spouses. Some of the others are classics in the field and are still good reading despite their publication date.


Facing Heartbreak

Getting professional help as a spouse or family member

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.


You will also have to take note that you are in a relationship with someone who is typically not good with intimacy. You will want to take a look at your own intimacy skills--they will be important in marital recovery.


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.


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.

Getting support

You will need 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, but many of 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.


In addition to psychotherapy your partner is also going to need to attend 12-step meetings for sex addiction if he is an addict.

Best wishes with this. Be strong
and get help for yourself.