Sex Addiction seems to be the hot topic of the news media these days, especially with the ‘outing’ of celebrities or their spouses. As the news churns and the stories take us behind the closed doors of these marriages, only a brief lip service is given to the spouse (except in the case of Sandra Bullock). A few sentences question if they will support or divorce, but, beyond that the spotlight is on the Sex Addict. I guess our story just isn’t exciting enough.
The effects of living with a Sex Addict are subtle but deep, destructive to our sense of safety, emotionally devastating and life changing. As the relationship with a Sex Addict progresses our personalities change. We try to find normal ways to deal with an abnormal situation. Sex Addicts have two sides to their personalities and the deception over who they are, what they believe in and what they are doing presents an ever changing, contradictory picture that is impossible to make sense of.
Because of our natural and normal desire to please our partner and our need to feel loved in return, we often believe the outrageous lies we are told and blame ourselves for the Sex Addict’s behavior. In a society that worships physical perfection we start to think that if we were only younger, prettier, thinner, nicer or Mother Teresa with the body of Paris Hilton that our spouse would finally love us the way we deserve to be loved. If only we were more perfect he would stop looking elsewhere for satisfaction and stay home with us.
There is a phrase that 12 steps use to describe the irrational thoughts of Sex Addicts. It’s called ‘stinkin thinkin’. I think that phrase aptly describes the distorted thinking that spouses and partners eventually fall into as their partner’s Sex Addiction progresses. As the addiction consumes more and more of the addict, the lies and deceit, which are used to cover up their behaviors, their financial chaos and all the lies they have told before, life becomes a surreal vortex for both partners. The non addict keeps trying to make changes to bring their lives back to normal, but nothing works. Eventually the spouse or partner of a Sex Addict loses all sense of self and feels totally out of control.
Society and the media want to label these women (yes, most are women) as co-dependent or co-addicts. Even counselors and the 12 step co-groups like COSA embrace this theory and demean these women even more by offering to fix their personality defects. They put the cart before the horse by stating that these women chose the Sex Addict because of these personality defects, when, in reality, a normal, loving, nurturing woman has had her self esteem and sense of worth slowly eroded and destroyed.
Spouses and partners of Sex Addicts have no control over the addict’s behaviors. Sex Addicts will act out whether you are living with them or not, whether you are aware of their addiction or not, whether you are nurturing or a bitch. Sex Addiction belongs to the addict, and only to the addict. But, unfortunately Sex Addiction causes serious trauma to those around them.
Remember, the longer you let things continue – the more you are enabling or allowing the behavior to continue. A really common excuse I hear is that ‘I love them so I need to be there for them.’ Don’t kid yourself. How are you showing someone love by letting them continue along a destructive path?
Real love is often taking the tough approach. Setting boundaries, being firm and creating consequences for the bad behaviors. Ultimately that’s the best chance you have of creating change. Otherwise you will continue being a door mat and will lose all your sense of self worth. Not only is your spouse’s life being destroyed, but yours as well.
So, take a step back and fight the urge to engage in the distorted thinking that tries to make sense out of nonesense and find a good counselor who will work with you on your self esteem issues and the trauma you have endured. Take back control of your life and make positive changes. Will this change your Sexually Addicted spouse? Maybe, but only if he is ready. But, it will certainly change you. And that’s what is important.
There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. ~ Aldous Huxley