Do Wives and Partners of Sex Addicts Experience Trauma Bonds?

Dr. Patrick Carnes, the guru of Sex Addiction states that, ‘exploitative relationships create trauma bonds, chains that link a victim to someone who is dangerous to them’.

Now, I disagree with the term ‘victim’, but that is just my own opinion. Clinicians use the term consistently to identify partners of Sex Addicts. But, semantics aside, the effects of living with a Sex Addict do have the potential to create a trauma bond.

This creates a situation where the partner of a Sex Addict continues to stay involved with a spouse or partner who betrays them even when it results in severe emotional pain and consequences.

Do these symptoms of Trauma Bonding sound familiar?

  • Repetitive ‘no win’ arguments.
  • Not recognizing the severity of your spouse or partner’s behavior that others regard as horrifying.
  • Trying to convince family and friends that they are wrong about your relationship–that everything is ‘just fine’.
  • Remaining loyal to someone you know has violated your boundaries.
  • Keeping secrets about damaging or destructive behavior.
  • Feeling closer to your Sexually Addicted partner or spouse because you feel that you can ‘help’ them.
  • Allowing your spouse or partner’s ‘charm’ or status to cause you to overlook their bad behavior.
  • The inability to detach from the Sex Addict even though your feelings toward them have turned negative.
  • Missing a relationship with severe longing and nostalgia even though it was so awful that is almost destroyed you.
  • A long history of overlooking lies, broken promises and infidelity.
  • Remaining in a relationship with a spouse or partner who acknowledges no responsibility for their bad behaviors.
  • Living with or loving a Sex Addict changes us profoundly, and recovering from the trauma requires many years of counseling, support and reclaiming our power and self esteem.

    Choosing to stay with a Sex Addict requires a huge amount of self control and the ability to set firm boundaries with well defined consequences. Our nurturing nature must be set aside for a more healthy attitude of expecting and requiring respect, accountability and honesty from the Sex Addict.

    No man is worth your tears, but once you find one that is, he won’t make you cry. ~ Anonymous

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    Responses

    1. Trauma Bonding…..all of the above mentioned! I’ve done & been all of those things. I tried dressing provocative, acting like someone I wasn’t. I actually started dressing & acting like I thought he might want me to act (like his prostitutes)doing things that HE wanted. Maybe I just needed to know what “that” was. I don’t know. I think I have a pretty good idea what “that” is now! It has been almost 2 years now since I discovered the things he’s been doing. My first instinct was to RUNNN!!!Run very fast, and as FAR away from him as you possibly can. Then after hearing his sad tale of woe, I again fell for him. I was going to be the one to “help” him. Plus the fact that I had nowhere else to go. Living with my 30 year old son,who is a full time student. Though my son wants me to move in, I just can’t bring myself to adjust to his “bachelor” ways. The kid just isn’t into cleaning, and frankly, I’ don’t even set down my hand bag, for fear something will run off with it! I have actually considered it at some of my lowest points! And that alone is scary!!! There are a lot of things I thought I would never see me doing. And all because of him. I actually was hurting so bad one night, I went to the bar, had a few drinks, got even more disgusted with men, went down the street to the spa that my husband had been frequenting. I sat in my little sports car (that he bought for me the time I found all of his online girlfriends)I waited for the guys to come out of the spa, looking around, adjusting their dicks in their pants, smiling. I would then yell Louldly…Hey…I know your wife! That gave me MUCH pleasure. Until the police came. I have said & done things that I never imagined saying or doing. So my answer would be YES, I am. I am slowly realizing things that I should have realized a while back. I made my way to the com. college & am on my way. And as I said in another comment about hubby offering up all of his best wishes & how he would “help” me to stand on my own two feet. He said it was the least he could do. I came home from the campus, I was trying to fill out my student loan info. online. I needed info on our 2008 taxes & estimated yearly salary. He just didn’t know how to obtain that information. There’s a shocker! I’m going to our accountant this afternoon for copies (that I know my husband has anally filed away somewhere).Thanks for all the help, Mr. “I’m so superior”. Now he’s not happy again. Oh well. I do have a plan, and am working on it.By the way, plan does not include sleeping on sons sofa retrieved from dumpster! With of without, Baby! I hate the thought of being without him, and I’m not sure if I can really do this, but I’m trying. I have to save myself. He certainly is not going to come to my rescue! On my way to the accountants to get my copies for loan. SUCKS to B U hubby! little man-child!

    2. I think this is definitely me. I have compromised my values numerous times to try and satisfy him. It’s never enough. He jokes around about things that have caused me so much pain. He has tried to drag me down into his dark world so many times and I have given in many times, but I can’t live there. I don’t want to live there.

    3. That is exactly how my husband finally perished. I watched it happen and could do nothing to help him. His exact words to me the last time we were together were” I am in a dark dark place”, and I just watched him allow himself to accept/want to be there. No matter how much light I offered, begged him to take, that is where he wants to be.
      He embraced it, but I did not. I have started over and you can too. His is not a world I wanted to know, and we have our own world, with light and hope and honesty.

    4. “Missing a relationship with severe longing and nostalgia though it was so awful that it almost destroyed you.” This is exactly where I am. I never been married to my SA but we have been together off an on for 4 years. We broke up in mid-August due to a relapse that he had. We both met with his therapist and were told that my SA was nowhere near relationship-ready. The therapist (his therapist) essentially told me to get out of the relationship and stay out for my own protection. I’ve had two other respected professional people tell me to stay away from this SA. I haven’t seen him for 6 weeks and feel like I am in total withdrawl from a drug….or something. If I could have him surgically removed from my brain I would do it in a minute. So I am addicted to him? That is my fear and I worry that, as an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, I will never lose this pull to be with him. I know that 6 weeks isn’t very long after a break-up to be over it but we were apart at 1 point for 15 mos. and I still wanted to be with him – even after that length of time, dating others, trying desperately to move on. It’s a nightmare that scares me and weighs on my mind constantly – even living the wonderful life of friends and a good job – it’s still there.

    5. Hi Carrie,

      What you are experiencing is very common among women who have been traumatized by the discovery of their partner’s Sex Addiction. Read my post on the topic here:

      Do Wives and Partners of Sex Addicts Experience Trauma Bonds?

      Have you found a counselor? I think that it would help. I know it sucks that we, who have done nothing wrong, and who started out as healthy women, have to seek counseling, but it will definitely help.

      Get counseling, take care of yourself and you WILL get over him. Good luck to you.

      JoAnn

    6. Thank you soooooo much, JoAnn. I do have a counselor and I feel comfortable with her – it’s good to have someone to talk to. I think this is compounded by the trauma of all that I saw and did when taking care of Scott when he was so seriously injured after being struck by a car. I was so protective of him during those months, then chop! This site is INCREDIBLE. I cannot begin to say how much it has helped not to feel alone in this. No one, and I mean no one can fathom this as deeply as those who have been through it. Though she gives me no reason to, I still feel kind of embarassed talking to the counselor in a Smart Woman, Idiotic Choices kind of way. But she has also pointed out and it is true – I didn’t fall in love with the addict – I fell in love with a very intelligent, handsome, kind, funny….man, whom I enjoyed very much then saw the addict side and those facets of one person are so hard to reconcile. Peace, blessings, and love to everyone of us who supporting and receiving support here!

    7. Carrie you are definitely NOT alone. I was addicted to my addict too… and now that I realize what a diseased, slimy slut he really is—that is the only thing that has helped somewhat.

      And mine wasn’t even “nice” to me, in the end. He couldn’t understand *WHY* I was all so hurt and everything. lack of empathy. lack of remorse. lack of caring. Just really, really lacking as a man, in all of the ways that really matter.

      These guys CAN appear to be oh so loving and sweet, kind, funny, cute, A-dorable–but in my case, it was all just a thin candy coating over a pile of shit.

      He couldn’t even manage to be a friend and I thought at the very least, that we were. But, that is just it… He is so damaged and sick that he can’t even begin to see himself as the thing that he really is. A “SEX ADDICT”??? “No way… I’m not one of THEM. I may have some problems with expressing my emotions and intimacy, but I’m not a SEX ADDICT. I just like to “explore” “have some fun” “spice things up”—blah, blah, blah”

      Of course, its all completely delusional, twisted— or as JoAnn has called it “stinkin thinkin.”

      Now if his partner pointed it out to him,(which she did by shoving him directly off to REHAB, 6 days later) and not wanting to lose her, he would do whatever she wanted— while still pursuing his addiction, which he is, as I see him frequently on Craig’s List and his yahoo IM— “trueblisssomethingorother”–Don’t think he’s talking about the price of gold on there, now is he? 🙁

      She thinks he’s “recoverying.” Talk about fools. So don’t you dare beat yourself up.

      You will find love again.

      All the best,

      L

    8. Lorraine – Thanks for your wonderful post!! I does feel like withdrawl from an addiction. It reminds me a bit of imprinting in animals. If a baby duck hatches, he’s supposed to see his mother first and follow her everywhere. But if he sees a vacuum cleaner first, he’s screwed. I hadn’t had any “action” for so long and the first thing I saw when I came out of my shell was a SA. Damn! I can actually say that I have made some progress because I no longer think that this can become a viable relationship – duh – they say you can’t make chicken salad out of chickenshit. What I do fight is just missing him like hell and wanting a “fix”. In THE worst way. I have what they call in other addictions “using” dreams – dream about being with him. I also catch myself minimizing his behavior. Gag. Did you find that you went back and forth with your SA before you finally hit bottom? I wish I could say that I will never ever ever see him again – for one thing I see him in the music circles that we are both a part of and it has been his pattern to “resurface” after a while (now I can add – with me and who else?) – but I know if I do and am “with” him, my recovery clock will be reset – do the crime, do the time. I am still smiling at my good fortune to find this site. You all are great!

    9. Hi Carrie,

      When you said “music circles”… I went hmmmm… because I had a friend, a total narcissist C O M P O S E R— that toyed with my heart, when he realized that I was a vulnerable target. grrrrrr… and was so difficult for me to stop obsessing over and then it was out of the frying pan and into the fire, with my meeting a predatory sex addict. 🙁

      BTW, I realize that *I AM* a “co-dependent”— that is, when I’m intensely attracted to a man, not with my husband, ironically, who’s my buddy. (My husband knew I was dating. long story.) He and I have an over-all healthy relationship, just no intimacy.

      However, I totally support the many women (don’t know percentages) who are not codies, as such and further victimized by lame “recovery” programs which pin a portion of the SAs addictions on the partners— wtf??? That does not compute, in any case, because no woman co-dependent or otherwise, has any part in what has made her spouse/partner/lover into a sex addict, in the first place! This absurd notion could only have been dreamed up by a man! LOL

      To answer your question. Oh yeah… in true codie-bunny-boiling-fashion, I desperately clung onto every little thread, every teeny tiny crumb of hope, I went back and forth and back and forth and it was horrible as he was like a cat who had a mouse (me) dangling by the tail before he went in for the kill…bastard. I had hideous nightmares for months and yes, it is better, now, but I longed for him physically, so, so badly. When I found out that he had gone to rehab, I actually started having the same kinds of symptoms that addicts have when they are going through withdrawal, (shaking, flu-like symptoms and weakness. I’m not a SA–nor do I have any history of addictions of any other substances, but I totally craved my lover; it was insane!!! I’ve never experienced anything like it, and I really wouldn’t have understood what y’all are talking about or going through if I hadn’t experienced that immense pull, first-hand! I still miss him sometimes, but it is, thankfully, much better— Thank God, especially after I found out that I have HPV and I didn’t have it the last time I was checked in 2006. 🙁

      Through sites like this and my blog, I’ve really been able to release most of it back into the Universe– I don’t feel so alone or so freaky either, and it has really helped to be a support to other women, too.

      Warm regards,

      L

    10. He’s a tenor and tenors are a mess! Bunny-boiling! Been there, still doing that! Right now it feels like a curse! My adult children have me on 24-hour surveillance. (Not really!) Seems not that long ago when THEY were were under surveillance and told to stay away from bad boys. I haven’t seen him now for over two months but he’s still living in my head and not far from where I live. I do want to make a point of acknowledging the women on this site who have men who are earnest about recovery and making progress. I am sad that “my” SA isn’t in that group but I do salute those who are – and there are some – my hat goes off to them and the strong women who are walking with the man that they love and he loves them back enough to walk the rocky road of recovery. Thank you so much, Lorraine – how can I find your blog?

    11. NO!!!!!!!!!!! Not a TENOR!!!!!!!!! LOL

      I must admit, I have a weakness for them too…sigh… But yes—nut jobs.

      mmmmmm… the vast majority of SAs are NOT walking the road to recovery, though… not really. Some–maaaaaybe, but not most.

      As for my blog… I will post it with spaces because JoAnn’s program doesn’t like links because there have been some inappropriate ones sent.

      preachingtotheperv . blogspot . com

      but the blog title is “domestic blissters” and I think if you just google that in quotes, you’ll find it too.

      This is where I REALLY let everyone know how I feel!!!!

      hahahahaha…

      I’m about 2.5 months or so into it, so it won’t take too long to catch up. I also have a lot of posts regarding the quagmires of the public school “educational” system and the STATE OF NEW YORK—and my “high functioning” autistic 15-yr-old son which has become a farce of astronomical proportions, but we’ll get there.

    12. Hi Carrie,

      I think a good few of us feel like that to some extent.
      I felt it, but not as intense as you have described. When I separated from my SA, it was torture. It took all the power I had in myself to not ask him back into the house. When I was tempted, I simply had a look at the “evidence” of his behaviour that I had saved, and let myself relive the horror of d-day in my mind. Now, I would not recamend that as a long term coping mechanism, because its not healthy to do!! However, in those first couple months, it kept my head in charge of my heart.

      Be well
      Starry

    13. I received this e-mail from one of our readers that fit’s in well with this post.

      JoAnn,
      Please add this to the section of your website on trauma bonding. Unfortunately, my marriage has exhibited this sad attachment style for 35 years. Thanks so much for what you do. You website never fails to address specific hurts experienced by the partners of sex addicts. Along with my 12-step ladies and my therapist and trusted friends, you are there for us.
      J

      RE: TRAUMA BOND

      For some time now I have been conducting my own personal research regarding this very topic of trauma bonding with one’s sexually-addicted spouse. There is some scholarly research to back up this sad attachment style.

      In my own case, my husband’s sex addiction involved sexual and intimacy anorexias, obsessive masturbation, chronic porn viewing, and an almost pathological public voyeurism of very young girls. This voyeurism would happen when I was right next to him, let’s say, at a music concert or in a restaurant where he would essentially check out and be with this fantasy girl, sometimes for over an hour. She could be with her boyfriend, her friends, or even her parents, but almost always she was 20 feet away so he could stare undetected…or he thought he was undetected.

      Sometimes these girls would give me dirty looks, wondering why I would allow my husband such a privilege. What would I do each time? I would freeze and disassociate, sometimes from my body, in a state of total TRAUMA.

      I would then soon forget what happened and I would pretend my life and my marriage was wonderful, until he would masturbate in our bed in the middle of the night after denying me sex, then once again, I would freeze and disassociate.

      Early on in our marriage I was financially stuck with him, and now I am also financially stuck with him, but things have changed. I have now told him, after another episode of staring, that if it happens again I will not go ANYWHERE with him in public for a week except for a funeral of a close relative. Any other event, party, etc. he will not be allowed to go with me.

      I am totally prepared to follow up on this for I am no longer willing to be part of such toxic trauma again. I am breaking the trauma bond for good but as yet, I am not prepared to terminate the marriage. He has changed considerably, but this last year and a half after I learned of his sex addiction, I now see how horribly sick he is. He can’t bond with people because he is so afraid of rejection. Meanwhile, he rejected me whenever possible.

      This I can no longer tolerate.—J.

    14. I’ve just discovered my partner is a sex and love addict…well he says so himself after I confronted him w heaps of evidence. We’ve separated but I just want to know how would we know if a sex addict truly wants to to seek help and when they do, how would we know if its working? would we ever know?

    15. Dear Confused,

      In answer to your question, my answer is that we will never know for sure. How can we? How can we possibly know what is going on in someone else’s mind? Even their “good” actions could be a con. After all, they did a great job of conning us for a very long time, and got away with it, didn’t they? I will never ever trust my husband ever again. I might forgive him. One day. God bless those who have chosen this life once they know what they are dealing with, but its not for me. I just read a blog where a poor woman said that she is staying with her husband because she vowed to stay with him in “sickness and in health…” Certainly, that is most noble. And him? what “vow” did he take. keep? Sorry, breach of contract, IMO. All vows are now null and void.
      best wishes, Holly

    16. I have been a relation ship with asexual addict for four years. Every night I was expected to “please him” and if I didn’t he would stand over me and not let me sleep. We went to t therapist throughout our relationship with no help. I couldnt handle it and made him leave.awe are no longer in contact. I am angry and hurt. I am trying to deal with this the best I can but I just want to be given hope that I will have some kind of future. Is there any help I can seek out to work through the consequences of this relationship? I am in the Orlando area is there any support groups or specialized theorapist to help the recipients of sex addicts?

    17. I am currently caught in the turmoil of loving a SA, who, of course, says he loves me but just can’t seem to let go of the other woman/women. It is so heartbreaking, because aside from this one rather significant issue, we are so happy together. We are both intelligent, hard working single parents and our lives have meshed together so much so that leaving him also means leaving his kids (who live with him full time) and I just adore them. I keep giving him more chances to end it, and he doesn’t. This breach of trust is crushing, but the thought of not being together is perhaps more painful. I really feel stuck and would appreciate any advice (yes, I have an appointment with my therapist whom I’ve been avoiding, but that’s not to the end of the month). Can they ever really change and really be trusted or is that just a pipe dream?

    18. I have been going through this for 5 yrs. My husband lies, denies, even when the proof is infront of him. He twists it all to look like it is me. He is a sexual deviant. Teen porn, shemale porn, women masturbating sites and chats… I really do not know how much I can stand of him.

      This site has been helpful.

      Thank you