I have toiled for months about writing this piece, but recent events have forced my hand and brought the subject to the fore front, causing me some painful memories and a fury of thoughts. So, because this is a place of sharing, I will share with you. Even after all these years sometimes the pain still rears it’s ugly head.

I, along with every other spouse or partner that I have ever known, am uncomfortable with the fact that many Sexual Addiction 12 step groups include both men and women. Why am I uncomfortable? Well, I think that’s quite obvious to most non Sex Addicts, but just humor me while I explain.

I believe that our personal sexuality is an intimate subject that should not usually be shared in mixed company. Now, I’m no prude–on the contrary I’m one of those old hippies of the ‘make love not war’ era, but even I can’t imagine sharing my deepest, darkest secrets about my fantasies and masturbatory or sexual preferences in a group of casually known mixed company. That is just not socially acceptable to me.

Yet, in Sexual Addiction 12 step groups all over the country men and women sit together in a circle and share their most intimate sexual secrets. Now, maybe if I believed that all of these individuals were totally committed to recovery and did not have a wicked thought in their head about the person of the opposite sex who is describing their struggles to resist their wildly out of control sexual urges, I might just feel a little more comfortable. But, let’s face it, that is not the case. Both Larry and I are perplexed and confused about all the people in these meetings who continue to act out and who expect to act out as a part of their recovery.

The typical joke about people going to these meetings just to find sex partners is really no joke at all. A list of phone numbers of the members of the group is handed out at each meeting to offer support for those who need a friend. Well, in the beginning of his recovery Larry used this list to hook up with a woman who was in one of his Sex Addiction 12 step groups. He said that if he was not in the place he is today that his mind would be swirling with thoughts and fantasies about the women in his groups.

Because of a recent very minor, yet troublesome to me, situation that occurred in one of his 12 step meetings I asked Larry if he would consider finding another group, and he has agreed. (In fact, as I was writing this he came upstairs with a list of meetings in our area that he is going to try, along with maps of each meeting. Because his addiction includes prostitutes he stays away from any areas that could be ‘slippery’). In my mind, being in some of these mixed sex groups is like parading a hooker, who is handing out free samples, in front of these men. It’s like someone coming to an AA meeting and watching another member swigging on a bottle of whiskey

The reason I have toiled so much about writing this is because 12 step groups do serve a valid and positive function in the recovery of Sexual Addiction and I did not want to discourage this piece of recovery for anyone coming to this site for support. Many other factors are necessary and important in recovery from Sexual Addiction such as counseling, self evaluation, boundaries and a written recovery plan, but the 12 step groups are a way for the addict to find a safe place to discuss their issues. So, I do advise women to urge their spouses to attend. But, like myself in the beginning of Larry’s recovery, I think many women do not realize that a majority of these groups include not only men but also female Sex Addicts.

So, I guess my message is to just be aware. Keep the lines of communication open. You have every right to ask for and get answers from your spouse about the 12 step meetings that they attend. Some groups foster a sense of ‘secrecy’ about what happens in the meetings and I totally disagree with this philosophy. You have every right to tell your spouse that any secrecy is unacceptable if the relationship is to continue. You have every right to go to the meetings with your spouse and sit outside of the room and wait for him. This way you can see who is attending. If there is anything about the participants that make you uncomfortable you should discuss it with your spouse and counselor and find a solution that works for you.

Spouses and partners who are struggling through all the issues of recovery with a Sex Addict know that it certainly can present many challenges and it’s unfortunate that one of the basic tools of recovery can also be a source of pain and fear for them. My personal opinion is that the Sexual Addiction 12 step groups should be segregated for many reasons. If I were a female Sex Addict I think I would be very uncomfortable speaking my shame in front of male Sex Addicts. I think this is why most of these women never return to meetings with mixed sexes. But, in the case of both male and female Sex Addicts who continue to act out, these meetings, which include Sex Addicts of the opposite sex sharing their most intimate sexual issues, can only complicate their quest for recovery and sobriety.

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8 Responses

  1. Sigh.
    Something new to worry about. I just can’t keep up with all the ways a life of fidelity and sobriety with my husband is set up for failure.

    Yes, JoAnn, I never imagined that these groups were co-ed. What’s wrong with these people?
    Isn’t this a no-brainer?

    I may have the right to sit outside my husband’s meetings, but I don’t have the time. I can’t give any more of my life to his addiction. I have to work for a living so I have some shred of security in some aspect of my life. And I have to work two jobs because one could be jeopardized by the revealing of my husband’s addiction and my complicity in keeping it secret. The second job is my fallback for when the worst happens. And since I already know that the worst does happen, I have to prepare for it.

    It really is beginning to look like rebuilding a marriage with a recovering sex addict is pretty much a full time job that requires financial independence.

    I must be having a really bad day, because I’m not seeing the light at all. Anybody out there see it?


    1. Recently, the men’s SA group in my area voted to allow their meetings to be mixed. The men who did not agree decided if any women showed up they would leave and have their own meeting. I and many other women were very upset the men would vote for their meetings to be mixed. I made a boundary with my spouse that he would leave if any women showed up (he did not want the meetings to be mixed). I am still uncomfortable about it though. It makes me feel that the very men he is supposed to be getting support from are unhealthy enough to vote for mixed meetings. Hang in there everyone! I still have awful days and awful moments, but when the sex addict owns their own recovery, it starts to get better.

  2. Wow… Do they pass around condoms and lube too?

    What a farce!

    or my new fave acronym.


    Diane– I have really enjoyed your posts and admire you a lot. Financial independence is a good thing, no matter what. My husband and I don’t have enough money right now, to live together, much less apart and our younger son has autism, so its all very difficult. At least, we’re friends.

    Curious what kind of a job you have that would be in jeopardy of losing it because of your husband’s problem and why you would have to divulge that very personal information. You certainly don’t have to share that, but I would think that if you were fired because of your husband’s sex addiction,(and the fact that you kept it private) that you would have just cause for a law suit. (unless there’s something I don’t realize)

    I know that you must be very tired… I very much understand that fatigue from within. Life just shouldn’t have to be so difficult.

  3. I think you bring up a marvelous point. As each person is different, I’m sure what works for one does not necessarily work for another, but how you’re feeling is definitely valid and important to explore. I hope you find the perfect group to support the recovery process.

    If I may make a couple of recommendations – the first is checking out the “links” section at Center for Healthy Sex. It provides a list of groups in different areas, and you may find exactly what you’re looking for there.

    I would also like to recommend the book Erotic Intelligence by Alexandra Katehakis. She is the founder of the above mentioned center, and the book highlights what steps must be taken to integrate sex after a person becomes “sober” from compulsive sexual behaviors. However, what is compelling me to recommend it to you is the insight it provides for the sex addict and their partner. It does this through the presentation of real couples and their peaks and valleys in dealing with sex addiction and reintroducing trust and intimacy into the relationship. I think you would find it quite helpful, and I really hope you get the chance to check it out.

    Best of luck to you and your husband on this journey.

  4. Faith based groups seperate sexes-they can be non-denominational-just generic spiritual-if comfortable with this.
    Basic 12-Step is Higher Power based.
    Groups are often Federally funded others keep the doors open with donations.
    Celebrate Recovery
    Freedom Fighter’s
    LDS-Family Services

  5. Thank you JoAnn & Diane …

    When I discovered that my husband’s meeting was a “mixed” meeting, I asked him to change to a “mens only.” I later DISCOVERED (of course NEVER told) that the new meeting was also defined as “mixed” per an online source. Then he told me that the only woman who ever attended created a new “womens only” meeting. His current meeting continues to be listed online as a “mixed” meeting, and there is NO “Womens Only” meeting listed to date(that I’ve seen). Since he has been proven to be a compulsive liar in the last year, I believe that his statements to appease me are BS! Is anyone here aware of any “Women Only” SA meetings (not COSA)? I would imagine that the answer is NO.

    I understand Diane, I have never attempted to check on the meeting in person or sit outside… Draining. At this moment, I can just visualize some of the women that spouses in the COSA meetings described in attendance at SA meetings, per their husbands that actually talked about their experiences… Awful mental image!! I’m at a point now where I don’t care whether he attends or not. I have limited energy and know I need to focus on myself. All that surrounds this sex addiction nightmare is annoying, devastating and life altering. PS Thank you again JoAnn for this affirming and insightful article.

  6. Again, lies! My husband said they (women and men) don’t share details-they just say if they crossed their bottom line. Yes, I had read that the people get involved with each other and I got that lie too about needing to contact ‘someone’ in group-of course it happened to be a woman! Even asked him but usual lies…Interesting that one of the women/girl? that texted him was not talking about meetings but how successful she was at work?! Anyway, just typing this makes me sick about all the lies and how I need to end this damaging toxic not even a Marriage really. YUCK!!

  7. It’s just so draining. And when they defend and feel strongly about staying and keeping those numbers, you have to wonder. I envy the woman on her who have men respectful enough of their sensitivity to mixed meetings and are willing to leave if women show up.

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