Someone you love has a sex addiction, and the discovery makes you feel vulnerable and scared. You’re worried about how sex addiction affects relationships and what it means for yours.
Sex addiction can impact any relationship. It can change relationships with intimate partners, friends, and even colleagues. Educating yourself can help you be strong for the person with the addiction. To help them recover, it’s essential to understand sex addiction and what to expect.
Understanding Sex Addiction
Sex addiction, or hypersexuality, is a compulsive behavioral disorder. A person addicted to sex uses it as a coping mechanism for adverse emotions. In other words, they turn to sex to help them feel better emotionally.
Symptoms of sex addiction include:
- Spending excessive amounts of time or money pursuing sexual gratification
- Using sexual release as a coping mechanism for stressors
- Feeling out of control of sexual behaviors
- Engaging in high-risk sexual activities
- Avoiding social engagements or responsibilities that don’t include sex
- Experiencing guilt, shame, and anxiety about sexual behaviors
- Hiding, lying about, or being secretive about sexual behaviors
The symptoms of sex addiction vary some from person to person, but many people have at least some of these things in common. It’s easy to see how these symptoms alone could negatively impact a relationship.
How Sex Addiction Affects Relationships
If you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t emotionally healthy and keeps secrets about their behaviors, it’s easy to see how that negatively impacts the relationship.
“Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder, so it harms all relationships in the person’s life,” said Matt Wenger, Clinical Director at Begin Again Institute. “Those relationships include those with significant others, family members, and friends.”
Sex addiction has a far-reaching impact on relationships with others because the person with the addiction is hiding who they are. They’re not only being dishonest with you, but they’re also likely being dishonest with themselves.
Intimacy disorders are a barrier people use to protect themselves. They prevent them from experiencing true closeness, so they aren’t vulnerable. Therefore, a person with sex addiction will never be able to be authentic until they seek treatment.
“Men dealing with sex addiction usually feel isolated and lonely. They feel the need for connected relationships, but they’re unsure how to foster them,” Matt stated. “They’re crippled by the shame of acting out and past traumas and instinctively hide or put on personas to protect themselves from rejection.”
Partners of people with sex addiction feel rejected, unloved, ignored, or confused, Matt said.
If someone you love has a sex addiction, you may notice that they seem detached. You also may feel they’re keeping things from you or that something isn’t quite right with them.
How to Deal with Sex Addiction in a Relationship
You care deeply for the person in your life with sex addiction, and you want to know how you can help. You’re taking brave steps to help them and should feel proud of yourself.
Take the following steps to help someone acknowledge and seek help for sex addiction.
Knowledge is power. Understanding the connections that sex addiction has to a person’s life will help you be compassionate.
“Educating yourself on addiction helps give you power and understanding,” said Nate Geyer, a Primary Therapist at Begin Again Institute. “There are innumerable resources available to those living in a relationship with a sex addict that can provide understanding, compassion, and empathy.”
He suggested books and other resources on trauma, addiction, betrayal trauma, and attachment.
Encourage Them to Seek Treatment
A person in a relationship with someone with a sex addiction should encourage them to seek treatment.
“Sex addicts are not happy. Even in active addiction, they are filled with anxiety, sadness, numbness, or other challenging feelings,” Matt said. “If you are in any relationship with a sex addict, it’s best to encourage them to seek treatment for their own sake and for the sake of those near them that they are hurting.”
Helping them seek treatment for sex addiction is a step in the right direction. Rather than pressuring them, remind them that they deserve help. It’s a long process. Reminding them of how sex addiction affects relationships with others may be a reason for them to seek treatment.
Communicate Honestly and Without Judgment
Sex addiction is an intimate, challenging addiction. You can improve your connection by providing your loved one with a safe space to talk.
Removing judgment can foster an open connection and conversation. Remind them that you’re there with compassionate ears.
It’s crucial for someone in a relationship with a person with a sex addiction to maintain boundaries. Matt said, “A person should develop boundaries with wise counsel and use them.”
Decide what your boundaries are and communicate them.
“Boundaries are just that, lines that can not be crossed. When they are violated, don’t be afraid to enact the consequences. This is for your emotional and sometimes physical safety. But also for the health of the addict. If they are held accountable with felt consequences for their choices, they may seek treatment more quickly,” Matt said.
Lean On Your Support Network
Supporting your loved one through sex addiction can also be draining for you. Patience and seeking outside support are key to your mental health.
Surround yourself with people you can trust. They can support you through this process. You deserve a safe space just as much as your partner.
Seek Help for Yourself
It’s not just the person with the addiction who needs help. You shouldn’t go through this alone.
“Being in a close relationship with an addict is traumatic, and you deserve help and support,” Matt said.
You may experience intimate partner betrayal trauma. You may feel like you’re unable to trust your partner anymore and feel alone. You’re not alone in this. You also deserve help and to heal from your own traumatic experiences.
Taking care of yourself during this time is crucial, so you can help support your loved one in their healing time.
Understanding how sex addiction affects relationships involves knowing treatment options. If you’re looking at sex addiction treatment programs, there are some factors to consider:
- Does the treatment program include trauma-focused therapy?
- Does the program have a partner support treatment option?
- Will there be group therapy involved to help your loved one experience empathy and connection with others?
When researching sex addiction treatment, consider the common approaches and whether the treatment center uses them.
Common approaches to sex addiction treatment include:
- Trauma-Focused Therapy. Individualized time with therapists allows you to heal the trauma causing your addiction.
- Trauma Resolution Therapy. Help you resolve the emotional flux trauma causes and heal from it.
- Mindfulness Therapy. Teaches healthy coping strategies to help you live in the moment instead of worrying about the past or the future.
- Brainspotting. Helps you identify areas of unprocessed trauma and heal from them.
Treatment at Begin Again Institute
Sex addiction is damaging to all of the surrounding relationships. Whether your want to recover from sex addicition, encourage someone else to seek treatment, or heal yourself following a relationship with a sex addiction, Begin Again Institute can help.
Contact and visit Begin Again Institute if you’re ready to recover from the impact of sex addiction.