"Ring the Bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, there is a crack in everything....that's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen song, "Anthem."
Many recovering drug addicts report that the high is not only in using drug but in the danger of the chase...wanting it, looking for it, finding it, scoring it and then, of course, the high itself. The same is true for sex addiction and there are many different faces to it...pun intended. One man reported to me that on a recent business trip he was holed up in his hotel room for hours looking to make contact with someone on Craigslist. Hours later while waiting for pictures to come through he missed his conference. This form of dissociation is not uncommon. Many with this addiction report spending hours cut off from their feelings, lost in space, and not experiencing reality or being present in life.
I knew a woman who would find sex parties on the internet and in between her children's soccer games would steal away for a couple of hours. Her husband got suspicious and hired a private detective and discovered her secret.
Why do people cheat? Well, because it is dangerous, it is fun, it is thrill-seeking and it feels good. But why don't all people cheat? Because they would have to look their spouse in the eyes, realize their children and reputations were at stake, and face themselves in the mirror. They would not want to hurt those they love. They have empathy and good judgement.
Sexual addiction is about compulsive use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, affairs, virtual sex on the internet with webcams, massage parlors, money spent in strip-clubs, escorts, prostitution, using work computers to surf porn, and the list goes on. Sex addiction is about secrets and can be much more difficult to detect. Sex addiction may also be more prevalent than alcoholism in our society.
The damage it does to families, partners, bank accounts and the sex addict (SA) is multifaceted. When a spouse or partner discovers the infidelity there is trauma. Feelings of anguish, despair, fear, confusion, rage, and helplessness are a few of the many reactions to this "discovery." Partners feel deceived, deluded and duped. If a sex addict or sexaholic is willing to get into recovery there is hope but sometimes the grandiosity of narcissism is intractable. Whether or not the SA gets help, it is imperative that the spouse or partner seek therapy and recovery as the toxicity of that relationship is damaging.
I work with spouses and partners of sex addicts: first to process the trauma, then to make decisions on whether this is a workable relationship, and to explore how this could have happened to him or her in the first place. Usually both the addict and the partner have childhood trauma that underlies these compulsive behaviors and choices. The therapy works on understanding how the partner may have unwittingly enabled the addict to continue these acting out behaviors. This is not to blame the partner, but to explore the dynamics of these couples for greater understanding and healing. There is hope! And remember the "3 C's:" "you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it."
Please contact me for ongoing online group therapy through Zoom for spouses/partners of sex addicts. This is available to anyone in this country or around the world.