If you are a partner of a sex addict, you probably don't even know it yet. A typical sex addict relationship begins with both people blinded to the subtle red flags of the sex addicts underlying beliefs. One of his beliefs is that sex is love. He wants it to feel loved and oftentimes there is no other way for him to feel loved. But this is simply a MYTH he believes. He has just not experienced how to feel those feelings in any other way. There are other options but he is just not aware of them.
In the early stages of the relationship, both of you enjoy being together and might even spend all of your time together. You probably have physical intimacy within the first month of meeting. After several months of frolicking, the hormones settle down and you don't feel the need to spend all your time together any more. This is normal in relationships; there is nothing wrong with you. This is when the red flags start to kick in.
Many women will brush off these red flags or "inner knowing" as small annoyances and disregard them, as "he just loves me" when in actuality this is one of the many times he will emotionally manipulate you to do what he wants. When you begin to naturally pull away, he becomes insecure and has an intense desire to recreate the initial sexual romance and keep it going. He will use any means of manipulation to recreate that early sexual experience he is looking for.
Many women and men become romantically entangled into a web of lies and deceit at this stage. Your sex addict literally is trying to convince you that you are crazy and that their behavior is beyond reproach so you will have sex with them. Many women and men become depressed at this stage and don't know why. He says he turns to porn because you refuse to have sex with him. Or, could it be that you don't want to have sex with someone who just wants sex with you and refuses to connect with you emotionally. In other words, he ignores you the rest of the day.
Now, I certainly don't believe most sex addicts are intentionally being cruel to you. In their own way, using manipulation, lies, and deceit have been ways they have been successful in getting their own needs met, albeit in a destructive and unhealthy way. That is their therapy work to do, not yours. You can't make him change his behavior. If you try to change him, you will literally keep yourself in the cycle longer.
This week, two first person essays about partners of sex addicts were published on Huffington Post and Redbook Magazine. I would like to applaud both women who told their stories about being married to a sex addict. In both cases, they found the strength within to define their own direction to a healthy future. They chose different courses: one chose divorce and the other chose to stay married. Both still have to face friends and family everyday and deal with people who don't understand their choice. The fact is, whether or not you stay or leave, your past with a sex addict will be a constant source of self-discovery, growth and strength for the future.
The Huffington Post story has over 500 comments and over 2000 Facebook likes in two days. This shows there is definitely an eruptive current of emotion that is evoked by the topic of sex addiction and a woman's right to define how she wants to be treated in a relationship. I don't think anonymous name-calling is going to sort out the issue. A healthier, gentler way may be for men and women to talk to each other in a respectful way and figure out what works for both of you in your relationship.
As a certified sex addiction therapist, I hear variations of their stories over and over again. Partners of sex addicts say, "I didn't think porn was a big deal" or "doesn't everybody look at porn?" Worse yet, partners of sex addicts begin to question their self-image and personality. They say things like, "I feel like I can't live up to the images in the porn" or ask questions like "What do the images have that I don't have?". Of course you are going to question your self-worth — who wouldn't? But let me ask you an important question — what would happen for you if you found the strength to say, "I do not give another person the permission to define me because I will define who I am". Love yourself enough to let go of who he thinks you are.
If you think you may be a partner of a sex addict, find out more information and educate yourself. You are not the only one. To learn more, sign up for my free webinar coming up in March. You can also connect with me on my website at www.couplesthrive.net
Sex Addiction is insidious in our culture. It affects men and women. The porn industry preys upon unsuspecting men and women to fall prey to its tempting lure. Porn is the gateway drug to harsher forms of addiction like using sex slaves. There is a way out.
More sex educator advice on YourTango: