The Sexual Addiction Affair is not about the quality of the marriage relationship.
It is a personal struggle with addiction.
Sexual addiction is a serious problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one’s self or others.
Like other addictions, these behaviors continue despite sincere and persistent efforts to stop. Some might not think sex can be addictive because there are no chemicals involved. However, the body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters during sex that produce the same chemical “high” as drugs or alcohol.
Sex addicts, like other addicts, often have a background of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) and/or neglect, and family histories sprinkled with numerous addictions.
Because of the denial and shame associated with sexual behaviors, it is only recently that the reality of sexual addiction has been acknowledged by those caught in its grasp or by treatment professionals.
What are some behaviors associated with a sexual addiction?
- Compulsive masturbation
- Simultaneous or repeated sequential affairs
- Cybersex, phone sex
- Multiple anonymous partners
- Unsafe sexual activity
- Partner objectification/demand for sex
- Strip clubs and adult bookstores
- Use of prostitution/escorts
- Sexual aversion/anorexia
- Frequenting massage parlors
- Sexual paraphilias (a need for unusual sexual stimulation) and/or any sexually offensive behavior
What causes sexual addiction?
Compulsive behaviors are often fueled by mismanaged anger or fears of intimacy, and have their roots in the sexual shame of one’s family of origin.
Incest, avoidance of sex education, double-standards, sexual secrets, or sexual acting out by a parent (such as affairs or pornography use) can all lay the foundation for later sexual compulsivity.
Sexual acting out can be used for various reasons, including to medicate emotional pain, manage stress, or as a substitute for true intimacy.
As with other addictions, there is usually an escalation of these behaviors due to tolerance, as the addict continues to pursue the needed “high” and/or “anesthetic” regardless of the escalating costs. Unfortunately, many individuals struggling with sexual addiction do not seek help, due in large part to the high degree of shame associated with a problem in this area.
Often the betrayer will state that they don’t want to lose their marriage. They would have pursued the same behaviors regardless of whom they married.
The fear and shame associated with this behavior perpetuates the dual life of an addict propelling the destructive behaviors. They often feel hopelessly trapped by these behaviors, but are afraid to come clean because they don’t want to lose their marriage or give up their addictive behavior.
- There is a habitual pattern of extramarital behaviors that are either sexually related and/or relational.
- Typically, the betrayer wants to save their marriage, but they still have a compelling drive to look elsewhere to meet their needs.
- Often these behaviors began before the marriage, stopped after the marriage, and then began again after the addict realized that the marriage couldn’t meet the need met by the addictive behavior.
- It is common for the betrayer to have made past efforts to stop the behavior, and to have actually been successful for a season, only to relapse after they believed things were better.
Can your marriage be saved?
Without a doubt, I say yes, your marriage can be saved. I am not just saying this to make you feel better or to give you false hope.
Sex addiction is a real addiction and as such requires treatment. Nobody said married life is going to be perfect, and while you did not sign up for this level of betrayal and pain, if you can find it within yourself to understand sex addiction, and for each of you to receive personal and couples therapy, it is more than likely your relationship will survive.
As an infidelity recovery specialist, I must admit that I am silently happy when my client happens to be of the “Sex Addiction Affair Type.” This is because 9 out of 10 times, both people are willing to work on the relationship, and on their personal challenges. And if you are the spouse of a sex addict, I know you will hear me and understand that you might have some work to do as well. Perhaps there is a little guilt and shame running in your backstory? Or perhaps you feel guilty over an earlier affair you had? There will definitely be some work around boundary setting and assertiveness. Most relationships can recover, and become stronger. – Dr Savannah Ellis.
Sex addiction does not mean the end of your marriage. But you will need professional help to understand and process the roots of the addiction.
Are you a sex addict?
The following 10 questions may assist you in identifying possible signs of sex addition.
- Have you tried unsuccessfully to reduce or stop certain sexual behaviours?
- Are you compromising your personal values as a result of your sexual behaviour?
- Do you feel your sexual behaviour is out of control?
- Are you preoccupied with sexual thoughts or romantic fantasies?
- Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behaviour?
- Have important parts of your life (such as job, family, friends, leisure activities) been neglected due to your sexual behaviours?
- Has sex or romantic fantasies become a way for you to escape your problems?
- Do you use the Internet for sexual or erotic purposes?
- Does your life seem to be in constant turmoil as a result of your sexual behaviour?
- Have you ever participated in sexual activity in exchange for money or gifts?
If you answered Yes to one or more of the above questions you may have a problem with sex addiction.
Additional questions to ask to help identify if sexual behaviors are part of a sexual addiction are:
- Have you lost control over your sexual behaviors? Have you crossed lines you didn’t think you would cross? Set limits on your sexual behavior that you have failed to meet?
- Have you experienced negative consequences (such as the loss of a relationship, being less productive at work, or spent less time with family or friends) because of your sexual behavior? Or would you experience negative consequences if others found out about your sexual behaviors?
- Have you tried to stop any sexual behaviors but eventually returned to them?
If a positive response is given to any of these questions, it is a good indication that the person has become sexually addicted, and further assessment by a marriage and family therapist or other professional specializing in sexual addiction treatment is recommended.
Is your spouse a Sex Addict?
What are the signs?
When sex has become addictive, it is used compulsively to “numb-out,” get a “high,” or both. An indicator that sexual addiction could be present is if someone expresses concerns about the sexual behavior of a spouse or partner that is not a part of their relationship (like viewing pornography or visiting a strip club).
Another sign is if sexual behaviors are kept hidden from a spouse or others.
This type of betrayal is especially difficult for the spouse because their suffering is not just from the betrayal, but also from their inability to understand their mate’s behavior. What the addict has done seems so foreign, that the spouse cannot comprehend it. Or they are in shock when they discover the sheer magnitude of the compulsive behavior (like a man who has visited more than 400 prostitutes).
Recommendations for this affair type:
- The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), www.sash.net_Resources and information about sexual addiction.
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA), www.sexaa.org _12-step groups for sex addicts.
- Recovering Couples Anonymous, www.recovering-couples.org_Recovering groups for couples where one partner is a sex addict.
- LifeSTAR Network: Sexual Trauma Addiction Recovery Structured Therapeutic Recovery Program for Addicts and their spouses. www.lifestarnetwork.org
Read More About Sex Addiction on this site:
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