You thought you had the perfect Kodak-moment life: a handsome husband, a couple of apple-cheeked kids, a plump nest egg hatching in a 401 k. You were the envy of your friends, whom you entertained often in your impeccably restored bungalow on a lovely tree-lined street.

But all that changed the day you opened the secret e-mail account your partner used to schedule dates with high-class call girls, whom he paid by siphoning off your retirement account. Or when you checked the history on his computer browser and scrolled through dozens, perhaps hundreds, of porn sites. Or when you learned the real reason he lost his job: his chronically long lunches were actually taking place at a massage parlor, making him perpetually late on work assignments.

However you discovered your partner's sexual compulsions, your enviable life has imploded and your soulmate has become a stranger overnight. You rightfully feel disgusted, betrayed, hurt and afraid. You insist he go to therapy or to sex rehab or wherever he needs to go to get "fixed." After all, he is the one with the problems and these problems have hijacked your life and your once-rosy future. He needs the help, not you...right?

Wrong. The partner needs help just as much as the person doing the sexual acting-out. Too often, however, shame keeps devastated spouses from seeking support from therapists, friends or family. The result? Partners over-focus on controlling the behavior of their sexually compulsive significant other-which they can't control--or they impulsively file for divorce. Neither of these actions heals and instead may actually compound the damage.

The following is a list of 5 Tips to Survive Your Partner's Sexually Compulsive Behavior. Implementing these guidelines will help restore your sanity, your self-esteem and your ability to trust your judgment. Note: For the sake of brevity, "addict" will be substituted for the term "sexual compulsive."

1. Get individual therapy-preferably with a C-SAT or SASH Member. A list of C-SATs can be found at www.iitap.com; SASH member listings can be found at www.sash.net. A counselor trained in sex addiction will help you explore family-of-origin issues and past trauma that may have led you to attract an unavailable spouse in the first place. And while partners are never to blame for the addict's choices, a C-SAT or SASH member will work with you to change your own behaviors that, unbeknownst to you, may have contributed to the problem.

2. Do not let feelings of anger and betrayal spill out onto the kids. Children should not become their parent's confidantes or feel pressure to side with one parent against the other. Besides therapy, reading material and 12-step groups provide additional support to help partners contain volatile emotions. Betrayed, by Claudia Black; Ready To Heal, by Kelly McDaniel; and Stefanie Carnes' Mending a Shattered Heart are three excellent books geared for partners. S-Anon and COSA are 12-step groups that offer partners a community of others who share their stories. Information on S-Anon and COSA can be found at www.sanon.org and www.cosa-recovery.org.

3. Make every attempt to keep sensitive information from children. If young children have been exposed to arguments, say: "Daddy broke his promise and Mommy is mad." Older children who have a savvier understanding of what they've overheard may be told there have been infidelities, but should not receive further details.

4. Establish clear boundaries. If the addict is heading to rehab, the kids need to know that he is leaving to get help and when he'll return. If sleeping arrangements change, children should be told who will be sleeping where. If a trial separation is looming, parents should tell children that Mom and Dad are taking some time apart with the intention of solving their problems.

5. Wait at least one year before deciding whether or not to divorce. Use this time to focus on your own self-care and recovery. Channel the considerable energy you have spent trying in vain to "fix" the addict into making choices that align with your values and foster your sense of independence and integrity. Once you are on stable ground, you will be in a far better position to decide if your marriage is worth saving. And even if you decide it's not, you will have saved yourself.

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