Behaviors Commom to Spouses of Male Sex Addicts

What women need to know.

Posted Oct 20, 2015

Pixabay free image
Source: Pixabay free image

There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world of sex addiction.  I hope this blog will help spouses see what traits or behaviors have contributed or added to an atmosphere of deceit, lies, and sexual acting out.  This is not to blame the spouse but to see how she may have enabled or allowed the behavior within the context of a dysfunctional relationship shaped by the addict.

This will also outline some common trauma-induced reactions that result from discovery of a spouse's sexual addiction.

Denial — In many cases, spouses either knew explicitly some of the sexual behaviors that were occurring or they were actually intimately involved in his acting-out (i.e. being pursued while the addict was already dating or married to another woman).  In the former, spouses may deny the problem ever existed until they do a more honest examination of their relationship and realized they allowed the addict to rationalize and normalize some of his behaviors (i.e. "All the other guys are doing the same thing?" or "I only use porn once in a while, too").  This creates the web of lies that she involuntary gets caught in the middle of until — usually years later — the truth emerges.

Feeling responsible – A spouse may feel they are the cause of their partner’s sexual addiction.  In their minds, they feel they are to blame for the addict's behaviors (i.e. feeling like they're not attractive enough, sensitive enough, etc.)

Inability to recognize normal behavior – After years of lies, deceit, and manipulation the spouse has no idea what "normal" behavior is or what to expect from the addict.  What we would see as egregious behaviors, the spouse may have rationalized as "normal" such as the addict having explicitly sexual material in the home, staying out late or for many unaccounted hours, and in the past the spouse may not have wanted to disrupt the harmony of the relationship and never confronted the addict on those warning signs.

Fear – The spouse is hurt, traumatized, confused and may be fearful of losing the relationship.  In an attempt to "control" and bring sanity to the situation, she may engage in acts of rage or emotional volatility (hitting, screaming, crying, etc.), approval seeking or sexual compensation (getting plastic surgery as a means to feel "good enough").

Shame – They may feel shame that the addict's behaviors are a direct reflection on her or her family as opposed to seeing him as a separate entity who acted of his own accord.

Sexual Dependency – They may engage in sex or sexual activities with the addict for fear of abandonment.  This can include sexual activities that the spouse feels is degrading, shaming, painful, unpleasant, or goes against her personal/moral values.

Emotional Dependency – The spouse's feelings of worth or happiness is like a roller-coaster that is dependent on the addict's happiness or recovery (i.e. the spouse is happy only if the addict is happy; the spouse is sad, angry, or disappointed reflecting the addict's feelings of sadness, anger, or disappointment.)

Triggering of Old Wounds – If a spouse has never processed past childhood sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc. then an addict can easily open up these old wounds.  This is merely to inform spouses that additional grief, sorrow, and pain may arise on top of what's present with handling the trauma of being in a relationship/recovery with an addict.

* These same feelings can also arise for husbands or men who's wifes or partners are the addicts.

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