Married couples or romantic partners will find sexual addiction difficult to process. People may assume those suffering from sexual addiction just need to deal with physical issues of acting out. While learning to control their addictive behavior is important, their emotional dysfunction needs to be addressed as well. However, research has proven that the trauma suffered by the spouse is far more debilitating than any other life’s crises except perhaps the death of a loved one. The male in sexual addiction experiences negative consequences because of his addictive behavior but he does not come close to the feelings of despair experienced by his spouse.
Ultimately, the best course of action is to seek professional treatment so both parties in the marital relationship can address the emotional and physical trauma brought on by sex addiction. In order to facilitate the healing process, here are some essential points to consider.
Identifying the symptoms
Symptoms of sex addiction may be similar to those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The exposure to trauma during combat fosters the adult onset of addictive behavior in a small number of men. Some men will express aberrant sexual behavior because of the medications they take, such Adderall. However, eight out of ten men begin the practice of sexual behavior in childhood because of exposure to age-inappropriate pornography, masturbation, or sexual abuse. The corollary to early exposure is a condition whereby the father is unable to provide emotional nourishment to his son. Examples of the consequences include increased sexual arousal, erratic mood swings, anxiety, sleeplessness, confusion, depression, oversensitivity, restlessness, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, and miscellaneous health problems related to their sexual organs. Once the symptoms have been identified, couples can then proceed with the next phase of the coping process.
Seeking professional help
Couples, who are fully committed to save their relationship, refuse to allow sexual addiction destroy their union. For them, the sensible course of action is to seek the assistance of a licensed professional therapist or counselor who specializes in treating men who need to address their sex addiction. Initially, the male needs to engage in therapy and after about three to five months, both the man and the woman may begin marital therapy together. While the therapist can guide, he or she cannot cure; the addict must do the hard work of recovery and apply the advice given by the therapist. It is vital that couples be as candid as possible in therapy. Men have an initial predilection to hide parts of their story because of shame or humiliation. Full and open honesty is important when talking to a therapist.
Other avenues are available to help the sexually addicted man and his spouse. For the man, attendance at Twelve-step meetings is essential. Twelve-step programs have important tasks:
- They benefit from strength. Provide a forum for men and women to talk about their struggle with a common demon and to gather strength from each other.
- They break isolation. Members connect through sharing strengths, hopes, and experiences.
- They foster a learning forum. Personal stories reveal that others think, feel, and behave in similar ways.
Other helpful solutions include:
- Speaking with friends or family members who have had similar experiences in dealing with sexual addiction.
- Attending support group meetings to meet other people or couples also fighting sex addiction.
- Engaging in hobbies or activities that do not trigger sexual thoughts. Healthy activities give the addict the opportunity to stay focused on his continuing road to recovery.