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Information for Partners and Parents of Sex and Porn Addicts Banner

Information for Partners and Parents of Sex and Porn Addicts

Information for partners of those experiencing sex and porn addiction and compulsive behaviours including Partner Information Session

You may have discovered or have known for a long time that your partner is using porn, sex workers or meeting others on-line or he/she may have recently disclosed their secret behaviours to you.  Whichever way it comes out, you are likely to feel a storm of different reactions; confusion, shock and disbelief, numbness and anger. In short you are experiencing a trauma response and depending on your own levels of security and background experiences you will have your own personal response to what is happening.  Some partners can brush the disclosures off quite quickly as just stupid and irresponsible behaviours whilst others find it difficult to cope with and feel very vulnerable because they are less secure in themselves or have had similar types of experiences previously.  

It is natural and normal to feel angry, betrayed and rejected at this time as well.  These feelings will sometimes overwhelm you and you will be swinging from one intense emotion to another as you try and cope with what seem like devastating revelations about a partner you thought you knew intimately and on who your life and family depend. In short, your world may feel blown apart with little hope remaining of a positive future.  My experience is mostly that both partners ultimately learn from this painful experience that actually their relationship has many positive and rewarding qualities and is of great value and something that they can continue to invest in.

Understand the immediate impact on yourself

Like many other partners you may also be ashamed of what your partner has done and how this might reflect on you and your family.  You may have other worries such as how the behaviours may have affected finance or if there are risks of sexually transmitted infections.

You may feel out of control and pushed to the limits of your patience and tolerance or just immobilised no knowing what to do.  You are likely to feel isolated at times as this subject is difficult to discuss with anyone you don't trust highly, If we ask partners who have gone through this experience what helped them cope with this period in their relationship they say that acknowledging and accepting the reactions they had as normal helps a lot and talking to a trained counsellor helps to manage this phase. 

As a partner you deserve help and support through the trauma of discovery in just the same way as your addict partner needs treatment to stop. This enables you to regain some level of control over the flood of emotions and questions and start to put in place things to look after your own physical and mental health.

Know how you are likely to react and how to look after yourself.

It is natural for the shock response to immobilise you and possibly make you feel helpless and submissive or at the other extreme angry and raging, You would be right to seek advice and help from a specialist service such as Esteem Therapy Yorks or one of the professional bodies (ATSAC or CoSRT) in this situation to give you emotional support and opportunities to explore your options.

It is also natural for some partners to want to know everything about what their partners have been up to.  In this case you may want to know every website your partner has used, every place he/she has been – in short, every event over the period of the behaviours you will seek to investigate. This is normal because you want to try and understand why this has happened.  You may demand immediate control over your partner’s whereabouts, spare time and use of smart phones and laptops.

In both situations it is also normal to want to answer such questions as “what is wrong with me or our relationship that he/she could do such a thing?” or “what is wrong with my partner?”  

Whilst these are natural reactions they may put extra stress on you with consequences for your health and well-being.  The likelihood is that your partner may stop the behaviours or decrease them significantly anyway now that their secret is out (they may be very relieved that at last someone else knows or is taking an interest in their well-being). This will allow some space for them to realise they have a problem and seek help.  

This is a time for you to focus your energy on getting support for yourself from friends, family or a professional whilst your partner gets help into recovery.  

Be there for your partner but....

It is likely to be the case that the causes of your partner’s behaviours are extremely complex and pre-date your relationship. Your partner will need professional help from a specialist such as Esteem Therapy Yorks. Addicts obviously feel more confident in completing the treatment if they know you are their for support and understand their situation but they learn in therapy that they can't expect this as a given. It is not your job to sort out your partner as this can be very draining at a time when you may be feeling very fragile yourself. 

The most important thing, once your partner is receiving treatment, is for you to focus on looking after your own needs and priorities.  This is not to mean that you have to forget what has happened and ignore it.  Your partner will come to learn through therapy what these dysfunctional behaviours were all about and use the experience to improve their self-control and relationship skills.  You may want to get reassurance from knowing that certain things are in place so the most useful conversations at this stage are;  treatment plans and arrangements, boundaries around use of time, whereabouts, use of phones and other devices allowing internet access, how ongoing talking about managing the process can happen.

If there has been a pattern of this behaviour repeating for some time you may want support in ending the relationship as you have given enough chances.  You may want to re-think the relationship and whether you want to stay with your partner.  Your decision will depend on things like

  • what has previously happened, for example, is this disclosure/discovery part of a pattern or is it the first or,
  • the strength of the bond between you and your parrtner if your affection and connection with one another are strong and meaningful so thats there is more to gain in rebuilding than in separating,
  • whether you have children, their ages etc and how they might be affected.

Whatever your are feeling and thinking at this stage, it is probably not a good idea to make major decisions straightaway without seeking help from a sexual addiction or relationship specialist.  If life is too difficult, then a temporary period of living apart may be what is required whilst professional help is sought.

Know what your partner will be doing during therapy.

The first priority for addicts is putting control measures in place to curb the behaviours and then using the therapist as an accountability partner to monitor how well these are working.  Your addict partner will be learning about what triggers the compulsions and techniques to manage events and underlying issues in healthy ways.  In most cases, addict partners will also be looking at their past and any factors or events that may have affected them such as traumatic events in their family or bullying at school.  Many of those with addictive behaviours experience low levels of self-esteem and underlying problems with managing their emotions so these areas will also be explored in therapy.  The aim of therapy is to put your partner back in control of themselves and their psychological well-being and behaviours and to resolve underlying causes. Addicts undergoing treatment are gently guided NOT to rely heavily on partners for support and to expect that their partners WILL need their own space, time and empathy during this period.

Partrner Information Sessions

These are offered to all partners of my ongoing clients and are best done nearer to the start of sessions, say between session 2 and 4.  In this sessions I can:

 - address your many questions such as 'why did this happen?' and 'what does the future hold' or 'can my partner stop for good and be trusted again?'.

- talk through the treatment plan and discuss with you what to expect in terms of changes in your partner

- discuss your well-being and provide signposting to resources and counselling by specialists if you feel you could benefit

- most importantly, reassure you through explaining the research and theories behind sex addiction, that the behaviours are most certainly not because of you or the relationship and are straightforward to stop and banish for good

Don’t suffer alone – get your own professional support.

Initially for a couple, both partners should receive therapy before considering couple counselling.  Partners with addictive behaviours should see a specialist in sex and porn addiction.  This is also helpful for their partners so a counsellor at least experienced in couple therapy can be very helpful however all sex addiction specialist are trained to help partners.  This will help you to manage the impact of the revelations and shock and any self-blame you might be experiencing. 

Avoid the common pitfalls.

  • Don’t blame yourself.  This is not of your making and not your fault.  The chances are that the behaviours are linked to something that pre-dates your relationship.
  • Hard though it may be try not to judge your partner too harshly.  It is a common trap to think someone with sex addictions or compulsions is weird, sick or a pervert or meant to hurt you.  All addictions are coping mechanisms for underlying issues and this is just your partner’s way of coping with something that has happened to them or is still affecting them.  Having an addiction does not make someone inherently bad or flawed – it usually means they are struggling to cope with a psychological reaction to something and will not even be aware of the connection.  They may think of themself as unwell or defective in some way and have been masking this as they find it difficult to talk about intimate things.
  • Don’t feel that you have to take the role of detective and police officer.  After discovery, the vast majority of sex addicts are at their most motivated to end what they have been doing. Trying to unearth every single detail and controlling every aspect of your partner’s life will have a negative effect on your health and psychological well-being especially if they are in denial and not ready for changing their ways.  
  • Don’t feel that you need to over-compensate in some way such as having more sex with your partner or making personal changes to your appearance or behaviours.  The changes at this stage need to come from your addict partner who will need to take responsibility for attaining full recovery.
  • Don’t feel that you are responsible for curing or controlling your partner.  You may feel as though you should be doing these things but they are only likely to sap your physical and mental energy and leave you exhausted.  By all accounts, have conversations with your partner if there are long periods of unaccounted time or unexplained expenditures - in fact, regular pre-arranged discussions very so often help promote openness and accountability.

What next?

Don't be afraid to call me, Steve, on 07711 887391 or send an enquiry to have a free consultation on options open to you.  Esteem Therapy Yorkshire also provides an online web chat option if you dont feel ready to talk yet.

FAQs for Partners of Sex and Porn Compulsives

What is wrong with me that makes my partner do this?

Nothing.  This is not your fault.  You did not cause this. All the research and literature about sex and porn addiction refers to the behaviours as ways of coping with something from the past such as a trauma or present-day work stress. Sometimes the causes relate to low confidence or emotional inhibition.  In almost all cases the behaviours, or others like them, were present in your partner before you met and are a product of growing up or personality.

Can my addict partner ever be trusted again?

Yes.  Trust can be earned to some extent by recovering addicts' positive behaviours and as they demonstrate a real evidence base of behaving responsibly (accounting for time, location, keeping screen-time to essential use only etc).  However, trust mostly comes from feeling confident to take progressively growing risks with a betraying partner based on evidence of responsible behaviour.  This is true of all relationships, as they all carry risk, but will take longer where deception and betrayal have occured. Your recovering partner can only nurture the conditions for trust which is for you to extend when you feel confident.  In other words, trust is your gift to give and therefore your choice and only you can decide.  Your own level of risk-taking, secureness and self-confidence will also dictate how much trust you are willing to extend.

Does this mean my partner isn't attracted to me or doesn't like my body?

Most certainly not.  Sex and porn addiction is, peculiarly, not about sex.  Like other addictions, sex and porn addiction is a coping mechanism that an addict needs to help them manage difficult emotions or anxieties. It just so happens for various often random factors that your partner has landed on something that works well as a self-medication for them when others have found the same effect from drink, drugs or gambling. Sex and porn addiction also does not mean a naturally high sex drive - it is usually the other way round as porn, due to its effect on the brain, creates a compulsive drive for anything sexual.  

Interested?

Contact us using the form below or call us on 07711 887391.

Please Note: Do not send your partner's or someone else's details without their knowledge. This is a breach of trust and also unlawful use of their personal data. Please call if you are worried about someone or need help yourself and I can advise you of the best course of action.

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