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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

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 disclosed their secret behaviours to you.  Whichever way it comes out, you are likely to feel either very confused, uncomfortable or unhappy if you have known for a while or shocked, numbed and confused if it has just become known to you.  In a relationship these behaviours are at best unhealthy and at worst abusive and risky.

It is also common to feel angry, betrayed and rejected at this time as well.  These feelings will overwhelm you and you will be swinging from one intense emotion to another as you try and cope with what seems like wrong behaviour or devastating revelations about a partner you thought you knew intimately. 

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.

It is common, natural and very human to react in this way.  You may feel out of control and pushed to the limits of your patience and tolerance or just immobilised no knowing what to do.  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.  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.

All partners react differently of course although it can be typical for many to go into either submissive mode or ‘control’/‘police’ mode.

It is natural for the shock response to immobilise you and possibly make you feel helpless and submissive, perhaps worrying about your partner's reaction if you confront them. You would be right to seek advice and help from a specialist service such as Esteem in this situation to give you support and guidance as to the next steps and 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 means that you may therefore be better to focus your energy on getting support for yourself from friends, family or a professional.  

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 and this can work better if your partner knows you are there to support them when needed such as allowing time for therapy sessions and allowing ongoing contact with the therapist can be really helpful. This enables the work your partner is doing to work to the maximum effect. There may also be some exercises that therapists set that might require your involvement, such as making agreements about boundaries (see the diagram above where you have discussions about each other's needs for each of the circles).  However, try not to expect immediate results or to demand to know everything that has been discussed as this may put unnecessary stress on your already fragile state. 

The most important thing is to get to a point where you can talk about how you are both going to overcome the shock to the relationship and move onwards positively.  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 the behaviours were all about and use the experience to improve their self-control and relationship skills.  Some of the most useful conversations at this stage are; discussing what support we each need from each other;  boundaries we both need around use of time, whereabouts, use of internet access; and at later stages what we need to do to re-contract the relationship and begin re-building it in mutually rewarding ways.

If you are shocked and hurt this is because the relationship and your partner mean a lot to you.  If this is the case then you will want to put things back on an even keel as soon as possible.

If there has been a pattern of this behaviour for some time you may want support in ending the relationship.  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 if your affection and connection with one another are strong and meaningful and,
  • whether you have children.

Whatever your thinking at this stage, it is probably not a good idea to make major decisions straightaway without consulting a sexual compulsion 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 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 partner will be learning about what triggers the compulsions and techniques to manage these.  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. Here at Esteem Therapy I always offer one information session to partners to explain how the therapy works.

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 but a counsellor at least experienced in couple therapy can be very helpful.  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 judge your partner.  It is a common trap to think someone with sex addictions or compulsions is weird, sick or a pervert.  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.
  • 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 you even meeting.
  • Don’t allow yourself to take the role of detective and police officer.  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.  It may sound harsh, but at some stage you will have to let go of information seeking and draw at least a dotted line underneath the past and move forward with your life.
  • Don’t feel that you need to over-compensate in some way such as having more sex with your partner or making personal changes.  This is a reaction to self-blame. This is a time when you need to look after yourself.
  • Don’t try and cure or excessively control 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, however try to do this in a controlled and adult-like and calm way as you are much more likely to get co-operaton.

What next?

Don't be afraid to call us on 07539 952864 or send an enquiry to have a 15 minute 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 work stress or a difficulty in life such as low confidence or emotional inhibition.  In almost all cases the behaviours, or others like them, were present in your partner before you met.

Can my addict partner ever be trusted again?

Yes.  Trust can be earned to some extent by recovering addicts' positive behaviours.  Trust is mostly however something that exists in the giver rather than the receiver and when you decide to trust again will depend on your own levels of security and willingness to take managed risks with your recovering partner.  Ex porn and sex addicts can successfully overcome their behaviours provided they commit to the goal of recovery and show motivation, accountability and honesty within the relationship.  If you are not convinced of these happening over a period of time, say 6-12 months then you can re-consider your options.

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.  Sex and porn addiction does not mean a naturally high sex drive - it is usually the other way round - porn creates a compulsive drive for anything sexual.  Unfortunately, porn and other non-commital sexual behaviours, are simple and straightforward compared with real intimacy and sex in committed relationships which some can find more intimidating and effortful.

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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