Sexual Addiction has, to some extent, been trivialised in media and thought of by many as “the best addiction to get”. However, the reality for those who are compulsively addicted to sex and pornography, and their partners is very different. Sexual addiction is characterised by:
- Preoccupation with sexual behaviour/fantasies
- Failure to resist sexual impulses
- Frequently engaging in sexual behaviour to a greater extent or for longer than intended.
- Unsuccessful efforts to stop the behaviour despite a desire to stop.
- Continuation of the behaviours despite social, relational, occupational negative consequences
- Giving up social occupational or recreational activities in favour of the sexual behaviour.
- Distress, anxiety, or irritability if unable to engage in sexual behaviour.
Partners of sexual addicts face an extraordinary and unique struggle. In other addictions it can be possible to get to a place of understanding and even forgiveness. However, for partners of sex/pornography addicts, there is huge a betrayal of trust, and a deep sense of shame that affects the partner’s self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image. Looking back through the pain of this betrayal it can feel like the memories of events that once were happy have been ‘polluted’ and tainted forever, and this makes the process of reconciliation extremely difficult, and in some cases sadly, impossible. The recovering addict must remain cognisant of this, and must integrate a real sense of remorse, empathy and understanding of his/her partner’s hurt into their own recovery work. For the partner, it can be a time of great loneliness and isolation, partners find themselves withdrawing from friends and family because of the understandable reluctance to share their concerns. It is vitally important that if this the case, they reach out for professional help and link in with support groups such as SA-ANON.