Like most addicts, partners have usually experienced some form of abuse or abandonment. Many are adult children of an addicted parent. The reality is that many partners learned unhealthy ways of coping long before getting involved with the sex addict, and those patterns are being played out in the current relationship. Sometimes, the sex addict is just the latest of a string of dysfunctional people in the partner’s life. She or he unconsciously keeps picking addicts in relationship after relationship.
This reality is why it’s important for a partner to get help personally whether the addict does or not. You’ve probably heard about the wife who prayed for years that her husband would stop drinking, and when he finally did, she was surprised to discover that his sobriety didn’t fix everything wrong in their marriage. She didn’t know how to relate to this now-sober alcoholic, and in fact, she didn’t necessarily like him any better – or herself.
Addiction is a family disease. And the issues don’t stop with the addict, even if that person chooses to get sober. The spouses and former spouses of alcoholics have proven the truth of that hard statement. Addiction affects every person in the family, especially the spouse.
Common to partners is the belief that everything will be fine if the addict will just stop doing the destructive behavior. Partners focus on their anger and hurt, which is 100% justified. However, they view the addict as the only one who needs help, and as hard as it is to hear, that simply isn’t the case.
Even if you plan to divorce the sex addict or you’ve already done so, it’s vital that you look at your own history and any coping mechanisms you’ve developed that might not be helpful for you. Otherwise, you’re at high risk to pick another unhealthy individual and be back in the same painful situation. At the very least, it’s highly likely you’ll continue to use the familiar, though not necessarily productive, coping techniques that may no longer be in your best interest.
Whether or not you choose to stay in a relationship with the sex addict in your life is totally up your life. We will simply describe the characteristics of healthy individuals and the dynamics of healthy relationships, and it is your work to measure yourself and your relationships against the standard of health and determine the best healing path for you.
If you plan to build a new relationship with the addict in your life, you’ll never have the genuine intimacy you desire and deserve without taking the hard, but positive step of looking at yourself.