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Couples who make it work generally take a three-pronged approach, says Hall.
My life fell apart.” Sex addiction hurts partners in a way that no other addiction can, says Paula Hall, who has written a book on the subject.Traditionally, most partners of sex addicts have been treated as co-dependents, says Hall.“The presumption is that the partner knew at some level what was going on and was ‘enabling’ it, which is frankly an insult.Sex addiction for a partner brings up feelings of ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘He doesn’t want me’, but it’s not about the sex, it’s about the dopamine fix.Once they understand the nature of the addictive drive, sometimes they’re able to move into self-care.” Rosendale’s anecdotal research reveals that a third of those partners seeking help decide to stay in the relationship, while a further third leave and the final third “remain stuck”.The reality for most partners I see is that they experience phenomenal shock.” The damage to self-esteem, she continues, isn’t just about the sexualised behaviour, such as visits to prostitutes that partners never knew about.
It’s the fact that they’ve lived with someone so long and had no idea.
Second, the partner has to feel stable again, as well as understanding the addiction and working out what they want the relationship to look like in the future.
Third, the couple works together on the renegotiation of the boundaries in the relationship.” While some sex addicts move on, other partners must recognise that they’ll be living with someone in recovery for the rest of their life, says Hall.
“These guys, and it is mostly guys, are on the whole loving husbands, yet they did this right under your nose, leaving you unable to trust your partner, or even your own judgements,” she explains.
No wonder many partners suffer trauma, which can lead to depression, anxiety and panic attacks, rage or utter dissociation.
Eight years into her marriage, Rachel started to wonder if her husband had lost interest in sex.