If I put myself in the place of someone who has learned their spouse has a sexual addiction my first thought is, “I’m out of here.” That is a knee jerk reaction I image is shared by most that discover such disturbing information about a spouse.
Should that first reaction be the step you take? Is your marriage doomed to end because of sexual addiction? I personally don’t think divorce is the answer until you’ve turned over every stone and come to an educated decision about what is right for you and the marriage.
Below are things you can do that will help you make a final and educated decision about whether to stay or leave the marriage.
Learn all you can about sexual addiction:
- Do your research; find out all you can about sexual addiction. When researching you should not only focus on the spouse who is sexually addicted but yourself also. I have found that most people research the problems of the other person in hopes of finding a way to change them.
When faced with marital problems the only person you can change is yourself. When gathering information be sure to find out what about you got you there, it can tell you a lot about whether or not you need to stay.
- Find a good support group. You local mental health association can put you in touch with a sex addicts support group such as COSA, an organization for those whose lives have been negatively touched by the sexual behaviors of another person.
- Find a therapist who is an expert in sexual issues and family of origin issues. There may be issues you need to address from your family of origin that lead you to marry someone with an addictive personality.
- Do not tolerate what you feel is intolerable. People married to sex addicts, alcoholics or drugs addicts tend to be co-dependent. Co-dependents have a hard time setting boundaries with others about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
The more adept you are at setting boundaries, the more self-esteem you will have and the more empowered you will feel.
- Insist that your spouse become actively involved in a sex addicts support group. Not only does the addict need a 12 step program to address their issues, you, the spouse needs to see a willingness to work through their issues. If you stay in the marriage trust will need to be rebuilt and for that to happen the addict will have to show, via their own work that they are worthy of your trust.
- Don’t threaten to divorce unless you are serious. Empty threats to leave only reinforce the addict’s belief that he/she can behave inappropriately and you will still be there. It won’t take your spouse long to realize that you aren’t really going to leave.
Instead of threatening to leave take action. If your spouse witnesses you researching the problem, going to support group meeting and setting firm boundaries you will send a stronger message than any empty threat to leave will.
It has been proven that to change another you must first change yourself. Responding in the same manner to any problem in your marriage only prolongs the problems. If your spouse sees you changing the way you typically respond to problems they may be spurred into making changes in themselves.
When it comes to addiction of any kind, the addict won’t address their own issues until they are faced with the likelihood of losing what is most valuable to them. If you focus on helping yourself instead of focus on fixing the addict you are more likely to illicit the change you wish for.
If, in the end your spouse refuses to seek help the likelihood of him/her changing is slim. Whether they change or not is unimportant because what you have done is take action to educated and protect yourself. Your future and emotional well-being will no longer depend on what your sex addicted spouse does but on what decisions you make about what is and isn’t in your best interest.
There is a process psychologist referred to as “detachment.” What I have described above are the actions of someone who has detached themselves from their spouse’s behaviors. Detachment is a difficult process to explain BUT I believe it is the most effective way to deal with an addict.
If you want to “detach” and do what is best for you, the addict and the marriage print out the points below and change your behavior accordingly.
- Accept and embrace your own inabilities to change the sex addict.
- Do not engage in snooping or watching the sex addicts every move.
- Accept that you cannot control the sex addict or what he/she does.
- DO NOT react in the same old way.
- Focus your time and energy on your life and what you want from your life.
- Set boundaries in a loving manner and expect respect and kindness in return.
- Detaching does not mean ignoring negative sexual behavior or becoming a doormat.
- Accept that, in the end your marriage may not survive.