Can You Be in a Relationship While Dealing With Sex Addiction?


Given the nature of sex addiction, maintaining a relationship before or during recovery can seem nearly impossible. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity describes this disorder as “engaging in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” These escalating behaviors can involve excessive use of pornography, affairs, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, soliciting and even rape or child molestation.

Relationship break down is often a byproduct of sexual addiction, along with financial, legal and health problems. But that does not mean that it is impossible for someone living with sexual addiction to be in a relationship.

Relationships Involving Sex addiction Unhealthy in Long Run

However, what is impossible is maintaining a healthy relationship for the long-term without beginning the process of treatment and recovery. Even if your sexual addiction (or what you suspect may be sexual addiction) has not negatively impacted your relationship so far, keep in mind that addiction is characterized by escalation and that sexual behaviors will continue to become more and more extreme as the illness progresses.

You may have a partner with a strong libido who is willing to accommodate your need for increasingly frequent sexual activity and experimentation for a time, but this accommodation will eventually reach a limit, while the addiction never will. Furthermore, the addiction will eventually mean that your partner is no longer able to satisfy your compulsive sexual desires no matter what he or she does. At the end of the day, one or both partners are left unsatisfied, uncomfortable and unhappy.

Ideally, sexual addiction can be recognized and addressed before behaviors appear that a relationship will be unable to recover from. Unfortunately, it often takes a serious shock to force someone out of a state of denial about his or her condition. Such a shock might be the exposure of an affair, getting fired for inappropriate sexual conduct or getting arrested for soliciting sex. Even with sexual addiction as a scapegoat, a romantic partner may not be able to accept and forgive these and other behaviors and have any interest in saving the relationship.

Both Partners Need Help Recovering

When a couple decides to try to save the relationship after one has revealed a sexual addiction, both partners are going to need professional help. Studies have found that partners of those with sexual addiction are seriously affected by the experience of living with this addiction and do not usually recover on their own. Even with treatment, some studies suggest that it often takes longer for partners to recover than it does for the addicted person to recover. Twelve-step recovery along with couples’ therapy through a certified sex addiction therapist has been found to produce the best results for many couples.

Despite the benefits, getting partners and former partners of people with sex addiction to start and stick with treatment can be a major challenge. Former partners in particular will often feel that they just want to leave the situation behind them, and it can be a struggle to get them to revisit their experiences so that they are able to recover from them. Current partners are more likely to recognize the importance of getting treatment, but may still feel like the burden of committing to therapy or a 12-step program lies with their partners.

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