Sex is a natural part of life. It allows us to fulfill deeply-ingrained biological and emotional needs and is a key aspect of a healthy relationship. However, when sex becomes a compulsion, something that is engaged in despite possible or very real negative consequences, it ceases to be emotionally fulfilling and turns into something unhealthy. Couples who fear they may be facing this issue must first understand what sex addiction is, how it can affect your relationship, and what can be done to treat the condition.
To begin with, let’s discuss what sex addiction really is.
Defining Sex Addiction
It’s important to be aware that there is some controversy around sexual addiction. Still, it is usually described as a compulsive need to perform sexual acts and is often compared to the same type of compulsive behavior seen by alcohol or opiate addicts.
Defining features of people with sex addiction include:
Inappropriate and/or risky sexual activities including sex with prostitutes or attendance at sex clubs
Engaging in sex with multiple partners and/or having extramarital affairs
Engaging in sex acts when alone, such as phone sex, viewing pornography, or computer sex
Sex is a dominating force in a person’s life, often at the exclusion of other activities
Sex addiction manifests differently for people, but can sometimes be very dangerous and negatively impact both personal and professional relationships, a person’s physical and mental health, and their overall quality of life.
Effects on Relationships
When experienced by a partner in a long-term or monogamous relationship, sex addiction can lead to significant strain and difficulty in that relationship. In addition to possibly seeking sexual partners outside of the relationship, individuals suffering from this addiction can create financial problems because of the constant search for sexual gratification. Sex addicts may pay for pornography or even for sex with prostitutes in order to gratify their compulsions. Such behaviors can create tensions with the addict’s long-term partner, often leading to emotional distress or even disorders. Due to the inherent risks of having multiple partners, sexual addicts can also put their partners at risk of contracting a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) such as HIV, HPV, chlamydia, or some other STI.
Seeking Treatment as a Couple
While the effects of sexual addiction can be extremely damaging to a relationship, facing this issue together in couples therapy can help with relationship problems and the addiction that is fueling them.
Romantic partners are victims of sexual addiction, too. They need support, and recognizing this fact can help a couple to discover sources of support that can help them to become more mutually supportive of one another. This newfound support can be extremely helpful in overcoming sex addiction, but couples may not be as likely to develop mutually supportive behaviors when only the addicted partner is receiving individual therapy.
Couples therapy can also help couples understand if there are any enabling behaviors, even inadvertent ones, that may be present in the relationship. These behaviors are things that the non-addicted partner does that allow the addiction to continue and can be anything from simply ignoring the behaviors, to actively covering for inappropriate behaviors, lending money, and more. Couples therapy can help the couple to become aware of these enabling behaviors, something that may be more difficult to achieve when only the addicted partner is seeking therapy.
The most significant aspect of couples therapy is that it can help couples resolve the problems they experience as a result of a partner’s addiction and begin the process of healing the damaged relationship. Acknowledging that there is a problem is one of the most difficult things for someone facing addiction to do, and the greatest healing comes from a couple that recognizes they can face addiction together and support one another in the recovery process. The road to recovery may not be easy, but it can help couples to overcome the challenges they have been facing as a result of a partner’s addiction and can bring much-needed relief and healing.
If you’re ready to experience open communication, embrace change, and growing together get in touch with us at Century City Counseling.