My partner has a sexual addiction, what can I do?

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My partner has a sexual addiction, what can I do?

If you have recently discovered your partner has a sexual or pornography addiction, you might be overwhelmed.  So what are some things you can do to begin your healing process?

In the recovery path of the partner, there will be some band-aid short term stabilization strategies, to get you through the initial days and weeks of finding out about the betrayal, and some more long term self-actualization work that you can do.  But let’s just focus on a few things to help with the emotional tidal wave you are currently experiencing.

  • Seek medical attention if you feel you may be at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Taking care of your health and well-being is your top priority. Set sexual boundaries that feel safe and comfortable to you regarding your relationship with your partner.
  • Allow yourself time and space to grieve.  Pay attention to your emotions whatever they are, and don’t judge them. They are your feelings, and they matter. Honor them, express them in a way that feels natural, and let them move through your body. Sometimes it feels like you can’t stop crying or screaming, but the grief will pass, and the crying will stop eventually….
  • Don’t try to figure everything out right away. Refrain from making major life and relationship decisions in the short term. Give yourself a reflection period to make sense of what your are experiencing.
  • Learn about sexual addiction and the recovery process. There are a variety of hopeful therapeutic interventions for addicts, and many people who successfully recover from this addiction and thrive in personal relationships. Having knowledge about the process will help you have more realistic expectations of what your partner might be going through and working on.
  • Find support to deal with your experience.  This can be a difficult topic to discuss with your friends, colleagues, and even people in your faith community because there is judgement and stigma associated with any addiction, but even more so with sexual addition.  Support could be in the form of a COSA group, a certified counselor, or trusted friend with whom you can share what you are experiencing in confidence.  Often when we are hurting or experiencing shame, the inclination is to withdraw, but healing happens when we experience human connection, empathy and compassion.
  • Develop a process of self-care.  Extend yourself some self-compassion and unconditional love. Begin to be aware of what your needs are and practice honoring those needs.  Many partners of addicts have long ignored their own needs and desires in order to maintain harmony in their relationship.  This time is an invitation for you to focus on what you need, what makes you feel supported, cared for and empowered in your life.  Identify things you do have control over that impact your well-being.  Do you need to get more sleep?  Do you need to move into a separate bedrooms?  Do you need to spend more time with friends?
  • Open up to the idea of practicing conscious breathing work, meditation or grounding. Include physical activity, such as walking, exercise, kick boxing, yoga, any type of physical activity can help relieve stress.  Stress and negative emotion if not released can be stored in the body, and cause pain and even dis-ease over time.

This time of difficulty and pain can also be a time of personal renewal and growth if you can let go of control of the addicts behavior and and focus on your own healing.  You can chose self-love over anger, grief, shame, blame and resentment – although all those feelings will likely be there.  Being grounded and in a place of calm will help you be the most effective support for your partner, and enable you to make conscious choices about your relationship and your future from a more stable place.

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