Partners of Sex Addicts


Are you feeling hurt, betrayed, alone, confused, and/or angry about your partner’s/husband’s unfaithfulness? You are not alone in those feelings. They are common emotions for those involved with sex addicts. You may wonder, why did you get a sex addict as a partner, the winner of a not-so-lucky draw. This may not be your first relationship with a sex addict either. Why do you keep attracting men like this?


Patrick Carnes describes the "co-addict," or loved one or friend, as one who "becomes so involved in the life of the addict that he or she truly starts to participate in the same impaired mental processes of the addict." As the relationship has struggles for the addict, the grief cycle for the loved one also becomes distorted. The addict replaces normal human relationships with sexual compulsiveness. As those who love them feel the loss, they become angry, feeling despair and yet sometimes hope. However, all the co-addicts’ efforts to restore the relationship are not only ineffective, they can intensify and deepen the addictive system for the addict. Compounding the tragedy, co-addicts will take actions which are self-destructive, degrading, or even profound violations of their own values. Family members, as co addicts, become part of the problem.


Marriage does not change sexual compulsiveness. Wives and partners learn to sacrifice their own identity--giving up a part of herself to order to stay in the relationship which may include: disregarding her own intentions, overlooking behavior that hurt her deeply, covering up behavior that she despised, appearing cheerful when she was hurting, avoiding conflict to keep up appearances, being disrespected repeatedly, allowing her own standards to be compromised, faulting herself for the family’s problems, believing she had no options. They are caught in a process beyond their control--a process in which her reactions made the situation worse.


The co-addictive system parallels the process of the addictive system. Co-addiction starts with fundamental or core beliefs about one’s self, relationships, needs, and sexuality. These beliefs generate impaired thinking that distorts reality and fosters co-addictive behavior. The co-addict attempts to change the addict, but which in reality contributes to the addiction. co-addictive behavior adds to the unmanageability of the family members’ lives.


The belief system is the key. Cultural and family messages affect what the child holds to be true. In order to survive and have her needs met, she felt she had to pretend that everything in the relationship was acceptable when it was not. The same sense of abandonment that addicts experience in their lives exists for co-addicts.


Denial, grandiosity and inadequacy, blame and judgment, preoccupation with the addict’s sexual behavior, enabling, participation in secrecy, isolated, increasing distance between family members.

The co-addict sometimes uses the sexual relationship between them as one of the chief methods to control the addict. Controlling sex comes from the co-addict’s preoccupation with the sexual behavior of the addict.


At The Intimacy Center we understand the pain of the of partner of the sex addict. We encourage letting others into the pain, support groups and friends and family. To have a safe place to share the pain and grow we have a group for wives of sex addicts where affirmation and growth occurs between the women. We explore the ways in which you came into a relationship with a sex addict, how you have lost yourself within the relationship, and the steps to wholeness and becoming the woman that you were meant to be.

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