Sex addiction is a family issue. By definition, sex addiction is a “problem in which one engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior despite increasing negative consequences to one’s self or others (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy). More often than not, the negative consequences the sexually addicted person suffers impact the people they love just as significantly. Often, spouses, children, and loved ones find themselves in the wreckage of the addict’s choices.
The results of a Focus on the Family poll indicate that 47% percent of families say pornography is a “problem” in their home. While that number is significant, it doesn’t even include other forms of sexually acting out, including having affairs, going to strip clubs, and hiring prostitutes to name a few.
I have heard it said that behind every great addict is a great co-dependent. And when it comes to sex addiction, often the “greatest” co-dependent is the addict’s spouse or significant other.
Many spouses mistakenly believe that if the addict would just stop “acting out” in their addictive behavior, everything would be fine. Often, people in relationships with sex addicts are so focused on the addict and the addictive behavior; they aren’t able to see their part in it all.
Am I saying that they person in relationship with a sex addict is somehow responsible for the addicts behavior? Not at all. As a matter of fact, I believe that incredible healing can happen once the co-dependent counterpart in addiction begins to allow the addict to take responsibility for their own lives and recovery and shifts the focus to their own healing and well-being.
Maybe you are reading this blog because you suspect your spouse or significant other is struggling with a sexual addiction. Perhaps you are well aware that there is an addiction and just don’t know what to do about it. You may be suffering the devastating heartache of finding out your spouse is having an affair. Or wresting with the pain of discovering your loved one is frequenting porn websites or interactive chat rooms.
If you are searching for answers, searching for support, or just plain searching, I hope the following information obtained from Celebrate Recovery’s support group for Co-dependent Women in Relationship with Sexually Addicted Men is helpful to you.
Additional resources and information can be found here: HELP FOR SPOUSES
Codependent Women in a Relationship with a Sexually Addicted Man (COSA)*
On the surface, codependency sounds like “Christian teaching”. Codependents often believe that the only way to find worth is to put others first before taking care of themselves and often give themselves away. At some point in our lives, we came to believe that no one would love us as we are, that we are basically bad and somehow unworthy of being loved.
As a Codependent You May:
- Assume responsibility for other’s feelings and behaviors
- Have difficulty identifying what you are feeling
- Have difficulty expressing feelings
- Have difficulty making decisions
- Are afraid of being hurt and/or rejected, especially by the addict in our lives
- Value other’s opinions and feelings more than your own
- Embarrassed to receive recognition and praise, or gifts
- Judge everything you think, say, or do harshly as “never” good enough
- Are a perfectionist
- Are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
- Not ask others to meet your needs, wants, or desires
- Not perceive yourself as loveable or worthwhile
- Compromise your own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger
As a Codependent in Relationship with a Sexually Addicted Man, You May Also:
- Fail to hold the addict accountable for their actions
- Act inconsistently with follow through, especially when it comes to consequences
- Compromise your own beliefs to give into the addicts desires and fantasies
- Have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries
- Attempt to control the addicts behavior
- Blame yourself for the addicts behavior; for example: “If only I were prettier or thinner”
- Excuse the other relationship problems in your life as being side effects of the addicts behavior
In the broadest sense, codependency can be defined as an addiction to people, behavior or things. Codependency is the fallacy of control- control of people, feelings, things and events. To the codependent, control or the lack of it, is central to every aspect of life. For the codependent in a relationship with a sexually addicted man, we may have ignored or did not recognize the signs of the addicts’ compulsive behaviors. Our codependency may have resulted in us being unforgiving and punishing toward the addict. We may have also mistaken the intensity and excitement of our sex lives for intimacy and love.
We understand that our problems are emotional and spiritual. We have become ready to face our denial and accept the truth about our lives and our past issues. Jesus taught the value of the individual. He said we are to love others equal to ourselves, not more than ourselves. We realize that blaming ourselves, trying to control the addict, and/or ignoring his behavior, refusing to set and uphold boundaries are all signs of codependency. We realize that there is a difference between a life of service and one of codependency- our motivations. Are we motivated to give and serve out of guilt or lack of self-worth, or are we freely giving and serving because we are motivated by God’s love and grace without expectations of anything in return?
Victory from codependency in a relationship with a sexually addicted man may include the following:
- Dedicated to learning about codependency and sexual addiction
- Being a partner in recovery with our spouse or significant other, not controllers
- Ability to help others in appropriate ways, rather than controlling, allowing others to act independently
- Realize we are not responsible for the addict’s addiction or recovery
- Able to find healthy ways to release our fears and anger
- Learn to gain self-worth through Jesus Christ
- Able to recognize that the Bible teaches we have worth simply because God created us
- Understand that our self-worth is not based on the work you do or the service you perform
- Understand that Christian fail calls for balanced living and taking care of yourself
- Choosing balanced behavior rather than addictive behavior
- Allowing others to be in charge of their own lives
- Able to take responsibility for one’s own health and well-being
- Willing and able to set and uphold healthy boundaries, limits for themselves, and not allowing others to compromise those boundaries
- Being God-directed, free from compulsiveness, knowing that God brings ultimate results
- Willing to face our own defects and work through these feelings in our recovery group
- Willing to take the focus off of the addict and focus on God and our own thoughts and feelings
- Able to surrender our relationships to God and realize that He is all we need
- Able to trust God so that our trust in others and ourselves will grow
*Taken from Celebrate Recovery COSA Problem/Solution Sheet
Harmony Dust founded Treasures in 2003 while completing a Master’s in Social Welfare at UCLA. To date, she has trained outreach leaders that have gone on to establish more than 97 sex industry outreaches on 5 continents. She has been featured in various media sources, including Glamour Magazine, The Dr. Drew Show, and The Tyra Banks Show. She is a sought after speaker and her memoir, Scars & Stilettos, gives an account of the journey of going from working in strip clubs, to leading an organization that reaches women in the sex industry on a global scale.