Are You in Love with a Sex Addict?

Harmony (Dust) Grillo Blog, Featured, Help for Spouses, Spouses Related Articles, Straight from Harmony's Heart, Uncategorized 18 Comments


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)*

The Problem

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.

The Solution

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) GrilloHarmony Karen Press pic

Founder/Executive Director


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.








Comments 18

  1. Art Zeigler

    Great information! I would like to add there are many who don’t realize they are codependent. There are some who teach you should do what it takes to make a marriage work, which is incorrect. You should do what it takes according to God’s word to make a marriage work, but then it is also up to the other person to respond as God prompts and convicts.

    Also there are many who grew up in dysfunctional households. For instance I know one person who said as a child they would physically get inbetween their father and mother to stop their arguing and try to make them hold hands. It is natural for a child to fear especially when their parents are at odds. Unfortunately that fear carries forward into their adult life where they are always trying to resolve a spouses problem instead of following God. They will do what ever makes the person happy even if they are put at risk. In their minds these actions are normal because it is how they grew up.

    1. Post
      Harmony Dust

      Yes Art that is right~ I tried to keep the language neutral (spouses) to include men who have loved ones who are struggling with sexual addiction. Good reminder.

  2. Tamra

    I used to be married to a man who is severely sexually addicted. I am so very happy to see more information on how to take responsibility for yourself and help on getting out of those situations. I have worked on myself for over 5 years now and can honestly say I am so much happier and have so much joy in my new relationship with myself. I now have a very healthy relationship with a wonderful man. <3 I give thanks to the women at Treasures for helping me get the help I needed to find out just how valuable I truly am. God bless you all!

  3. Susan Stafford-Shepherd

    This is great information Harmony! I know of a couple currently that describes your article exactly. The wife is silent about his behaviors and she does know of them. Occasionally I do wonder why she allows his behavior to continue. I would have packed his bags for him. You hit that co-dependent right on the nail.

  4. Mirko

    This is such a deep blog! What can I say, youve hit the nail right on the head! You even added some videos to make it seem so much more real. Youve got a great way of communicating with the reader, a great way of making me feel like what you have to say is just as important to me as it is to you. Keep it up!

  5. sassy smith

    I believe that God has brought me to your blog today. My husband has been distant and after some snooping around, I’ve discovered that he has been obsessively viewing internet sites that feature nude/semi nude photos and videos of very large women. Now I understand why he was so cruel to me (very out of character) when I slimmed down. I confronted him and he lied. I made him go to his computer and he couldn’t lie any longer. I received so many promises but he has broken them. I am tracking his activity. Co-dependent – that’s me I guess. Can’t believe that my life has turned into this nightmare. I have no idea what to do.

    1. Post
      Harmony Dust

      Hey “sassy”, I am so sorry to hear about the pain you are experiencing. There are some good resources on our site for spouses…hopefully some of them will be helpful to you as you figure out where to go from here. You are not alone. And if there is a Celebrate Recovery with a COSA group in your area, I highly recommend checking it out. Take care. Harmony

  6. Kim

    I found your website today after having a piano dropped on my head when my husband had to tell me that he was being fired after being involved with a co-worker for 2 years and that this was his fifth affair. To say I was stunned, doesn’t quite give you a clear enough picture. Now, we have started treatement and I am finding myself just simply wanting him to say he loves me or say he’s still in love with me. Our counselor pretty much told me that this makes me the text book description of being addicted to an addict. I’m literally just starting down this journey I never intended to take. Please, if you pray, pray for me often. Right now I am just trying to breath, that’s it. I have three children and a pretty hard job so keeping it together for everyone, including him, is getting more and more difficult. Thanks.

  7. Leigha

    I am not in a committed relationship with this man but we might as well have been. He is a sex addict, addicted to porn and acting out with men. He won’t let me touch him at times but will go act out sexually with some stranger. I know it is not me as the issue but at times it is really hard to think that some stranger is getting what I desire out of his addiction. I get his affection after he comes down from his self beating behavior after acting out, it is crazy this roller coaster cycle. This information is really helpful. Please keep him and me in your prayers. We are both in recovery but it seems like enough never seems to be enough for him and I feel like he feels a need to “punish” me when he is on the prowl or acting out…like he needs to blame someone for his bad choices. I am constantly torn because I love him but I am sickened by his behavior. Thanks

    1. Post
      Harmony Dust

      That sounds like a very difficult and painful cycle. I am so sorry to hear that you are feeling caught in this situation.

      We have some blogs, books and some other resources here that I hope you might find helpful:

      I pray that God would do a mighty work in your life…that He would show you what boundaries you may need to set in order to keep your heart safe. I pray that He would break chains and bring you to a place of freedom. I know He is able and if you seek Him, He will show you the way.

      I also know that discovering our own personal boundaries and setting them can be one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and the people we love when they are caught in addictive cycles.

  8. Sienna

    How does one approach a partner with a severe porn addiction who’s unwilling to see how painful it is? He thinks it’s “normal and healthy”. How do we keep focus on our own life, do not be co-dependent but at the same time to not allow for these actions?

    1. Post
      Harmony Dust

      Hi Sienna, While I definitely don’t have all of the answers, I personally found a lot of healing and recovery through Celebrate Recovery’s “Co-dependent women in relationship with a sexually addicted man” group. There is not an easy answer and for me it took walking it out in recovery for a while to start to get the hang of it. Here are some other articles and resources you might find helpful.

  9. ConfusedFellow

    Hi, thanks for sharing your stories and stuff. It takes real courage to go through this kinda circumstance and come out of it relatively healthy. I feel the need to share my story as well, as it is so difficult to find someone to talk to about this, I’m gonna start seing a therapist for my own process.
    I met a girl 2 months ago, I love her now as much as a man can love a woman. Last week I realized how I exhibit co-dependent behavior and she is obviously a sex addict in hardcore denial. She is “extremely sexually open” as she puts it, but denies any incident of acting out. I saw her flirting constantly with almost every guy we met, and some very dark stuff … I knew she was hypersexual and I made rationalizations as to why she didn’t want to have sex with me sometimes, but was obviously aroused by others (the riskier the better).
    The worst part of my realization was my own denial, all of what I let “slip” because of my own pattern, looking back to what I thought were good relationships, I realized I’ve been playing this game in ALL of my past relationships. I was used to dis-belief my own perception, to not trust my intuition, to question my sanity, because these girls were master manipulators and lyers; and I believed them out of love, or out of blindness caused by my own issues.
    I recognize is not all on them, I played a major role, because I was acting out my own phantasy of becoming sexually aroused by my loved-one betraying me, hurting me and making me feel like I could never satisfy her. The most disturbing part of the realization was a recognition of the event that triggered this on me, when I was 6 years old, someone close to me was being abused while I, the only one who knew, couldn’t do anything about it. That was freaking traumatic, and now I realize it has stained all of my past love-relationships.
    I measured my love based on the amount of pain I felt, so I’ve endured a lot of pain.
    I’m disturbed by myself and relieved a little bit to know that I don’t want to play that “game” never again.
    I also wonder, will I be able to have a functional relationship one day? will I even be over my phantasy of getting hurt by the one I love the most? And most importantly, will I be able to ever trust a woman again?
    I don’t know, all I know is I won’t do that anymore.

  10. Lee

    Great article. I was living with a man and I contracted a virus. I left him despite loving him. For that I am proud, for it shows my growth in my codependence. We had a beautiful life together. We are both older (45 and 50), neither had been in a relationship for many years, let alone live with someone. We both have demanding jobs, so our time constraints were never a problem with the other. We lifted each other up in so many ways: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. It was pretty unreal. While I was enjoying our “good stuff,” I did see red flags, but didn’t fully pinpoint his addiction until I stepped away. I am a woman of God and I want to be supportive to him in his recovery, but my efforts would be fruitless because he is not recognizing the issue. Codependence would have made me stay. My faith in God gave me the strength to leave.

    1. Post
      Harmony Dust

      Thank you for sharing your story! And praise God you had the strength to leave… I know firsthand how difficult that can be!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *