Sexual Compulsivity

The need for spousal support.

Posted Oct 21, 2018

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In a lot of relationships dealing with compulsive behaviors of any kind, the hardest part is sharing the journey with your partner. When it comes to compulsive sexual behaviors, this becomes exponentially harder due to feelings of sexual and emotional betrayal, a partner's potential feelings of inadequacy (compared with other women, real or imagined via fantasy, pornography).  

In your recovery circles, you may be real, authentic, and vulnerable in sharing your slips and acting out episodes to men or women in your 12-step groups, group therapy, or other support groups where you feel people truly understand the nature of this without fear of judgment or condemnation. However, due to these same fears stemming in your marriage or intimate relationship, your romantic partner may be the last to know.

As mentioned earlier, part of this is due to the intense fear of shame, rejection, judgment, or condemnation one may have received in the past from your partner. You may have been ridiculed, called names, or even physically hit because of your sexual behaviors. In a few cases, men and women may not share due to projecting these fears onto their partners, thus limiting their ability to share.

So what occurs is that the recovery process could feel very disjointed within a couple-ship (i.e., if the couples are working to stay together and work through the problems). One side invests and exerts a lot of energy attending recovery meetings, checking in with sponsors and group members, reading, journaling, and other recovery work that can lead to painful yet meaningful discoveries within themselves and then shared accordingly with like-minded peers. However, that level of emotional depth and vulnerability may not transcend beyond recovery circles, and thus the romantic partner gets short shrift in terms of the significant recovery details other than the proverbial and awkward check-in process as detailed below.

Impacted Partner: "So how's it (your recovery) going (this week, month, etc.)?"

Partner in Recovery: "Good" or "It's been a hard (week, month, etc.)".

I don't mean to paint a negative picture of the recovery process for couples, but I do feel there is a greater need for impacted partners to know there should be a much richer and fulfilling dialogue leading to a much more connected coupledom.  If you feel the two of you are living separate lives in this area, then please consider seeking guidance in growing in this area. The worst case scenario is when no information is shared (after the initial discovery or acknowledgment of the problem) and the impacted partner lives by the mantra, "Don't ask, don't tell." 

If you’re in recovery, please consider having your partner join you in the process (if he/she wants to).  You’ll be surprised that many impacted partners want to be on this journey with you. This doesn’t mean they’re to be an accountability partner, but they do (and should) have access to your process (feelings, emotions, slips, relapses) as a means to support you and to not feel left in the dark.

Too many people go through recovery separate from their partners, not realizing how much this causes couples to actually grow more distant and less emotionally intimate than having the courage to share their journey with their partners.  So, in short, recovery is not an individual journey (as many of you know by now with your support people), but a journey your intimate partner should be on as well.

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