Is my spouse a sex addict?
A sex addict is defined as being “a person who engages in persistent and escalating patterns of sexual behavior acted out despite increasing negative consequences to self and others.” (NCSAC, 2000)
When you discover your spouse is struggling with sexual integrity, your first reaction is probably a mix of emotions: shock, anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness, and disgust. You may also feel relieved to have the problem identified and your suspicions validated because some part of you knew something was wrong; now you at least know what.
Remember that pinpointing the problem is the first step in finding a solution. It’s crucial for spouses to realize two important truths:
- You are not alone! Thousands of other people – even other Christians – are faced with the sexual addiction of a family member or loved one.
- You can get help even if the sex addict is unwilling to pursue help personally! You don’t have to be a victim of your loved one’s sex addiction. You can enter recovery for yourself, regardless of the addict’s choices. The first step is realizing you are totally powerless over your spouse’s sexual addiction. The only person you can change is yourself. You are in need of healing just as much as the addict needs help. You can learn how to set appropriate boundaries against inappropriate behavior. You can understand how you came to be in a relationship with a sex addict. You can choose to take the actions that will be helpful for yourself and the relationship and to avoid those actions that will be harmful.
You can begin your own journey today by admitting that you need help. It’s crucial you become involved in your own recovery, whether or not the addict in your life makes a similar choice.
The Spouse’s Checklist*
- Do you have money problems because of someone else’s sexual behavior?
- Do you tell lies to cover up for someone else’s sexual behavior?
- Do you think that your loved one’s behavior is caused by his or her companions?
- Do you make threats such as, “If you don’t stop, I’ll leave you,” but you don’t follow through?
- Are you afraid to upset your partner for fear that he or she will leave you?
- Have you been hurt or embarrassed by the addict’s behavior?
- Do you find yourself searching for hidden clues that might be related to the sexual behavior of a loved one?
- Do you feel alone in your problem?
- Have you gotten someone out of jail as a result of his or her sexual behavior?
- Does sex play an all-consuming role in your relationship?
- Do you feel responsible for the addict’s behavior?
- Are you preoccupied or obsessed by the addict’s problems?
- Do you find yourself being sexual with the addict to prevent him or her from being sexual with others?
- Do you find yourself engaging in self-defeating or degrading behavior?
- Have you thought about or attempted suicide because of someone’s sexual behavior?
* This self-test was developed by S-Anon, a 12 Step fellowship for people in relationship with a sexual addict.