Occasionally, a sex addict or their partner asks, “Should I contact a former affair partner?”
Reasons for wanting to contact a former affair partner include:
- Wanting to establish a boundary that you (addict) don’t want further contact—provided you haven’t already made this clear to the affair partner.
- Making a request of some kind, such as asking that the affair partner destroy digital photos or files, for example.
- Wanting/needing information that only the affair partner can provide, such as potential exposure to an infectious disease.
- Clarifying or sharing a significant piece of information, like a previously undisclosed pregnancy, or that you have exposed the affair partner to a sexually transmitted infection.
Addicts who are serious and committed to their sobriety and recovery typically have no reason to contact a former affair partner, sex worker, or any other person who was part of their sexual acting out past.
In fact, if there are multiple former partners, most addicts should take necessary steps to prevent future communication, including closing email accounts used to communicate with an affair partner, or getting a new cell phone number. At a minimum, a former affair partner’s phone number should be blocked to prevent receiving further communication from her/him.
While it may be tempting for you—the partner—to want to contact a former affair partner to ask questions or make a request, I generally don’t recommend that either person in the couple relationship make contact with a former affair partner for the following reasons:
- Depending on the person you’re dealing with, the one contact you have may unintentionally encourage future, unwanted communication.
- Generally speaking, contact with a former affair partner is at best unnecessary, and at worst more drama and heartache for the couple.
- The most effective way to communicate to another person that no further contact is wanted is to simply have no contact.
Even if you have a specific request of an affair partner—such as destroying digital files or other evidence of the addict’s past behaviors—there is no guarantee that your request will be honored, even if agreed to. In cases like this, it’s crucial to remember that you’re likely dealing with a person who lacks integrity, or worse, is dangerous.
Even though I don’t recommend you or the addict have contact with former affair partners, you can make a request of the addict to end communication with a former affair partner he/she may still have contact with as a way to repair the damage done to your relationship.
You can also ask the addict to provide proof that he has communicated with the other person his/her decision to end contact. This is best done in writing with as little detail as possible. For example, the addict may say:
“I don’t want any further communication with you, and I ask that you not contact me again in the future. If you contact me in the future by phone, text, or email, I will not respond.“
Regardless of who wants to make contact with a former affair partner, I highly recommend you discuss with your therapist, sponsor, or trusted mentor whether or not communication is advisable, and explore all potential consequences.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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