This post is Part 2 of a 6-week series celebrating the release of my upcoming book Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts. Each week I will share an excerpt from the manuscript, along with one of the book’s endorsements.
This week’s excerpt is taken from Chapter 2, entitled Not All Forms of Addiction are Created Equal: What You Need to Know about Sex Addiction.
The following section of Chapter 2 discusses the many ways in which partners are impacted by the devastating effects of active sex addiction.
How Partners are Impacted
Sex addiction, like all other forms of addiction, involves a considerable amount of isolation and secretiveness on the part of the addict. The isolation inherent in addiction results in frequent deception and lying to partners, family, friends, and employers. As a partner of a sex addict, you need to know that, because of the nature of deception and secrecy that goes hand in hand with addiction, your trust in your reality has likely been seriously impacted.
You may have been told:
- “You’re crazy.”
- “Why are you so upset? I only did it once.”
- “You’re overreacting.”
- “All men _______ (look at pornography, go to strip clubs, etc.).”
- “You’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
These attempts to convince you that you’re crazy, stupid, or just plain wrong are what we call gaslighting.
The term comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight, and denotes a form of mental abuse where the victim is lied to—or the truth is otherwise distorted—for the purpose of causing the victim to doubt her own reality, memory, or perceptions.
Gaslighting creates the fog of addiction, and perfectly describes what happens to partners of sex addicts when the addict is still acting out and attempting to cover up his behaviors.
Having been in a relationship with an active addict, your reality has been manipulated. You may not trust your intuition or perceptions. Some addicts are so deceptive, and their lives so Jekyll and Hyde, their partners wonder if they are sociopaths. Of course, it’s possible that your partner is a sociopath—but it’s unlikely.
Many addicts manifest sociopathic characteristics when they’re acting out. They use every means available to deceive and cover up the truth of their secret life. The addiction becomes more important than anything else for them, and the level of deception inherent in addiction takes a serious toll on partners.
Some well-meaning but misinformed therapists have encouraged the partner of a sex addict to participate in the acting out behaviors of the addict even when those behaviors are outside the partner’s value system or just aren’t something the partner wants to do. These harmful experiences happen too often and delay the addict and partner from getting the help they need. I highly recommend you seek out a professional who is trained in the field of sex addiction treatment and recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions about the therapist’s training, experience, approach to treatment, and any concerns you have.
Because of the level of shame and stigma inherent in sex addiction, you may find it difficult to talk to family or friends about what’s going on with you and your partner. It is wise to carefully consider with whom you share information. Because sex addiction is not widely understood, the input and advice you receive may cause more harm than good.
Be especially aware of people who immediately tell you to leave or say things like, “I can’t believe you’re still with him,” or “I didn’t think you would put up with behavior like that.”
This kind of advice and feedback is not supportive and actually harmful. You may choose to leave, but you likely have a huge investment of time in the relationship, and perhaps children to consider. Your best course of action is to find a therapist, join a support group or twelve-step community, educate yourself about your situation, and practice the very best self-care you can.
Special Praise for Moving Beyond Betrayal
“Betrayal can put you in a tailspin and distort effective decision-making; while this is a normal process, having a personal as well as professional guide for recovery can ease the pain and hasten recovery. “Moving Beyond Betrayal” can serve as a caring companion through this difficult time, and facilitate a more satisfying outcome than you may imagine.”
— Pat Love, EdD, LMFT, CSAT Co-author of You’re Tearing Us Apart:
Twenty Ways We Wreck Our Relationships and Strategies to Fix Them
In the next few weeks, I’ll be announcing special bonuses I’ll be offering only to those who pre-order Moving Beyond Betrayal prior to the release date on May 10. If you’d like to get on the list to receive notices of bonuses, programs for partners, and more, sign up here.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.