Doubtful. Spouses and partners of sex addicts are often unable to readily identify the fact that they are living with a sex addict. Sex addiction thrives on secrecy and compartmentalization and the addict will go to great lengths to wall off his or her addictive sexual behavior.
2. “I wonder if my imagination is running away with me.”
Sometimes the addict will make the partner think that he or she is crazy and imagining things (sometimes called “Gaslighting” after the old movie). Often sex addicts can function well and appear normal to a great extent; working hard, spending time with the kids, volunteering at church, etc. Don’t expect a straight answer at first! Trust your instincts.
3. “So what should I look for?”
- The lists of addiction criteria available under the “defining addiction” tab are probably not going to help unless you already have a lot of information. Some of the “collateral indicators” might be relevant.
- An obvious risk factor would be a life history involving another addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, work, spending, gambling or food. Addictions are like potato chips, most people have more than one.
- You can look for whether the person is spending an unusual amount of time on the computer and look into what sites are being visited. Looking at pornographic websites or videos more than once in a great while is probably cause for concern.
- We all need our privacy, but you can check around and look for indications that the person has a whole separate life. Are there a lot of sexual magazines, books or other sexual printed material stashed somewhere.
- If you feel that your relationship is not as intimate or feel alienated in some way, get to the bottom of it, don’t allow yourself to be brushed off or placated.
- If you have a strong intuition, use technology to monitor the person’s email and other computer use. Many sex addicts get help only after they are found out by their spouses, partners or parents.
- Be vigilant to subtler signs of your partner being mentally “out to lunch”, eager to get away from previously enjoyed activities, and being depressed for no reason. These aren’t necessarily signs of sex addiction; just don’t wear blinders to whatever might be going on.
- Last but not least, check on where the money is going, e.g. massage parlors, clubs etc.
4. “What can I do if I find out that I am living with someone who may be an addict?”
Call or email one of the people or programs listed under “getting help” or email me at the “ask Dr. Hatch” tab with your questions. You can also make an appointment to talk to a sex addiction therapist who can help you get help for the person in question.
Have a counseling session together. Problems between people or an episode of infidelity do not mean there is sex addiction. Many people have affairs who are not addicts, i.e. it’s not necessarily part of a pattern of compulsive behavior. However, couple counseling does sometimes reveal the presence of addiction.
Don’t blame yourself or think that you can fix it by being more supportive. If it is a spouse, don’t try to be more sexual — that’s not the problem.
Living with a recovering sex addict is a big undertaking at best. Remember, sex addiction can derail a life, wreak havoc with a relationship and have a negative future impact on children. It’s OK to be vigilant.