1. “Would I know right away if I was living with a sex addict?”

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.

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14 Comments

  1. […] Sex Addiction is called an intimacy disorder because people who are sex addicts do not know how to relate in an intimate (close) relationship in an open and comfortable way.  Not only are sex and intimacy detached from one another they are not even in the same neighborhood.  Intimacy is an essential part of love relationships.  It is the ability to share all parts of ourselves (our thoughts, our bodies, our feelings), to be vulnerable, and to be honest about what is going on inside of us.  Even with someone they love, sex addicts are “intimacy disabled”, that is they are fearful of sharing their true selves with another person and are therefore unable to share one or more aspects of their true selves.  They are unhappy and lonely and desperately want to “connect”.  Like the now cliché lyric says, they are “looking for love in all the wrong places”.  But the solution to the problem does not lie outside of them.  It is more than just bad choices, poor judgment or a lack of adequate information.  It is a deeper problem and that is why it is termed and intimacy disorder.  The sex addict is literally unable to break down the wall that distorts and separates his sex life from his normal life and unable to integrate the various parts of himself in the context of a loving relationship.  See for partners of sex addicts. […]

  2. In your professional opinion, how likely is my sexually addicted spouse to recover thru a program like LIFE Groups?

    • Hi Terry- thanks for reaching out. I don’t know that program. Can you tell me about it?

  3. Hello Dr. Hatch,

    My discovery of my husband’s sexual addiction was January 2014, when he was confronted after I found very devastating emails to a porn star that he was planning to meet, he admitted to having a sexual addiction, even after a number of years of his denial finding his usage of porn via computer and iPhone (and whatever else I am not aware of), he decided to finally fess up. He decided to seek counseling which has only been about 3 sessions in the past 3 months, he said due to the counselor’s schedule. He admits to ‘cleaning up his act’ even though I confronted him with the relapse I found on his iPhone, in which I placed a porn block on it for him. The book that the counselor gave him on Sex Addicts is only read the night before his counseling session (he would probably beg to differ), and I have noticed that he is starting to view websites that gear towards penis enhancements, ED, penis pumps, and forums detailing individuals sexual (some times explicit and graphic) encounters. I find this nothing short of ‘pre-porn’ (again he would probably beg to differ). He had some short-lived issues with ED, but that has been resolved with his supplements and everything is ‘great’ in the bedroom. My problem is with this fascination of these ‘penis’ tell-all websites (ex. LPSG.com) should I be concerned with this even though I know that there are other sites (professionally physician written) that he can view and gain valuable knowledge.

    In addition, he ‘said’ that he plans to attend the 12 step recovery after his sessions with his counselor, that remains to be seen.

    Thank you for your help!
    Chloe

    • Chloe, your instincts are all correct. He is not committed enough to recovery. He should be going to SAA meetings every day for a few months in the beginning. He needs to get a sponsor, he needs to do the program work such as doing his “circles” which will help him identify which behaviors are slippery for him, reading up on sexual addiction, etc. If he can’t do the basic beginning things then he needs to attend one of the excellent 2 week intensive outpatient programs available around the country such as Sexual Recovery Institute, or Center for Healthy Sex.
      Linda

      • Dr. Hatch,

        Thank you so much for your response, it makes perfect sense, I will find to approach him with this valuable information.

        Much appreciated!
        Chloe

        • Hello Dr. Hatch,

          I am returning with a similar question, my husband believes that he is somewhat cured “on the road” to recovery. I have a block on his iphone, and he has completed 4 little sessions with a counselor, which he has not followed up with since May, and I wasn’t particularly really thrilled with the limited number of sessions. He never joined the 12 step program as promised, now obsessed with male enhancement articles, stating that he is not viewing porn, but is constantly reading male enhancement articles on-line (Men’s Health magazine) and stating that he is trying to stay informed of male enhancement issues, since he had problems with ED in the past, and do not want to face the problem again . Keep in mind that he has no problems “in that area” and I feel that it is his way of reading something sexually. Should a person recovering from sexual addiction be so interested in reading such material. I found a picture a couple of months ago that he took of himself (down below) last year (’13) that was taken before he admitted his addiction (’14), when he was having problems with ED, he said that he was going to show it to a physician, and that he was not going to email it to anyone. I did not believe any of his story, the picture never made it to any physician’s office.

          Thank you,
          Chloe

          • He needs serious treatment. Recovery from sex addiction involves SAA meetings 2-3 times a week, individual and group therapy and reading/doing step work. It takes 3-5 years total. Maybe it’s time to leave.

          • Thank you for your response Dr. Hatch, it’s not like I haven’t thought about it many times before. I don’t want to have a marriage like this.

  4. My husband recently confided in me that he has an addiction to being unfaithful He is undergoing treatment for a malignant growth as well. We found out the day after he confided in me. He has been unfaithful to me several times, but over 20 years ago. Or so he says. He wants to begin counselling, but prefers to start it alone. He became interested in another woman only fours years ago, so I am devastated. My emotions range from disappointment, to anger to thinking that if his cancer becomes terminal, I at least wont have to worry about him cheating. I am a mess. We are wanting to deal with this growth first. Any advice?? We have been married 42 years.

  5. If a sex addict tells me he is in control of his behaviors and has stopped being unfaithful, then after 10 or more years of being sexually active, how can he just stop because he says so?. I am his wife and I don’t believe him. Can a sex addict just stop after only 3 12 step meetings? What are the odds of a relapse. I’m sure he will have sex with someone else again. How can I prove this? How do I handle this? Please reply soon

    • Becky, sorry there was a problem posting your comment! You are right. At least an assessment with a CSAT therapist is warranted. If there is an addictive problem then will power won’t work.
      Linda

  6. I have recently come to the conclusion that my husband is SA. His addiction has caused him legal issues. We were in discussions about the continuation of the marriage and his being SA after an online affair. Two days later he was in jail on a charge of Public Indecency. He says he is innocent and it FEELS like the truth but given what we had just determined ( the SA) and the other issues, I have concerns that I am being blind. He has never had this particular type of issue before, that I am aware of, and I know that something may have triggered ti as a new behavior if he DID do this. My concern is that this is going to lead to prison time ( there are other circumstances that are in play here as well) and that means years before we can work on this one on one together. Advice?
    Also have you ever known of SA to be used as a criminal defense successfully?


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