Intimacy After Sex Addiction Treatment: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

If you are in a relationship with someone who has been in sex addiction treatment you will have a lot of legitimate confusion and uncertainty.   Here are some of the questions I have heard most frequently.

Has he told me everything?

There is a serious chance that a sex addict who is in pretty good recovery may be holding back, some big or little fact about his sex addiction history.  As much as we would like for sex addicts in treatment to disclose everything that is relevant, there may be some information that they feel they simply cannot reveal, or at least not yet.  There is bound to be some residual shame about their addictive behavior and some fear that a particular fact would be a “deal breaker” for you.  If you can be non-judgmental and supportive, the addict will eventually feel safer telling everything.  But if you want to know it all, you should let the addict know that the whole truth is important to you.

Can I trust him not to cheat on me?

If having extra-curricular affairs was one of the addict’s sexually addictive behaviors, and assuming he has committed to avoiding this behavior then you probably can assume that he will not go out and start another affair.  But there is a caveat.  Addicts in recovery often find miniature ways of acting out their old behaviors.  He may flirt excessively, he may contact an old girlfriend online or he may have work relationships with women that are “just friends.”  These are things that are not a good idea for a recovering addict as they are ways of sneaking around the rules to get a “hit,” not to mention they will drive you crazy.  Someone he trusts needs to point this out to the sex addict when it happens because he will be unlikely to see it on his own.

Will he enjoy sex with me?

Your sex life may be perfectly fine.  However, for some addicts it is difficult to adjust to sex with a partner once they have stopped using sex as a “drug”.  The addict may even become sexually avoidant to some degree.  Sex with a partner can initially seem uninteresting to an addict who is used to the adrenaline rush of acting out.  And the addict may have insecurities about whether he or she will be sexually adequate, insecurities which were always there but which were submerged in the addiction.  The addict may be tempted to bring some addictive fantasies into your sex life, familiar thoughts and behaviors and role-playing that the addict found arousing in the past. This can be totally OK (if it’s comfortable for you both) but it can also be slippery territory for the addict; it is a judgment call and it’s important to talk about it together.

What are the signs of relapse?

The signs of possible relapse are many, but one of the most obvious is the addict’s letting go of his or her commitment to their recovery and continued growth.  Lessening of the total devotion to sex addiction treatment may be expected, but if the addict becomes too cavalier about being “cured” he may be at risk.  Another problem area is that of other addictions, which may surface and lead back to the sexual addiction.  Addicts may drink more, get too wrapped up in work or engage in other activities addictively.   If the addict begins using another substance or behavior as a drug this can lead back to sexual acting out.

Will we be able to feel intimate?

Regaining trust and intimacy is a long process.  It is necessary to be very patient and supportive with one another and not to panic.  Sex addiction is often called an “intimacy disorder” and this means that sex addicts have to gradually learn how to express things like nurturance and devotion.  Over the long haul, sex addiction treatment involves learning  how to be honest with a partner and how to feel safe being who you are, with all your imperfections and fears.  This level of honesty will ultimately lead to a closer, safer bond for both of you.  The addict (and you) will come to feel that you are going to be OK even if the relationship should end and that it is necessary to stop hiding and lying even if it means you risk everything.  I like the saying that your love should be unconditional, meaning you don’t have to sit in judgment, but that whether you choose to stay in the relationship is conditional.