What It’s Like to Be the Spouse/Partner of a Sex/Porn Addict?

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Spouses and partners of sex/porn addicts (and addicts in general) can’t help but be impacted by what goes on around them. Recognizing this, the impact of sex and porn addiction on spouses and partners is a significant focus of treatment at Seeking Integrity: Los Angeles, the sex, porn, and chemsex rehab recently created by Dr. Robert Weiss and Dr. David Fawcett.

Dr. Weiss has actually researched betrayed partners of sex/porn addicts, conducting a study with Dr. Jennifer Schneider and Dr. Charles Samenow. Their study found that after learning about their partner’s infidelity, faithful partners are profoundly traumatized and feel deeply betrayed, regardless of whether the cheating occurred online or in the real world.

Study participants said things like:

  • “It obliterated the trust in our relationship. I no longer believe a single thing he says.”
  • “I have been traumatized by the repeated discovery of his deception and betrayal of me with these activities.”
  • “I became over-the-top with snooping, spying, trying to control the behavior, and thinking if I just did, then I could stop it. It caused complete erosion of my self-esteem, boundaries, and sense of self.”
  • “Now I feel unattractive, ugly, wondering what’s wrong with me. I can’t sleep or concentrate. I’m missing out on life’s happiness.”
  • “We don’t have sex often, and it irritates me that he puts more time into the porn than trying to be intimate with me.”

Other studies have produced similar results. One study in particular, led by Dr. Barbara Steffens, is highly enlightening. This study found that women married to sex/porn addicted men, after learning about their husband’s serial betrayals, experienced symptoms characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is the same disorder we see in battle-scarred soldiers.

Typically, these symptoms include:

  • Severe Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessing about the betrayal
  • Avoiding thinking about or talking about the betrayal
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Inability to trust
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Emotional lability (instability)
  • Inability to focus
  • Social isolation
  • Using alcohol, drugs, food, or some other substance or behavior to emotionally numb out

No, this does not mean that betrayed partners of sex/porn addicts should automatically be diagnosed and treated for PTSD; it simply means that for a while they are likely to experience the various symptoms. And why not? As survivors of profound betrayal trauma, it is perfectly natural for them to respond with rage, anger, fear, and other strong emotions.

The good news is that the emotional rollercoaster that spouses and partners of sex/porn addicts experience will even out over time. This is particularly true when the addict is doing the work that he or she needs to do to recover and to re-earn relationship trust. That said, this process is slow, and feeling fully comfortable in the relationship generally takes at least a year – and that’s if the addict is consistently doing the right thing in his or her process of recovery and healing.