Being the partner of someone who is addicted to sex can be lonely, isolating and they can be the forgotten victims. They may struggle to understand their partners obsession with sex- in particular on line pornography, hook-up Apps and sex chat rooms. The other person can’t comprehend why their partner would opt for these other sexual outlets when the real life person is right there. Discovering that there has been serial sexual infidelity can be incredibly traumatic for some. Their trust and belief in the person is shattered and they are often overwhelmed when they discover the full extent of the addiction. Gaslighting is term often used when dealing with partners of sexual addicts. The term originates from a 1938 stage play where the wife is led to believe that she is in fact imagining the dimming of the lights. It turns out to be the husband manipulating her to believe that she is imagining it all, when in reality he is controlling the lights. Sex addicts quite often will use this form of manipulation insisting that they are not cheating, causing the partner to second guess themselves and their intuition. The addict also believes that they aren’t really cheating as the porn or chat room sex isn’t a “real life” situation- therefore not valid. This denies their partners feelings of betrayal and infidelity, in turn low self esteem occurs as the partner feels rejected unwanted and unable to live up to the fantasy of on-line sex.
Sex addicts are also notorious for disclosing only part of the story initially, this causes further trauma as the partner learns more secrets as further disclosure occurs. A recent study in the US found that the partners of sex addicts often experienced symptoms characteristic of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These symptoms often including anxiety, depression, anger, rage, obsessive thoughts and compulsive checking behaviours, difficulty concentrating, increased isolation, and hyper-vigilance. They are symptoms all worthy of professional help from a Sex Therapist or Relationship counsellor- but the focus generally tends to be primarily on the addict and the partners emotional well being side lined. An important part of healing post discovery of infidelity is learning to trust your intuition again, a professional therapist can guide you back to confidence and self assurance by providing skills for partners to make informed choices, whether they end or continue the relationship post disclosure.