How does sexual misbehavior aka “sex addiction” affect the partner of the addict?
When one partner has a sexual misbehavior issue, obviously both partners suffer. The question is, what conclusions and feelings by the partner are a genuine reflection of the facts of the situation, and what are distorted views caused by the situation, caused by lies society says about women’s role in men’s choices, and distorted views of the situation caused by specific incidents in that partner’s upbringing.
The person with the misbehavior issue certainly needs specialized treatment. Does the partner also need related specialized treatment?
In other words, many of the partners feelings are based on them as a person “owning” behaviors that are not theirs to own, or maybe having the relationship itself “own” partial cause for the behavior.
Sometimes the therapist for the “addict” can have a joint session, or two, or maybe three, and help the partner with misplaced guilt that partner happens to feel, but has no rational reason to feel. The therapist of the addict can help that addicts partner with their feeling shame for behaviors they had nothing to do in creating, and therefore have no reason to feel shame for. The therapist for the addict can assist the partner with the justified anger at their partner, as well as maybe some less rational feelings, such as partner thinking these behavioral choices by the addict somehow lowered the partners standing, or value.
In other words, many of the partners feelings are based on them as a person “owning” behaviors that are not theirs to own, or maybe having the relationship itself “own” partial cause for the behavior. Sometimes the partner, with a small amount of help from a skillful clinician, can quickly replace this distortion of reality with actual fact. It all can be intellectually obvious when said, and sometimes the partner of can let a great deal of ownership go when the simple facts are stated and the distortion corrected.
In reality, only one partner created this situation, only one partner can correct this issue, and only one partner should “hold the bag”.
At other times, some less than insightful clinicians will inadvertently help the partner “own”, or take responsibility for, behaviors that partner has no role in creating. Sometimes these less than insightful clinicians will be speaking as if this, what we will call here “disorder”, is both the addict and partners issue to figure out together.
This poor choice by these types of clinicians then makes this recovery a shared responsibility for both partners, when in reality only one partner created this situation, only one partner can correct this issue, and only one partner should “hold the bag”.
Without a very skillful therapist, the partner of the “addict” may now find themselves a client in a “sex addiction” or “out of control sexual behavior” program. That partner of the addict then being treated for some condition she does not have. Although she did not have the distorted misbehavior facilitating views, the consequence creating behaviors, or act out deception, she is now “a client”, and being billed accordingly.
If you want a full caseload in your “sex addiction” or “out of control sexual behavior” program, it’s a great way to do things. If you want to be a superior clinician, who helps individuals and couples repair themselves and their relationships, then making the “non-addict” a client in a program is not the way to go.
For many “sex addiction” or “out of control sexual behavior” programs, family or couples therapy is often a big part of the “sex addiction” or “out of control sexual behavior” treatment program. These programs often make this partner work a “phase” of the “sex addiction” or “out of control sexual behavior” treatment. Partners of the persons acting out are put together in groups, asked to share their stories, asked to work “on their stuff” (whatever that is), and somehow find a way to make their “addict” partner, an adult in their own right, less likely to act out sexual misbehavior again. Being only one person has control over whether all this chaos is again created, to this writer this seems like caseload building, rather than addressing where the risk of relapse actually is.
This writer does not use a client’s sexual misbehavior to enroll a second client, their partner, in treatment.