Telling A Spouse About Your Sex Addiction

Telling a spouse about your sexual addiction is a big step. There is a very real possibility that she/he will end the relationship. Think about whether you are ready to take the step, and consider having a couples and sex therapist help you with the decision. When you decide you are ready, the step will be an important one on your road to recovery.

These tips are tailored to telling a spouse or life partner about your addiction, but they can be used to tell anyone you trust. Everyone deserves to be able to talk about their problems, and you should consider telling your friends, family and a couples and sex therapist for your own sake. But honesty about a sex addiction is especially important in a marriage, when you have committed to share all of your life and all of yourself with a person.


Step 1: Preparing Yourself

Make a list of all the ways your life and your spouse’s life have been hurt by the secrecy around your addiction. Consider how they must have felt when you spent time away from them seeking sex or pornography. How many times did you lie to them? Are there whole parts of your life that are fabricated? How many times did you want to tell them the truth but felt you couldn’t?

Now make a list of all the ways your life could improve if you told them. You could talk through your problems with someone who cares about you. You could stop living the double life. Think about how it would feel if, the next time you had a craving, you could turn to the person sitting next to you and tell them about it and work through it together.

Now make a list of all the ways in which telling your spouse could hurt you. They could leave. They could tell your friends, family and neighbors. It could lead to a divorce. But if you are considering telling your spouse about your sexual addiction, then you have reached a threshold and feel you have to do something to alleviate the pain of the double life. Telling your spouse is respectful to them, but the point is to give yourself an opportunity to heal.

Take a good look at the last list you made. They are all scary, life-altering things, but none of them are the end of the world. They might seem like the end of the world as you know it, but much of your life will stay unchanged. Besides, by telling your spouse the truth you will create a new world, one of difficult honesty and earned openness. Perhaps your spouse will accept the news and embrace you, or perhaps she will be unable to. But he / she deserves a choice. And you deserve a partner who knows you and loves you. Building a new world will be hard. You need to surround yourself with people who understand you and want to help you recover.

You are going to have to talk about a lot of things that may feel embarrassing or shameful. You may recount experiences when you compromised your own morals and even betrayed your spouse. But this is a person with whom you should share your highs and lows.

If your sex addiction included physical contact with other people, your partner may worry that she / he has contracted a STD.  Unlike other types of addictions, sexual addictions often make a partner feel intimately violated.   The good news is that if you and your partner have been in tune with each other, she / he probably already suspect something was wrong (i.e. unaccounted for time or money, loss of sexual interested etc).  For the most part, partners prefer knowing the truth.  While they may not be happy with the information, partners’ often feel a sense of relief.  They knew something was wrong, but they just couldn’t name what it was. Now they know, and can begin to relax and now cope with the situation. Telling the truth may be one of the most difficult challenges you ever face together.  Telling a partner about an addiction will bring up all kinds of emotions, both positive and negative ones.  If you come through it as a couple, your relationship has the potential to deepen and become more meaningful for both of you.

Step 2: Preparing Your Spouse

While you want to be honest and frank, you don’t want to completely blindside a loved one with the news. Tell them a day in advance that you have something serious to talk to them about. Don’t wait for the perfect time to tell, because it will never come. If you are really worried about it, put yourself in couples counseling and use a therapist to help you tell.

You just want to make simple preparations to make sure you can each be emotionally present. Choose a day when both of your schedules are clear. Get a nice takeout meal and maybe brew a pot of coffee. Turn the TV off but leave unobtrusive music on if you both prefer it. Tidy up a bit. Keep the preparations casual, but take pride in the stage you set: this may be a scene you remember as one of the great turning points in your life.

Step 3: Telling the Truth

You have told your spouse you have a problem and they are seated in front of you, ready to listen. You have decided that you owe it to yourself and to them to tell the truth. You are ready to take this step. What do you say?

You can start with the basic “I have a problem,” or any variation of it. “I have an unhealthy addiction to sex.” Tell them how long you have wanted to tell them and why you haven’t been able to. Tell them some of the specific sex acts you engaged in and when.    Recognize that you have been living with this information for some time, but much of it comes to your spouse as a shock. A first reaction is just that – a first reaction. She will probably cycle through a wide range of emotions. Your job is to give your partner permission to experience the whole spectrum of pain, hurt and love that she has for and from you.

Judge their reaction and pace yourself accordingly. If they are understanding and supportive, continue to tell them the details of your problem. Continue to delve into the negative list you wrote earlier, and all the ways in which sex addiction has affected your lives. If they seem very upset and confused, slow down. Tell them that none of it is their fault, and that you are the same person they have always loved. Think about the positive list you wrote earlier. Tell them how much better you think your lives can be now that you are finally being fully honest. Tell them how important it is to you to have them by your side. Tell them that you cannot promise them anything, but that you are truly committed to changing. Tell them you are sorry. Tell them you love them.

Everyone comes to terms with information like this differently. If your spouse is angry or bitter, respect that. Apologize and tell them you understand their frustration. If your spouse is saddened or hurt, comfort them. Tell them that it is by no means their fault; sex addicts just can’t get enough sex until they deal with the underlying problems. If they don’t react as strongly as you had expected, don’t be disappointed. Maybe they knew all along, or maybe they are just not ready to face the problem yet. It took you long enough, after all. As difficult as these words are for you to say, they are hard for your spouse to hear. But it is just as important for both of you. Comfort and support them as they come to understand your addiction, so you can comfort and support each other as you confront it.

If your partner is struggling, help them find someone they trust to sort through their feelings with. It could be wives of sex addicts support group, a therapist or a close friend — whichever they are most comfortable with. She may need time to deal with the news. You have spent years trying to come to terms with all of this, but she is only beginning to.

Step 4: Moving On

You’ve taken the big leap and your spouse has reacted with mixed feelings and hopefully eventually support. The next step is to maintain honesty. If you are not honest, how can you expect anyone to truly know and love you?

Let your spouse become your best friend. Empower him / her to make good choices for himself / herself. You only want someone to stay with you if they are able to accept both your strengths and weaknesses.

Continue to strive to open the lines of communication between the two of you. When you feel an urge come over you, tell your spouse about it. Rely on each other for strength. But continue to be mindful of you’re their reactions; if they do not want to know the day-to-day details, respect that. Find a friend, therapist or sponsor to share your daily struggles with.

Look into couples counseling. If by opening up and telling your spouse about your problem you changed both of your lives, think about what you could achieve with a professional sex therapist to guide you through your problems. Your therapist will help you to understand and address the underlying problems while helping your partner to raise their sex drive and come to terms with your addiction.

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