(By Leandie Buys) In my practice, I often find myself counselling the partner of a sex addict before I counsel the addict. In this column, I will talk about what it is like to be the female partner of a male sex addict.
There are cases where women experience sex addiction, but they are much less common.
Usually, I will begin counselling a woman who has been told to ‘get help’ by her partner because she can’t fulfil his sexual needs. There is a societal ‘norm’ that women often have much lower libidos than men, and in some cases, this can cause issues in a relationship. However, when one partner suffers from sex addiction, their sexual hunger cannot be satisfied by their partner.
Unfulfilled sexual needs
The woman will tell me that she and her partner have tried many different ways to help satisfy his sexual cravings. The “every second day” rule, scheduling sex for specific nights, and fulfilling his sexual fantasies even though she is uncomfortable with them. But it is never enough, and he “always wants more.”
Eventually, the man’s sexual addiction will lead him into an affair, or into an online porn addiction. This is when women usually seek counselling. They learn about their partner’s affair, and they blame themselves for not being able to fulfil his needs.
Heed the warning signs
These women will often say that they knew there was something wrong, that they “had a feeling” that their partner was up to something, but if they brought up the issue, he would just shut them down. Men who are having an affair will often try to deflect the accusations by calling their partners “paranoid” and “crazy”.
However, when an incriminating SMS, or internet history is eventually discovered, the unfaithful partners are forced to confess. This is the most hurtful time for the woman, as her partner usually confesses “little by little” instead of giving her all the information at once. Every time she hears new details of the affair, she is traumatised all over again.
Women go through many emotions and thoughts during this time. They consider leaving their partners, but are afraid that they won’t have anywhere to go. They are afraid of the impact that splitting up could have on their children, and they mourn the loss of many years together, and the intimate trust that has been broken. They also don’t understand how their partners could have betrayed them, and they blame themselves for not being able to fulfil their partner’s sexual needs.
Labelling is dangerous
Working extensively in the field of sex addiction, I often hear people being labelled as ‘sex addicts’ or even as ‘sexual perverts’. However, one needs to be very careful in making a diagnosis without consulting a professional.
Anyone can be a sex addict – there isn’t a ‘typical profile’ of a sex addict that is recognisable. These people can be lawyers, doctors, school teachers or even your next door neighbour. Just like alcohol addiction or drug addiction, sex addiction is a very real disorder, and can be treated. I have seen many marriages saved, and many relationships restored through therapy.
It has taken me two years to complete specialised training in sex addiction through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction, and I continue to learn something new about the disorder every day.
I have also observed that this disorder is a growing concern in our society.
If you feel like you might be the partner of a sex addict, answer the questionnaire below. Should you answer, “yes”, to one or even two of these questions, I would advise you to seek help from a professional as soon as possible.
- Does your partner seem preoccupied with sexual thoughts and behavior?
- Does your partner hide his/her sexual behavior from you?
- Do you feel your partner needs help for sexual behavior?
- Have you been hurt emotionally because of your partner’s sexual behavior?
- Does your partner seem to be controlled by his/her sexual desire?
- Has your partner accused you of being “crazy” or “jealous” when you question his/her sexual behavior?