Partners of Sex Addicts:
What is a “Trauma Perspective” in terms of treatment?
- “My entire world crashed around me.”
- “I feel like a bomb went off in my life.”
- “I thought everything was fine. Now I don’t feel like I know anything. I feel so lost.”
- “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight. I am so afraid of something else happening.”
- "The very person I want to run to for safety, is the most dangerous person on earth."
These quotes are from partners of sex addicts. In the past, the partners have often been labeled as “co-addicts” or “co-dependent.” They have entered counseling for help, only to be told they are a part of the problem. This magnifies what they are already experiencing. These labels, that have been prevalent in counseling in the past, do not begin to describe the true underlying problem these partners face—which is trauma. The quotes above only scratch the surface of the trauma that is felt by these partners.
Trauma may include:
- Physical Symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, stomach upset, weight gain or loss, trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, hair loss.
- Mental Symptoms, such as memory loss, inability to concentrate or focus, getting lost, intrusive mental thoughts or images of the betrayal, hyper-vigilance in seeking information or safety.
- Emotional Symptoms, such as shock, denial, confusion, anger, irritability, anxiety, guilt, sadness, depression, feeling disconnected or numb.
Partners of sex addicts have experienced betrayal. The person they thought they could trust the most—their significant other—has been lying to them, keeping secrets from them, and often leading a life that was completely unknown to the partner and completely unacceptable. When the partner discovers the betrayal, their world comes crashing down and their life explodes. They feel unsafe, confused, and often anxious or depressed.
Over the past decade, a new way of treating the partner of a sex addict has been developed. This treatment focuses on working with the partner from a trauma perspective instead of as a co-addict. "The Roadmap" utilizes this perspective in treating partners of sex addicts. This treatment model assists the partner in finding safety and self-worth, creating boundaries, utilizing self-care, and dealing with the pervasive trauma symptoms they experience in the aftermath of discovery. The goal of counseling is for the partner to learn how to cope with the trauma and work towards healing and restoration, if possible.