Betrayal in Relationships – Is it Sex Addiction?
Copyright 2014 Roberta Gallagher
Juan and his wife came into my office both with distressed looks on their faces. Ginny had discovered that while Juan was traveling he had sex with another woman. She was pregnant and distraught yet did not want to get a divorce. Juan appeared genuinely contrite.
Of course she said that when she was single she swore that if her husband ever cheated she would leave him. Many people think that before they actually confront the choice of breaking up their family or trying to work it out.
As we worked together they began to talk about what each of them had contributed to the dissatisfaction that apparently lead Juan to seek solace elsewhere. It was clear to me that they loved one another and wanted to make changes that would create a relationship of kindness and shared responsibility.
When I met with Juan alone he revealed that he periodically had sex with other women when he was traveling for business. His Dad had always had “someone on the side” and his Mom looked the other way. He did not feel that what he did was terrible although he hated that Ginny was so heartbroken. To his way of thinking as long as he did not have long term affairs and limited himself to cheating on the road it was not a big deal.
Over time he made a commitment that if it was important to Ginny he would never cheat again. Her sorrow caused by his behavior was not a price he wanted to pay.
They had 2 young children and Ginny had become lost in them and Juan felt unimportant. Ginny was resentful that he did not share in home and children responsibilities. In the course of 3 months they had learned how to talk about disagreements. Ginny was paying more attention to Juan and he was sharing responsibilities.
So this was a success but not! One year later Juan called me in a panic.
Ginny had once again caught him in deception and sex with other women. He told me that he was truly sincere in his commitment to not cheat and yet he could not control himself. He was very fearful because he realized now that the problem was inside of him as their relationship had been going well.
When a couple comes in with the presenting problem of betrayal I am never sure of whether it is an isolated instance or a pattern. Initially the betrayer does not reveal this to me and certainly not to his/her partner. Yes, women can also be sex addicted. Often this comes to light only after a second crisis.
I referred Juan to a therapist in town who has men’s groups for sex addicts. Ginny went into his group for partner’s of sex addicts. As of this writing they are making progress.
Definition of addiction
Inability to consistently abstain
Impairment in behavioral control
Craving or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences;
Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships
A dysfunctional emotional response
The person addicted to sex or love cannot control themselves despite negative consequences or a strong desire to control acting out on these impulses.
The only known treatment is 12 Step support groups, psychotherapy and support from others who struggle with this issue.
This is true for substances, gambling, internet, shopping, hoarding and any new addiction that emerges in the future.