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“I could have dealt with a gambling addiction or alcoholism – anything but this,” Rachel confirms.
Like most partners, she initially didn’t buy into the concept of sex addiction (“it sounded like a pretty weak excuse for an affair”) and even when she did start to believe that her husband’s behaviour was compulsive, her friends didn’t (“they’d look at me in despair, asking since when had sexual desire became a monster that can’t be controlled”), leaving her feeling isolated.
To be fair on Rachel’s friends, there is some debate about whether the term sex addiction is scientifically accurate, but the field of addiction is changing fast and emphasis is shifting from the substance to the psychological symptoms of addiction.
The NHS has a website page dedicated to sex addiction.
Couples who make it work generally take a three-pronged approach, says Hall.
“First, the addict goes into recovery on their own to work out causes and develop relapse prevention strategies.
“He’d always go to bed later than me and often made excuses when I brought it up,” explains the 41-year-old.Traditionally, most partners of sex addicts have been treated as co-dependents, says Hall.“The presumption is that the partner knew at some level what was going on and was ‘enabling’ it, which is frankly an insult.“Ideally, partners get their own therapy,” says Hall.“The problem is that all the assumptions made by well-meaning friends about sex addiction are also shared by many therapists who are untrained in this area.