How does Sex Addiction Affect Partners, Families and Children?

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Sex addiction has a devastating impact on family members including spouses, children, parents and siblings. In most cases, sex addicts don’t realize the damaging effects their actions have on those around them. Family members find ways to cope with the situation as they learn to live with the sex addict’s unpredictable behavior. Many sex addicts isolate themselves or act out their behaviors in secrecy. This has a particularly damaging effect on the spouse of the addict. The following are some of the ways that spouses of sex addicts are affected:

  • Emotionally: A spouse may experience anxiety, stress, resentment and confusion as the addict withdraws from family life and responsibilities, listens less, fails to keep promises and becomes emotionally detached.
  • Socially: Sex addicts often flirt, stare, tell sexually explicit jokes or make inappropriate comments in social settings causing spouses to suffer from embarrassment. Over time spouses may avoid social activities with their sexually addicted partners to prevent embarrassing or hurtful situations. Also, as sex addicts become more and more involved in their addiction, they will spend less and less time with their spouses.
  • Physically: Depending on their sexually compulsive behaviors, sex addicts sometimes cause their spouses or partners physical harm due to rough or risky sexual acts. Sex addicts may be involved in extramarital affairs which could in turn infect their spouses or partners with sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Sexually: Sex addicts may or may not be sexually interested in their spouses throughout their addiction. In some cases, sex addicts pressure or force their spouses to engage in sexual acts while other sex addicts may not be want to engage in any sexual contact.

Sex addiction has a troubling effect on children. Family life is severely disrupted when a member of the family is a sex addict. The struggle between the addicted parent and the other parent can cause turmoil on a daily basis. Children often feel abandoned and experience a lack of trust. Children who grow up in this situation may also suffer from low self-esteem, hopelessness and shame. The impact of this type of environment may haunt children throughout their lives. In cases where a child has become a sexual victim, the child will suffer even greater amounts of shame and many experience self-destructive, suicidal thoughts.

Families who are struggling with the damaging effects of sex addiction should seek the help of a counselor. Counselors who are trained to work with children that have grown up in these situations will be able to help children understand that they are not the cause of their family problems. Children who have been abused need even more care and the proper authorities must be contacted such as your local child services agency.

While sex addiction has a lasting impact on families, recovery is possible. Recovery can begin when:

  • The sex addict and family members accept/acknowledge the addiction as well as the impact it has had on each family member
  • The sex addict makes a commitment to recovery
  • Family members commit to stop trying to control the sex addict
  • Family members commit to seek help from a therapist and a support group



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