Because of the guilt and shame involved with sexual brokenness, unhealthy sexual behaviors can remain hidden and the addict can find himself living a double life. It isn’t uncommon for the signs and symptoms of compulsive sexual behaviors to go unnoticed by the addict’s partner for years or even decades. Many times it is simply because one doesn’t understand the warning signs of sexual addiction or may be in denial about the reality of these unhealthy behaviors.
If you find yourself questioning if your spouse suffers from a sexual addiction, you will find the following list of warnings signs helpful.
The warning signs of sexual addiction:
Common signs within the family of origin:
- A family history of addiction, abuse or emotional unavailability.
- Past sexual abuses that can either be overt sexual abuse or simply over sexualized environment within the childhood home.
- Sex and sexuality was a taboo subject in the childhood home.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does he have large amounts of unaccounted for time at home or work?
- Can he be reached when working late or travelling?
- Does he seem distant and mentally pre-occupied?
- Is he up late at night on the computer or other web-based technology by himself?
- Is he accountable to anyone regarding his internet use?
- Are there mystery phone or credit card charges?
- Does he make/receive mystery phone calls and refuse to explain?
- Is he involved in regular Christian community? Are his closest friends Christian?
- Does he display controlling behaviors?
- Is he willing to be open and honest about his personal life?
- What is his pattern of responding to authority? Happy submission or angry rebellion?
- Does he get defensive or minimize things when the topic of lust and pornography are brought up?
- Does he flirt with people of the opposite sex?
- Does he respect the sexual boundaries of others? How about with his eyes?
Overt signs of sexual addiction:
- You’ve stumbled upon pictures or websites on a computer.
- You’ve learned about your partner’s arrests.
- You’ve contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
- You’ve found incriminating phone records or receipts.
You may also experience these symptoms in your partner’s behavior:
- Increased anger or irritability
- Decrease in sexual activity within your relationship
- Emotionally unavailable
If you are still questioning if you or your partner struggle with a sexual addiction, I recommend going online and taking the appropriate survey to assess whether sexual addiction might be impacting your life. The Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) and the Partner’s Sexual Co-Addiction Screening Test are designed to help you consider whether you could benefit from guidance and support.
For the spouse of addict: Sexual Co-Addiction Screening Test
For the Addict: Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST)
What if I think my spouse is struggling with a sexual addiction?
It is important for you and your spouse to recognize that you are not alone. Patrick Carnes stated, “Knowing you are a sex addict doesn’t mean you are bad or perverted or hopeless. It means you may have a disease, an obsession from which many have healed.” Facing the facts about sexual addiction will only allow individuals and couples to take the proper steps in the healing process.
Christian counselors that have experience working with sexual addiction are an invaluable recovery tool for both individuals and for the relationship. Addicts and their partner can benefit from individual and couples counseling, group support and 12 Step Recovery.
Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction. Center City, Minnesota: Hazeldon.
Carnes, S. (2011). Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts. Carefree, Arizona: Gentle Path Press.
Images cc: Freedigitalphotos.net – “help” by Simon Howden and “Shut Iron Spiked Gates” by Marcus