‘My partner is a sex addict – Should I stay or should I go?’

Finding out your partner has sex addiction can be a painful and devastating revelation. There will be a million questions bouncing around your mind and you’ll be feeling a world of emotions. The question we’re going to take a brief look at is can the relationship survive? In a time of such high emotion whilst facing many uncertainties, knowing the future of your relationship can seem like the most urgent issue. It is important not to take the decision of whether to stay or whether to leave lightly and consider all the factors at play here. It’s only to be expected that the shock you’re currently experiencing could be clouding your judgement, especially if you were happy in the relationship before.  And of course if you have children, you will want to take their feelings and their welfare into account. It is crucial to try and get yourself into a strong position before approaching the difficult task of making the decision of whether to stay with your partner or leave the relationship.

Here I have summarised a few statements that might in help in making this difficult decision.

Reasons to stay

Before exploring the possible reasons to stay in the relationship, it is important that each individual understands what it means to stay in a relationship with a sex addict. The simple fact of the matter is that often addiction never fully disappears. They may get to a place where they are leading a happy life and feeling more in control than ever but the reality is they will probably still have to work at managing triggers and maintaining recovery.  Recovery is a process, not a magical stop-button, and it varies from person to person.

  • You understand what recovery means
  • You’re willing to accept your partner’s recovery needs
  • You both still love each other
  • Your partner acknowledges responsibility and wants to change
  • You’re still able to talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company
  • You continue to share many happy memories
  • You both share the same goals for the future and are willing to work together to achieve them
  • You would lose something very special if you weren’t together
  • You don’t know why you want to go

Reasons to leave

At first glance it may appear that there is a larger list of reasons to leave than reasons to stay. But it is important to remember that the main reason for this is because these reasons may be out of your control and a result of your partner’s behaviour or choices.

  • Your partner continues to deny their addiction
  • Your partner won’t accept responsibility for their addiction
  • Your partner refuses to work at the cause of their addiction
  • There has been violence or domestic abuse
  • The relationship was already in difficulty before the disclosure
  • You can’t or won’t forgive your partner
  • Your partner can’t or won’t forgive themselves
  • Staying will mean sacrificing something important to you
  • Staying would mean compromising your values
  • You no longer respect or like your partner or vice versa
  • You’re scared of what other people will say if you decide to leave
  • You’re just waiting for someone else
  • You’re afraid of being alone
  • You just don’t care anymore

But what about the kids?

Separation can have a devastating effect on children and leaving will change their lives forever. It will be tough on them and the changes to their lifestyle will be even harder than they may be for you. But it is also important to remember that they do survive separation and there are things you can do to make the transition easier and ensure their emotional welfare. The main causes of problems in later life for children with separated parental figures are conflict or a lack of contact and communication – not the actual separation. Children pick up on things even if they don’t fully understand what is going on so you should be sensitive to their awareness and not allow hostility to arise or emotions to erupt in their presence. Sometimes staying in the relationship does not necessarily mean you are maintaining a healthy, stable foundation for your children. It needs to be a happy home – even if it ends up being two homes.

The decision of whether to stay with your partner or leave will be one of the most difficult decisions you make in your life. You should seek advice from trusted friends and family and preferably a professional as well. But ultimately, no one can decide for you and there are no guarantees when it comes to dealing with sexual addiction. You both just have to commit to trying and see what happens.

If you are wrestling with this difficult decision, there is more information in my book ‘Sex Addiction: The Partner’s Perspective.’

You can also find additional information throughout the Laurel Centre website.  Here are a few useful shortcuts:

Our Forum – a place to find information on sex addiction and support from other partners

One day Workshop for Partners –  opportunity to give partners a fast track way of getting professional advice and support and an opportunity to meet other partners.

Blogs specific to supporting partners: