Sex Addiction : a guide for couples : do I stay or leave?

Week 4 of our mini blog series looks at the difficult question that each couple face following the aftermath of discovering sex addiction in their relationship – should they stay together or is it time to end the relationship.  Firstly, here is a little recap of what we covered in the previous blogs:

Week 1 focused on the importance of the addicted partner prioritising their recovery, through therapy and group work, and the partner focusing on surviving the trauma of relationship betrayal.

Week 2 focused on understanding ‘therapeutic disclosure’ and how to conduct one. 

Week 3 focused on how to review the strength of the relationship by looking at 4 different components of the relationship : compatibility, intimacy, lifestyle and communication.

Note – You might be reading this blog when you have just found out that your partner is a sex addict or addicted to porn.  We recommend that you read blog 1, 2 and 3 first before making any decisions about your relationship. 

So, as a couple you have reviewed your relationship.  You can see the strengths as well as the areas that need work.  The decision to stay or leave is individual and varies from couple to couple.  It is common that couples can feel pressurised from family and friends to decide quickly.  There is no rush to make a final decision about your relationship.  If you are feeling unsure, then wait, discuss together the practical and emotional issues of what the future would look like if you stayed together or if you separated. 

A few more questions to consider

Here are a few additional questions to ask in helping decide to stay in the relationship or to leave.

  • Are you still able to enjoy each other’s company?
  • On a good day, do you feel as if there are good things in your relationship that you don’t want to lose?
  • Do you share the same goals for the future?
  • Are there signs of improvement?
  • Are you confident that you can ask for your needs to be met?
  • Are you willing to forgive your partner and yourself?
  • Miracle question for the partner : If you were offered a magic pill that would mean that nobody would be hurt if you left the relationship and nobody would look unfavourably on you, would you take it?
  • Miracle question for the addicted partner : if you had a magic wand and one wish could be granted, which wish would you prefer – 1) your partner would be 100% ok with you leaving and build a wonderful future for themselves, or 2) your partner would forget all of your acting out behaviours and trust you again?  

Trial Separation

Some couples agree to a trial separation either by moving to a different bedroom or moving out.  This allows the couple to have some space to focus on their own individual recovery and consider the future.  If you choose this option, it is important that you are clear about the purpose of the separation and communicate this with each other and what to say to your children (if you have them).  Communicating clearly and calmly to your children will enable them to adjust to the separation.

Having a healthy divorce

People can rebuild their lives after divorce; families are reshaped and integrated in different ways.  If you decide this is the best option for you, then read Paula Hall’s book : Sex Addiction : a guide for couples.  Paula dedicates a whole chapter in her book on how to manage difficult emotions around divorce, how to minimise the impact of divorce on your children and how to co-parent in a positive way. 

Next week : Rebuilding trust

If you have made the decision to stay together as a couple, then the most important part of the relationship is rebuilding trust.  This blog will give guidance on ways to rebuild trust between the two of you.

The series runs alongside the launch of Paula Hall’s new book “Sex Addiction – a guide for couples” which was released on 28th February 2019.