The partner’s journey through sex addiction : discovery

This blog series focusses on the journey that partners go through when they discover their partner has a sex addiction and/or porn addiction.  Our first blog in the series will focus on the different ways that partners find out about their addicted partners behaviour.  The rest of the blog series will cover the following areas:

Part 2:  Self-care for yourself

Part 3:  Rebuilding your life

Part 4:  Do I stay, or do I go?

Part 5:  Rebuilding your life together

Part 6:  What the future may hold (stories from partners who have walked the journey)

We hope this blog series will provide help for partners of sex addicts and porn addicts as you travel the journey towards healing in the aftermath of discovery of addiction in your relationship.

The discovery of sex addiction in your relationship

So, how did you find out that your partner has a sex addiction?   Was it a sudden revelation? Such as finding physical evidence and your partner confesses all or has your partner been caught a few times? they confess, and you think you know everything and then you find out some more?  There are many ways that partners can discover their partners sexual acting out behaviour, but there are 4 common ways which we will focus on in this blog and explain how each discovery affects the partner.

The sledgehammer blow

This is the sudden revelation moment.  You come home early from work, you walk into your bedroom and discover your partner talking to someone on a webcam.  Your partner then tells you everything that they have been doing.  This is a huge shock as there was no time to mentally prepare yourself for the revelation. 

When we receive a shock, our thinking part of our brain switches off as the brain is focussed on survival e.g. pumping blood to our vital organs (to either run away from the threat or fight the threat).  While the rational/thinking part of the brain is switched off, we can feel confused and muddled.  We can also feel very angry and want to hit out at our partner (fight), or we can feel panic, by feeling jumpy or shaky, with a strong desire to leave the room or house (flight).  These reactions are normal when you are in shock. 

The drip, drip disclosure

This is the most common way that partners of sex addict’s find out about the sex addiction.  Your partner confesses to you a little bit of their behaviour.  You absorb this information thinking you know everything and after the shock wears off, start to try and piece your life back together.  Then your partner confesses a bit more, thinking that you can cope with hearing more.  This type of disclosure can go on for weeks and months.

This type of disclosure can leave you feeling very anxious and fearful, as you wonder if there will be any more confessions.  Your addicted partner may promise earnestly that you now know everything, but how can you believe them?

The drip, drip exposure

This type of discovery is created by you finding each piece of sexually acting out behaviour, you have either done this openly or secretly over a long period of time.  Your addicted partner only confesses to you after another piece of evidence has been discovered. 

The feeling of restlessness can prompt you into trying to find more pieces of evidence because you cannot trust that your addicted partner has told you everything.  You can feel very angry because your addicted partner continues to lie to you, promising that you have found the last piece of evidence.

Detective breakthrough

You sense that something is not quite right with your relationship, you can’t put your finger on it.  Things have been changing for a while, or your partner seems more secretive.  So, you go into investigation mode.  You might check your partner’s mobile phone, look through their bank account or web history.  You then find the big discovery of their sexually acting out behaviour.

This type of discovery will have a mixture of emotions.  There will be shock that you have found something as well as relief that your intuition was right.  You can then be flooded with anger towards your addicted partner and at yourself for not trusting your intuition earlier.

Trauma of discovery

However, you found out about your partner’s sex addiction or porn addiction, you will be experiencing physical and emotional symptoms following the trauma of discovery.  We wrote a partner support blog series on how your mind, body and soul are affected following the discovery of sex addiction in your relationship, so please feel free to read.  Links are below. 

Our next blog will focus on the self-care needed following the discovery of sex addiction in your relationship.

Help for partners:

How the mind is affected by the discovery of sex or porn addiction in your relationship

How the body is affected following the discovery of sex or porn addiction

How your soul is affected by the discovery of sex or porn addiction

Additional book resource for partners of sex addicts: 

Sex Addiction : The Partner’s Perspective (Routledge) by Paula Hall