Week 2 of our blog series focusses on how partners can look after themselves in the aftermath of discovering their partner has a sex addiction and/or porn addiction. Week 1 detailed the 4 common ways that partners find out about the compulsive sexual acting out behaviour and the initial reactions and feelings that partners often feel. This blog will go into more detail of how to look after yourself in the days and weeks following discovery and disclosure.
You did not cause the sex addiction or porn addiction
Partners of sex addicts can have quite a few intrusive thoughts going around their head which can eat away at their self-esteem and sense of who they are. These thoughts can range from:
‘what is wrong with me?’
‘how did I not know?’
‘if we had sex more, he would not have…’
‘if I looked differently, he would not have…’
‘why am I staying with someone who has hurt me?’
We want to clearly say that you didn’t cause the sex addiction, you can’t control the sex addiction and you can’t cure the sex addiction. Only your addicted partner can stop their sex addiction or porn addiction. This is not your fault.
Grief and despair can prevent partners from reaching out for help and support. A desire to hide away from friends and family at this time can be very tempting. Feelings of grief and despair can soon feel overwhelming. By finding a support network that suits your personality and situation, can be an effective way in managing these feelings. Here are a few ways to get support:
- Talk to a trained counsellor in sex addiction and porn addiction
- Attend a support group or forum for partners of sex addicts and porn addicts
- See friends that make you laugh
- See family that lift your spirits
- Share with a close trusted friend what has been going on
- Attend the Laurel Centre workshop for Partners
- No screen time an hour before bed (TV, laptop, tablet, mobile)
- Having a bath or shower
- Take herbal insomnia remedies an hour before bedtime
- Read a novel
- Use a breathing and muscle relaxation technique while lying in bed
Healthy eating and exercise
Often partners report a change in their eating and drinking habits. You might find you are binge eating and drinking alcohol to help numb the pain you are feeling. Other partners of sex addicts can feel sick and the thought of eating is the last thing on their mind. Again, it is difficult, but try and maintain a healthy diet of proteins, complex carbs and fresh fruit and vegetables. By eating healthy you will have more energy to focus on your emotional needs.
Our brains produce natural feel-good chemicals when we exercise. If you are in the normal habit of going for a run, or going to the gym, then keep up with your normal routine. Exercise also relieves feelings of stress and reduces depression. Going with a friend to an exercise class or going for a walk can also reduce the feeling of isolation and help you focus on other aspects of your life.
Partners of sex addicts often describe feeling numb, shell-shocked, full of sadness, disgust and rage. These feelings are very tiring, so don’t be surprised if your energy levels have dropped. You may feel exhausted from a disrupted sleep pattern, due to stress and worrying about the future. Creating a regular bed-time routine, can help the mind and body prepare to sleep. Sleep is important for our mind and body to heal and recharge. Some bed-time routines you can try:
Understanding your triggers
Following discovery of the sex addiction, it is common for partners to feel that their emotions have control. One moment you are feeling okay and then the next moment, you are filled with rage or want to cry. These sudden changes of moods are often triggered by an event or situation that takes you back to the time of first discovery or disclosure. The event could be the addicted partner not coming home at the scheduled time or seeing an attractive person while out shopping. By being aware of your triggers, you can plan and prepare for these triggers which will help you feel more in control of your emotions.
Please read our next blog which will go into more detail about triggers and how to start rebuilding your life. We hope this blog gives you some tools to help manage the early stage of your recovery journey.
Additional book resource for partners of sex addicts:
Sex Addiction : The Partner’s Perspective (Routledge) by Paula Hall