The behavior of sex addicts has profound effects on partners, children, parents and siblings. The addict is usually partially or totally unaware that their behavior has affected their loved ones. Families develop unhealthy coping skills as they strive to adapt to the addict's shifting moods and behavior. Curiously some addicts may act out in solo isolating behaviors leading to feelings of family abandonment.
|Partners can be affected in the following ways:
- Emotionally - anxiety, stress resentment and confusion progress as the addict gradually abandons family responsibility. Emotional support consisting of the feeling of being cared for and listened to lessens, or repeated promises are unfulfilled.
- Socially - the partners can experience subtle to outright embarrassment with the addictive spouse's behavior, such as flirting, staring, inappropriate sexualized jokes or comments. Social activities may be canceled to avoid this embarrassment. Opportunities to do things together become fewer as the addiction progresses.
- Physically - some sex addicts favor abusive techniques in their sexual repertoire, which can result in physical harm. Partners also may experience unwanted physical touch in private or public.
- Sexually - the sex addict may pressure their partners to participate in unwanted sexual behaviors and if they don't, physical consequences may result or even stalking behaviors. Alternatively the sex addict may lose all interest in sex with their partner. Partners of sex addicts are more prone to sexually transmitted diseases such as vaginal warts, genital herpes, syphilis and HIV.
Children are greatly affected when the sexually addicted parent is acting out, and the other parent is seeking to control the addict's behavior. A deceitful, chaotic environment surrounds the child.. Under these circumstances, the child may experience fear of abandonment, lack of trust, low self-esteem, a sense of hopelessness, overwhelming shame and the desire to perpetuate the conspiracy of silence. These effects may last all their lives. If the child is a sexual victim, these effects are accompanied by profound shame and sometimes by self destructive or suicidal thoughts.
Children need to know what is going on, but when the time comes for disclosure of sexual behavior, it should be done with the help of a counselor. The child's age and level of maturity would be measured by the counselor. Generally, specific details are withheld. It is important for children to know they are not imagining what they see and hear and they are not to blame for it. If a child has been the focus of the addicts acting out behavior, it must be stopped immediately. Child welfare authorities must be contacted and treatment initiated immediately.
The recovery process is possible for family members. It is possible when there is:
- Acceptance of the disease and its associated shame and how each family member has been affected.
- A commitment to healthy change.
- Family members no longer seeking to control the addict.
- Willingness to get help from Twelve Step Support groups for co-dependency such as COSA (Co-dependents on Sex Addicts) or S-ANON, as well as therapy from trained therapists. A list of therapists can be obtained from the SASH website.
|For more information contact:
||SASH - The National Office
P.O. Box 725544
Atlanta, GA 31139