The road to discovering your spouse’s sexual addiction takes many forms. Sometimes, compulsive sexual behavior can be completely hidden for years before it is found out. It may happen as a single, devastating revelation or as a series of smaller discoveries.
Perhaps you already knew about their sexual compulsivity but hoped that marriage would somehow temper this behavior. But each promise that your spouse makes to change becomes yet another broken commitment.
Sexual addiction can have devastating consequences for the addict as well as their spouse. It’s essential to understand what it is, how to diagnose it, what causes it, and what a healthy path forward looks like for a marriage dealing with sex addiction.
Defining Sex Addiction
While still relatively new to psychology, sexually compulsive behavior is becoming an increasingly recognized phenomenon with a reasonably well-defined set of features. It is not merely an extension of a Christian worldview. Regardless of their religious background, a large number of researchers and therapists now specialize in the treatment of sex addiction.
The point of this article is not to preach against or shame sexual desire. After all, sex addiction is not necessarily about having a high sex drive. Just because you or your spouse enjoys having sex does not make either of you a sex addict.
Only You Forever has several certified sex addiction therapists on our team. We have years of experience in working with sex addicts, and we know how crucial it is not to confuse the enjoyment of sex with sexual addiction.
Sex addiction involves sexual expression or activity that is excessive, problematic, or out of control in either men or women. It can look like hypersexual or destructive sexual behaviors characterized by compulsivity, secrecy, or continuation of a behavior in spite of negative consequences.
These behaviors are harmful to at least one person if not more. The addict, their spouse, their lover, their family, their employer, or other members of society can be affected by their behavior. These effects span economic, health-related, psychological, social, or relational impacts.
It is a real problem, one that takes a substantial amount of courage and commitment to address. But recovery is possible.
Diagnosing Sex Addiction
The North American standard for articulating diagnostic criteria for disorders (the DSM-V, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) has not yet officially addressed sex addiction. However, a hypersexual disorder has been proposed.
Based on this proposal, individuals must have the following symptoms:
Over a period of at least six months, recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:Excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, and irritability).Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.There is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors. In other words, it is impacting the quality of your life.These sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors are not due to direct physiological effects of exogenous substances (e.g., drugs of abuse or medications), a co-occurring general medical condition, or manic episodes.